Kerry Backs PH Arbitration Bid On West PH Sea

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – United States State Department Secretary John F. Kerry assured Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, April 2, support for the Philippine move to seek international arbitration as a peaceful solution of the overlapping claims in the West Philippine Seas as a step in the right direction.

Secretary Kerry pledged to continue to work with the Philippines on the peaceful solution of the conflict in the coming ASEAN and related meetings.
Kerry made the pledge before the members of the press and later in his meeting with the Secretary Del Rosario Tuesday morning in the State Department – the first between the two top diplomats of two allied nations since the former U.S. senator assumed office early this year.

“The Philippines is one of our five Asia-Pacific allies and a very, very important relationship at this point in time when there are tensions over the South China Sea, where we support a code of conduct,” Secretary Kerry said in his statement before the press. “We are deeply concerned about some of these tensions and would like to see it worked out through a process of arbitration.”

For his part, Secretary Del Rosario said, “We spoke at length about the situation in the West Philippine Sea.  Secretary Kerry emphasized the importance the United States gives to maintaining peace and stability in the area. More importantly, Secretary Kerry assured me that the US is committed to supporting the efforts of the Philippines to settle the disputes peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.”

UPDATE ON ARBITRATION INITIATIVE

“I also updated Secretary Kerry on our arbitration initiative.  I emphasized its importance to the future stability of our region in particular and to the future efficacy of international law in general,” said Secretary Del Rosario.  He was accompanied in the meeting by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos D. Sorreta; Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Austria; and Executive Director Rosalita S. Prospero of the Office of American Affairs.

“I stressed that we are committed to seeing this arbitration through.  There should be no confusion or any doubts about our resolve,” the Secretary said, adding that Secretary Kerry is fully supportive of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and was one of its strongest advocates for its ratification in the US Senate.

“We agreed to work closely together, particularly in the coming ASEAN ministerial and summit meetings to maintain peace in the area and to resolve the disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with the rule of law,” the Secretary said.

“I also welcomed Secretary Kerry’s commitment to work with Brunei, the current ASEAN chair, on the issue of the West Philippine Sea.  Both the United States and Brunei know that the Philippines is committed to the arbitration case it has filed,” Secretary Del Rosario said.

SECRETARY KERRY MET WITH BRUNEI SULTAN BOLKIAH

Secretary Kerry made this commitment when he met with His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei at the State Department on March 11, 2013.
Secretary del Rosario also thanked Secretary Kerry for focusing on the issue of the peaceful settlement of the West Philippine Sea when he was in the Senate.

“Secretary Kerry was a moving force behind a Senate resolution on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” the Secretary said.

At the same time, “We agreed that as strategic partners, it is important for both our nations to further deepen our relations on all levels.  We agreed that our long shared history and profound common values serve as a firm basis for this,” Secretary Del Rosario said after his meeting with his American counterpart at the Department of State here this morning.

“Our ability to deter threats or provocation is an important part of this cooperation.  In this context, we discussed our joint efforts to build the capacity of the Philippines to defend its territory and people. We also exchanged views on the implementation of our agreed policy of increased rotational presence and enhanced exercises,” Secretary Del Rosario stated.

“We also reiterated our agreement that our defense and security cooperation extends to facing other threats in the region, including natural disasters.  We will continue to cooperate in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” the Secretary emphasized.

During the meeting, Secretary Kerry emphasized his personal closeness to the Philippines and his determination to further enhance bilateral relations. “Secretary Kerry was part of the election monitoring team headed by Senator Richard Lugar in 1986.  Since then he has always had a keen interest in our country and our democracy,” the Secretary said.

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