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US Renews Pledge to Defend Philippines 11/23 06:30

   

   MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's administration 
provided precision-guided missiles and other weapons to help the Philippines 
battle Islamic State group-aligned militants and renewed a pledge to defend its 
treaty ally if it comes under attack in the disputed South China Sea.

   National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien represented Trump in Monday's 
ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, where he announced the 
delivery of the missiles and bombs to the Philippine military. Trump pledged to 
provide the $18 million worth of missiles in a phone conversation with 
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in April, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin 
Jr. said.

   O'Brien expressed condolences to the Philippines after back-to-back typhoons 
left a trail of death and devastation in the country and outlined U.S. help to 
the country to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

   The U.S. assistance projects normalcy in Washington's foreign relations as 
Trump works to challenge the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, 
claiming he was a victim of fraud. Duterte had asked Filipino Americans to vote 
for Trump but congratulated Joe Biden, through his spokesperson, for winning 
the election.

   Asked in an online news briefing if any of the officials he met in Vietnam 
and the Philippines voiced concern about the post-election situation in the 
U.S., O'Brien said nobody did. "There will be a transition if the courts don't 
rule in President Trump's favor," he said.

   O'Brien represented Trump in a recent online summit between the U.S. and 
leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and an expanded East Asia 
summit of heads of state attended by China and Russia that was also held by 
video and hosted by Vietnam.

   In his remarks at the turnover of the U.S. missiles in Manila, O'Brien cited 
the Trump administration's role in the defeat of the Islamic State group in the 
Middle East and last year's killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 
Syria, and renewed its commitment to help defeat IS-linked militants in the 
southern Philippines.

   "President Trump is standing with President Duterte as we combat ISIS here 
in Southeast Asia," O'Brien said. "This transfer underscores our strong and 
enduring commitment to our critical alliance."

   He expressed hope for the continuance of a key security agreement that 
allows American forces to train in large-scale combat exercises in the 
Philippines. Duterte moved to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the 
U.S. early this year but later delayed the effectivity of his decision to next 
year, a move welcomed by O'Brien.

   He said the U.S. stands with the Philippines in its effort to protect its 
sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The Philippines announced last month 
that it would resume oil and gas explorations in or near Reed Bank, which lies 
off the country's western coast and is also claimed by China.

   "They belong to the Philippine people. They don't belong to some other 
country that just because they may be bigger than the Philippines they can come 
take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people. That's just 
wrong," O'Brien said.

   He repeated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement early this year 
that "any armed attack on Philippine forces aircraft or public vessels in the 
South China Sea will trigger our mutual defense obligations." The allies have a 
69-year-old mutual defense treaty.

   In July, Pompeo escalated the Trump administration's attacks against China 
by declaring that Washington regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims in 
the disputed waterway as illegitimate. China reacted angrily by accusing the 
U.S. of sowing discord between Beijing and neighboring Asian states.

 
 
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