The head of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, reaffirmed the US commitment to support the Philippines yesterday, amid the country’s continuing territorial dispute with China.
Locklear met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and voiced his support in helping to modernize the country’s ill-equipped armed forces, considered to be among the weakest in the region, the presidential spokesman said.
Locklear “reaffirmed the long-standing partnership between the US and the Philippines,” Aquino’s spokesman Ramon Carandang told reporters.
The admiral also “reiterated the commitment of the US to help the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense,” Carandang said.
The two officials discussed the South China Sea issue in “broad strokes” with no specific details given, Carandang said.
The Philippines, which has a mutual defense treaty with the US, has been seeking greater support from its main defense ally after a face-off with China over the Scarborough Shoal, also known in Taiwan and China as Huangyan Island (黃岩島), in the South China Sea in April.
Locklear was scheduled to meet with Filipino defense officials late yesterday, in which he would discuss “domain awareness” amid a changing security climate, -according to the US Department of Defense Web site.
“So what we are looking for is to try to provide [the Philippines] assistance that builds the interoperability of our defense forces over time,” the Web site quoted him as saying.
He also warned that a possible “miscalculation” in the dispute could threaten regional stability and reiterated that the US and Philippine militaries needed to learn to work together better.
“I am looking forward to giving the message to the Filipino military and to the leaders there that the US is a very reliable ally. We want the Filipinos to be a reliable ally to us as well,” he was quoted as saying.