By Camille Aguinaldo, Reporter
DEFENSE SECRETARY Defin N. Lorenzana and US Department of State Secretary Michael R. Pompeo reaffirmed the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries in a meeting on Wednesday in Washington D.C.
In a statement, US Under Secretary of State Heather Nauert said the two officials also “discussed cooperation on regional security challenges,” including militarization in the South China Sea and the denuclearization of North Korea.
Mr. Pompeo also reiterated to Mr. Lorenzana the US’ continuing assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization program.
“Secretary Pompeo also expressed condolences for the destruction and loss of life caused by Typhoon Ompong and offered US assistance in humanitarian relief efforts,” Ms. Nauert said.
The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty mandates both countries to support each other in case the Philippines or United States is under attack in the Pacific region.
This agreement has been cited in the South China Sea issue as to whether it will be enforced if Philippine troops or vessels are attacked in the disputed waters.
The Philippines has long depended on the US for military hardware and support. However, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has recently turned to China and Russia for trade and defense cooperation.
Mr. Lorenzana also had a meeting with US Defense Secretary James N. Mattis last Tuesday at the Pentagon to discuss the continuing defense alliance of the two countries.
According to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, Mr. Lorenzana and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez also met with US senators Cory S. Gardner and Daniel S. Sullivan last Tuesday.
Mr. Gardner is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific while Mr. Sullivan is a member of the Senate Armed Services committee.