Obama to visit Philip­pine Navy flag­ship

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILA: US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will to­day visit the Philip­pine Navy’s flag­ship, the White House said, seek­ing to high­light Amer­i­can com­mit­ment to re­gional mar­itime se­cu­rity.

Obama will board the US-made Gre­go­rio del Pi­lar shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in the Philip­pine cap­i­tal of Manila for an­nual trade talks with Asia-Pa­cific lead­ers, in­clud­ing China’s Xi Jin­ping.

“In the af­ter­noon, the pres­i­dent will tour the BRP Gre­go­rio del Pi­lar,” a White House state­ment said on Mon­day as it de­tailed Obama’s plans for his first of three days in Manila.

Obama’s aides had ear­lier said the pres­i­dent planned an event that show­cased “US mar­itime se­cu­rity as­sis­tance to the Philip­pines and the re­gion”. The White House state­ment de­tailed the venue, with the fri­gate a sym­bolic choice as it was for­merly a US Coast Guard cut­ter that was ac­quired by the Philip­pines in 2011.

Obama’s move risks irk­ing China, which is em­broiled in a bit­ter ter­ri­to­rial row over the South China Sea with the Philip­pines and some of its other Asian neigh­bors. China had made clear it hoped the fo­cus of the two-day APEC sum­mit, which starts on Wed­nes­day, would solely be on trade talks and not touch on the South China Sea.

But US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Susan Rice said in Wash­ing­ton last week that the South China Sea would be a “cen­tral is­sue” dur­ing Obama’s time in Asia. Af­ter Manila, Obama will travel to Malaysia for an­other re­gional sum­mit. In the same brief­ing as Rice, na­tional se­cu­rity aide Ben Rhodes said Obama’s visit to the the­nun­named mar­itime fa­cil­ity was aimed at com­fort­ing ner­vous Asian al­lies.

“Clearly, in our al­liance with the Philip­pines and our fo­cus in the re­gion, we have been com­mit­ted to mar­itime se­cu­rity, to prin­ci­ples like free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, and to the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes,” Rhodes said. “This event will be an op­por­tu­nity for the pres­i­dent to show­case some of that mar­itime se­cu­rity as­sis­tance.”

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even wa­ters ap­proach­ing the coasts of its neigh­bours. China’s build­ing of ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands in wa­ters close to the Philip­pines, a long­stand­ing US ally, prompted the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary to re­cently de­ploy a mis­sile de­stroyer and B-52 bomber planes to the area.

China reg­u­larly in­sists the United States has no role to play in the ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute. Wash­ing­ton says it takes no sides, but that free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion must be main­tained in the sea, which is home to some of the world’s most im­por­tant ship­ping routes. — AFP


MANILA: A woman stands in front of po­lice as Filipino la­bor­ers clash with po­lice in the Makati sec­tion of Manila yes­ter­day dur­ing protests to raise is­sues as world lead­ers ar­rive for the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Sum­mit this week.

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