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American Forces Press Service

Carter: U.S., Philippines Enjoy 'Longstanding' Alliance

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

MANILA, Philippines, March 19, 2013 – On the third stop of his weeklong trip to Asia, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter met today with top officials here and carried greetings from President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to be delivered to President Benigno Aquino III.

During meetings with the president's executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Carter discussed a range of regional range of regional security issues important to the U.S.-Philippines alliance.

Carter began his visit in Manila by meeting with Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters of the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or AFP. The men discussed the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, including the continued U.S. commitment to work together on maritime domain awareness, capacity building of the AFP, defense modernization and continued assistance in counterterrorism. Carter emphasized the importance of working together to resolve incidents.

Later in the day, Carter met with del Rosario and senior Foreign Affairs Department officials, followed by a lunch that del Rosario hosted. The two discussed a range of issues including U.S.-Philippine efforts to enhance cooperation across security, diplomatic and economic sectors, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and a code of conduct for resolving disputes in the South China Sea, as well as other bilateral and regional topics.

Carter wrapped up his Manila visit by meeting with Ochoa at the Malacanang Palace complex. The deputy defense secretary addressed issues involving the U.S. rebalance to Asia and concerns about the possible impact to that effort because of defense budget cuts. Discussions ranged from ASEAN and the regional security architecture to Philippine defense modernization efforts.

During a media interview this afternoon, Carter said he came here "because this region of the world is so important to America's future in many ways -- political and economic, but also in the security sphere."

And because of his position as deputy defense secretary, he said, "obviously, I'm focused on the security area. In that context, the United States has deep and abiding security roots here."

As he met with officials, Carter took time to share a more personal reason for his appreciation of the Philippines. A physicist by training, the deputy defense secretary received part of that training in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the coffee room there, he got to know a senior fellow from the MIT Center for International Studies.

"He was such a great advisor and mentor to students," Carter said of the man who turned out to be Benigno Aquino Jr., father of the current president of the Philippines. Aquino was assassinated in 1983.

"He and his wife would come to social events at MIT, … and I got to know them and had great affection for them, … so I've always had a little place in my heart for the Aquino family," he said. "And that's another good reason to be here in the Philippines."

The United States and the Philippines "have lots of human connections together, all of us," Carter said, "as well as having important global responsibilities and regional responsibilities that we exercise together."

U.S. engagement is part of what has helped to maintain the region's security structure since World War II, he added. Such engagement has allowed Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia "to rise and prosper because they've had peace and security, and now China and India are rising and prospering."

The Philippines, Carter observed, "is a longstanding friend and ally and partner with us in providing that kind of security."

The United States recognized the Philippines as an independent state and established diplomatic relations in 1946. Except for the 1942-to-1945 Japanese occupation during World War II, the Philippines had been under U.S. sovereignty since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, according to a State Department fact sheet.

The U.S.-Philippine Bilateral Strategic Dialogue -- the third held last December in Manila -- advances discussion and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. The United States has designated the Philippines a major non-NATO ally, and the nations have close security ties.

The Manila Declaration, signed in 2011, reaffirmed the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty as the foundation for a robust, balanced and responsive security partnership. Such a treaty, Carter said, "opens the door to the U.S.-Filipino relationship, which exists along with other key treaty relationships in the region."

During this week's Asia trip, the deputy defense secretary has visited South Korea and Japan, which are also key treaty partners. And the United States has important treaty relationships with Australia and Thailand.

"These longstanding treaty relationships and other kinds of emerging partnerships are … part of a historical role that we play with countries in this part of the world -- to protect them, to protect us, but also, very importantly, that is what provides the foundation for peace and security in the region," he said.

"That's the climate in which all countries, the Philippines among them, have been able to … develop politically and prosper economically in an environment of peace," Carter said. "That's what everybody deserves, and that's what we're about when we talk about our alliance with the Philippines and our alliance structure in this part of the world."

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