09:03 GMT28 January 2021
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    US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller has visited the Philippines and Indonesia during a two-country visit in Southeast Asia. As Beijing vows to tighten its control over the South China Sea water areas, the Trump administration seeks to re-enhance its presence in the region.

    The United States will continue to backup regional security architecture and enhance peace and stability in the ASEAN region, supporting the Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) platform, the Singaporean paper The Strait Times cited the US Defense Christopher Miller as saying during the ASEAN Defense Ministers virtual meeting. 

    This week, Miller, who was appointed as Pentagon Chief in November, has visited the Philippines and Indonesia during his Asia tour. A transfer of $30 mln in defense articles was announced following the results of the meeting between Miller and his Philippine counterpart on Tuesday. The US also pledged to provide Manila with $23.4 mln in COVID-19 assistance and disaster relief.                                                

    “I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the Philippines, the United States’ oldest treaty ally in Asia. It was an honor to meet with Secretary Lorenzana and Secretary Loscin to discuss deepening our alliance and supporting a free and open South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region,” the US Embassy in the Philippine cited Miller as saying. 

    On Monday, Miller had a meeting with the Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto. The two politicians discussed securing a free and open South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region. Following Monday’s meeting and the series of talks between top defense officials, the US reportedly agreed on selling F-15 and F-18 fighter jets to Jakarta.  

    The Chinese corvette Huizhou fires a live torpedo during target practice in the South China Sea on August 15, 2020

    The US presence in the region has long been a security concern for China, as Beijing has been trying to impose more control in the South China Sea by building artificial islands and deploying military bases on the disputed territories, insisting that its so-called “nine-dash” demarcation line embraces around 90% of the Sea’s water areas, while other countries in the region have challenged China's stance and have sought redress with the US.

    In 2016, the Hague tribunal came down in favor of the Philippines, ruling that the “nine-dash line” could not be applicable to the Philippines' borders and stated that China had no historical rights for introducing the line. However, since Rodrigo Duterte came to power, Manila has consistently soften its maritime border demands as bilateral, particularly financial, relations developed and prospered.

    Donald Trump installed Christopher Miller as the US defense secretary on November 9. Starting from late November, Miller has been touring the Middle East and some African countries to revise the situation in the regions and discuss it with US allies.


    Asia-Pacific free trade zone, Philippines, Indonesia, Christopher Miller, defense, ASEAN
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