Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (left) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands prior to their bilateral meeting in Pasay City yesterday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (left) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands prior to their bilateral meeting in Pasay City yesterday.
AP
US vows to defend Philippines in SCS attack
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States will defend the Philippines in the event of an armed attack on its forces or interests in the disputed South China Sea, in fulfillment of US commitments under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries, visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday.

“As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Pompeo cited the provision in the MDT that states, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

Locsin, meanwhile, said he sees no need to review the 68-year-old security pact between the Philippines and the US.

Prior to the press conference, the two officials held a bilateral meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) head office in Pasay City earlier yesterday.

Pompeo, who arrived in Manila late Thursday, said he discussed the US commitment to protect the Philippines under the MDT during his separate meetings with President Duterte and Locsin.

“I certainly spoke with President Duterte and Foreign Secretary Locsin about it as well. Our commitments under the treaty are clear, our obligations are real,” Pompeo said.

He said the South China Sea is certainly part of an important body of water for freedom of navigation and that the Trump administration has made a “true commitment” that these seas remain open for the security of the countries of the region and the world, and open for commercial transit.

“We remain committed to supporting not only the Philippines in that effort. The Philippines needs to do its part as well but all the countries in the region. These incredibly vital economic sea lanes are open and China does not pose a threat to closing them down,” Pompeo said.

Locsin stressed the Philippines is “very assured, very confident” that Washington will come to the aid of Manila in the event of attack on any Philippine vessel in the disputed maritime region.

Thus, Locsin finds the review of the MDT unnecessary.

“My own view is no. I believe in the old theory of deterrence. I’m an old man. I’ve been engaged in the Cold War for longer than you’ll probably remember. But in vagueness lies the best deterrence,” Locsin said when asked by an American journalist whether he would push for a review of the MDT.

“In the repeated assurances by the United States that in the event an act of aggression is committed against the Philippines, I don’t believe that going down into the details is the way sincerity of the American commitment will be shown. They will respond depending on the circumstances but we are very reassured, we’re very confident that the United States has, in the words of Secretary Pompeo and the words of President Trump to our President, ‘we have your back’,” he said.

The Philippines and the US signed the MDT in 1951 with the commitment to defend each other in the event of an armed attack. This is the Philippines’ only defense treaty with another country.

Pompeo pointed out that China’s island-building activities and militarization of the South China Sea threaten the Philippines’ sovereignty, security and economic livelihood.

China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea for years, converting them into military facilities.

The Philippines and China have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, along with Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. – With Pia Lee-Brago

MIKE POMPEO TEODORO LOCSIN JR.
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