WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated his support for the security of the Philippines in its dispute with China over some islets and shoals in the West Philippine Sea.
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the president also expressed his support for the security of Japan in talks with President Xi Jinping in The Hague on the sidelines of a Nuclear Security Summit.
In Manila, Spain expressed support yesterday for a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes.
Rhodes said President Obama stressed the need to reduce maritime tensions in the South and East China Seas.
Rhodes said Obama expressed US concern over the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) created by Beijing last November in the East China Sea in an area that includes islands at the heart of a bitter territorial row with Japan.
Japan and China are locked in a dispute over islands administered by Japan as the Senkakus but claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands.
There is concern in the Philippines and the US that a similar ADIZ might be formed in the South China Sea.
“He (President Obama) underscored the need for resolutions to these issues based on dialogue and international law and expressed continued US support for that effort. In that context, of course, the President reiterated his support for the security of our allies, Japan and the Philippines,” Rhodes said in a video conference briefing to reporters in Washington.
The situation in the South and East China Seas was one of a number of global bilateral issues that Obama raised with Xi, Rhodes said.
The Obama-Xi meeting at The Hague coincided with the 7th round of Phl-US negotiations in Manila on a deal granting the US greater access to Filipino military bases as part of a Philippine strategy to achieve “minimum credible defense” in the face of Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea.
President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in April to meet with the leaders of all four nations and discuss diplomatic, economic and security issues with them, the White House said.
China to US: Be fair
At The Hague, Xi told Obama that the US should adopt a “fair” attitude on the East and South China Seas, where China is involved in a series of increasingly bitter territorial disputes.
“On the issues of the East and South China Sea, the US side ought to adopt an objective and fair attitude, distinguish right from wrong, and do more to push for an appropriate resolution and improve the situation,” state news agency Xinhua cited Xi as saying. It provided no other details.
China has repeatedly urged the US not to take sides in the maritime disputes, and has watched warily as Washington moves to strengthen its military alliances in the region, especially with Tokyo and Manila.
Xi added that he hoped China and the US deepen their military cooperation and carry out more joint exercises to help “prevent misunderstandings and miscalculations.”
China’s foreign ministry said the two leaders reached 10 agreements, including one to form rules for safe maritime and airspace military actions in international waters, the official China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The risks of a mishap in the region were highlighted in December when the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens had to take evasive action in the South China Sea to avoid hitting a Chinese warship operating in support of Beijing’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
Amid China’s bullying in the West Philippine Sea, Spain reiterated its support for peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Visiting Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo declared his country’s position on Monday during a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“On the issue of South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea, I’d like reiterate that we share the view of a peaceful and negotiated settlement, always mindful of international law. Let us be reminded that in that part of the sea over 40 percent of the world trade goes through it,” Garcia-Margallo said.
The Philippines and Spain held high-level political consultations in keeping with the two countries’ framework Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 2000.
Meanwhile, an advocacy group headed by a former military rebel is launching a nationwide motorcycle caravan to protest China’s occupation of some areas in the West Philippine Sea.
The caravan will start in Davao del Oriental on April 1 and end in Palawan, according to the National Center for Unity and Patriotism (NCUP) headed by ex-Marine Nicanor Faeldon.
“This is aimed at promoting national consciousness and support for our country’s position at the West Philippine Sea as well as rallying international consciousness and support and also establishing possible world record,” Faeldon said. Jaime Laude, Pia Lee-Brago, Reuters