From GMA News (Jun 7): Visiting USPACOM chief expresses US neutrality in West PHL Sea issue
The United States remains neutral in the ongoing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, according to its ranking military official who was in Manila for a two-day working visit.
“The US does not take sides as regards the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue," a Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) statement quoted US Pacific Command (USPACOM) commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III as saying Friday.
He added, however, that the US "remains concerned about developments in the area and emphasized that they are opposed to unilateral actions that will change the status quo.”
Locklear's visit came amid an unresolved dispute between the Philippines and China over overlapping territories in the vast South China Sea. Beijing's aggressive moves have forced Manila to bring the issue to an international court for arbitration.
Locklear was in Manila June 6 and 7 and met with Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel T. Bautista to discuss regional security issues and PH-US defense and military relations.
Beefing up the United States military's presence in the Asia Pacific region was also among the topics discussed, the DND statement said.
Locklear said he and Philippine defense and military officials discussed “modalities of increased rotational presence of the US in the Asia-Pacific and in the Philippines... to include high value and high impact exercises.”
Locklear, who was on his third visit to the country, said his country “remains committed to its policy of rebalancing to Asia, emphasizing that the rebalance includes political economic, and military aspects.”
He maintained that the US “could contribute in enhancing the capability of the AFP in meeting emerging security challenges to include maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
“The Philippine and US sides reaffirmed the importance of enhancing their bilateral relations as well as promoting multilateralism,” he added.