Presidents of US, Philippines Discuss Security

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and his Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino have agreed to strengthen their military cooperation, amid high tensions between the Philippines and China.

Asian security was one of the main issues discussed Friday in President Aquino's first visit to the Oval Office.

After the meeting, President Obama said he and Mr. Aquino agreed to consult closely on regional issues and to increase their cooperation on military training.

“All of which is consistent with the announced pivot by the United States back to Asia, and reminding everybody that, in fact, the United States considers itself and is a Pacific power.”

With China becoming more assertive in the region, the Philippines is looking for help in bolstering its naval and air defenses. At the same time, the United States is working to raise its profile in the Asia-Pacific region, in the face of growing Chinese influence.

A White House statement says Mr. Obama reaffirmed U.S. support for the Philippines' effort to strengthen its defenses. Washington recently transferred a second U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Philippines.

The United States and the Philippines have had a Mutual Defense Treaty since 1951, the oldest of five U.S. treaty alliances in Asia.

Philippine and Chinese vessels have been engaged in a two-month standoff in the disputed shoal, although Mr. Aquino has said the tensions have eased somewhat.

The United States takes no position on South China Sea rivalries, but encourages countries in the area, including rival claimants, to resolve disputes through a “code of conduct” being developed with China's participation.

During Friday's meeting, President Obama recognized Mr. Aquino's commitment to peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He also praised the Philippine leader's efforts to reduce corruption and improve his country's economy.

The two presidents met last year at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii, and again in Bali on the sidelines of the East Asia summit.