Obama says new defense deal with PH not meant to contain China

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Apr. 28, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – When President Barack Obama talked about the benefits of the a new defense agreement during his two-day visit to the Philippines, he stressed that the goal is not to prevent China from increasing its influence in the South China Sea, but to make sure its territorial dispute with the Philippines is handled fairly.

“Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. As a matter of international law and norms, we don’t think that coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes,” President Obama said.

President Obama arrived in Manila on Monday afternoon for his first state visit to the Philippines, just after the United States signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which would allow increased U.S. military presence in the Philippines.

President Obama insisted that the U.S. will not reopen its bases there. But said U.S. troops will just rotate through Philippine facilities.

China, though, does not welcome US involvement in East Asia. A Chinese editorial published right after the new defense deal was signed between the Philippines and the United States said, “Given that the Philippines is at a bitter territorial row with China, the move is particularly disturbing as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing.”

Obama stressed that the United States is not taking any sides, but it will support the Philippines’ efforts to bring the territorial dispute to international arbitration.

For his part, President Aquino said China does not need to be concerned with the new defense deal. “We are not a threat militarily to any country. We don’t even have presently a single fighter aircraft in our inventory. I think no country should begrudge us our rights to be able to attend to our concerns and our needs,” he said.

Both leaders agree that territorial disputes should be handled in a peaceful manner. President Obama expressed, “If China listens to its neighbors “What China will find is that they’ve got ready and willing partners in the Asia-Pacific region that want to work with them in trade, commerce, selling goods and buying goods. And it’s inevitable that China is going to be a dominant power in this region, just by sheer size.”

Meantime, President Aquino conferred on President Obama the Order of Sikatuna, with the highest rank of Raja or Grand Collar, in recognition of America’s help to the Philippines in times of calamity. In turn, President Obama honored President’s Aquino’s father, slain Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. “There’s no greater nobility than offering one’s life to the nation and Mr. President your father offered his life so that this nation might be free,” President Obama expressed.

The U.S. leader also praised Filipinos for their resiliency, as shown in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. He said, “After ‘Yolanda’, America grieved with you and stood with you, but we were also inspired by your resilience and your determination to care for those who have been affected. Tonight, our hearts actually grieve for some of our fellow Americans back home who have been devastated by very terrible storms and tornadoes, but we draw our strength from your example.”

You may contact Henni Espinosa henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Kikay Pang0
    29 April 2014 at 5:17 am - Reply

    Filipinos will do anything to boost the economy of the country , they always welcome American GI’s with open legs … you can ask Apple Dee Ap biological father.

  • Kuya
    29 April 2014 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Upgrade our armed forces and buy more armed patrol boats from Japan and more jets from South Korea and show China that we will not be intimidated with their military might. Stationed 2 armed chopper in Kalayaan and add more soldiers to guard our EEzone. Train and enlist all fisherman to support our navy and coastguard in patrolling our territorial water.

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