National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien announced the delivery of missiles and bombs to the Philippines during a visit to the country on Monday and pledged support for Manila in its maritime dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.
According to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, President Trump promised $18 million in missiles to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a phone call in April.
“President Trump is standing with President Duterte as we combat ISIS here in Southeast Asia,” O’Brien said. “This transfer underscores our strong and enduring commitment to our critical alliance.”
O’Brien made it clear in the visit that the US was willing to defend Philippine forces in the South China Sea. “Any armed attack on Philippine forces aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger our mutual defense obligations,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Philippines announced it would extend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a defense pact that allows US forces in the country on a rotational basis. The treaty is being extended while the two countries work out a more long-term agreement.
The extension of the VFA came after Duterte reversed his decision to kick US troops out of his country. In February, Duterte said he wanted all US forces out of the Philippines after the US Senate voted in favor of sanctioning Philippine security officials over extrajudicial killings in the country’s drug war. In June, Duterte decided to let the US military stay, citing increased tensions in the South China Sea.