Obama: US goal not to 'counter' China

 

President Obama insisted that a new military pact signed with the Philippines on Monday was not designed to contain China, despite ongoing territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing.

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"Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected and that includes in the area of international disputes," Obama said in a press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

The 10-year agreement will give U.S. planes, warships and troops access to military camps throughout the Philippines, and is seen as a bid by Manila to bolster its defense capabilities in the face of Chinese aggression in the region.

In recent years, China has seized control of contested areas in the South China Sea, and Manila is wary that Beijing could move even more aggressively to seize other areas rich in oil, gas or fishery resources.

The U.S. will not reestablish military bases in the Philippines that were shuttered in the 1990s after protests over U.S. human rights and environmental abuses. But American troops will regularly rotate through the former colony.

Obama said the beefed-up presence was intended to signal to China that the U.S. wants “to be a partner with you in upholding international law."

"We don't even take a specific position on the disputes between nations, but as a matter of international law and international norms, we don't think that coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes," Obama said.

"We don't go around sending ships and threatening folks,” he added.

Aquino said the agreement would take “our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement," and that it "reaffirms our countries' commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability."

But despite his assurances, the president’s trip week-long, four-nation swing through Asia appears to have inflamed tensions with Beijing. At stops in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, Obama similarly made a point of reiterating U.S. security agreements, including in ongoing territorial disputes with Asia.