Clinton: US Committed to Defense of Philippines Amid Territorial Dispute with China

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is committed to the defense of the Philippines amid a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Clinton spoke to reporters after talks in Washington Thursday with Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario. She said both countries are looking at the best way the United States can provide the Philippines assets it might need.

The United States and the Philippines signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951, requiring one country to come to the aid of the other in case of an attack.

Clinton said Thursday the United States is concerned that incidents in the South China Sea could undermine regional peace and stability. Clinton said she opposes the threat of force to advance the claims of either party. Del Rosario says his country is ready to stand up to “aggressive actions” in the region.

Several countries bordering the South China Sea claim exclusive economic zones in parts of the waters. But China and Taiwan claim the entire sea, based largely on a centuries-old map. The longtime disputes become more important because of accelerating exploration for oil and gas under the sea floor.

The Philippines has been particularly concerned over Chinese naval exercises near the disputed Spratly Islands.

A U.S. Navy spokesman says the United States and Vietnam will conduct military exercises, including mock search and rescue missions, next month. The spokesman says the war games were scheduled a while ago and are not a response to the tensions in the South China Sea between Vietnam and China.

Vietnam has also said it would like U.S. support in its territorial dispute with China. But Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai has urged the United States to stay out of the dispute, saying it has no territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Wall Street Journal newspaper quoted Cui as saying the nations feuding with China are “playing with fire.” Cui said he hoped the United States would not be “burned by this fire.”