UNITED STATES Ambassador to the Philippine Sung Y. Kim said the visit of three US ships to the Philippines are “an important signal” of the US following developments concerning the disputed South China Sea.
Mr. Kim was responding to recent statements by President Rodrigo R. Duterte that the US has not helped the Philippines enough in dealing with the South China Sea issue.
“I would note that just this year we’ve had three visits by US carriers. I think that sends an important signal that we care about developments in this region. We care about the developments in South China Sea,” he told reporters on Tuesday evening during the US Embassy’s celebration of US Independence Day at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel.
The three US Navy ships Mr. Kim was referring were the USS Carl Vinson which visited the Philippines in February this year, USS Theodore Roosevelt in April, and USS Ronald Reagan last month.
In his speech on May 4, Mr. Duterte said the US could have prevented the reclamation activities of China in the disputed waters because it was more capable than the Philippines. He also gave no assurance the US would protect the country in connection with the dispute.
“At that time, because it’s a violation of the International Law of the Seas, UNCLOS, the only country who could have stopped the Chinese… was America…. They didn’t do anything and they allowed it to happen,” Mr. Duterte said.
“China said, ‘We will protect you. We will not allow the Philippines to be destroyed. We’re just here and if you want, anytime, you can call us.’ There is America, she’s not going to protect us,” he added.
Mr. Kim said the US remained firm in its position to uphold freedom of navigation and international law principles with regards to the South China Sea issue.
“The South China Sea situation is obviously complicated. And our position, I think, has been very clear. We believe all countries should act according to international law and principles. We believe that freedom of navigation is an important way to protect our international rights and principles. So our position has not changed. And I don’t expect it to change,” he said.
The US has maintained that territorial disputes between countries should be resolved peacefully through means consistent with international law. But it has opposed reclamation activities in order to militarize outposts in disputed areas. The US has also repeatedly called out China over its militarization activities in the South China Sea. — Camille A. Aguinaldo