China in Focus at U.S.- Philippine Security Talks

As tensions rise in the South China Sea due to the joint China-Russia military drills and the stalemate in the Scarborough Shoal, China was high on the agenda in talks between the Philippines and the US. Reuters reports:

Those disputes are pushing the Philippines to seek closer cooperation with the United States, which in turn has prompted China to warn Washington against getting involved, denouncing last week’s U.S.-Philippine military drills as bringing the risk of armed conflict closer.

“I’m sure we need to be diplomatic, but I don’t think we should tip-toe around the Chinese on this,” said Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center with the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

On Sunday, China said it had made “stern representations” to the Philippines about its proposal for international arbitration over Scarborough Shoal, site of the most recent stand-off between the two sides.

“China urges the Philippines to earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and do nothing to expand or complicate matters,” the ministry cited Deng Zhonghua, head of its department of boundary and ocean affairs, as saying.

As a result of the talks, the US has announced that it would help build the Philippine’s maritime forces, but it would not take sides in the South China Sea dispute. The Washington Post adds:

The top diplomats and defense officials of the treaty allies held their first joint meeting Monday and discussed the three-week standoff at the Scarborough Shoal.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reaffirmed U.S. commitment to its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, and to freedom of navigation and regional security. She reiterated support for a diplomatic resolution to territorial disputes.

A joint statement said they would cooperate on building the Philippines’ maritime security capabilities. The U.S. will transfer a second ship to the poorly equipped Philippine navy this year.