Washington has confirmed the visit of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III to South Korea and the Philippines next week aimed at reaffirming the “deep commitment” of the United States to its allies in the region.
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will depart Jan. 29 for a trip to the Republic of Korea and the Philippines,” the US Department of Defense said in an advisory.
“During his visits, he will meet with senior government and military leaders in both countries to advance regional stability and further strengthen the defense partnerships with the United States. This trip reaffirms the deep commitment of the United States to work in concert with allies and partners in support of the shared vision of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the advisory read.
Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said Austin wants to meet his Filipino counterpart, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
“The main purpose is really to be able to again be able to interact with our defense establishments, especially with our new Defense secretary,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez made the statement after it was disclosed that there has been a serious discussion between Manila and Washington on conducting joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
But Romualdez clarified that joint patrols are not confined with the United States, but they are also possible with other allies such as Japan and Australia.
“First and foremost, we have the VFA, we have the EDCA, we have the Mutual Defense Treaty so that’s only part of the many aspects of our defense relationship or defense alliance with the United States,” he said.
“Joint patrols does not really mean that it’s directed to any one country. It basically means that it is really for us to be able to, like the VFA, have an interoperability… that’s the operative word that I’d like to use… that we will always be able to be ready if in any event there is conflict…” the Filipino diplomat added.