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MANILA, Philippines - General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be arriving on Monday to meet with defense and military top brass, officials said Sunday.
“General Dempsey's travel includes a stop in the Republic of the Philippines to meet with senior military and civilian leadership. As treaty allies, the United States and the Republic of the Philippines routinely consult and exchange views on a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, reflecting our common values and interests,” a statement from the US Embassy in Manila emailed to media said.
Dempsey together with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the commander of the US Pacific Command (USPACOM), Admiral Samuel Locklear, were among top defense and military officials who participated at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
The dialogue was also attended by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa and representatives from across Asia.
According to military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Dellosa and Dempsey will be meeting first on Monday noon at the Armed Forces Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. Burgos said the meeting will be “short” and discussions will center on “military and security issues and concerns”.
Sources said, however, there is a possibility Dempsey will also meet with President Benigno Aquino III,
Since April 10, the Philippines has been locked in a standoff with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a resource-rich maritime area some 124 nautical miles off Masinloc, Zambales. The area is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. China, however, is claiming the area and calls it Huangyan Island, more than 800 nautical miles off its nearest coast.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have two ships guarding the shoal, while China has seven ships and eight fishing boats that encroached in and outside the shoal.
Panetta announces US naval shift to Pacific
At the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Panetta had announced on Saturday that the United States will shift the bulk of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020 as part of a new strategic focus on Asia, a report by Agence France-Presse said..
On Sunday, this policy declaration drew support from Australia’s Defense Minister Stephen Smith, who spoke shortly after his return from Singapore. Smith said the US presence in the Asia Pacific had been "a force for peace and stability and prosperity since the end of World War II."
"And we welcome very much the fact that not only will the United States continue that engagement, it will enhance it," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"The essential point is that none of this is done for reasons of trying to maximize or influence concern or threat; it's all done for purposes of stability to continue peace, to continue prosperity."
Panetta said the decision to gradually deploy more ships to the Pacific, along with expanding a network of military partnerships, was part of a deliberate effort to bolster the US role in an area vital to America's future.
The move reflects US concern over China's rising economic and military might but Panetta insisted the strategy was not a challenge to Beijing. With Agence France-Presse