Posts Tagged ‘Albert del Rosario’

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Remarks With Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, and Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin After Their Meeting


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 30, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON:Good afternoon. It is such a pleasure for me to welcome our colleagues from the Philippines, Secretary del Rosario and Secretary Gazmin. And I am always happy to welcome my longtime friend and colleague, Secretary Panetta.Today we held the first ever 2+2 meeting between the United States and the Philippines, a testament to our shared commitment to write a new chapter in the partnership between our two countries. With the growing security and economic importance of the Asia Pacific, the United States is actively working to strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and engage more systematically in the region’s multilateral institutions.

At the heart of this strategy is our effort to deepen and broaden our alliance with our friend and treaty ally, the Philippines. This alliance is rooted not just in a deep history of shared democratic values but in a wide range of mutual concerns. And today we had a chance to cover a number of them.

First we discussed our bilateral military cooperation. Our alliance has helped keep both of our countries secure for more than 60 years, and it has been a bulwark of peace and stability in Asia. Today the United States reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the mutual defense treaty.

We also discussed steps we are taking to ensure that our countries are fully capable of addressing both the challenges and the opportunities posed in the region in the 21st century. We need to continue working together to counter violent extremism, to work on addressing natural disasters, maritime security, and transnational crime.

We also discussed the evolving regional security situation. We both share deep concerns about the developments on the Korean Peninsula and events in the South China Sea, including recent tensions surrounding the Scarborough Shoal. In this context, the United States has been clear and consistent. While we do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and the unimpeded, lawful commerce across our sea lanes. The United States supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all those involved for resolving the various disputes that they encounter. We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims. And we will remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the foreign secretary as we approach the ASEAN Regional Forum in July.

Finally, we discussed the maturing economic relationship between our countries as well as our shared commitment to enhanced development, trade, and investment. We would like to see the Philippines join the Trans Pacific Partnership trade community. The foreign secretary raised the Philippines’ interest in seeking passage of the Save our Industries Act, and we have conveyed that message to the United States Congress. And of course, I complimented the Philippines and the Aquino government on the progress with our Partnership for Growth and the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact.

So once again, colleagues and friends, we appreciate your participating in this first ever 2+2, and we look forward to our future cooperation.

Secretary del Rosario.

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I am honored to be here. Today marks a milestone in the alliance and strategic partnership of the Philippines and the United States. For the first time, we held our 2+2 consultations at the ministerial level. Our consultations were timely. Discussions on key issues of common interest to us were conducted within the context of our respective domestic concerns as well as the challenges and opportunities which coexist in the Asia Pacific region. The 2+2 consultations paved the way for us to revisit the bilateral engagement between the Philippines and the United States. It opened an avenue for us to consider ways of fine-tuning our relations as we adapt to changing circumstances both in our region and the world at large. Thus, the focal points of our consultations were how best to keep our alliance relevant and responsive to each other’s needs.

We reaffirmed our shared obligations under our mutual defense treaty and underscored the necessity of ensuring that our alliance remains robust, agile, and responsive. We committed to jointly explore modalities by which the President could build a minimum credible defense posture and agreed to prioritize high-value and high-impact joint military exercises and training to meet our common objectives, including maritime security.

Moreover, we reaffirmed our common interest in maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce and transit of peoples, as well as a rules-based multilateral, peaceful approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas within the framework of international law, including UNCLOS.

In the field of economic and development cooperation, we agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Partnership for Growth, which aims to establish an inclusive growth path for the Philippines as well as the Millennium Challenge Compact to reduce poverty in our country.

The Philippines and the United States shall endeavor to increase bilateral trade and investment as well as tourism exchanges. We agreed to continue discussions on Philippine interest to eventually join the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. In the area of good governance, we shall promote the establishment of a national justice information system for the Philippines. We will also work to sustain our partnership in combating human trafficking.

In the multilateral arena, we both expressed support for efforts to increase cooperation in the ASEAN, in APEC, and in the East Asia Summit. Beyond doubt, the combined action of the Philippines and the U.S. in promoting converting interests and shared objectives would propel our alliance and strategic partnership towards a higher trajectory at a faster velocity.

Our just-concluded 2+2 consultations is the latest impetus in sustaining this positive momentum. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Secretary Panetta.

SECRETARY PANETTA: Good afternoon. I’d like to join Secretary Clinton in saying what a great pleasure it was to host Secretary del Rosario and Secretary Gazmin for one of the first 2 by 2 meetings here in Washington with the Philippines. I look forward to hosting Secretary Gazmin for dinner at the Pentagon this evening.

We had a very successful meeting today with our Filipino counterparts, and we discussed a number of ways our governments can work more closely together to strengthen the importance alliance that we have to deepen our engagements and to find shared solutions to the joint security goals that we share.
Our two nations have forged deep and abiding ties through shared sacrifice and common purpose. Seventy years ago this month, American and Filipino soldiers fought and bled together shoulder to shoulder during the opening battles of World War II at Corregidor and Bataan. Through dark days, and many of those dark days fought together, our forces joined again in 1944 to begin the hard-fought battle to liberate the Philippines. We honor that legacy with our renewed commitment to this U.S.-Philippine alliance.

Ours is an alliance and a friendship built on historic ties, common democratic values, and a shared desire to provide our two peoples a prosperous and more secure future. I want to emphasize how deeply the U.S. values this great partnership and the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty that remains the cornerstone of our security relationship. Working together, our forces successfully are countering terrorist groups in the southern Philippines. We are improving the Philippines maritime presence and capabilities with the transfer of a second high-endurance cutter this year. We are working to expand and improve joint ISR programs and our ability to counter cyber attacks. And I’m pleased to see the close cooperation being built between our forces through training and exercises such as the recently completed exercise Balikatan in 2012.

The new U.S. defense strategy that we rolled out earlier this year recognized that one of the important regions of the world that we must focus on and that America’s future security depends on is the Asia Pacific region. As a resident Pacific power, the United States is committed to a rule-based regional order that promotes viable and vibrant trade and the freedom of navigation. We are enhancing our defense cooperation and expanding security partnerships throughout the region in order to sustain peace and stability, and we are committed to continuing our robust, stabilizing presence in that region.

I look forward to sitting down later today with Secretary Gazmin to discuss, among other things, how we can deepen our engagement in ways that enhance this very important alliance and that promote our common vision of regional security in a very important Asia Pacific region. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Secretary Gazmin.

SECRETARY GAZMIN: Good afternoon. Today’s meeting was a manifestation of the mutual desire of the Philippines and the U.S. to further deepen our strategic partnership. After watching our alliance endure through the years, we deem it crucial to prepare for the security challenges of today and tomorrow.
This is why we decided to hold the first 2+2 meeting, to be able to exchange views on how to formulate adoptive and responsive strategic policies. We have reached a critical juncture in our alliance, where our concerns in both traditional and nontraditional aspects of our security have become much more intertwined. While we are sustaining the gains for successful efforts in various areas of cooperation, we need to intensify our mutual trust to uphold maritime security and the freedom of navigation and thereby contribute to the peace and stability of the region.
Meanwhile, the effects of natural disasters have become too disastrous and thus necessitate greater cooperation for expedient and effective response. We look forward to working together and consult one another on how to improve the capability to uphold maritime security and institutionalize efficient humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Keeping these two objectives in mind, we look forward in working as reliable allies that contribute to the peace and stability in the region. We are also mindful that our efforts to further our alliance need to be in full consideration of our respective national laws and political context.

Thank you and good afternoon.


MS. NULAND: We’ll take two from each side today. We’ll start with NBC, Andrea Mitchell.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, thank you. I know you can’t get into the specifics of the Chen Guangcheng case, but the whole world is watching. And already Mitt Romney has said that any serious U.S. policy towards China has to confront the facts of the lack of political freedoms and other human rights abuses. So can we be sure that your interests, America’s interests in these talks in strategic issues such as Iran and Syria and North Korea and trade will not take precedence over human rights? And what are your concerns about all the activists who have now gone missing and the fate of Mr. Chen’s family?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, I look forward to traveling to China this evening. We will be going to Beijing for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. We have a full range of issues that covers all of the political and economic matters that are of concern to our nations and our people. I’m not going to address the specific case at this time, but I just want to put it in a broader context.

The U.S.-China relationship is important. It’s important not only to President Obama and me, but it’s important to the people of the United States and the world, and we’ve worked hard to build an effective, constructive, comprehensive relationship that allows us to find ways to work together. Now a constructive relationship includes talking very frankly about those areas where we do not agree, including human rights. That is the spirit that is guiding me as I take off for Beijing tonight, and I can certainly guarantee that we will be discussing every matter, including human rights, that is pending between us.

QUESTION: And those people who have gone missing?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have nothing to add to what I’ve said at this time. I have a full agenda of many issues of great concern to us, including human rights and the freedom and free movement of people inside China who have a right to exercise those freedoms under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Jose (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. del Rosario, the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal is into its fourth week now. Did you get an unequivocal assurance from the U.S. it will come to the aid of the Philippines if shots are fired? And what was the type or form?

Also, short of shots being fired, how do you see the endgame of Scarborough being played out if China cannot be persuaded diplomatically to withdraw its vessels from the area?

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Those are several questions rolled into one, my friend, but let me begin from your last question. We do have a three-track approach to endeavoring to solve the problem that we currently have with China in the Scarborough Shoal. It encompasses three tracks.

The first track is the political track. We are pursuing the ASEAN as a framework for a solution to this problem through a code of conduct that we are trying to put together and ultimately approve. Hopefully that will quiet the situation.

Secondly, we are pursuing a legal track, and the legal track involves our pursuing a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS. There are five of them. We think that we can avail of one or two of those mechanisms, even without the presence of China.

Thirdly, we are pursuing a diplomatic approach, such as the one that we are undertaking, which is to have consultations with China in an attempt to defuse the situation.

In terms of U.S. commitment, I think the U.S. has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes, but that they are firm in terms of taking a position for a – towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea towards a multilateral approach and towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS. They have expressed that they will honor their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

MS. NULAND: Next, Cami McCormick from CBS News.

QUESTION: Secretary Panetta, this is for you. White House Counterterrorism official John Brennan today spoke openly for the first time about drones. He said the – President Obama wanted more transparency on this issue and more openness. As former CIA director and now Defense Secretary, I’m wondering, is there some national security benefit to talking about this now? Why was the decision made? And what are your thoughts on it?

SECRETARY PANETTA: I’m going to let the speech speak for itself. All I’ll say is that this country has engaged in a number of operations, both covert and overt, to go after al-Qaida and our terrorist allies – or their terrorist allies. And we have been very successful at weakening al-Qaida as a result of that. This is a group that attacked this country on 9/11, and we have made clear that we are going to do everything we can to defend this country, using every means possible. And the means we use are those that we feel are most effective to go after al-Qaida.

MS. NULAND: The last question today, (inaudible) Times.

QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Gazmin. Secretary, in light of the current Chinese-Philippines standoff in Scarborough Shoal, what kind of assistance have you asked to bolster Manila’s ability to patrol its waters and to deter what you call intrusions?

SECRETARY GAZMIN: Thank you for the question. The assistance we have sought is to help us bring the case to international legal bodies, so that the approach is the legal rules-based approach in resolving the issue in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds beside Philippines' Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario after being serenaded by Filipino musicians upon her arrival at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila November 16, 2011. Clinton is in the Philippines for a two-day visit. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS)

Signing of the Manila Declaration On Board the USS Fitzgerald in Manila Bay, Manila, Philippines

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 16, 2011


Today on board the USS Fitzgerald in Manila Bay, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario signed the Manila Declaration. The text of the Manila Declaration follows:

The Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America today commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. On this historic occasion, we reflect on the rich history of our alliance and the continuing relevance of the treaty for peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. We also reaffirm the treaty as the foundation of our relationship for the next 60 years and beyond.

The United States and the Philippines are bound by a deep and abiding friendship forged by a history of shared sacrifice and common purpose. The many Filipinos who bravely served side-by-side with American servicemen and women during World War II and the veterans of our two nations buried at the Manila American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio bear testament to our profound and enduring bonds. These bonds are enriched by the presence in the US of over four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans, and in the Philippines by over 150,000 Americans, who help shape the political and economic future of both countries.

The Republic of the Philippines and the United States today reaffirm our shared obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty. We expect to maintain a robust, balanced, and responsive security partnership including cooperating to enhance the defense, interdiction, and apprehension capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

We are determined to continue our bilateral cooperation in addressing broader regional and global challenges, including maritime security and threats to security such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and transnational crime. We are committed to continuing our close and effective cooperation to counter al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups in the southern Philippines.

We share a common interest in maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and transit of people across the seas and subscribe to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas through peaceful, collaborative, multilateral, and diplomatic processes within the framework of international law.

We are committed to advancing our nations’ mutual security interests through continuing a high-level strategic dialogue. We also support increasing regional cooperation in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

The Republic of the Philippines and the United States are long-standing economic partners that share a commitment to free trade, economic opportunity, and poverty reduction. We recognize the urgent need as expressed in the Partnership for Growth Statement of Principles to reduce poverty by creating inclusive, sustainable economic growth in the Philippines. We jointly endeavor to contribute to our peoples’ mutual prosperity and benefit by continuing our engagement in the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and promoting bilateral initiatives that will support job creation efforts in both countries.

As leading members of the Open Government Partnership, our nations support a set of common principles guiding the relationship between governments and their citizenry. We reaffirm the principles of the Open Government Declaration and intend to continue the promotion of greater government transparency and the rule of law. We are continuing to cooperate in countering the scourge of human trafficking. We reaffirm our commitment to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention against Corruption, and other applicable international instruments related to human rights and good governance.

Sixty years on, the Philippines-United States alliance has never been stronger and will continue to expand in the 21st century as our two countries chart a new direction for our critical partnership, in the defense realm and beyond. Our common values, commitment to democracy and the rule of law, robust economic relationship, and strong people-to-people ties will continue to ensure that our partnership remains strong and vibrant well into the future. With an enduring history of shared sacrifice and common purpose, the people and governments of our two countries will act together to build a better and more prosperous world for future generations.

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Remarks With Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario After Their Meeting


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
June 23, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. It is a pleasure to welcome back to Washington the foreign secretary. This may be his first visit as foreign secretary, but he is no stranger either to Washington or to the United States Government, having served with distinction as ambassador. But this gives us the opportunity to reaffirm the deep bonds between our two nations and our peoples.

The Philippines and the United States are longstanding allies, and we are committed to honoring our mutual obligations. This year, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which continues to serve as a pillar of our relationship and a source of stability in the region. Whether we are working together to combat extremism, help victims of natural disaster, or stand up for human rights, the people of our countries share a vision of a better world and a mutual desire to take action.

So as we reflect on the 60th anniversary of this defense relationship, we are also looking forward as to how we will chart a new vision for this critical alliance.

We discussed a number of bilateral issues in our Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, which brings together representatives of our defense and diplomatic communities to work towards solving common problems that affect us both.

The United States and the Philippines consult on a broad range of security issues, including counterterrorism and maritime security. For example, the United States recently transferred a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Philippine navy and helped the Philippines establish a coastal radar system so it can monitor its own waters more closely.

We also discussed the Philippines outstanding efforts to reduce poverty and fight corruption under President Aquino. Through our $434 million Millennium Challenge Compact, which I had the opportunity to announce alongside President Aquino in New York last year, we are working to reduce poverty and spark economic growth.

And the Philippines is only one of four countries in the entire world invited to participate in the Partnership for Growth, which will bring together experts to identify the biggest barriers to economic growth and find ways to overcome them.

The Philippines is also playing a high-profile role in the Open Government Partnership, which is a priority of President Obama’s to improve governance and transparency.

We discussed a wide range of regional and global issues, including the Philippines leadership in the Asia Pacific region. The Obama Administration is committed to enhancing our engagement in this region, and I thank the foreign secretary for the Philippines staunch support for our efforts to elevate our engagement with ASEAN and join the East Asia Summit.

The Philippines is an important regional partner on issues such as human rights, political and economic reform, and we closely consult on the issue in Burma.

We also discussed recent events in the South China Sea. We are concerned that recent incidents in the South China Sea could undermine peace and stability in the region. We urge all sides to exercise self-restraint, and we will continue to consult closely with all countries involved, including our treaty ally, the Philippines.

As I have said many times before, the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and unimpeded, lawful commerce in the South China Sea. We share these interests not only with ASEAN members but with other maritime nations in the broader international community. The United States does not take sides on territorial disputes over land features in the South China Sea, but we oppose the use of force or the threat of force to advance the claims of any party.

We support resolving disputes through a collaborative diplomatic presence and process without coercion. We believe governments should pursue their territorial claims and the accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with customary international law, as reflected also in the Law of the Sea Convention. The United States supports the 2002 ASEAN China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and we encourage the parties to reach agreement on a full code of conduct. We look forward to having discussions on these issues at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum in July.

So again, Secretary, thank you for a very productive conversation. I look forward to seeing you next month at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Thank you, Madam Secretary. It is a privilege for me to return to Washington, D.C. once again in the service of my country and our people. The United States remains the Philippines’s most important strategic partner, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with Secretary Clinton new ways to strengthen our longstanding alliance.

We discussed our partnership in initiatives that promote economic growth and the establishment of strong democratic institutions such as the Millennium Challenge Account, the Partnership for Growth, and the Open Government Initiative. We also discussed ways to strengthen the level of trade and investment between the U.S. and the Philippines. We discussed the Save Our Industries Act, which has been reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Inouye. We also spoke of our common efforts to combat terrorism and other forms of transnational issues such as trafficking in persons.

Secretary Clinton welcomed the Philippine Government’s progress in anti-trafficking and assured that we will be taken into account in the next review. We agreed that a strong alliance between the Philippines and the U.S., anchored firmly on shared democratic ideals and vision, contributes significantly to the maintenance of the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. I conveyed to Secretary Clinton the firm intent of the Philippine Government, under the leadership of President Aquino, to play a very active part in maintaining the security of the region.

As I have mentioned in my various meetings around Washington, D.C. and again to Secretary Clinton this afternoon, that while we are a small country, we are prepared to do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action in our backyard. The Philippines has made clear its position on the issue: to maintain peace while allowing for the economic development of the area. There is need to segregate the non-disputed areas from the disputed areas. What is ours is ours, and what is disputed can be shared.

I have discussed with Secretary Clinton our proposal for a rules-based regime in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. We adhere to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and are working towards the eventual adoption of a code of conduct. This begins with using all diplomatic channels available to manage the tensions in the area. We have used the existing diplomatic channels to register our concern over China’s aggressive action. We have also put on the table a framework for transforming the area and establishing a zone of peace, friendship, and cooperation.

At the same time, we have committed our own resources towards the development of the necessary capabilities to protect our national borders and ensure freedom of navigation and the unimpeded flow of commerce. We thus welcome the assurance from Secretary Clinton of the U.S. commitment to honor their treaty obligations as well their continuing interest in ensuring freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime sea lanes, and respect for international law in the South China Sea. I look forward to continuing discussions on concrete programs that we can undertake in pursuit of the shared objectives.

The partnership between the Philippines and the United States is also manifest in our multilateral engagements. We welcome President Obama’s participation at the East Asia Summit in Bali later this year. I would like to thank Secretary Clinton for welcoming me back to Washington and for her steadfast assurance that the partnership between the Philippines and the U.S. remains important to the United States and to the overall U.S. engagement in the Asia Pacific region.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

MS. NULAND: We have two questions from the American side and two questions from the Philippine side. The first question is (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, on the South China Sea, how concerned are you about China’s recent aggressive actions against Vietnamese and Philippine vessels off their coasts? And do you regard this as a serious threat to regional stability? And also, what is your response to comments from a senior Chinese official earlier this week, saying that the U.S. really had no role to play in helping resolve these disputes?

And also, Secretary del Rosario, if you could address your concerns about China’s recent actions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Our position on the South China Sea has been consistent and clear. We support a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants to resolve their disputes without the use or threat of force. We’re troubled by the recent incidents in the South China Sea that have increased tensions and raised concerns about the peace and security of the region.

These reported incidents clearly present significant maritime security issues, including the freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and the lawful, unimpeded economic development and commerce that all nations are entitled to pursue. We support the ASEAN China declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea. And as the secretary said, we encourage the parties to reach a full code of conduct.

And as I’ve said, we don’t, as the United States, take a position on competing sovereignty claims over land features. And as the secretary said, there is customary international law; there is the law of the seas. What is theirs is theirs and then what is disputed should be resolved peacefully. However, if there are claimants to land or sea features, then they should respect the international law and do everything we can to try to resolve these disputes because, ultimately, territorial disputes have to be resolved by the claimants. But the United States is prepared to support the initiatives led by ASEAN and work with the South China Sea’s claimants to meet their concerns.

And I would just conclude by saying that we are aware of the comments that were recently made by a high-level Chinese official. Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell will be leading the American side in the first Asia Pacific consultation at a high level between the United States and China in Hawaii over the weekend, and this will be certainly one of the most important issues on the agenda.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: On the West Philippine Sea, otherwise known as the South China Sea, we, of course, are concerned about the aggressive intrusions being made by Chinese vessels. And in the last couple of months, since February 25th, we actually have noted as many as nine intrusions of different varieties, but clearly becoming more aggressive and more frequent. We have, of course, responded to these intrusions in terms of filing diplomatic protests. And we have gotten a response which is, in our view, not acceptable. These are responses that – where the – where China is claiming that the South China Sea is totally within their sovereignty under the 9-line concept that they are submitting to the international community.

We, of course, are very concerned about where the direction of these events may be headed. And we have – the Philippine Government has come out with a position that we would like to call attention to everyone that the South China Sea, there should be a rules-based regime that should be put in force there so that international law will have to prevail. And in particular, when you – we say international law, we’re referring to the UNCLOS, or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We are asking China to please abide by this and we, of course, are hoping that the issue can be resolved diplomatically and in accordance with international law.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary, Secretary del Rosario. From ABS-CBN. The Spratly issue is what preoccupies many Filipinos right now as far as foreign affairs is concerned. And one question that keeps cropping up is: What will America do if China attacks Filipino forces in the Spratly Islands? And in this light, the armed forces of the Philippines is shifting. There’s an apparent shift from international security to external defense. And do – this is a question for Madam Secretary. If you think the Visiting Forces Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines should be reviewed to reflect the current realities in the region. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your first question, the United States honors our Mutual Defense Treaty and our strategic alliance with the Philippines. I’m not going to discuss hypothetical events, but I want to underscore our commitment to the defense of the Philippines. And with respect to our military cooperation, I think you have to view it on several levels at once.

We are in discussions with the Government of the Philippines about what their needs are because it is up to them to decide how to deploy forces and what their highest priorities are, and I will let the secretary respond to that. But we certainly wish to do what we can to support the Philippines in their desires for external support for maritime defense and the other issues that we have discussed and that the secretary is discussing in other meetings as well. There will be an upcoming U.S.-Philippines joint naval exercise starting on June 28th. It is one of the routine cooperative training exercises that we conduct with the Philippine navy, and it is one more example of our close relationship.

With respect to the VFA, we don’t, at this time, see any need for renegotiating, but we want to evaluate, we want to be sure that we are responsive to the needs that the Philippines have, and we have agreed to do that with the secretary.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Kirit Radia with ABC.

QUESTION: Hi, Madam Secretary and Mr. Secretary. If I could take you to a different region, if you don’t mind. There are reports that Syria is sending tanks to its border with Turkey to prevent refugees from being able to cross the border. Your Ambassador was recently in that region. What can you tell us about anything he may have seen while he was there? What is your message to the Syrian Government? And if I could ask you what your advice would be to the Turkish Government as they prepare to respond to this.

And also, Madam Secretary, there’s reports that another flotilla may be headed to Gaza within the next couple days. What is your message to the organizers and participants in that? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very concerned by the reports that the Syrian military has surrounded and targeted the village of Khirbet al-Jouz, which is located roughly 500 meters from the Turkish border. If true, that aggressive action will only exacerbate the already unstable refugee situation in Syria. And we’ve seen increased refugee flows across the border into Turkey. Recent reports are that there are more than 10,500 Syrians already sheltered by the Turkish Red Crescent in camps on the border.

I have discussed this at length with the foreign minister of Turkey. President Obama has discussed it with the prime minister. We are closely monitoring the situation in Syria and in neighboring countries, and it is further example of the lengths to which President Assad’s regime will go to repress the people of Syria rather than actually working in a collaborative way to try to resolve the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people. And it just is very clear to us that unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their provocations that are not only now affecting their own citizens but endangering the potential border clashes, then we’re going to see an escalation of conflict in the area. And the United States is already providing humanitarian assistance. We are closely consulting with Turkey. But this is a very worrisome development by the Syrians. They have to know what they’re doing and they have to, I assume, know their own history, because this is not the first time that they have had a provocation that led the Turks to take action to protect their own interests.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) flotilla (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.

MS. NULAND: The last question will be to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, good afternoon. The armed forces of the Philippines needs, for once, or six, modern but affordable – and the operative word here is affordable – military hardware from the U.S. so you can have a credible response against external threats at home and the South China Sea. Do you support this, Madam, and can you give us your thoughts on the matter? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we do support that and we are starting a process with the foreign secretary and the Government of the Philippines to review the existing programs and to determine what are the additional assets that the Philippines needs and how we can best provide those. There are a number of different approaches. I know that the Secretary will be meeting later with Secretary Gates and Defense Department officials. So we will closely coordinate inside the United States Government with the Government of the Philippines. We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines, and that means trying to find ways of providing affordable material and equipment that will assist the Philippine military to take the steps necessary to defend itself.

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