Manila: The US military opposes the use of
force by countries locked in a territorial dispute in the
South China Sea and will maintain its presence in the
strategic region for years to come, an American commander said
The comments by Adm. Robert Willard, the head of the
US Pacific Command, follow remarks last month by US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton that outraged China.
She told a conference of Southeast and East Asian
ministers that the US had a "national interest" in seeing the
territorial disputes resolved through a "collaborative
diplomatic process by all claimants."
China claims sovereignty over the entire South China
Sea, which is strewn with disputed groups of islands,
including the Spratly archipelago also claimed in whole or in
part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.
Willard said that Washington does not take sides in
the disputes but added it will oppose any use "of force or any
forms of coercion to stake these claims on the part of any
single nation at the expense of the others."
He said China`s "assertive" behaviour in the South
China Sea was on the agenda in annual defense talks in Manila
today with Philippine military officials.
The two allies, which signed a Mutual Defense
Treaty in 1951, also discussed previous plans outlining how
they can protect one another in case conflict breaks out in
the disputed region, Willard said without elaborating.
"We discussed the assertiveness that we`re
experiencing by the Chinese in the South China Sea and the
concerns that that has generated within the region," he told a
He said American forces will continue with their
presence in the region for years to come to keep its sea lanes
and air space safe for the huge traffic of commercial cargo.
Willard also urged the countries in the region to
build adequate militaries to help keep the peace.