Kerry: US will defend allies in Asia-Pacific

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The United States wants stronger ties with China but is committed to defending allies in the region, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday. Kerry said he and US President Barack Obama would be working for the interests of their allies in the South China Sea when they meet leaders of the Asia Pacific region at two summits in Beijing and Myanmar this month.

Speaking before the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington last Tuesday, Kerry said one of their priorities in at the Asia Pacific meetings is to strengthen “the institutions and reinforce the norms that contribute to a rules-based, stable region.”

“These are our goals for the rebalance and the objectives that we are working to pursue. We are working together with our allies and partners across Asia,” Kerry said.

“These are the goals that the President will discuss with other leaders next week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing and also at the East Asia Summit that follows in Burma.”

The Philippines has continued to move for a settlement of the maritime dispute over reefs and other islands within its exclusive economic zone with China through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including its provisions on dispute settlement, particularly arbitration.

This despite unilateral activities pursued by Beijing that have escalated tensions and threatened peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Chinese activities include the forcible occupation of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in 2012 and the moratorium on fishing in some areas in the South China Sea earlier this year.

Beijing has also embarked on land reclamation in Mabini (Johnson) Reef, McKennan (Hughes) Reef, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef and Burgos (Gaven) Reef in the Spratlys.

“The goal of rebalance is not a strategic initiative to affect one nation or push people in any direction,” Kerry said.

“It is an inclusive invitation to join in this march towards prosperity, dignity and stability for countries,” he said.

“I can reaffirm today that the Obama administration is absolutely committed to seeing through all of these goals.”

Kerry said there should also be no doubt that a key component of the rebalance strategy is about strengthening US-China relations.

“A stronger relationship between our two nations will benefit not just the United States and China, not just the Asia Pacific, but the world,” he said.

Kerry noted the presence of China’s ambassador, Cui Tiankai who, he said, was an alumnus of the SIAS.

“One of the many very accomplished alumni of this school is China’s Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, and we’re delighted that he’s here today,” he said.

He recalled that he had already bared the Obama administration’s four goals in rebalancing the Asia Pacific region.

“First, the opportunity to create sustainable economic growth, which includes finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is not only a trade agreement but also a strategic opportunity for the United States and other Pacific nations to come together, to bind together, so that we can all prosper together,” he said.

“Second, powering a clean energy revolution that will help us address climate change while simultaneously jumpstarting economies around the world.

“Third, reducing tensions and promoting regional cooperation by strengthening the institutions and reinforcing the norms that contribute to a rules-based, stable region.

“And fourth, empowering people throughout the Asia Pacific to live with dignity, security, and opportunity,” Kerry said.

In a speech in August at the East West Center in Honolulu, Kerry had stressed “the enormous value that we place on longstanding alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines and our burgeoning relationships with ASEAN and countries in Southeast Asia.”











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