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Lorenzana, new Pentagon chief talk VFA, South China Sea
This composite image shows Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III.
Department of National Defense screengrab | Twitter/Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

Lorenzana, new Pentagon chief talk VFA, South China Sea

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 10, 2021 - 9:49am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:19 a.m.) — Top defense officials of the Philippines and the United States discussed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the South China Sea in an introductory phone call.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III discussed priority bilateral defense issues for both countries, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

Austin reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the decades-long alliance between the two countries, as well as to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and VFA.

"The Secretaries discussed the importance of enhancing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capabilities and increasing interoperability between our two militaries through a variety of bilateral security cooperation activities," Kirby said.

They also talked about regional security challenges such as the South China Sea, counterterrorism and maritime security.

The two secretaries also affirmed the importance of upholding international rules and norms, including the July 2016 arbitral ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal, which favored the Philippines.

In a separate statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Lorenzana and Austin discussed the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea situation, particularly on the capability upgrades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"Both sides committed to sustain dialogues amidst the pandemic and strengthen cooperation between the two defense establishments. They agreed to meet face-to-face in the future," the DND said.

US Secretary of State Antony earlier made similar pronouncements in a phone call with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

The US Department of State said Blinken reiterated that Washington rejects Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea, which overlaps with the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

While the arbitral tribunal invalidated China's so-called nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, Beijing ignored the landmark ruling and insisted that it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the contested waterway.

"Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty for the security of both nations, and its clear application to armed attacks against the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea," US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price earlier said.

These pronouncements come after China passed a law allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels in areas they claim as part of their territorial waters.

Locsin had filed a diplomatic protest against this new rule, which he described as a "verbal threat of war."

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, however, insisted that it was not a threat of war and does not "specifically target any certain country."

DELFIN LORENZANA PENTAGON SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE US-PHILIPPINES TIES VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 10, 2021 - 9:02am

A thread of major developments in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States from January to December 2021. (Presidential photo/Joey Dalumpines and AFP/Angela Weiss)

February 10, 2021 - 9:02am

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin affirms Washington's commitment to the US-Philippines alliance in an introductory phone call with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The US Department of Defense, known as the Pentagon, says Austin highlighted the value of Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries.

Lorenzana and Austin also talked about regional security challenges, including the South China Sea, counterterrorism and maritime security.

 

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