Lorenzana renews call to review mutual defense treaty with U.S. after latest tension in PH sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The country's Defense secretary reiterates the need to review the mutual defense treaty with the United States, following a recent apparent near collision between U.S. and Russian warships in the Pacific.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously warned that the sustained U.S. operations in the South China Sea could drag the Philippines into a conflict not of its own doing.

On Friday, U.S. and Russian warships came somewhere between 50 feet and 165 feet of each other, according to the two opposing reports, with both sides alleging their ships were forced to perform emergency maneuvers to avoid a collision, which can be seen in video and a picture of the event obtained by CNN.

Both Navies are giving conflicting reports on where the incident happened.

The U.S. Navy said the incident occurred in the Philippine Sea while the Russian report said it happened in the East China Sea.

When asked to comment on the incident, Lorenzana told CNN Philippines in a message, “Problema nila yan [That is their problem].”

But when pressed to give further comment whether the incident could impact on the Philippine security, Lorenzana reiterated the need to review the defense treaty with the U.S., which was signed in 1951.

“Kaya nga dapat reviewhin yung MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) kasi ang forecast ko yung U.S. ang unang makikipagbakbakan, hindi tayo,” Lorenzana said.

[Translation: That’s the reason why the MDT needs to be reviewed because my forecast is that it’s the U.S. that will be engaged in a conflict first, not the Philippines.”]

This is the second incident in less than a year that the U.S. Navy figured in a tense encounter with a military superpower near Philippine maritime borders.

Last October, a U.S. Navy ship had an "unsafe" interaction with a Chinese warship while the U.S. vessel was conducting a freedom of navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

In March, Lorenzana said he would meet with a senior U.S. defense official to hold exploratory talks to discuss the “ambiguities” of the MDT.

Asked whether the meeting has been pushed through, Lorenzana said, “We will have that in July.”