Wednesday, 02 May 2012 14:19
WASHINGTON - The United States and the Philippines sought Monday to enhance their security cooperation and identify shared strategic objectives.
Calling their alliance "an anchor" for peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, foreign and defense ministers of the two countries held a joint meeting in Washington, the first of its kind, with a view to building a "robust, agile and responsive" alliance to meet changing global and regional dynamics.
"Our consultations seek to address common strategic and security objectives, promote economic cooperation, advance people-to-people ties, and enshrine principles of good governance and the rule of law," the two sides said in a joint statement issued after the meeting.
On their common strategic objectives, the two countries agreed to, among others, enhance peace, security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, and support efforts to increase cooperation in such regional fora as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit.
In addition, they reaffirmed their "common interest" in maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and transit of people across the seas, saying they "subscribe to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas through peaceful, collaborative, multilateral and diplomatic processes within the framework of international law."
Reaffirming that the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in August 1951 remains the foundation of the U.S.-Philippines security relationship, the ministers sought to boost bilateral security cooperation, among others, by looking at ways to strengthen the defense capabilities of the Philippines to establish "a minimum credible defense posture through robust cooperative security assistance programs."
Besides, the two countries intend to "ensure that our collective defense capabilities and communications infrastructure are operationally and materially capable of countering the full spectrum of traditional and non-traditional threats," the joint statement said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a joint press conference after the meeting that Washington is helping improve the Philippines' "maritime presence and capabilities" with a transfer of a second high endurance cutter this year.
"Today the United States reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, calling the Philippines a country "at the heart" of new U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific.
Washington is leaning more toward the Asia-Pacific region as it is winding down the decade-old war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stating that Washington and Manila shared "deep concerns" about the developments on the Korean Peninsula and events in the South China Sea, Clinton said "While we do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and the unimpeded lawful commerce across our sea lanes."
Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin attended the so-called two-plus-two dialogue with their U.S. counterparts.
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