Canada, Philippines ink defense procurement deal
Canada, Philippines ink defense procurement deal
The Philippine defense department and state-run Canadian Commercial Corp. signed the agreement as Harper met Aquino at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the two leaders announced at a joint news conference.
The deal was inked amid a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over islands and waters in the South China Sea.
“This memorandum of understanding will enable the Philippines to acquire the equipment and expertise it needs to fulfil the country’s defense and security agenda,” Harper said.
Under the deal, Filipino purchases of equipment and expertise from Canada’s $12.6 billion ($12.6 billion) defense industry are guaranteed by the Ottawa government, according to a Canadian government statement.
“This will help us in our efforts to build our defense and security capabilities,” Aquino said, declining to elaborate.
“I cannot go into specifics lest they be observed by less friendly individuals,” he added.
Faced with communist and Islamist insurgencies and an increasingly assertive China, Aquino noted that the military had just two transport aircraft, no fighter jets and just 132 mainly World War II-era ships.
“The fundamental issue is that we have a lot of outmoded equipment,” he said.
The Canadian Commercial Corp. serves as a go-between between Canadian suppliers and foreign governments to transact defense and security contracts.
The Philippines has been in the market for patrol vessels to protect its waters, including areas that overlap with territory claimed by China.
Manila’s military treaty ally the United States is set this year to deliver a second refurbished Hamilton-class cutter, previously used by the US Coast Guard, to the Philippine Navy.
Last month the Philippine Coast Guard announced it would buy five patrol boats from France for about 90 million euros ($116 million), partly to guard disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and China began a stand-off in April over the Scarborough Shoal, a group of islets in the Sea which the Philippines says are well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries.
US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE: US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will make his first visit to China this week amid rising tensions between the two countries but also a deep need for Beijing’s support in nuclear talks with North Korea.
Mattis told reporters Sunday he wants to “take measure” of China’s strategic ambitions after it positioned weaponry on disputed islets in the South China Sea and is seeking to project its military power deep into the Pacific.
But in a four-day trip that will also include South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon chief also hopes to confirm China’s commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, after historic talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
The United States, China, Japan and South Korea “have a common goal: the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.
In Beijing From Tuesday to Thursday, Mattis will meet with senior Chinese defense officials.
Then he will travel to Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo, followed by a stop Friday in Japan to see defense chief Itsunori Onodera.
Those meetings are aimed at reassuring both allies that Washington’s regional defense commitment remains unchanged after Trump unexpectedly announced on June 12 that the US would suspend a major joint military exercise in South Korea following his meeting with Kim.
The visit to China comes amid bilateral strains that cross multiple sectors. The Trump administration is challenging China on trade, theft of industrial secrets, and cyberthreats.
In the defense sector, China’s decision to position military hardware in built-up atolls in the South China Sea has sparked new security concerns throughout Southeast Asia.
Signaling Washington’s displeasure, in May the Pentagon disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, in which some two dozen navies train together for mostly civilian missions.
Weeks later at the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in Singapore, Mattis slammed China for showing contempt of other nations’ interests in the South China Sea.
“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said.
The Chinese, who say the weaponry is only defensive in nature, retorted that Mattis had made “irresponsible comments” that “cannot be accepted.”
Mattis has visited Asia seven times in his 17 months since becoming defense secretary, but not China. He has yet to meet the new Chinese defense minister, Wei Fenghe.
He said the talks in Beijing seek to scope out China’s long-term strategic intentions and determine possible areas of military-to-military cooperation.
He declined to characterize the relationship, saying that could “poison the well” before he meets his counterparts.
“I’m going there to get what I consider to be straight from them what they see for a strategic relationship,” he said. “I’m going there to have a conversation.”
But speaking separately a senior Pentagon official called the United States and China “strategic competitors” and suggested that Washington needs to keep up the pressure over the South China Sea buildup.
The Rimpac disinvite could be “just a first step,” the official said.
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Mattis was visiting Beijing at Wei’s invitation.
“It is in the common interests of both China and the United States to develop a healthy and stable bilateral military relationship,” Ren said in a statement.
Beijing “hopes that the United States and China will walk toward each other and work together to make the bilateral military relationship an important stabilizing factor in the relationship between the two countries.”
Mattis will also be adding his voice to North Korea talks, urging China to hold firm on commercial pressure on Pyongyang.
He said he has had daily discussions on the talks with the lead US negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The senior US defense official said they are hoping to see a concrete outcome, including a timeline for commitments by Pyongyang, “soon.”
Mattis tied the suspension of exercises to the getting concrete results.
“We’ll see if they continuing negotiations keep them that way.”
Mattis meanwhile confirmed that US officials are awaiting the imminent release by Pyongyang of the remains of US servicemen who died in the Korean war in the early 1950s.
Preparations to receive the remains have been made, he said, and “We’re optimistic that it will begin.”