Sunday, June 03, 2012

Gazmin, Dellosa tackle regional security challenges in Singapore summit

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa tackled before Asia’s top defense and military delegates to the 11th Asia Security Summit of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore the multi-faceted security challenges the region is facing while batting for a peaceful resolution to the country’s prevailing territorial standoff with China in the West Philippine Sea.

Discussions yesterday at the three-day summit currently being held at the Shangri-La Hotel centered on regional balance of power, transnational threats, climate change and natural disasters.

United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the keynote speaker at this yearly regional security event, declared during the same forum that the US is closely watching the development in Panatag Shoal.

“Simultaneous special sessions are also being undertaken, paving the way for the discussions on West Philippine Sea disputes, armed forces and domestic emergencies, Northeast Asian dangers and opportunities, submarines and regional security and South Asia’s growing security threats,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said.

Aside from plenary and special discussions, Gazmin also held bilateral talks with Panetta.

In their bilateral meeting, the two defense chiefs reaffirmed their respective countries’ commitments to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), with a pledged to increase US-Philippine military cooperation in a range of areas, including cyberspace, and expanding joint information sharing, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities.

“The cornerstone of the existing and any future enhancements of our security relationship will be to assist with capacity building of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, safeguard the stability in the region, and increase interoperability so that we can effectively provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions together,” Pentagon spokesman George Little quoted him as saying.

Dellosa, for his part, had direct exchanges with his counterparts in the region to discuss-wide ranging security issues, particularly the West Philippine Sea dispute.

Aside from Panatag Shoal, which is 120 nautical miles from mainland Zambales that Beijing is claiming to be an integral part of its territory, China also declared total ownership of the entire South China Sea to include islets, reefs, atolls, cays, sandbars in the Spratly archipelago, which the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have interlocking territorial claims.

“The Shrangi-La dialogue is a very timely venue where we can discuss with foreign defense and security counterparts the pressing security challenges and concerns that the Philippines, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, is facing at present,” said Dellosa, without mentioning the country’s prevailing territorial standoff with China.

Before his meeting with Gazmin, Panetta highlighted in his speech the South China Sea territorial dispute, while giving emphasis to the strengthening relations between the Philippines and the US.

“We are energizing our alliance with the Philippines,” said Panetta, as reported in online news.

US Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is also attending the Singapore Shangri-La security summit, is reportedly traveling to the Philippines while Panetta is scheduled to visit Vietnam and later India.

Days after the standoff in Panatag Shoal and with Chinese warships reportedly conducting joint maritime training in international waters between Luzon and Taiwan, US nuclear powered submarine USS North Carolina silently surfaced at the former US Naval Base in Subic, Zambales followed by the visit of two Indian warships.

Three Japanese training warships were also in the country last week.

But the US defense chief stressed that the US government position in resolving any territorial dispute among countries is consistent and that these issues must be resolved through diplomacy and in a manner consistent with international law.

He said the US government will oppose any moves to provoke, to coerce and use force to resolve and settle these territorial disputes.

“We have made our views clear to our close treaty ally the Philippines, to China, and to other countries in the region,” said Panetta, who after his bilateral meeting with Gazmin met with Japanese Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe and South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-Jin.

Jaime Laude | The Philippine Star | June 3, 2012 | Article Link

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