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DFA, Defense chiefs at odds over US treaty

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The decades-old defense treaty between the United States and the Philippines needs to be revamped, or risks dragging Manila into a war with China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.

Lorenzana offered this assessment four days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Manila, said Washington would intervene in case of an armed attack on Philippine forces or vessels in the disputed South China Sea.]

READ: PH-US defense pact likely item in Pompeo visit

“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

His remarks contradict Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s statement that there is no need to review the treaty, and that the ambiguity or vagueness in the treaty would serve as a deterrent to attacks against the Philippines.

“In fact, it [ambiguity] will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” said Lorenzana, who has been pushing for a review of the 1951 mutual defense treaty with the US.

Filipino officials have suggested the treaty may not apply in the strategic waterway, since Washington has not stopped Beijing building artificial islands over reefs claimed by Manila and other neighbors.

The US has said it does not take sides in the dispute over the South China Sea claimed by Beijing as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. It has, however, sailed warships near the Chinese-built islands to assert free passage.

Pompeo said Friday China’s actions in the waterway—through which trillions of dollars of global trade passes each year—threaten both the US and the Philippines, and vowed to keep it open.

But Lorenzana said the American naval maneuvers risked dragging the Philippines into armed conflict.

“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war,” he said, referring to Filipino-claimed areas of the sea.

“In such a case and on the basis of the [treaty], the Philippines will be automatically involved,” he said.

The “vastly different” security environment now in place “necessitates a review of the treaty,” Lorenzana added.

He said the ambiguity in the current treaty would cause “confusion and chaos during a crisis.”

The Mutual Defense Treaty, signed in 1951, contains eight articles requiring the two Pacific allies to provide aid in case of an armed attack against either nation by an external party. With AFP and PNA


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