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|Subject: A US F/A-18F Super Hornet jet September 1st 2013, 3:12 pm|| |
Chuck Hagel to visit Manila after meeting ASEAN defense chiefs
By: Jaime Sinapit, InterAksyon.com
August 22, 2013 7:53 PM
A US F/A-18F Super Hornet jet from the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron 102 flies over the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is patrolling the Philippine Sea. As talks continue for increased US rotational presence in the country, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit Manila next week, according to the USPACOM. US NAVY PHOTO
MANILA - United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will visit the Philippines next week after his appearance at a two-day meeting of ASEAN defense ministers in Brunei, the US Pacific Command said.
The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were earlier reported as planning to draft a binding code of conduct over the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and South China Sea (SCS), in hopes of later persuading China to consider this, amid continuing tensions over China's sweeping claims of maritime territory.
Hagel's visit to Manila is seen as a continuing US effort to assure its treaty ally that it will help keep the peace in the region, amid Beijing's perceived bullying of other claimants in the South China Sea, including the Philippines and three other ASEAN members. Last June, Ray Mabus, United States Navy Secretary, was also in Manila to discuss bilateral and multilateral security issues with, among other senior officials, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano.
The Philippines and the US sides also began negotiations recently for an agreement to increase US "rotational presence" in the Philippines, while the AFP is still beefing up its capabilities. US senior diplomat Eric John, who led a US team that negotiated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was assigned to head the negotiating panel for the currently envisioned agreement. The VFA allows the deployment of limited American troops but not military equipment and armaments. Some 700 American soldiers are deployed in major military camps in Mindanao.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta leads the Philippine panel that is preparing for the second round of talks on rotational presence, likely to be held in Washington later this month.
Amid the flurry of meetings between US and Philippine officials, the USPACOM, meanwhile, continues to “patrol” the Philippine Sea with its warships, while China maintains its presence in the disputed territories in the WPS.
A photograph with dateline “Philippine Sea, posted on August 21, 2013 at the USPACOM website by Lt. Junior Grade Douglas Spence, shows an F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet flying above the US Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73).
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the USPACOM said.