In this May 7, 2018 photo, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat of the Northern Luzon Command and Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson of the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force unfurl the Balikatan flag during the opening ceremony of the Philippines-US Exercise 2018 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales, File
US confident in 'like-minded' allies while Philippines seeks treaty review
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 14, 2019 - 5:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — The US Indo-Pacific Command has assured the Senate that Southeast Asian nations continue to share common principles with Washington.

"The United States and ASEAN share the common principles of a rules-based international order, respect for international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes," Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While Davidson declared confidence with Washington's regional allies, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative director Gregory Poling pointed out that long-time ally the Philippines has been asking for a treaty review.

"During SASC testimony yesterday, Adm. Davidson twice said there is no doubt US credibility in any of our Asian allies. That must come as a big surprise to friends in the Philippines who are demanding a review of the (Mutual Defense Treaty) because of US ambivalence," Poling said on Twitter.

In his statement, Davidson said he was focused on working with allies Thailand and the Philippines, as well as partners Singapore and Vietnam, to "strengthen ASEAN, expand multilateralism, and improve their combined capacity to stand up to the malign influence of state and non-state actors, especially in the South China Sea."

He reported that Beijing continues to maintain claims in the disputed waterway that are contrary to international law and threaten international order.

China continues to ignore the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

Davidson also pointed out that Chinese Coast Guard vessels regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from the Philippines that are operating near Scarborough Shoal off the coast of Zambales.

The US Indo-Pacific Command, meanwhile, is looking to strengthen the region's capability to "deny adversaries' attempts to dominate or disrupt the gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, while enabling the region to promote their sovereign interests."

"The command’s efforts will improve the region’s awareness and capability to enforce their borders, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones," Davidson said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier called for a review of the provisions of the 1951 treaty between the Philippines and the US.

The Defense chief said he wanted the US to provide a definitive stand on whether it will support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in case of a confrontation with other South China Sea claimants.

US Ambassador to Manila welcomed Lorenzana's call, saying that any agreement of this importance "should be looked at very closely."

"The circumstances surrounding the agreement on our alliance evolves so we would welcome taking a close look at the treaty to see whether we can make any adjustments to make even better what it is now," Kim told reporters last week.

ASEAN MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY PHILIP DAVIDSON SOUTH CHINA SEA US NAVY WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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