US announces increasing defense activities with Philippines
The United States said it is increasing engagements with the Philippines as it unveiled fresh initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region.
In its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report issued on June 1, Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said: '''As great power competition returns, we will continue to invest, act, and orient ourselves to ensure that the principled international order from which all countries in the region benefit endures.''
''We have 280 bilateral defense activities planned with the Philippines in 2019, and the Philippines hosts the most bilateral exercises in the US Indopacific Command area of responsibility,'' said the report.
''This robust annual cooperation ensures our forces maintain a sufficient level of interoperability to respond in times of crisis,'' it added.
The US Defense Department said it is ''partnering with the Armed
Forces of the Philippines in its 15-year modernization plan to upgrade its capabilities for territorial defense.''
''The main areas of emphasis are maritime security, ISR ( intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance), and aviation. The United States and the Philippines are also partnering on reconstituting counterterrorism forces following the Marawi siege,'' he added.
In March 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed the US commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty, providing assurances that, “as the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense
obligations under Article IV of our Mutual Defense Treaty.
Shanahan said the Indo-Pacific is the Department of Defense's ''priority theater.''
''We have an enduring commitment to uphold a free and open IndoPacific in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and able to
pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules, norms, and principles of fair competition.'' he said.
''Inter-state strategic competition, defined by geopolitical rivalry between free and repressive world order visions, is the primary concern for US national security.'' said Shanahan.
''In particular, the People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, seeks to reorder the region to its advantage by leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce other nations,'' he added.
''The Department of Defense supports choices that promote long-term peace and prosperity for all in the Indo-Pacific. We will not accept policies or actions that threaten or undermine the rules-based international order ? an order that benefits all nations. We are committed to defending and enhancing these shared values,'' he said.
''Achieving this vision requires combining a more lethal Joint Force with a more robust constellation of Allies and partners. Increased investments in these imperatives will sustain American influence in the region to ensure favorable balances of power and safeguard the free and open international order,'' Shanahan said. DMS