The U.S. government has announced it is giving the Philippines a couple of naval vessels to boost its navy in response to China’s growing naval fleet in the South China Sea.
U.S. President Barrack Obama was in Manila on an official visit when he announced that the United States is going to hand over two naval vessel to Philippines, one of the country’s major allies in the Asia Pacific region. The addition will come as a major boost to the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a onetime U.S.-owned frigate and will further strengthen the position of the U.S .and its allies in the region.
President Obama spoke to media while standing in front of BRP Gregorio del Pilar, where this announcement was made. Although the U.S. president did not mention China by name, the purpose of making the announcement in such a manner was to show China that Washington will not be intimidated by Beijing’s aggressive policies in the South China Sea.
Stepping up maritime security assistance to allies in Asia Pacific
President Obama is on a week-long visit to Asi,a and the announcement to hand over the two above-mentioned naval vessels to Philippines is a continuation of the policy Washington has been practicing recently. The Philippines has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia Pacific region, and the U.S. is helping Manila shore up its military capabilities, especially when it comes to maritime security.
The two vessels that Manila will receive from the United States include a research vessel, the R/V Melville. This research vessel will allow Philippines to better map its territorial waters. This could come in very handy for the U.S. ally in the region in the wake of Beijing’s territorial claims to land and water in the South China Sea.
The other vessel which the U.S. will be handing over to Manila will be the Boutwell, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. This will strengthen the Philippines Navy to some extent and will enable it to conduct longer patrols in the South China Sea.
US plans to boost maritime security in Southeast Asia
It is not a secret that the United States is looking to boost maritime security in Southeast Asia and that is why it is assisting its allies in the region. Obama has made it clear to Beijing that the Asia Pacific region is of significant importance to the US and Washington will continue paying close attention to the events unfolding in the region.
While talking to media during the opening event ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) that Manila is hosting this year, Obama stressed that the security of the South China Sea lies with the capabilities of the navies of Washington’s allies in the region. He added that for this purpose, the United States is working towards strengthening partnerships with its friends in Southeast Asia, Military.com reported.
United States not intimidated by Chinese actions in South China Sea
While President Obama did not mention China even once during his speech, everyone knows who his words were directed towards. The United States and China are at odds for a number of reasons when it comes to the South China Sea. China’s claims of sovereignty over man-made islands and the water around it has irked Washington and many others. The U.S.has recently carried out freedom of patrol navigation in the South China Sea as a response to China’s aggressive policies in the region, and this did not go down well with Beijing.
Obama’s visit to Manila and the subsequent announcement of handing over two vessel ships to Philippines has cleared up a few things which will go a long way in shaping the regional politics in the future. For starters, it is clear that the United States, despite not being in a strong position in Asia Pacific and the South China Sea, is not intimidated by China. Washington will continue to play its politics in the region and its recent actions make it clear that the U.S. will not leave its allies alone in their hour of need.
President Obama has reiterated Washington’s stance regarding the freedom of navigation under which the recent U.S. freedom of navigation patrol took place in the South China Sea. He said that it is the shared responsibility of the countries of the region to make sure of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and United States will continue to assist its allies when it comes to the security of waters in this region.
U.S. allies can count on the United States
In a clear indication of Washington’s policy in the South China Sea, President Obama stated that the allies of the United States can count on it to show up. During his visit to Asia, the US president also talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that the US recently struck with 11 countries of the region, excluding China. TPP is believed to be the heartbeat of Obama’s Asia Pacific policy but there are still a number of question marks hanging over the ratification of this partnership.
The United States has once again reaffirmed its support for its allies in the region, but has also spoken at great length about its intentions of having a productive relationship with China. Keep in mind the recently conducted deals with Beijing over climate change indicate that as well.
China has yet to respond to United States’ decision to hand two naval vessels to the Philippines, but a response in kind might not be in the offing, given that the navies of the two countries seem to get along fine.