US Navy brass in town for ‘pivot’ talks

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The commander of the US Navy Pacific Fleet arrived in Manila on Monday to discuss with Philippine government officials the “implications” of its rebalance to Asia policy, which is seen as America’s way to counter China’s rising power in the region.

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Admiral Harry Harris Jr. is in his first official visit to the Philippines, one of Washington’s most important allies in the Asia Pacific region.

According to a statement from the US Embassy in Manila, Harris would like to take this opportunity to discuss the “implications” of President Barack Obama’s repivot to Asia policy, which paved the way for negotiations on the increased rotational presence of American troops on Philippine soil.

The policy was announced during Obama’s first term, and stretched to his second term as commander-in-chief of the US military.

The refocus on Asia and the strategic increase of American presence in the region came a decade after its preoccupation on the “War Against Terror” campaign in the Middle East in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Discussing the implications of the repivot to Asia policy might also unravel American policies when it comes to Manila’s territorial disputes with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The negotiations on the increased rotational presence is seen as Manila’s way to counter Chinese aggressions in the resource-rich region as Beijing slowly creeps into Philippine-claimed territories in the disputed waters.

China has frowned upon what it sees as Washington’s interference in the issues.

But besides discussing the policy, Harris will also talk to officials about “the strong and enduring relationships between the US and Philippine navies and the importance of naval engagement and cooperation for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Harris is scheduled to meet with US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg, make an office call on Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano, Flag-Officer-In-Command, at the headquarters of the Philippine Navy, and visit Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Harris is the 34th officer to command the US Pacific Fleet since it was established in February 1941 with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

He is the highest ranking Asian-American in the history of the US Navy.

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