MANILA - The United States will continue to monitor the South China Sea, US Air Force chief said Monday as he reiterated Washington's commitment to its mutual defense treaty with Manila and expressed concern over the actions of Beijing in the disputed sea.
"As like-minded nations who believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific and respect for one another's sovereignty and sovereign territory, our common interests draw us together,” US Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters.
"Our job is to provide credible military options that the adversary knows we were willing to execute, and that in fact we hope will cause them to pause before they take action that will not be successful."
Any action that does not conform with international law is a cause for concern, Goldfein said.
"Part of our operations are to deter, or also prove the fact that you should be able to fly, sail, and operate no matter what nation you are, where international law allows," added Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, the US Air Force contingent deployed to the Indo-Pacific region.
“So part of our engagement here, and our presence here, is to make sure that we keep the global commons open for all. And everybody benefits when we can have freedom of navigation, to include China," Brown said.
Brown said the US Armed Forces in the South China Sea is responsible for providing their government with domain awareness.
These include monitoring the actions of China and Russia at sea. The two countries recently conducted a joint exercise near the waters of Japan.
“This was a unique event. We’ve seen a few exercises that they’ve come together on, but this particular event you could tell was actually planned out ahead of time," he said.
“My concern here is that it tries to drive a wedge between the longstanding partnerships and alliances we have here in the region."
When asked what their response was to the call of China to include in the code of conduct a provision that prevents “outside” forces to interfere in the South China Sea, Goldfein said: "Our job is to make sure that we continue to have credible military options and that we fly and we sail where we need to do, where we need to operate, to maintain the global commons for all.”
The two US military officials met with Philippine Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, and Philippine Air Force commanding general Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez.
--Report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News