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Former Pacific commander says U.S. should defend Philippines in South China Sea

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this March 29, 2014 photo, a Chinese Coast Guard ship attempts to block a Philippine government vessel as the latter tries to enter Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea to relieve Philippine troops and resupply provisions.

WASHINGTON >> The United States should be willing to use military force to oppose Chinese aggression at a disputed reef off the coast of the Philippines, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told a congressional hearing.

Dennis Blair made the recommendation to a Senate panel on Wednesday, a day after an international tribunal invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

The objective was not to pick a fight with China at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, but to set a limit on its military coercion, Blair said.

“I think we need to have some specific lines and then encourage China to compromise on some of its objectives,” he told the hearing.

The Philippines is a U.S. ally, but their treaty is ambiguous about whether the U.S. would come to its defense in disputed territory.

A 2012 standoff at Scarborough Shoal between Chinese and the Philippine vessels prompted Manila to launch the arbitration case.

China has rejected the tribunal’s ruling, and on Wednesday warned other countries against threatening its security in the South China Sea. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Beijing could declare an air defense identification zone over the waters if it felt threatened. China, however, also extended an olive branch to the new Philippine government, saying the Southeast Asian nation would benefit from cooperating with China.

Blair, also a former director of national intelligence, said China has alienated its neighbors through its aggressive actions in the South China Sea, including its reclamation of land and construction of airstrips and ports in the Spratly Islands.

He advised a careful U.S. approach following the tribunal ruling to give Beijing opportunity to change course.

Kurt Campbell, former top U.S. diplomat for East Asia and now an adviser on Asia policy for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, said, “I think over time China will start to adjust its position, because they will realize it’s not in their best strategic interests.”

New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants to revive relations with China that soured after his predecessor launched the arbitration case in 2013. But he also wants to be seen at home as defending the legal victory.

President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, said the U.S. would support China-Philippines negotiations that were free from “coercion and undue pressure.” Kim was speaking at his confirmation hearing Wednesday before the same Senate subcommittee on Asia.

U.S. officials have said occupation or militarization of Scarborough Shoal by China would be very dangerous and destabilizing. But they have declined to say whether it would invoke the U.S.-Philippines treaty, which calls for the allies to help defend each other if there is an armed attack on their armed forces, public vessels, aircraft or island territories under their jurisdiction in the Pacific

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  • Let the Philippines defend themselves. They wanted to cut ties with the US so let them see how far they can go before they come begging on their knees for help.

  • Get ready. Lots of new news coming from a third world backwards country. What happens to Subic Bay and Clark Air Base? Moro Wars in Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan? How do you fight an enemy so close to its homeland? Another Vietnam disaster waiting to happen? What kind of inventory of fighting ships do we have? Potency, numbers, and availability, and reliability of these weapons we own? How much help will the Philippines donate to save their own country? Stay tuned.

  • Are you kidding me? Just recently wasn’t President Rodrigo Duterte bad mouthing the Obama administration for the Terrorist problems that faces the world? say what? And Remember when they demanded that we close our US bases there and leave? But wait,get this.(Chuckles.)…..they get to keep our Military Bases! The Military Bases paid with U.S. tax payers Dollars.

    I’m telling you,the Philippines are playing us like a Stradivarius Violin. Are they for real? It’s only to their convenience ,is when they want our help. In this case China! Yeah we get it,they need America’s Might, while hiding behind our skirts. But mostly ? they want The Almighty US Yankee Dollar and our jobs! Indeed! Time for them to step up to the plate and do their own negotiations with China! And it’s also time the USA wised-up to the Phillippines…..so done being Played!

  • How about we SELL the Philippines all the weapons that they need instead? At full retail prices. If they want the U.S. to defend them, forget it! They didn’t want the U.S. in their country and kicked us out. They still don’t want us there and will never let us use Subic Bay or Clark.

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