US to help Phl in event of China invasion
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2014 - 6:57pm

MANILA, Philippines - Washington is ready to help Manila in the event that Beijing invades Pag-Asa, the second largest island in the disputed Spratly Islands, a top US military official said Thursday.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, naval operations chief of the US Navy, could not say what form of assistance may be extended to the Philippines but noted that the two countries have existing defense treaties.

“Of course we would help you and now I don’t know what that help would be (given) specifically,” Greenert told students of the National Defense College of the Philippines in Quezon City.

“I mean we have an obligation because we have a treaty,  but I don’t know into what capacity that help is,” he added.

Greenert was asked whether the US will help the Philippines defend its territory if China seizes Pag-Asa, which is being occupied by Filipino soldiers and more than 200 civilians.

A Chinese news network has reported that the Chinese Navy  has a detailed plan to seize the Pag-Asa Island from the Philippines this year.

Pag-Asa, which China calls Zhongye, is part of Kalayaan Island, a fifth class municipality in Palawan. The Philippines has built a town hall, a 1.3-kilometer airstrip, a naval station, a health center and a kindergarten school in the island.

Greenert said aggressive acts that violate international norms should be opposed.

“We will continue to say that aggressive behavior outside of international norms, not using the established procedures… is contrary to, I'll call it, good order here and we have to manage, we oppose it, we will work to clarify that,” he said.

The Philippines and the US  signed  the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, which provides that the two countries, separately or jointly, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacities to resist armed attacks.

China has been flexing its muscles in the West Philippine Sea, conducting maritime patrols in disputed areas to assert its territorial claims.

It has also declared an air defense zone above waters separating China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, raising concerns from various countries who believe this would affect freedom of flight in international airspace.

In January, Chinese media reported that Beijing is imposing a fishing law in the West Philippine Sea that will require foreign boats to seek permission before operating in the area.

Japanese media also reported that China is planning to impose an air defense zone over the West Philippine Sea but this has been denied by the Chinese government.

China, whose recent actions are causing tensions in the region, is claiming almost the entire West Philippine Sea through its so-called nine-dash line, which covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs. Its claims also overlap with those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.


Meanwhile, the US is sending its newest military assets to the region as part of its rebalancing to the Asia Pacific.

Greenert said they would increase the number of US ships in the region to 60 by 2020.

“For the last 20 years, we have had at at least 50 ships at any given day here in the Western Pacific…Actually, it will grow toward 60 ships by the end of this decade,” the US military official said.

“This is all part of our, what we called rebalance, the rebalance to the Asia Pacific. It’s not just ships, it’s not just airplanes, it’s about tough process. It’s about intellectual capacity. It’s about sitting down with our partners,” he added.

Greenert said among the assets to be deployed is the P8, which is  a Boeing 737- 800 battle aircraft.

“We got fancy cameras, fancy infrared, fancy motion detectors, and a lot of established aircraft capability on a general craft,” he said.

Also to be deployed are littoral combat ships LCS 10 and LCS 3, which will sail towards the Western Pacific waters this year.

“Our presence here is not as much about balancing power as much as ensuring or trying to assure our partners and our allies that were all in this together and ensue that we have freedom of navigation,” Greenert said.

“We’ve been in this region a long time, and we all know that. We’ve been partners for decades and we will be here for a long time.”

In 2012, the US bared plans to deploy majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020.

US naval assets would be realigned from a roughly 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about 60-40 split between those oceans.


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