Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday his country needed help from longtime ally the United States in its increasingly tense dispute with China over rival claims in the South China Sea. Aquino accused China of breaking international law by sending vessels into waters claimed by the Philippines and close to its landmass, while portraying his country as weak compared with its militarily superior Asian neighbour.
“Of course they (China) are a superpower, they have more than 10 times our population. We do not want any hostilities to break out,” Aquino told reporters when asked about recent Chinese actions in the disputed area.
“Perhaps the presence of our treaty partners, the United States of America, ensures that all of us will have freedom of navigation (and) will conform to international law.”
The United States and the Philippines are bound by a 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty that calls on both parties to come to one another’s aid if either were to be attacked by an external party.
Aquino’s comments came after the US ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas, said on Tuesday that the United States remained committed to helping its former colony in any dispute over the South China Sea.
Thomas emphasised at a public forum in Manila that the Philippines and the United States were “longstanding treaty allies” and “strategic partners”.
“We will continue to consult each other closely on all issues, including the South China Sea and Spratly Islands,” Thomas said.
Aquino welcomed Thomas’s comments, which are likely irk China as it has long insisted that the United States has no role to play in resolving its territorial disputes with Asian countries.