Philippines Minister, in Washington, to Seek Help Against China

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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Philippines Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario is expected to seek assurances of U.S. military support against China during a meeting Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Philippine officials say Clinton invited del Rosario to Washington during a flare-up in tensions between Manila and Beijing over Chinese naval activities near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The Philippines wants a U.S. commitment of assistance in the event of hostilities with China under the terms of a 60-year-old mutual defense treaty.

The United States has said in general that it honors the treaty but has declined to say what it would do in any specific scenario. The U.S. ambassador in Manila, Harry Thomas, last week assured the Philippines of U.S. support “in all subjects” including the Spratly Islands dispute.

Vietnam, which is engaged in a separate South China Sea dispute with China, has also said it would welcome U.S. support. But Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said this week that the United States should stay out of the disputes because it has no territorial claims in the region.

Cui said other countries in the South China Sea disputes are “playing with fire” and he hoped “the fire would not be drawn” to the United States. The issue is likely to come up during high-level talks Saturday in Hawaii between Cui and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

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