China responds to reports of rise in US army presence

Posted on January 31, 2012

BEIJING -- China’s foreign ministry doused water over heated opinions raised by reports that the Philippine government is open to the stronger presence of US troops in the Philippines, which many see as a countering measure to China’s aggressive stand in the disputed South China Sea.

In a short statement issued late Sunday, the ministry said it has “taken note of the report and urges relevant parties to do more to help maintain regional peace and stability.”

The same statement was also published as a news item in several Chinese government-owned newspapers on Monday.

The reports added that by increasing military drills between Philippine and US troops near the contentious South China Sea, Manila is sending the wrong signal if they want to solve the disputed claims peacefully.

“The move sends a very dangerous signal that could cause China to misjudge the US intentions, and raise suspicions between the two countries,” Wang Junsheng of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was quoted by a news report here.

The state-owned China Daily on Sunday published an editorial piece calling for the Chinese government to sanction the Philippines by cooling economic ties. Renewed tension was raised after Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario confirmed that the Philippines is seeking greater military ties with the US, and even offering its country for more American soldiers amid the tension in South China Sea.

“Yes, it is to our definite advantage to be exploring how to maximize our treaty alliance with the United States in ways that would be mutually acceptable and beneficial,” Mr. Del Rosario said in a statement posted on the Web site of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“If there could be the possibility of threats to our national interest in terms of territorial disputes, we should be prepared to deal with these issues diplomatically. To complement the diplomatic approach we must at the very least also endeavor to achieve a minimum credible defense posture,” he added.

On Sunday, the Philippines and the US, which held a two-day Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., agreed on various points to enhance military ties by deepening and broadening maritime security cooperation.

In a joint statement, the US and the Philippines reaffirmed its commitment to “fulfill the vision of the Manila Declaration through an invigorated and expanded alliance capable of addressing 21st-century challenges.”

“We reinforced the significance of our Mutual Defense Treaty as the basis for the alliance and the treaty’s continued relevance to the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. We committed to further enhance cooperation, including in security, defense, commerce, law enforcement, human rights and disaster relief,” it added.

But a leftist group in Manila sees the Aquino administration strategy as weak in finding a solution to end the dispute issue in South China Sea.

“While we condemn China’s intrusions in our territory, we are equally apprehensive of American expansionism in the region. These two super powers are both friends and enemies, depending on our national interest. What is important is that we are neither pushovers of China nor pawns of the US,” Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said in an e-mailed statement. -- Darwin T. Wee