United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on Thursday, May 23, said maintaining the good relationship between U.S. and Philippine forces is essential for the stability of the region.
Though the United States is not directly involved in the claims, Kim told reporters that the country has a “very serious interest” in the area.
“[W]e take a very serious interest in what’s happening in the South China Sea, and that’s why we work very hard to protect freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight,” Kim told reporters.
In a forum at Quezon City, the U.S. envoy highlighted the advantage of having comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP). The program permits the U.S. to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”
“These are principles and values that are important for all of us, not just for the Pacific region, but for the international community, that’s why we’re carrying out a freedom of navigation operations,” Kim explained.
He added that the U.S.’ duty under the Mutual Defense Treaty would be applicable to the South China Sea since it is in the Pacific.
Kim also noted that the concerns of the U.S. stemmed from China’s aggressive and unilateral actions in the South China Sea. The U.S. warned the developing country that those actions could possibly have a “very direct effect” on the sovereignty and interest of the Philippines.
The industrialized country has long urged other claimants in the region namely China, Taiwan, and ASEAN member-states Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam to refrain from exhibiting actions that would compromise international laws.
The U.S. has pledged to continue its support to the country’s defense and military department. Kim expressed his interest in a dialogue between the military leaders of the Philippines.
“This is a very close alliance relationship so there’s constant communications between the two sides. Just last year, we had over 250 joint military activities so there are many, many occasions, opportunities for us to discuss various aspects of the alliance and I look forward to continuing that through dialogue with the Defense secretary and leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
Kim said the coast guards of the Philippines and the U.S. are also expected to carry out more activities together following joint search-and-rescue exercises on May 14 as they deploy a California-based 418-foot national security cutter named Bertholf for a mock rescue scenario.
“We had a terrific visit by the U.S. coast guard last week and they conducted very productive exercises with the Philippine coast guard, and I do expect that cooperation will continue. I’m talking to both our coast guard and the Philippine coast guard, and there’s a tremendous satisfaction to the quality, caliber of cooperation last week, and there’s a strong interest in doing more in the future,” Kim added as reported by ABS-CBN News.
Kim also shared his country’s concerns about the Shenzhen-based telecommunication equipment Huawei as it was placed in a trade blacklist after U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order declaring a national emergency to ban its sales and use due to risks to national security.
“We believe it is important as a friend, as a partner and as an ally to share our concerns with the Philippines and other partners in the region and beyond. These are very serious concerns. Frankly, it’s not just concern of the United States. I think many countries share those concerns,” Kim said.