Obama says U.S. commitment to defend Philippines 'ironclad'

MANILA Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:53am EDT

1 of 3. U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to military troops at the Fort Bonifacio Gymnasium in Manila, April 29, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

MANILA (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday a new military pact between the United States and the Philippines is testimony to America's "ironclad" commitment to defend the southeast Asian nation.

The U.S. president's comments came against the backdrop of tensions between the Philippines and an increasingly powerful China over remote uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.

"Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment because allies never stand alone," Obama said.

Sweating profusely in an unairconditioned gymnasium packed with U.S. and Filipino soldiers, veterans and their families, the president said joint U.S.-Filipino rescue efforts after November's Typhoon Yolanda were the modern-day version of the bravery shown by both country's troops during World War Two.

The military agreement between the two countries was the centerpiece of Obama's first visit to the Philippines, the United States' oldest ally in the region.

The deal, which will have an initial 10-year term, sets the framework for a beefed-up rotation of U.S. troops, ships and warplanes through the Philippines.

Obama said the accord and his visit - part of a four-nation swing through Asia - demonstrated the U.S. commitment to a "rebalancing" of resources and diplomacy towards the fast-growing region.

That commitment has been in doubt as the United States has focused on conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

"Deepening our alliance is part of our broader vision for the Asia Pacific," Obama said.

The U.S. president further stressed solidarity with the Philippines as Manila seeks international arbitration over disputed islands in a tense standoff with Beijing.

"International law must be upheld. Freedom of navigation must be preserved," Obama said. "Disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or by force."

China claims most of the South China Sea, but the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to parts of those waters.

Earlier this month, a small Philippine government ship needed to evade a blockade of Chinese coastguard vessels to deliver food, water and fresh troops to a disputed shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines is seeking United Nations arbitration challenging China's "nine-dash-line" that stretches deep into the South China Sea and the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

In the sweltering Fort Bonifacio gymnasium on Tuesday, the U.S. president peeled off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to speak, apologizing to the assembled uniform-clad troops for doing so but promising to make his remarks brief.

Afterwards, he shook hands with troops and veterans, posing for a "selfie" photo with the family of one of the Filipino veterans.

The president later toured and laid a wreath at the U.S. military cemetery in Manila, where both U.S. and Filipino soldiers are buried. The cemetery contains more than 17,000 graves of U.S. service members who died during World War Two, the largest such cemetery anywhere in the world.

Obama's visit to the Philippines was the final leg of was on the final day of a tour that also took him to Tokyo, Seoul, and Kuala Lumpur.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Comments (11)
74LS08 wrote:
0Bama says a lot of things, like “you will be able to keep your existing health policy”, “NSA does not spy on US citizens”, “Solyndra is building a better and brighter tomorrow”….

Apr 28, 2014 12:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
China and Philippines are neighbors and should build better relations, dont get trapped in Americas rhetoric, they are just using Philippines once again like before because they see China as a rising naval power and now they need another bay in Phi…. that’s the truth, build strong relations with neighbors, you will be better off.

The US has a habit of getting neighbours to fight each other, Iran vs Iraq, Israel vs Arabs, Afghanistan vs Pakistan, India vs Pakistan, Ukraine vs Russia, South Korea vs North Korea, and so many other examples, beware.

Apr 28, 2014 12:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
xxxriainxxx wrote:
Dear truthseeker776 perhaps you should open your eyes. Friends don’t steal from friends. We have lost islands to the Chinese occupation of the Philippines in the Kalayaan.

Apr 29, 2014 1:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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