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US defense chief Esper, who presided over operation to kill Al Baghdadi, visiting PH next week

/ 08:40 PM November 14, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will be in town next week to sew back the decades-long alliance between the Philippines and United States in the face of China’s increasing aggression in the Asia Pacific region.

In a statement, the US Department of Defense said Esper would meet with Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to “advance the alliance” and “strengthen security cooperation to uphold international rules and norms.”

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Esper was appointed by US President Donald Trump after the resignation of former general Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis. Esper rose to prominence recently after presiding over the US Delta Force operation to get Islamic State leader Al Baghdadi which led to the killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist.

He is also scheduled to pay his respects to fallen US service members buried at the Manila American Cemetery in Taguig City.

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Esper’s visit to the Philippines is part of his itinerary around Asia Pacific countries — South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. His trip started Wednesday, Nov. 13, the US defense department said.

The visit to Manila comes months after Lorenzana called for a review of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and United States.

The Philippines and the US are bound by the MDT, signed on Aug. 30, 1951, which calls for both nations to come to each other’s aid against an armed attack

But US readiness to come to the aid of the Philippines if the attack involved territorial disputes with China, including those over islands and geological formations in the South China Sea, has been cast in a cloud of doubt in recent years.

In September, the Philippines and United States have agreed to conduct more than 300 joint military exercises in 2020, an increase from 281 in 2019.

Edited by TSB

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