Kerry warns China

Rejects air defense zone farther south

UNITED States Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday warned China over its plan to declare an air defense identification zone over highly-contested territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“Today [Tuesday], we raise our deep concern to China announcement on air defense identification zone,” Kerry told reporters in a joint press conference late Tuesday at the DFA main office in Pasay City.

Courtesy call. President Benigno Aquino III
exchanges views with US State Secretary
John F. Kerry during Kerry’s courtesy call in
Malacañang on Tuesday. Kerry’s visit to the
Philippines this time is his first as secretary of
state. Malacañang Photo Bureau
“I told the foreign secretary [Albert del Rosario] that the US does not recognize that zone and does not accept it. The zone should not be implemented and China should refrain from [taking] any unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, particularly in the South China Sea,” he added.

Kerry said Washington will provide the Philippines $40 million to improve its maritime security in the face of a long-standing territorial dispute with China over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

“The US is committed to working with the Philippines to address its most security challenges,” Kerry said. “We have committed $40 million to improve the Philippines’ maritime security and maritime domain awareness.”

He said the aid will come from the US Global Security Contingency Fund and will be given over a three-year period.

“The US strongly opposes the use of intimidation, coercion and aggression to advance territorial claims. The US is firmly committed to the security of the Philippines and the region,” Kerry said.

Kerry, however, said the warning was not aimed at raising tension within the region.

“We do not want to raise tension. What we want to continue is the process of Obama on the rebalance to Asia and what we are involved in is maritime protection capacity,” he added. “We don’t want anything except a rule of law approach to the resolution of any issues.

Earlier, upon his arrival, Kerry met with US Embassy officials and representative of the Foreign Affairs Department led by Ambassador Jose Cuisia before he boarded an SUV on his way to the US cemetery at the Fort in Makati.

After the wreath laying ceremony at the US cemetery, he proceeded to Malacanang to meet President Benigno S. Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. He will fly to Tacloban today to wind up his two-day visit.

In Malacanang, Kerry said bilateral relations between Manila and Washington have reached a new high as both countries stood shoulder to shoulder in giving aid to the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda.

“We have found a new meaning in our relationship as we saw the United States join hands with you in order to respond to the needs of so many people. We have rekindled our ties, and we have reaffirmed America’s commitment to help rebuild and continue to stand with the Philippines,” Kerry said in his toast during the dinner hosted by Aquino.

The US official recalled how he first came to the Philippines as an election monitor during the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Aquino, for his part, said it was Kerry who convinced then US President Ronald Reagan to “tell Marcos that it was time to go.”

Aquino echoed Kerry’s statement that the post-Yolanda assistance of the US to the Philippines was a “tangible” proof of the friendship between the two countries.

“We consider the US as a true friend and partner, one who has exhibited a commitment to help uplift our people,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, in a joint conference with Kerry, Del Rosario also expressed concern over China’s plan to impose an ADIZ over the West Philippine Sea, similar to the one it declared over disputed island in the East China Sea where China has a territorial row with Japan.

“We have taken a position of greater concern the announcement made by spokesperson of China and the China ambassador to the Philippines that they will consider air defense indentification zone in other areas in the region. That could be a problem,” del Rosario said.

Kerry, however, stressed that the US supports moves to resolve territorial disputes in a peaceful manner.

“We strongly support ASEAN’s efforts with China to move quickly to conclude the Code of Conduct as a key to reducing the risk of accidents or miscalculation. In that process, we think that claimants have the responsibility to clarify their claims and align their claims with international law. That is the way to proceed in resolving any disputes in the South China Sea peacefully,” he said.

Kerry said claimants should settle their disputes by way of internationally-recognized resolution mechanisms provided in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Despite Beijing’s opposition to a third-party intervention in the sea row, the US has declared that it is in its national interest to ensure unfettered access to the waters and the disputes are resolved peacefully.

In its boldest display of assertion to date, China announced the imposition of an air defense identification zone or ADIZ over a group of islands it is disputing with Japan.

China’s ADIZ has triggered protests from the US, Japan, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch said despite Kerry’s visit, the US government remained concern over the continuing human rights problems in the Philippines. On the contrary, the State Department is still obligated by law to restrict certain forms of assistance to the Philippines military until the government takes action to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial executions. No amount of diplomacy changes that underlying reality. The law is set by the US Congress, not the Secretary of State.” With AFP



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