United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday warned China not to impose its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Beijing was strongly criticized for imposing the ADIZ over a group of islands in the East China Sea, which are being claimed by Japan and China. China requires aircraft to provide flight plans when traversing the area, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures.”
“I told the foreign secretary [Albert del Rosario] that the US does not recognize that zone and does not accept it. The zone should not be implemented and China should refrain from [taking]any unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, particularly in the South China Sea,” Kerry told reporters after emerging from a meeting with del Rosario.
“The US strongly opposes the use of intimidation, coercion and aggression to advance territorial claims. The US is firmly committed to the security of the Philippines and the region,” Kerry added.
Kerry, in Manila for a two-day visit, threw his support behind the Philippines over its simmering territorial dispute with China, calling Manila a “key treaty ally.”
“The United States is committed to working with the Philippines to address its most pressing security challenges,” Kerry said.
“That is why we are negotiating a strong and enduring framework agreement that will enhance defense cooperation under our alliance, including through an increased rotational presence in the Philippines,” he said.
The US official maintained that Washington supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) efforts to come up with a Code of Conduct (COC) in the region.
The COC, he added, will be “key” to reducing accidents and miscalculations in the region where lately, a US cruiser and Chinese vessel almost collided.
Kerry said that the claimants in the region must clarify their claims in accordance to international law.
“That is the way to resolving the disputes peacefully and through international law,” he added.
The US is also supportive of the Philippines’ move to bring its dispute with China before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos), a court working under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The US, Kerry said, “committed” $40 million to improve the Philippines’ maritime security and maritime domain awareness.
The US official, however, downplayed the “rising tension” in the region because of China’s aggressive stance.
“We are not looking to do anything except to continue a process that President [Barack] Obama initiated a number of years ago when he began the rebalance to Asia and what we are involved in [is]maritime protection capacity,” Kerry explained.
“We are not suggesting we are doing anything out of the ordinary. We don’t want anything except a rule of law approach to the resolution of any issues.”
The official reiterated that Washington does not take any sides on any “particular claims asserted by anybody” and that it supports arbitration and the rule of law.
“We have taken a position on a way we think it should be resolved. We don’t support unilateral action that have the impact of being provocative and raising [international tension],” Kerry said.
“We are not approaching this with any particular view, except to say that when China makes a unilateral move, we will state our position and make clear what we agree and disagree with and that is what we did in respect to the ADIZ.”
For his part, del Rosario said that by establishing an ADIZ, China is “attempting to transform an air zone into its own.”
“We think it compromises freedom of flight in terms of civil aviation and the safety and security of affected nations. We call on China to ensure their action will not jeopardize regional security,” he said.
He added that Manila views with concern China’s earlier statement that it may establish air zones in other areas.
“That to us is a problem,” del Rosario said.
Before his meeting with del Rosario, Kerry met members of the business community and thanked them for helping victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
“I know many Americans in the business along with their staff served as powerful ambassadors to our nation’s character and our compassion,” he said. “That’s great corporate and global citizenship and we’re proud as United States to reach out not just by words but through actions”
“The support of American businessmen is very symbolic, a powerful symbol in the strength of the relationship of United States and the Philippines,” according to Kerry.
He said the partnership between the US and Manila has a bright future, describing it as “two vibrant democracies that committed to each other in strength and prosperity.”
Kerry also mentioned the potential of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said can open up new opportunities.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership which has the ability to be able to raise standards and to open up more new opportunities and put 40 percent of the world’s economy into one economic group that has the ability to affect global trade and obviously create millions of jobs,” he said.
He said the TPP will ensure that high standards will be set for workers and consumers. It will also enable the Philippines and the US to forge a stronger foundation for economic growth and development.
He added that US will welcome a Philippine delegation to Washington at the end of January to start technical consultations regarding the TPP.
“We are committed to working with the government of the Philippines so that the nation can return to the FAA’s category 1 list making the travel and exchange between our two countries much more efficient and easier. Each of these initiatives that I have mentioned has the potential to extend exchanges between the two countries and each of them has the ability to thrive your businesses to greater success and prosperity between our two countries,” he said.
Kerry will be in Tacloban City today to see firsthand the situation and promised to give more US aid.
With reports from AFP, Volt Palaña