‘Allies do not stand alone,’ Obama assures PHL

April 30, 2014 6:06 am 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday reassured the Philippines that the U.S. will honor a treaty obliging American military to come to Manila’s aid against external attack amid tense territorial disputes over the South China Sea.

Allaying doubts over US support for its treaty ally, Obama stressed its “commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad.”

“The United States will keep that commitment because allies never stand alone,” said Obama as he addressed nearly 400 Philippine and visiting U.S. troops who will be participating in an upcoming joint military exercises next month.

The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty obliges the U.S. to protect the Philippines if directly attacked by hostile forces, but retaliation would need both countries’ congressional approval.

“Let me be absolutely clear. For more than 60 years, the United States and the Philippines have been bound by a mutual defense treaty. And this treaty means our two nations pledge — and I’m quoting — our ‘common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone,’” Obama said as he wrapped up his two-day state visit.

The Philippines is locked in a long-running territorial rift with China over parts of the South China Sea within Manila’s boundaries that the Philippine government calls West Philippine Sea.

China said it has “indisputable” and “historical” claim over 80 percent of the resource-rich waters. China’s far-reaching claims extends to areas that are within the territories of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Without reference to China, Obama reminded nations that territorial sovereignty of states should be respected.

“We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, and to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected,” Obama said.

The U.S. said it does not take sides on the territorial row, but Obama maintained that it is in his country’s national interest to ensure unfettered sea and air access to the waters and that competing claims are resolved in a diplomatic and non-aggressive way.

“We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force. That’s what our nations stand for. That’s the future we’re working for,” Obama said.

After years of heavy military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s administration announced in 2011 an Asian “pivot” – a move seen to reclaim lost clout to a fast-rising China.

Obama said a “deepening alliance” with the Philippines “is part of our broader vision for the Asia Pacific.” (PNA)

CTB/MDC/UTB

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