While the United States will be remaining neutral on the Phippines-China standoff in Scarborough Shoal, it will be aiding the Philippines boost its maritime security capabilities, according to a joint statement released by both countries.
On Monday, the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington DC for a ’2+2′ meeting which delved into the countries’ economic relationship, and the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China.
Chinese and the Philippine ships have been in a standoff in Scarborough Shoal since April 10, when Chinese vessels prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting alleged Chinese poachers in the disputed area.
The Philippine Star reports that in the joint statement, the Philippines and United States “reaffirm (their) common interest in maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and transit of people across the seas and subscribe to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas though peaceful, collaborative, multilateral, and diplomatic processes within the framework of international law, including as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
The United States also said that it would be bolstering the Philippine navy by “[transfering] a second High Endurance cutter to the Philippines this year.”
BusinessWorld Online adds that the partnership between both countries include ensuring joint military response to humanitarian and disaster relief operations, conducting joint military exercises, and pursuing counterterrorism efforts.
Clinton said in a press conference after the 2+2 meeting that, “The US supports a collaborative, diplomatic processby all those involved to resolving the various disputes they encounter.”
“We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims and we will remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines,” she said.
The Philippines and US are bound by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) which obliges both countries to come to one another’s aid in the event one is attacked by an external party.
However, Galvez noted that, “We do not want to reach the point where we will seek (US assistance under) the MDT,” in dealing with the territorial dispute.
“We will continue with the diplomatic track. We stress that we will continue with the importance of a peaceful resolution of the territorial issue, for a rules-based resolution, so we will be forwarding it to the UN for resolution,” he said in an Inquirer report. “What we just want to stress the commitment of the US government on our MDT.”
Scarborough Shoal landsat image from wikipedia. Some rights reserved.