Saturday, April 18, 2015

America maintains ‘very strong’ presence in Asia – US official

From GMA News (Apr 18): America maintains ‘very strong’ presence in Asia – US official

A senior US State Department official said Washington is committed to maintain a “very strong” presence in the Asia Pacific and even has plans to beef up naval and other forces to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, said that broad, long-term American commitment to stay strongly engaged in Asia would be seen in various fields of interests, including trade and security.
“In terms of US presence, we continue to maintain a very strong presence in the region including but not limited to the Navy and (Defense) Secretary (Ash) Carter said we intend to maintain a very strong presence with a goal again of maintaining that peaceful and stable environment that is so helpful for all the countries in the region,” Marciel said in response to questions from journalists in Manila Friday evening.
Marciel was in Manila Thursday to Friday as part of a three-country swing in Southeast Asia that includes Thailand and Indonesia.
“I think again it’s a broad long term commitment,” he said. “As President [Barack] Obama said, we are a Pacific Power, a Pacific nation. So it’s part of a long term commitment to be a partner to the nations of the region to be very active and involved – diplomatically economically and not just security by any stretch of imagination.”
Washington has sought to reassure Asian allies territorially at odds with China of security support, but there have been doubts if the US can fulfill that pledge given its involvement in security hotspots elsewhere, including in Syria and Iraq.

US concerned over China's activities in South China Sea
Marciel did not categorically link the planned American beef up of forces in the Asia Pacific region to recent concerns, including by Washington, over massive Chinese land reclamations of previously submerged reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea but he did mention that the US was alarmed by the rapidly progressing reclamations.
“We have said publicly a number of times, including very recently, we have expressed concern about some of China’s actions in the SCS including most recently the extensive reclamation,” he said.
While Marciel reiterated that Washington does not take sides in the territorial disputes, he said “it is very important that while this long term process of working out sovereignty takes place that all claimant nations show restraint and avoid actions that are provocative that could increase tension and in that context we have expressed concern about China’s action including reclamations.”
Marciel confirmed that Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario would travel to Washington to discuss bilateral issues, including possible increases in US military assistance to the Philippines, a treaty ally.
Asked about Del Rosario’s recent statement that he would like to see a “substantive” American support as the Philippines confronts China’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea, Marciel said the Philippine Foreign Minister plans to raise that with Washington.
“I think Secretary Del Rosario would like to discuss that in Washington with top US officials,” Marciel said, but added there have been ongoing US efforts to help the Philippines, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to better monitor its offshore territories.
“What I would like to say is we have been doing for some time is support for the Philippines in terms of support for strengthening the Armed Forces of the Philippines this is not just related to the South China Sea of course this is much broader.”
“Support for increasing maritime domain awareness, the ability of the Philippine forces to be aware of what’s happening in their waters so these are things that are already under way,” he said.

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