Friday, June 24, 2011

US eager to arm Philippines: Clinton

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Philippines Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario (L), speak during a media briefing following their private bilateral meeting on June 23, 2011, at the Department of State in Washington, DC.

Source: Press TV

The United States has announced its willingness to provide the Philippines with weaponry to boost the Asian ally's military capabilities amid what it has referred to as escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

“We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a Thursday news conference in Washington with her visiting Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario, AFP reported.

Clinton said the two countries are working “to determine what are the additional assets that the Philippines needs and how we can best provide those.”

Shortly before his talks with Clinton, del Rosario, on an official US tour, announced that the Philippines was asking the US for “an operational lease so that we can look at fairly new equipment and be able to get our hands on that quickly.”

Del Rosario said they can become a stronger ally for Washington if they can have the equipment to increase their ability in defending themselves. He said that President Benigno Aquino has allotted 11 billion pesos ($252 million) to upgrade the country's naval force.

The US gave the Philippines $15 million in military aid in the 2011 fiscal year, according to official US data.

Del Rosario will also meet US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials, according to Clinton.

Tensions have recently escalated in the strategic South China Sea, where parts of the waters believed to be rich in oil and gas are claimed by China as well as Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Philippines has deployed its navy flagship, the Rajah Humabon, to the disputed waters, the foreign minister said. It is one of the world's oldest warships that served during World War II.

China has called on the US to stay out of the dispute and leave it to the claimants.

However, Clinton has said that the US is “concerned that the recent incidents in the South China Sea could undermine peace and stability,” urging “all sides to exercise self-restraint.”

The US signed a defense treaty with the Philippines in 1951.

Washington plans to hold joint military drills with the Asian ally next week.

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