Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philippines, US navies in show of unity

MANILA - STATE-OF-THE-ART US missile destroyers will join ageing Philippine warships for naval exercises this week in a timely show of unity as tensions with China escalate over a maritime dispute.

The 11 days of exercises start on Tuesday off the south-west Philippine island of Palawan in the Sulu Sea, close to the disputed waters of the South China Sea where Manila has complained of increasing Chinese provocation.

Officially the training is an annual event not linked to the territorial row, but it nevertheless offers the Philippines comfort shortly after appealing to its longtime ally and former colonial power for help in containing China.

'The exercises show that the Philippines and the US are still very close. They (Philippine leaders) hope that the Chinese will be impressed by this,' said Ben Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University. 'It will give the Philippines confidence in regard to diplomatic leverage. When they meet the Chinese again in peaceful negotiations, they can say 'the Americans are on our side'.'

The Philippines has in recent months complained of allegedly increasingly aggressive actions by China in waters claimed by both nations in the strategically vital and potentially resource-rich South China Sea.

The Philippines and China - along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam - claim all or part of the South China Sea, and the area has long been considered one of Asia's potential military flashpoints. -- AFP

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