Tillerson to join ASEAN meeting in Manila

Jose Katigbak - The Philippine Star
Tillerson to join ASEAN meeting in Manila

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listen to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, right, during a joint press conference in Sydney, Monday, June 5, 2017. In their first joint appearance abroad, Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson pledged unity with longtime ally Australia in fighting Islamic extremists who seek to intimidate the West. AP/Rick Rycroft, File

WASHINGTON – Maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region, counterterrorism and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be at the top of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s agenda in his talks next week in Manila with regional leaders, spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

She said Tillerson will also visit Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur during his trip to the region on Aug. 5-9.

He will participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, the East Asian Summit, the US-ASEAN ministerial meeting and the Lower Mekong Initiative meeting.          

Nauert said Tillerson’s travel reaffirms the Trump administration’s commitment to further broaden and enhance US economic and security interests in the region.

In a press briefing at the State Department on Tuesday, Tillerson said the next step on the global war to defeat the Islamic State (IS) is to “get ahead” of it and recognise it as a global issue.

“We already see elements of there IS in the Philippines, as you’re aware, gaining a foothold,” he said.

“We are in conversations with the Philippine government, with Indonesia, with Malaysia, with Singapore, with Australia, as partners to recognise this threat, try to get ahead of this threat, and help them with training – training their own law enforcement capabilities, sharing of intelligence and provide them the wherewithal to anticipate what may be coming their direction,” Tillerson added.

In Manila, newly designated ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said the Philippines has to keep its relationship with the US on an even keel.

“Basically we don’t want it to go far left, far right, just want to keep it there,” he said.

In an interview on ANC’s “Headstart,” Romualdez said the Duterte administration’s independent foreign policy is not new but that it is more emphasized under the current administration.

“It’s a kind of policy that I think has always been around but it’s just more emphatic this time,” Romualdez said.  –  With Pia Lee-Brago

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