The United States (US) military is closely watching the Scarborough Shoal standoff and is also refocusing majority of its naval fleet in the Asia-Pacific region, a senior defense official of the Philippines said Monday.
Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta also said the US government shared its concern with the Philippines over China’s sudden aggressive behavior in the disputed territory.
Azcueta said US Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen. Martin Dempsey raised this concern during their brief meeting at the defense headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“It’s also their concern,” Azcueta said, adding that Dempsey told him he (Dempsey) was just unlucky that his visit to the Philippines coincided with the country’s ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff with China.
Scarborough Shoal is only a rock formation and not an island as claimed by China. It is 124 nautical miles from Zambales province that once served as an area for Filipino and American pilots during their joint air exercises until the closing down of the US bases in 1992.
The visiting US Joints Chief of Staff also told Azcueta that the US military will continue its increased rotational presence of troops and naval assets in the country.
“We welcome that, especially at this time of typhoon season. We need their assistance when it comes to disaster response,” Escueta said.
The Philippines and Vietnam, aside from China, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have been laying their respective territorial claim, in whole or in part, over the Spratly archipelago, a chain of islets, reefs, shoals and sandbars in the South China Sea.