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US backs Philippines, warns China over air defense zone

MANILA--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned China Tuesday against any move to declare an air defense zone in the South China Sea, as he affirmed defense ties with long-time ally the Philippines.

Kerry, in Manila for a two-day visit, criticized China for its declaration last month of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea including over disputed islands.

He warned Beijing against any similar move in the South China Sea, where it has overlapping claims with several Asian countries including the Philippines.

Kerry also announced that Washington had committed US$40 million to help the Philippines strengthen its sea defense capabilities.

The two sides are also in the final stages of hammering out a deal allowing more U.S. troops, aircraft and ships to pass through the Philippines, where the last U.S. bases closed in 1992.

“Today, I raised our deep concerns about China's announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone,” Kerry said after meeting his Filipino counterpart Albert del Rosario.

“The zone should not be implemented and China should refrain from taking similar, unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea,” he told a joint news conference.

The Philippines had said last month that Beijing's announcement of its ADIZ in the East China Sea raised the prospect of it doing the same in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all the South China Sea but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in recent years as Beijing becomes more aggressive in asserting its claims.

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A handout picture released by the Malacanang Photo Bureau (MPB) shows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leading a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

(AFP)

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