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MANILA -- (UPDATE, 5:26 p.m.) In response to the Philippines' raising the alarm over China's perceived aggressive actions in Scarborough Shoal (Panatag), the United States said it would continue with its "increased rotational presence" in the Pacific, while supporting Manila's recourse to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This was the commitment that United States Gen. Martin Dempsey gave during his meeting with his counterpart, Gen. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa, at Camp Aguinaldo Monday morning, Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta told reporters.
"They will continue with their increased rotational presence here and we welcome that especially at this time that it is almost typhoon season and we want their assistance when it comes to disaster response," Azcueta said.
Earlier, Dempsey met with President Benigno Aquino III before he met with Philippine military officials, who told the highest US military official of China's aggressive actuations in the region, particularly in Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).
"We told them that China is really aggressive in that area (Scarborough) and we are considering our restraint efforts in that area," Azcueta said.
"They are also concerned...it's also their concern. You know Secretary (of Defense Leon) Panetta was in Vietnam and they are in this area and they are showing the importance of this area in this Pacific region," he added.
Dempsey has also advised Philippine defense and military officials to strengthen their forces and their monitoring capabilities at Scarborough Shoal.
Asked if the US promised any assistance in the dispute, Azcueta said: "We did not discuss that."
Dempsey, head of the US joint chiefs of staff, met with the President and the Philippine top brass to discuss a wide range of topics including the West Philippine Sea and the ongoing standoff at Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal with China.
Washington supports recourse to UNCLOS
Dempsey also reiterated to Aquino Washington’s support for using the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to peacefully resolve the Philippines standoff with China on the West Philippine Sea, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“There were some broad discussions on the support of the United States for a peaceful resolution,” del Rosario said after Aquino’s meeting with Dempsey at the Palace on Monday.
“The US continued to say that they advocate a peaceful resolution, that they continue to advocate a pursuit of the validation of claims using UNCLOS, and that they also continue to emphasize that there should be no use of force,” del Rosario added.
The Foreign Affairs chief said there was discussion on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal but only on broad terms.
“We said that we are pursuing a bilateral consultation with China through our people here…We're honestly trying to de-escalate the situation in search for a peaceful solution so we remain faithful to that,” del Rosario added.
He said there was nothing unusual in the meeting which was sought by Dempsey.
“It is part of his regular visit. This is his first visit to the Philippines,” del Rosario said.
Dellosa, Dempsey meeting
Dellosa and Gen. Dempsey held a closed-door meeting Monday following the Shangri-La talks in Singapore last June 1 to 3.
AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said the meeting was part of the mutual defense treaty and aims to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries. The agenda include information exchange on global and regional issues. Among the topics to be discussed in the meeting are the West Philippine Sea and Mindanao security.
"The meeting underscores the importance of the AFP as being an ally of the United States," Burgos said.
"With or without the Scarborough standoff, this is part of our mutual defense treaty and to enhance bilateral relations," he added.