Kim stressed the need for the US to be present in the South China Sea.
Envoy: Philippines, US military alliance critical
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The military alliance of the United States with the Philippines remains critically important to maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region, US Ambassador Sung Kim said yesterday.

Kim stressed the need for the US to be present in the South China Sea.

The US warned China’s aggressive and unilateral actions in the South China Sea have a “very direct effect” on the sovereignty and interest of the Philippines.

US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, under a comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP).

The operations, conducted in accordance with international law, are meant to demonstrate that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”

The US has been consistently urging the claimants including China to refrain from taking unilateral aggressive actions inconsistent with international law and norms.

“Even though we are not a claimant, we take very serious interest in what’s happening in the South China Sea, and that’s why we work very hard to protect freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight,” Kim said at a forum in Quezon City yesterday. 

“These are principles and values that are important for all of us, not just for the Pacific region, but for the international community, that’s why we’re carrying out freedom of navigation operations,” he added.

During his visit in Manila in March, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo assured the Philippines that Washington will come to its defense if its forces, aircraft and vessels in the South China Sea are attacked, saying any armed attack there will trigger the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) obligations under which America’s commitments are “clear.”

“The South China Sea is part of the Pacific, therefore our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty clearly apply to situations in the South China Sea,” Kim said.

At the same forum, Kim also expressed Washington’s concerns over Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co.

Kim stressed Washington leaves it to individual countries and companies in the Philippines to decide which technology to use, but it highly recommended not to use Huawei because of its alleged cyber spying activity.

“It’s important as a friend, as a partner and as an ally to share our concerns with the Philippines and other partners with the region and beyond. You know these are very serious concerns,” Kim said.

“But in the end, it’s up to the individual countries to make decisions on which companies they partner with, which technologies they choose to use,” he said.

The US is in the process of routinely engaging its allies and partners to provide them with information and exercise vigilance to secure their own telecom networks and protect their people from unauthorized access and malicious cyber activity.

“Frankly, it’s not just concerns of the United States. I think many countries share those concerns,” Kim added.

The US Department of State said Washington has spoken about Huawei regularly, especially through Secretary Pompeo. 

During his visit in Manila on March 1, Pompeo warned the Philippines of the risk posed by using Huawei technology, saying it is not “transparent.”

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