Ambassador O'Brien hopes suspension of VFA abrogation will last longer
US National Security Adviser O’Brien meets top Philippine officials; says President Trump has not exhausted his legal remedies
MANILA – Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien met with top Philippine officials today as he expressed his appreciation for the extension by another six months the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which is an integral part of the nearly seven decades of Mutual Defense Treaty.
Speaking at a teleconference hosted by the US Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub headquartered in Manila from the Manila American Cemetery in the outskits of the city, Ambassador O’Brien said the State Department looks forward to a longer-term agreement on the VFA.
“I had excellent meetings with (Foreign Affairs) Secretary Locsin, (Finance) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Executive Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea. We also discussed our mutual, regional strategic issues and goals, including a free and open Indo-Pacific, especially as it relates to the South China Sea,” he said.
Referring to his visits to Viet Nam and the Philippines, Ambassador O’Brien said while different issues were discussed, “a common issue to both countries is a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a commitment to sovereignty of the countries that are here in the Indo-Pacific and especially those that border the South China Sea, and a commitment on behalf of America to support our allies in ASEAN and our friends and partners in the region.”
He explained the commitment from the United States is they will stand behind their allies as they promote international law and rile of law in matters concerning the South China Sea.
“The fishing rights, the mineral rights, the oil and gas rights that are in the EEZs of the various ASEAN countries belong to the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those countries, and the shouldn’t just be seized by a neighbor that happens to be bigger or stronger or richer or has a more powerful military,” Ambassador O’Brien added.
Asked of issues discussed with Asian leaders, the national security adviser said he heard from his counterparts “is that they understand that Donald J. Trump until January 20th, and “until noon on that day, and they’re going to continue to deal with President Trump as the President of the United States of America, as they should and that’s our tradition, our laws.”
He added there’ll be a transition if the courts don’t rule in President Trump’s favor as there will be a professional transition.
“But President Trump has not exhausted his legal remedies. We’re a country based on the rule of law and the President has taken his case to court, as he has every right to do so as an American citizen, and so those cases will get resolved,” he further explained.
Ambassador O’Brien said as soon as the cases are resolved and the courts rule, “then we’ll move forward from there.” (Melo M. Acuña)
National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien. (File Photo/Asia Pacific Media Hub)