Hawai‘i Hosts Regional Defense Ministers; Questions Surround Military Exercises with the Philippines

Sep 30, 2016

US and Philippine Military Police conduct training and strengthen relations.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Honolulu today. Where he will host a meeting with a number of his counterparts from Southeast Asia.  The talks come following an eventful week for one of this country’s closest allies in the region. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The president of the Philippines spent a couple of days this week in Vietnam.  And once again, some of his comments have US officials looking for clarification.  On Wednesday, Rodrigo Duterte said he would stop military exercises with the United States once drills scheduled for next week are completed.  By Thursday, the Foreign Minister of the Philippines said his country would go ahead with joint exercises scheduled for next year, but would review the situation starting in 2018.  On the same day, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told forces aboard an aircraft carrier in San Diego that “as it has been for decades, our alliance with the Philippines is ironclad.”

The underpinnings of that alliance include a mutual defense treaty, which has been in effect for 65 years.  Duterte has said he has no plans to abandon the treaty, but the future of joint exercises and shared naval patrols are much less certain.  Even while Duterte was making his comments in Vietnam, there’s a much different feeling in that host country.

The Marine Corps Times quotes Lt General Lawrence Nicholson as saying he’ll discuss additional training with Vietnamese troops when he travels to the country next month.  Nicholson is a three-star general overseeing all forward-deployed Marines in the Pacific Rim.