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Violation of rules of order in territorial seas 'concerning' —US general

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 8/18/2019 Galarpe, Karen
a large ship in a body of water: Chinese warship in Sibutu © Wesmincom handout Chinese warship in Sibutu

A US military general on Friday said the violation of international rules of order in territorial seas is "concerning."

"I think quite frankly any activity that we see both at sea and in the air, and increasingly now we’re also having the same conversation in space and in cyber, has got to adhere to some international rules of order that we all live by. So, anybody in the region that violates those, it’s concerning, General David Goldfein, chief of staff of the US Air Force to the Pacific, said in a teleconference with media.

Goldfein made the comment after he was asked for his thoughts on the unauthorized passage of Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said two Chinese warships were spotted in Sibutu Strait near Tawi-Tawi in July while three were monitored in August. Previously, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Chinese warships had passed through Sibutu Strait four times since February.

Malacañang has expressed concern about the unauthorized passage of the warships, saying it was not "an act of friendship."

The Palace on Saturday said it would be important to know the reason why Chinese warships have repeatedly been passing through Sibutu Strait near Tawi-tawi.

Lorenzana is hoping that President Rodrigo Duterte will take up with Chinese President Xi Jinping the repeated incursions of Chinese warships in the said waters.

Goldfein said the US wants to ensure the global commons are kept open for all and that is why they are doing freedom of navigation operations.

"So part of our engagement here, and our presence here, is to make sure that we keep the global commons open for all. And everybody benefits when we can have freedom of navigation, to include China," Goldfein said.

"There's no let up in our willingness or our ability to fly or sail where we need to and when we need to, and there will be no let up in the future. That's our commitment to the region," he added.

US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander General Charles Brown Jr. said any violation of rules-based international order should be highlighted.

"We have to highlight the facts when those that don't follow rules-based international order, no matter who that might be, we do highlight that. So, part of our operations are to deter, or also prove the fact that you should be able to fly, sail, and operate no matter what nation you are, where international law allows," he said.

The recent visit of the USS Ronald Reagan to the Philippines earlier this month is just part of "normal operations," Brown said.

"I can tell you just on our activity within the Pacific, whether it be the South China Sea or anyplace else, it's all part of a free and open Indo-Pacific. We want to be able to sail, fly, and operate anywhere international law allows. So, from that aspect, our operations are just normal operations throughout the places within international sea space and air space," he said.

"Our job is to make sure that in the US, our Commander in Chief, and as a friend in the region, allies and partners, our job is to make sure that we continue to have credible military options and that we fly and we sail where we need to do, where we need to operate, to maintain the global commons for all. Again, China benefits as well as anyone else if we all adhere to international norms and rules of behavior," Goldfein added.

The military official also reiterated the US' commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the US and the Philippines in 1951.

"One of my messages is to just re-emphasize, as Secretary Pompeo did, our commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty," Goldfein said.

Among the provisions in the treaty is that if either the US or the Philippines is attacked by an external party, the other would support it. —KG, GMA News

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