Clinton: US Committed to Philippine Security, Won’t Take Sides in Maritime Disputes

Posted May 1st, 2012 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington remains committed to Philippine security, but that the U.S. will not take sides in the country's ongoing maritime standoff with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Clinton made her comments in Washington Monday during talks with top diplomatic and defense officials from Manila.

She expressed “deep concern” at the nearly three-week standoff between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both countries. She said the U.S. supports a diplomatic solution to such territorial disputes.

“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.”

A joint statement issued following the talks said the U.S. will continue to bolster the Philippines' ability to patrol its waters under the 60-year-old mutual defense treaty between the two countries.

Tensions in the region have risen in recent years as China becomes increasingly assertive about its claims over the entire 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, which is thought to be rich in oil and gas.

There has been a series of run-ins involving fishermen, military patrols and other vessels in the disputed waterway, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.