‘US ready to help Phl in Pag-asa’
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2014 - 12:00am

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 yesterday.

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

“We have an obligation because we have a treaty but I don’t know into what capacity that help is,” Greenert told students of the National Defense College of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Pag-Asa Island is being occupied by Filipino soldiers and over 200 civilians.

Earlier, a Chinese news network reported that the Chinese Navy already had a detailed plan to seize the island from the Philippines.

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 there.

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

The Philippines and the US are signatories of 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.

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 least 50 ships at any given day here in the Western Pacific,” the US military official said.

Also to be deployed this year are little combat ships LCS 10 and LCS 3.

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

Focus on case filed with UN

Meanwhile, when President Aquino compared China to the Germany of 1938 and called for global support as his country battles Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, he put focus on a case that Manila has filed in an international court.

The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its lawyers say that the tribunal has discretionary powers to allow other states to join the action.

Any final ruling by the court on the dispute, one of the most tense flashpoints in Asia, cannot be enforced but will carry considerable moral and political weight, analysts say.               

 

ADMIRAL JONATHAN GREENERT BEIJING CHINESE NAVY GREENERT KALAYAAN ISLAND LAW OF THE SEA MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY NATIONAL DEFENSE COLLEGE OF THE PHILIPPINES PAG-ASA
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