WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- As Manila’s defense chiefs review the extent of the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, U.S. State Sec. Mike Pompeo reassured the country that they will defend it when under attack.
- Since the Philippines along with other countries have used the waterway as a channel for transporting goods, Pompeo said there’s no reason for China to close it down.
- However, President Duterte disputed the US’s commitment and thought the alliance would make the Philippines a target.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed a defense treaty with the Philippines that assures the country of U.S. protection in the event they are under attack in the South China Sea.
Speaking in a news conference in Manila during a stopover following a summit with North Korea in Hanoi, Pompeo reiterated that a 1951 Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty would be honored once its ally becomes a victim of aggression.
“Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations,” Pompeo told reporters in Manila.
The waterway in question serves as a channel for over $3.4 trillion worth of goods transported annually on commercial vessels, for which the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have competing claims of sovereignty on.
For this reason, Pompeo regarded these countries responsible for making sure that these vital sea lanes are open and thus, China shouldn’t threaten to close them down. He also warned allies to be careful of the risks of using Chinese technology.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang says China and other countries around the South China Sea have been working hard to ensure peace and stability.
“So if outside countries like the United States really want to consider the peace, tranquility and well-being of people in the region, then they shouldn’t make trouble out of nothing and incite trouble,” Lu, speaking from Beijing told reporters.
As Beijing rapidly continue to build military assets, coastguard and fishing militia in and around the Spratly archipelago, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a review of the treaty to verify as to what extent of defense will be given by the United States should the Philippines come under attack
However, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte believes that the deal further makes the Philippines a potential target of China. Additionally, he doubted the U.S.’s commitment, saying they did nothing to block China from converting reefs into islands that are stocked with radar and missiles batteries and fighter jet hangars within firing distance to the country.
Meanwhile, discussions on the treaty is confirmed by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin to be taking place although he thinks it’s better not be too specific about its parameters.
Moreover, Locsin stated that “we are very confident of the United States” because as Pompeo and President Trump have said to our president, ‘we have your back’.