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U.S. and Philippine leaders hail growing alliance

By Mattew Pennington

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:35 a.m. HST, Jun 09, 2012

WASHINGTON » The U.S. and Philippines said Friday they are expanding intelligence sharing and cooperation on maritime security, as President Barack Obama reiterated Washington's desire to be viewed as a Pacific power.

Obama met at the Oval Office with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III against the backdrop of a two-month standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

China's assertive behavior in those waters has served to bolster Manila's 60-year alliance with Washington, which thrived during the Cold War but ebbed after nationalist political forces prompted the closure of American military bases in 1992.

Obama thanked Aquino for what he called "excellent cooperation" on economic, defense and other issues. Aquino earlier declared the allies are at a "new juncture in our relations."

The security and military cooperation with the Philippines "is a reminder to everybody that the United States considers itself, and is, a Pacific power," Obama said.

Aquino, the son of democracy heroes, has emerged as a willing partner of the U.S. as it looks to build a stronger presence in Southeast Asia, a region neglected during a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two sides are discussing how to enhance the U.S. military presence in the Philippines, beyond the decade-long counterterrorism training mission in the country's south that involves hundreds of American troops.

The U.S. and the Philippines are bound by a mutual defense treaty. The Philippines has been seeking a clear public statement that the U.S. would come to its defense should it face attack.

The U.S. has restricted itself to saying it would honor its obligations under the treaty. No further statement was forthcoming Friday, and neither leader mentioned China.

At a lunch hosted earlier for Aquino at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed an easing of the tensions at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the past week, as China and the Philippines withdrew some vessels from a lagoon at the center of the standoff. She reiterated U.S. interest in peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

"The United States has been consistent in that we oppose the use of force or coercion by any claimant to advance its claims, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely," Clinton said.

Obama made a sidelong reference to the South China Sea dispute.

"We have a strong set of international norms and rules governing maritime disputes in the region," Obama said.

Clinton said the U.S. and the Philippines are working closely to increase information and intelligence exchanges and coordination on maritime domain issues. She announced the U.S. will support the construction and training of a National Coast Watch Center to help the Philippines monitor its coastline.

Aquino, who has presided over an improvement in the Philippine economy, has sought Washington's help in rebuilding a decrepit military that is in little shape to defend its territorial claims. Obama reaffirmed U.S. support for helping the Philippines build a "minimum credible defense posture."

Last month, the U.S. handed to the Philippines a second Coast Guard cutter following the transfer last year of a similar 45-year-old vessel that has since become a flagship in the Philippine navy as the island nation increasingly focuses on its maritime security. Close U.S. ally Japan is also reportedly preparing to supply the Philippines with 10 smaller, new patrol vessels.

While the Obama administration has worked to enhance ties with the Philippines, the U.S. is very mindful of its need to get along with China to prevent their strategic rivalry from spiraling into confrontation. Washington is careful to stress that while it supports efforts of Southeast Asian nations to develop a code of conduct with China on managing disputes in the South China Sea, it has no position on the conflicting territorial claims there that involve a half dozen nations.

The U.S. also says it has no intent to try and contain China, although it has left little doubt about its determination to be viewed as a Pacific power.

Last month saw a rare stop by a U.S. submarine at Subic Bay, location of a former American naval base that faces the South China Sea. And in the past week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited emerging strategic ally India and Vietnam — another South China Sea claimant at odds with China and forging closer relations with the United States. Panetta announced that 60 percent of the Navy's fleet will be deployed to the Pacific by 2020, up from about 50 percent now.


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan in Washington and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report.

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false wrote:
As if MacArthur did not do his job?
on June 9,2012 | 07:05AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
We're trillions of dollars in debt. After decades of protecting them, when they no longer thought they needed us, they closed our bases and kicked our military out. Now, because of their confrontations with China, they call on us to come to their aid, so we send them warships and money to build their coastal defense. In the meantime, this genius we have for a President, and his Secretary of State, are trying to tell us this is a good deal? While they're doing this, they plan on a massive reduction in force (RIF) for the military and put all past promises on pay, medical benefits and disability payments on the table for cuts. Any military retiree who votes for this crew must be a remnant of McNamara's 100,000 (those who could not meet mental standards). Those currently serving better take a look at us old buggers to foresee what will happen to them after their 20 years of service.
on June 9,2012 | 07:23AM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on June 9,2012 | 12:32PM
HD36 wrote:
We have little to gain but alot to lose with this relationship.
on June 9,2012 | 10:54PM
false wrote:
Bring back Balibago (Clark) and Olangapo (Subic). Wow!
on June 9,2012 | 11:50PM
iwanaknow wrote:
More trade, less guns
on June 9,2012 | 07:48AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Didn't they throw us out of Subic Bay?
on June 9,2012 | 09:28AM
Dragonman wrote:
Yes, the Philipino gov't kicked our navy out of Subic Bay and our air force out of Clark field. They don't have much of a military to speak of, now they want us to protect them from their ememies. We will do this by giving them money to build up their army & navy and even fight for them if it comes to that and than they will keep our money and kick us out as soon as the threat is over. When will we ever learn ?
on June 9,2012 | 05:56PM
HD36 wrote:
Wow, makes me feel secure that we have an alliance with an economic and military powerhouse like the Phillipines.
on June 9,2012 | 10:46PM
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