CHICAGO (JGL) – United States Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, urged the U.S. government to “to continue with the legitimate challenges to China’s illegal claims in South China Sea.”
Senators McCain and Reed issued the challenge when Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario and Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin paid a call in McCain’s Senate office in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Jan. 12.
For his part, Secretary Del Rosario thanked the “Senate Armed Services Committee for the priority it has accorded to US engagement with Asia-Pacific and for the Committee’s statements calling for stronger US presence in the region.”
In a press statement following the Philippine Supreme Court clearing the way for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDCA), Senator McCain hailed the landmark agreement between the United States and the Philippines that “will bring our alliance to a level of cooperation and integration that we have not witnessed in decades. As Manila finds itself the target of Chinese coercion in the West Philippine Sea and is looking to Washington for leadership, this agreement will give us new tools to deepen our alliance with the Philippines, expand engagement with the Philippine Armed Forces, and enhance our presence in Southeast Asia.”
“Equally important, I look forward to seeing the implementation of the Maritime Security Initiative beginning this year, a Congressional initiative that will give the Department of Defense news resources and tools to build the maritime capacity of the Philippines and other Southeast Asia partners.”
The Maritime Security Initiative in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allots US$50-million to help enhance the maritime security capacities of countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. President Barack Obama first unveiled this maritime assistance plan when he was in Manila last November.
The Armed Services Committee oversees the nation’s military structure, overseas operations, and common defense. As a longstanding member of the committee, Senator Reed works hard to ensure that America’s fighting men and women have the equipment they need and the benefits they deserve.
Senator Reed serves as the Ranking Member of the full committee, where he helps maintain America’s naval and expeditionary strength, and assure Rhode Island’s critical role in defense and national security.
The two Secretaries also noted Senator McCain’s comments against China’s recent test flight over Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and the Committee’s consistent efforts to prod the US Government to continue with legitimate challenges to China’s illegal claims in the South China Sea.
On the arbitration case, Secretary Del Rosario thanked the Committee and Senator McCain for expressing support to the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision on the question of jurisdiction; freedom of navigations operations; and the decision of the Philippine Supreme Court that affirmed the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Secretary Del Rosario and Secretary Gazmin were in the US capital for the second Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue also held on Jan. 12 at the US Department of State. They led the Philippine delegation composed of Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Andrelita Austria, Defense Assistant Secretary Raymond Quilop, Consul General Henry Bensurto, Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, and other government officials.
The Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue is the highest level policy consultative mechanism between the Philippine and US Governments. The first Philippines-US Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue, which was held on 30 April 2012 in Washington, D.C., was considered a milestone in the bilateral relations.
The Joint Statement of the Second Philippines-US Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue may be viewed here. ([email protected])