US-Philippines Discuss China Concerns 04/11 09:04
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday discussed with his Philippine
counterpart China's recent positioning of "militia vessels" near the
Philippines in the South China Sea.
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on
Saturday discussed with his Philippine counterpart China's recent positioning
of "militia vessels" near the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Austin spoke by phone with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin
Lorenzana while Austin was flying from Washington to Israel to begin an
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Austin and Lorenzana discussed the
situation in the South China Sea and the recent massing of Chinese vessels at
Whitsun Reef, which has drawn criticism from Manila.
China has said its vessels are there for fishing.
In their phone call, Austin proposed to Lorenzana several measures to deepen
defense cooperation, including by "enhancing situational awareness of threats
in the South China Sea," Kirby said. He did not elaborate.
Kirby said earlier this week that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore
Roosevelt and its strike group, as well as the amphibious ship USS Makin
Island, are operating in the South China Sea.
The U.S. has no military forces based permanently in the Philippines but
sometimes rotates forces to the country under the U.S.-Philippines Visiting
The recent gathering of Chinese vessels near the Philippines is among moves
the United States has criticized as efforts by Beijing to intimidate smaller
nations in the region.