US commitment to PH 'rock solid,' but non-committal on disputed waters

Posted at 04/28/14 3:29 AM

MANILA - The United States maintained it has a “rock solid commitment” to the security of the Philippines but was non-committal in case of an attack over disputed territories.

US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes said this late Sunday night ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama in Manila.

Rhodes was asked to explain what the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of the Philippines and United States and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will commit to the Philippines in the event of a clash, for example, between China and the Philippines over disputed atolls.

In Tokyo, Japan last week, Obama committed to defend Japan, in case of Chinese attack in the Senkaku Islands which Beijing also claims.

Rhodes said “the Mutual Defense Treaty again gives us a rock-solid commitment to the security of the Philippines. That is a core of our alliance.”

Rhodes, however, was non committal when it came to attacks from the territorial disputes.“It is hard to speculate on those, because they involve hypothetical situations in the South China Sea. What we have said, again, is that we oppose coercion and intimidation as a means of resolving or advancing those territorial interests. So, again, I think the U.S.-Japan agreement has a very specific coverage of territory under Japanese administration.

"I think some of the disputes in the South China Sea raise more hypothetical circumstances. But, again, in that vein the defense commitment is rock solid. Our approach to these territorial disputes is going to be to, again, oppose intimidation and coercion, and seek to resolve them through peaceful means consistent with international law.”


A comparison of the language of the US treaties with Japan and the Philippines shows major differences.

Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan reads, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes”

Article 4 of the 1951 MDT between the Philippines and the US says, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes."

Article 5 of the MDT also says, “For purposes of ARTICLE IV, an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China covers areas in the South China Sea/ West Philippine Sea, like the Spratly Islands, the Scarborough Shoal, the Reed Bank and the Second Thomas Shoal. China stakes its claims on history, while the Philippines bases its claims on the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea and its exclusive economic zones.