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Spratlys > News > Chinese News > Feb 2004

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The Manina Times

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Manila likely to accept US plan to increase troops–DFA

By Jowie F. Corpuz, Correspondent with Karl Kaufman, Reporter

MANILA is keen on accepting the proposed plan of the United States to increase its military forces since the country needs reinforcement due to China’s continued building up of facilities in the disputed Spratly Islands.

At Camp Aguinaldo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced on Tuesday that around 2,600 American soldiers are scheduled to arrive and join 2,300 of their Philippine counterparts for this year’s joint RP-US Balikatan Exercises.

The Armed Forces vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, said this year’s Balikatan exercises are being expanded to two more provinces “in order to have other AFP area commands participate in interoperability and command post exercises.”

The usual Balikatan venues like Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Crow Valley in Clark Air Base; and Ternate, Cavite. This year’s exercises will also be held in Palawan and in Basco, Batanes.

“The exercise will improve combined planning, combat readiness and interoperability of the Philippine and the US military,” Garcia said at a press briefing.

He described this year’s Balikatan as “three-tiered whose essential purpose is to enhance the interoperabi­lity of the two forces.”

A diplomatic source, meanwhile, said the redeployment of the US forces in the country might be useful once the Philippines seeks assistance from its allies in asserting its stand regarding the allegedly continuous violation by China of the Code of Conduct on the contested islands.

The source said the US forces in other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea are losing their significance.

“The US forces in those countries are losing their relevance because the six-party talks in North Korea are progressing and Japan has a growing sentiment over the presence of the American military,” the source said.

The source explained that the only reason why the American troops are still in South Korea is because of the apparent reluctance of the North Korean government to abandon its nuclear programs.

However, with the progress of the six-party talks, the presence of the US soldiers in South Korea might no longer be needed.

The source added that the US military troops currently deployed in Okinawa and Korean Peninsula have nowhere to go except to the Philippines, which has a reason for taking them in.

With this development, the source said the Philippine government is starting to find a legal structure to justify the redeployment of American soldiers in the country.

On Monday, Washington sent its two ranking defense officials to discuss with the Philippine government the possible posting of its military troops in Asia in efforts to further strengthen the fight against the global terrorism.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield and Brig. Gen. John Allen, principal director for Asia and the Pacific affairs, met with Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Sonia Brady and emphasized the need for the repositioning of the American troops in the region.

The US Embassy in Manila, however, dismissed speculations that the global defense posture review signifies the return of American bases in the country.

US Consul General Joseph Mussomeli assured the Philippine government that the planned posture review only has minimal effect on the Philippines but he did not discount the possibility of the relocation of their troops.

“That is certainly not envisioned at this time,” the envoy said.

The US officials came to the country shortly after President George W. Bush formally asked the US Congress to allocate a $164.1-million security assistance package for the Philippines.

source: http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2004/feb/11/yehey/top_stories/20040211top8.html (accessed on 20 Feb 2004)
* note: zt means (zhuan tie)