MANILA, Nov 27, 2018, Philstar. The Philippines’ improving relations with China will not replace its long-standing alliance with Washington, according to US Ambassador Sung Kim, reported the Philippine Star.
Kim said he is not surprised that the Philippines, Washington’s oldest ally in Asia, wanted to expand its ties with China, which has strong presence in the Indo-Pacific region and presents great economic opportunities.
“I think you can do both. You can maintain the special, deep relationship you have with the United States and at the same time see if there are opportunities to expand your trade, economic ties with China,” Kim said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday.
“But it’s important to remember that we’re the only alliance you have and I don’t think your improving relations with other countries, whether it’s China or some other countries, would replace the alliance you have with the United States,” Kim added.
The US, he said, has a long history of giving useful and valuable assistance to the Philippines.
Kim cited the work done by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Philippines, particularly in the fields of environment, education, governance.
“I think some other countries do things differently and the way they do things doesn’t necessarily lead to a long-term capability building for local communities. So benefits may seem nice but it’s very short term,” he said.
Former US state department undersecretary for political affairs Thomas Shannon Jr. has described Philippines-US ties to be “almost a family relationship.”
‘Very direct effect’
In the same interview, Kim said China’s aggressive and unilateral actions in the South China Sea have a “very direct effect” on the sovereignty and interest of the Philippines.
“It is perfectly fine for the Philippines or any other country to pursue an independent foreign policy that advances their own interest, but the South China Sea situation is not really a question of balancing US versus China,” Kim said, adding the Philippines has an important and direct stake on how the sea dispute evolves.
He said US interest is to protect international rights or the freedom of navigation and overflight.
“When you consider how much of international trade flows to that area, we all have interest in making sure that that area is free from conflict and free from unilateral militarization and aggressive and bully-like behavior,” Kim said.
The US raised concern over China’s aggressive actions in the oil-rich South China Sea and deployment of communications and radar jamming equipment at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.
In an interview at the “Kapihan sa Embahada” six months ago, Kim stressed the need for the US to be “present” in the South China Sea.
“We are concerned every time a claimant, including China, takes aggressive unilateral action toward militarization, which is clear. I saw the report. Seems to suggest that there might be moving toward militarization,” Kim said.
The US has been consistently urging the claimants including China to refrain from taking unilateral aggressive actions that are inconsistent with international law and norms.
Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, warned that China is capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the US.
Davidson assured countries in the Indo-Pacific region that the US is a better ally and looks forward to advancing partnerships for mutual interests.