OBAMA ASIAN VISIT: CHINA, RIVALS SIGN PACT TO EASE MARITIME TENSIONS

APRIL 23 -China, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other Asia-Pacific countries have signed a naval agreement aimed at ensuring miscommunication between ships at sea does not escalate into conflict. The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which was agreed Tuesday in the eastern port city of Qingdao, would reduce the potential for “situations to arise that could lead to conflict in busy sea lanes”, the state-run China Daily said. China is embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with neighbors in the South and East China Seas which have frequently led to military jets being scrambled but not open conflict. Beijing also feels threatened by an increase in US naval power in the region.
In December, a US-guided missile warship, the Cowpens, had to make a sharp turn to avoid colliding with a Chinese naval ship that cut in front of it, according to the Pentagon. Gary Li, an analyst with the consultancy IHS, described the agreement as “the ideal thing for China to grab hold of — the rules of the road.” READ MORE...

ALSO: Foreign-based militants to join protests vs. Obama's PHL visit

Filipino militant groups based in the United States and other countries will join protests against the visit of US President Barack Obama this coming week, militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Saturday. Bayan, which is planning its own two-day protest action, said at least 20 US-based organizations allied with it were to start the protests on Friday (US time). "The groups all oppose the US military pivot to Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)," it said. “We’d also like to remind the Aquino regime that just because a US president is coming doesn’t mean our Constitutional rights will be diminished. Obama’s arrival doesn’t mean our rights as Filipinos, including the right to protest, can be curtailed,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. It said the protesting groups in the US include Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Tomos Somos Japon, Viet Roots, Taiwan is Not 4 Sale, Trade Justice, Iraq Veterans Against the War, United National Anti-War Coalition, Grassroots Global Justice, International Action Center, American Friends Service Committee, Chinese Progressive Association, Critical Resistance, HOBAK-Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans, New Priorities Campaign, OccupySF Action Council, Women for Genuine Security, Union of progressive Iranians, Union del Barrio and Long Beach Area Peace Network.

ALSO: Philippines aims for US defense deal before Obama visit

The Philippines said Friday it hopes to complete a new defense accord with the United States ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama this month, as a territorial dispute with China simmers. The chief Philippine negotiator, defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino (photo), said in a statement the latest round of discussions about an increased US military presence in the country was “very productive.” “This round brought us much closer to finding full consensus and the draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense cooperation will be submitted to the president for his review,” Batino said. Philippine negotiators on Friday said the eighth round of talks on a proposed military agreement had seen both sides “finding consensus on key points of a draft”. READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama advance team already in Manila

APRIL 24--An advance party of United States (US) President Barack Obama has arrived and is now working with Philippine authorities to thresh out the security preparations for his state visit next week. Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and other agencies are now coordinating with the US Secret Service for the security measures. “A meeting between the Secret Service and the Presidential Security Group was held last Monday. It was a planning conference,” Zagala said. “The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines support the Presidential Security Group in the operation,” he added. Zagala declined to provide details about the Secret Service personnel that arrived in the country, citing security reasons. He said government agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Manila International Airport Authority would also be involved in the planning process. “They are still in the initial planning stage,” Zagala said. Obama will arrive in Manila on April 28 for a two-day visit amid mounting concerns about China’s aggressive efforts to assert its territorial claims. Obama’s visit will come as the Philippines and the US are finalizing a deal that would provide American troops greater access to military bases in the country. READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour

APRIL 24 -TOKYO—US President Barack Obama’s travels through Asia aim to reassure partners about the renewed US commitment to the region, with an eye both to China’s rising assertiveness and the fast-growing markets that are the center of gravity for global growth. The question: Will it be enough? Nearly seven months after he canceled an Asia tour due to the US government shutdown, Obama’s failure to prevent Russia from annexing Crimea has sharpened concerns that America lacks the will or wherewithal to follow through on its much-touted “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.“Words come easy,” said Philippine political analyst Ramon Casiple. “But US allies would want to know what help they can get when things reach a point of no return.” Obama is arriving in the Philippines next Monday, at the end of a four-nation tour that also takes in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. Slow rebalancing The United States has been stepping up regional military deployments, but has made less progress on rebalancing through broader diplomatic and economic initiatives, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Pacific Rim free-trade agreement. Obama arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for the first state visit to America’s closest ally in Asia by a US president since Bill and Hillary Clinton came in 1996. He will be the first sitting US president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Allies South Korea and the Philippines are also keen to shore up security ties.READ MORE...


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China, rivals sign pact to ease maritime tensions


U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, is welcomed by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, Director of Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Defense Ministry and U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, upon his arrival at Qingdao International Airport in Qingdao, China, Monday, April 7, 2014. Hagel is currently on his fourth trip to Asian nations since taking office. AP/Alex Wong

BEIJING, APRIL 28, 2014 (INQUIRER) Agence France-Presse - China, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other Asia-Pacific countries have signed a naval agreement aimed at ensuring miscommunication between ships at sea does not escalate into conflict.

The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which was agreed Tuesday in the eastern port city of Qingdao, would reduce the potential for “situations to arise that could lead to conflict in busy sea lanes”, the state-run China Daily said.

China is embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with neighbors in the South and East China Seas which have frequently led to military jets being scrambled but not open conflict.

Beijing also feels threatened by an increase in US naval power in the region.

In December, a US-guided missile warship, the Cowpens, had to make a sharp turn to avoid colliding with a Chinese naval ship that cut in front of it, according to the Pentagon.

Gary Li, an analyst with the consultancy IHS, described the agreement as “the ideal thing for China to grab hold of — the rules of the road.”

“It is not some kind of comprehensive ‘covers all’ code of conduct. It is a mechanism towards de-escalation,” he told AFP.

“If anything happens again during one of these confrontations, or they run into the US Navy, which they undoubtedly will do more frequently in the next few decades as China builds up more blue water capability.

“So I see it coming into play more crucially in these moments, so you will not have a repeat of the US Cowpens, for example.”

The agreement would allow redress for China if it was blamed for an encounter, Li said, adding that China would also benefit from the agreement being “flexible”, given that it is not legally binding.

The agreement was passed at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting held every two years of more than 20 countries including the US as well as Japan and the Philippines, which are locked in bitter disputes with China over contested territory.

The US is focusing greater attention on Asia and has boosted its military presence in the region, a move that has alarmed China and emboldened its rivals.

China meanwhile has rapidly modernized its military. Its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, went into service 18 months ago, and its forces outnumber its main rival Japan in virtually every area, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a February report.

FROM THE GMA NEWS NETWORK

Foreign-based militants to join protests vs. Obama's PHL visit April 26, 2014 9:43am 187 21 0 216


Artists commissioned by Bayan Muna and Kilusang Mayo Uno apply finishing touches to an effigy of US President Barack Obama on Friday, April 25, in preparation for protest actions against the visiting US leader on April 28 and 29. GMA News

MANILA -Filipino militant groups based in the United States and other countries will join protests against the visit of US President Barack Obama this coming week, militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Saturday.

Bayan, which is planning its own two-day protest action, said at least 20 US-based organizations allied with it were to start the protests on Friday (US time).

"The groups all oppose the US military pivot to Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)," it said.

“We’d also like to remind the Aquino regime that just because a US president is coming doesn’t mean our Constitutional rights will be diminished. Obama’s arrival doesn’t mean our rights as Filipinos, including the right to protest, can be curtailed,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

It said the protesting groups in the US include Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Tomos Somos Japon, Viet Roots, Taiwan is Not 4 Sale, Trade Justice, Iraq Veterans Against the War, United National Anti-War Coalition, Grassroots Global Justice, International Action Center, American Friends Service Committee, Chinese Progressive Association, Critical Resistance, HOBAK-Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans, New Priorities Campaign, OccupySF Action Council, Women for Genuine Security, Union of progressive Iranians, Union del Barrio and Long Beach Area Peace Network.

Bayan said the US-based protest actions were to start April 25 in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

On the other hand, the group said it is coordinating with groups from Japan and South Korea for "continued protests" against plans to increase US bases and troop presence in the region.

They are also protesting what they called a renewed push by the US for the US-led trade pact that is the TPPA.

Bayan opposed the railroading of the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC), which it branded as a de facto basing pact that signals a second US military occupation.

It also objected to the TPPA, which it said will lead to amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the "removal of any protection for the domestic economy."

“As Filipinos, we have to be critical of the US agenda in the region. We do not want to be pawns in the US power play in Asia. We do not want to be used for US bases and troops and be a staging ground for US intervention. We do not want the US simply taking advantage of the dispute with China and giving false promises of aid just so the US can justify the return of its bases in the Philippines. And we do not want another free trade agreement that aims to change the Constitution and bleed the economy dry,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

PHL protests

In the Philippines, Bayan said it and its allies will hold protest actions for next week including a protest march to the former US air force base in Clark, Pampanga.

Protest caravans and marches are also to be held across Mindanao where US troops have been stationed since 2002, it said.

"Groups from Southern Tagalog are also expected to troop to Metro Manila," it said.

In Manila, Bayan said its members will converge at the Liwasang Bonifacio on Monday, April 28, before marching to the historic Mendiola bridge near Malacañang, where they will hold a program.

There, they will bring an effigy of a "puppet" President Benigno Aquino III dragging an effigy Obama on a chariot.

'Lack of transparency' in AEDC

Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño scored the lack of transparency in drafting the AEDC, which he said may be signed next week by the US and Philippines.

“By making this an executive agreement not requiring Senate concurrence, the Philippine government has assured that details of the pact will remain a secret until the day it is signed. The people are deliberately being kept in the dark. We are being given assurances only through press conferences by negotiators, but there is really nothing we can scrutinize,” he said. — Joel Locsin /LBG, GMA News

FROM THE INQUIRER

Philippines aims for US defense deal before Obama visit Agence France-Presse 4:39 pm | Saturday, April 12th, 2014


Pio Lorenzo Batino, Defense Undersecretary and Chair of the Philippine negotiating panel. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA – The Philippines said Friday it hopes to complete a new defense accord with the United States ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama this month, as a territorial dispute with China simmers.

The chief Philippine negotiator, defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, said in a statement the latest round of discussions about an increased US military presence in the country was “very productive.”

“This round brought us much closer to finding full consensus and the draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense cooperation will be submitted to the president for his review,” Batino said.

Philippine negotiators on Friday said the eighth round of talks on a proposed military agreement had seen both sides “finding consensus on key points of a draft”.

The agreement proposes allowing more US troops, aircraft, and ships to pass through the Philippines, as well as storing equipment in this country that could help mobilize American forces faster – particularly in the case of natural disasters.
The accord would provide “critical and timely support to the modernisation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (and the) achievement of the country’s minimum credible defense posture,” Batino’s statement said.

The deal would not allow the US military to “establish a permanent military presence or base” or bring nuclear weapons into the country, in line with the Philippine Constitution.

The proposed agreement could be signed before President Obama visits the Philippines this month, a foreign department spokesman said.

“We aim to conclude the negotiations before the Obama visit,” foreign department spokesman Charles Jose told AFP.
Washington has said Obama will visit the Philippines at the end of April as part of a four-nation tour of East Asia.

The United States had two large military bases near Manila until 1992, when it gave both up amid growing anti-US sentiment and a rental dispute.

However the Philippines has been seeking greater US support in recent years after China began asserting its claim to disputed territory in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the strategically important body of water, even up to the coasts of its neighbours.

Last month, Chinese ships blocked Philippine vessels that were bringing supplies to a Philippine military outpost, and in January Chinese ships used water cannon on Filipino fishermen near a disputed shoal.

The Philippines has responded by filing a case with a United Nations tribunal to challenge China’s territorial claim.
China has refused to participate in the case and has warned that the Philippines’ action has “seriously damaged” bilateral ties.

FROM PHILSTAR

Obama advance team already in Manila By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated April 23, 2014 - 5:26pm 16 90 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - An advance party of United States (US) President Barack Obama has arrived and is now working with Philippine authorities to thresh out the security preparations for his state visit next week.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and other agencies are now coordinating with the US Secret Service for the security measures.

“A meeting between the Secret Service and the Presidential Security Group was held last Monday. It was a planning conference,” Zagala said.

“The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines support the Presidential Security Group in the operation,” he added.

Zagala declined to provide details about the Secret Service personnel that arrived in the country, citing security reasons.

He said government agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Manila International Airport Authority would also be involved in the planning process.

“They are still in the initial planning stage,” Zagala said.

Obama will arrive in Manila on April 28 for a two-day visit amid mounting concerns about China’s aggressive efforts to assert its territorial claims.

Obama’s visit will come as the Philippines and the US are finalizing a deal that would provide American troops greater access to military bases in the country.

The 8th round of negotiations on the base access deal was completed early this month, with officials claiming that they are moving closer to reaching a consensus.

Negotiators stressed that the agreement would comply with the Philippine constitution and would prohibit permanent presence of US troops and weapons of mass destruction.

Zagala said they have not detected specific threats that could compromise the security of Obama and his contingent. However, militant groups who oppose the base access deal are expected to hold demonstrations.

“For now, we have not monitored any threat. However, we take recognition of the fact that there are visiting VIPs (very important persons) so we should prepare for any contingency,” he said.

No-fly zone

Zagala noted that Malacañang, the venue of the meeting between Obama and President Aquino, is a no-fly zone to keep the country’s seat of power safe.

When asked whether other areas could be declared as no-fly zones during the Obama visit, Zagala said: “It depends on the coordination with the Presidential Security Group.”

Zagala assured that the PSG is capable of ensuring the safety of key personalities who visit the country.

“The Presidential Security Group has a vast experience in securing visiting VIPS. They are used to these kinds of activities,” he said.

Zagala said the upgrading of the military’s alert status would depend on the recommendation of the PSG.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
2:00 am | Thursday, April 24th, 2014


ASIA TOUR STARTS US President Barack Obama is welcomed by US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy upon his arrival at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo on Wednesday night. Obama is starting a four-nation Asia-Pacific region tour with a three-day state visit to Japan. He will also visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. AP

TOKYO—US President Barack Obama’s travels through Asia aim to reassure partners about the renewed US commitment to the region, with an eye both to China’s rising assertiveness and the fast-growing markets that are the center of gravity for global growth.

The question: Will it be enough?

Nearly seven months after he canceled an Asia tour due to the US government shutdown, Obama’s failure to prevent Russia from annexing Crimea has sharpened concerns that America lacks the will or wherewithal to follow through on its much-touted “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.

“Words come easy,” said Philippine political analyst Ramon Casiple. “But US allies would want to know what help they can get when things reach a point of no return.”

Obama is arriving in the Philippines next Monday, at the end of a four-nation tour that also takes in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Slow rebalancing

The United States has been stepping up regional military deployments, but has made less progress on rebalancing through broader diplomatic and economic initiatives, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Pacific Rim free-trade agreement.

Obama arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for the first state visit to America’s closest ally in Asia by a US president since Bill and Hillary Clinton came in 1996.

He will be the first sitting US president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Allies South Korea and the Philippines are also keen to shore up security ties.

Here to stay?

US allies wonder if America has adequate capability to back them up in territorial rifts with China, Caspile said, given Washington’s budget problems and preoccupation with crises elsewhere.

“The American objective is to reassure countries that … America is here to stay and is going to keep a strong interest in dealing with China together with those countries,” said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University.

A report released last week by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged that more effort and money be devoted to upgrading alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. “A successful rebalance must underscore the strategic message that the policy represents an enduring US commitment to the region, assuring our partners that we are in it for the long haul,” it said.

During a recent Asian tour, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pledged to deploy two more ballistic missile defense destroyers in Japan by 2017 in a bid to allay Japan’s worries over a territorial dispute with China and missile launches by North Korea.

Senkaku dispute

Hagel also rebuked Beijing for escalating the territorial dispute, which is over Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkaku Islands and China calls the Diaoyu.

The United States is obligated to protect Japan from attack, but has sought to avoid taking a stand on sovereignty over the islands. Tokyo is hoping for more in the way of confidence building, said Hitoshi Tanaka, chair of the Institute for International Strategy in Tokyo.

“We would like to see the president make a strong, clear statement about the Senkaku,” Tanaka said. “There is a need for Japan and the US to work to improve the security situation in East Asia.”

Obama tried to set the record straight in a written response to questions published in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival on Wednesday. He confirmed the US position that its mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the Senkaku.

“At my direction the United States is once again playing a leading role in the region,” he wrote, adding that US engagement with China would “not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.”

Obama made it clear that hostile action against Senkaku Islands would spark an American reaction.

“The policy of the United States is clear—the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” Obama said.

Good message

Obama’s two-night stay in Tokyo—just enough for the state visit the Japanese had pushed for—in itself sends a good message, said Matake Kamiya, a professor at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, near Tokyo.

“It’s important not only for the psychology of the Japanese but also for the impression given to the Chinese and North Koreans,” he said.

The United States has 50,000 troops in Japan and about 28,500 in South Korea, where it just concluded joint exercises.

Rowing allies

But Tokyo and Seoul remain at odds over a separate territorial dispute and lingering Korean resentment of Japanese aggression before and during World War II.

Getting an early start on fence-mending, Obama brought Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye together for their first face-to-face meeting since they both took office over a year ago, on the sidelines of a recent nuclear security summit in The Hague.

A visit by Abe in December to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines 14 convicted war criminals among 2.5 million war dead, irked the United States and angered both South Korea and China.

At least two members of Abe’s Cabinet, and dozens of other lawmakers, paid respects at the shrine just days before Obama’s arrival. South Korea described the visits as “deplorable.”

But the leaders’ attention may well be diverted by a tragic ferry sinking, which left more than 300 missing or dead, most of them teenagers.

Support for Philippines

Both the United States and Japan have stepped up support for the Philippines, the last stop on Obama’s eight-day journey, with Tokyo offering retired coast guard cutters to help fend off intrusions by Chinese naval vessels near still other disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The Philippines is negotiating with Washington for a beefed up security agreement to allow more access for US troops, ships and aircraft to detect and deter such incursions.

US bases in the Philippines closed when the country ended their leases in 1992, though the two sides have an agreement allowing limited US troop visits, mainly in the south where Filipino troops are battling terrorists. Reports from AP and AFP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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