Pompeo assures Philippines of US protection in South China Sea

Pompeo assures Philippines of US protection in South China Sea
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS extends waivers on Iran sanctions amid coronavirus pandemic Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories MORE on Friday visited Manila, where he assured Philippine officials that the Trump administration would provide military support if the country's vessels fell under attack from Chinese forces in the South China Sea.

Reuters and The Associated Press report that Pompeo told reporters at a press conference that the U.S. would ensure that the South China Sea remained open for trade despite increased activity from Chinese naval and military forces in the area in recent years.

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“I think the whole world understands that the Trump administration has made a true commitment to making sure that these seas remain open for the security of the countries in the region and the world, open to commercial transit,” Pompeo told reporters, according to the AP.

“China’s island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security and therefore economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States,” Pompeo continued, according to Reuters.

“Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations," he added.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Friday reportedly said Chinese forces in the area are there to maintain territorial sovereignty and that the U.S. and other ships should have no problems in the region if they don't start trouble.

“So if countries outside the region, like the United States, really want to consider the peace, tranquillity and well-being of people in the region, then they shouldn’t make trouble out of nothing and incite trouble," Lu said, according to the news services.

Philippine foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin expressed confidence in U.S. support after his meeting with Pompeo, telling reporters that “[w]e are very assured, we are very confident that United States has, in the words of Secretary Pompeo, and in the words of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE to our president, ‘we have your back.' ”