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August 1, 09

NEWS / Obama Praises Philippines for Counterterrorism Progress

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — President Obama praised the government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for progress in dealing with counterterrorism issues and initiating a peace process in Mindanao.

“We are very grateful of the strong voice that the Philippines has provided in dealing with issues in Asia ranging from the human rights violations that have for too long existed in Burma to the problems that we’re seeing with respect to nuclear proliferation in North Korea,” Obama said during Arroyo’s White House visit July 30.

Obama said that the peace process to rein in terrorists in Mindanao has the potential to bring peace and stability to a region of the island nation that has been the source of unrest for too long.

Arroyo’s visit marks Obama’s first meeting with a Southeast Asian leader at the White House since he became president in January. The Philippines is regarded as a longtime friend and ally of the United States in Asia, and the bond became even stronger with the liberation of the Philippines during the latter half of World War II, Obama said.

Obama said the Philippines will be the coordinating country in the U.S. relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a strategic organization of 10 Asian countries. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Phuket, Thailand, July 22–23.

During the ministers’ meeting, Clinton signed ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, a pact that calls on members and others that have signed the treaty to resolve regional disputes peacefully and not interfere in domestic issues. In addition, the United States will become the first non-ASEAN country to establish a diplomatic presence at the ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The secretary said that she and the president believe Southeast Asia is vital to global progress, peace and prosperity and the United States is fully engaged with ASEAN partners on a wide range of challenges. “I want to send a very clear message that the United States is back, that we are fully engaged and committed to our relationships in Southeast Asia,” Clinton said.

Obama, who travels to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Singapore in November, said that the Philippines will be presiding at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, beginning April 26, 2010.

“And so we’re going to have a busy agenda together working to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, improving the multilateral partnerships in Asia that can create greater security and greater prosperity for all countries,” Obama said during the Oval Office meeting. “We continue to be grateful for the outstanding contribution that the Philippines has made with respect to U.N. peacekeeping around the world.”

Arroyo said that the United States is essential to the economic, diplomatic and national security of the Philippines, as well as in helping build basic infrastructure within the country such as bridges, roads and schools.

“We welcome President Obama’s reaching out to the Muslim world, and also we are very pleased about the importance that he accords to engagement with our part of the world,” Arroyo told reporters after their meeting.

“Internationally, we stand foursquare behind the United States on the position that it has taken with regard to Burma and with regard to North Korea’s nuclear adventurism,” she added.

Tags: secretary of state,


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