By Priam Nepomuceno

US Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III (PNA file photo)

MANILA – United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III has reiterated Washington DC’s “ironclad” commitment to supporting the Philippines’ stance to defend its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea amid China’s recent aggressive actions.

Austin made the remark in a phone call with his Philippine counterpart, Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Wednesday (US time).

“Secretary Austin underscored continued US support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights, and the two officials discussed the importance of preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows,” the US Department of Defense (DOD) said in a readout dated June 26.

This came in the wake of the June 17 incident where the China Coast Guard disrupted and harassed a Philippine resupply mission in the Ayungin Shoal that severely injured a Filipino soldier.

The two defense chiefs also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the US-Philippine alliance in support of their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

This includes cooperation with like-minded partners and bilateral initiatives to strengthen information-sharing aside from enhancing the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and investing in US rotational force posture under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. (PNA)