THE US government is steering its other allies in increasing military presence in the South China Sea (SCS) and helping the Philippines improve its capacity to deter China’s continuing harassment and coercion in the disputed seas.
Ranking officials from the US State Department, US Department of Defense (DoD), and Coast Guard made this commitment during the hearing of the US House of Representatives foreign relations’ subcommittee on Indo-Pacific Thursday in Washington D.C.
“We are strongly supportive of not just bilateral patrols but exploring opportunities for multilateral patrols with the Philippines and with other partners as well,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Lindsey Ford, said.
Recently, coast guards from Philippines, US and Japan conducted their first trilateral exercises in the WPS.
The DoD has also inaugurated the US-Japan-Philippines defense dialogue. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin likewise convened the US-Australia-Philippine-Japan defense ministers’ meeting.
Ford also said that there is an ongoing negotiation between Manila and Washington for a multi-year security sector assistance road map.
The road map will enable the Philippines and the US defense departments to identify the needed maritime assets and bring these assets to the Philippines “quickly.”
“We have committed to negotiating GSMIA [General Security of Military Information Agreement] by the end of this year that will enhance our information and intelligence sharing that enables them to have a better understanding of what’s going on,” Ford added.
The State Department is also working “very hard” to rally support for the Philippines from its allies “to lawfully exercise, operate, fly” in the WPS.
“One of the things that we’re working on with our allies and partners is globalizing the South China Sea issue. So much of the global economy runs through the South China Sea and it’s a vital economic throughway. So, this is not just about China, this is not just about the countries in the region, it’s vital for Europe, it’s vital for us,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs Dr. Jung Pak said.
Guam Rep. James Moylan, member of the House subcommittee, suggested that aside from the increasing patrols, the Philippines should be added to Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)—a strategic security grouping composed of US, India, Japan and Australia.
China opposed the revival of QUAD, calling it “Asian NATO.”
“As strong of a message as joint patrols are, our show of support for the Philippines must be multi-faceted. The United States should work to update and strengthen our mutual defense pact with the Philippines, ensuring a new era of cooperation can be formalized and continue the long friendship our two countries have enjoyed,” Moylan wrote in his op-ed piece at The Hill.
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