Security ties focus of Obama's Asian visit in October

Philippines high on his agenda as Manila seeks to counter perceived China threat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 3:31am


US President Barack Obama's visit to the Philippines next month will help expand security ties with its longtime Asian ally, Manila said yesterday.

Obama will make a four-nation Asia tour to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines from October 6-12.

The last US president to visit Malaysia was Lyndon Johnson in 1966. US relations with the Muslim-majority nation soured during the 1981-2003 tenure of prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a strident critic of the West.

The visit to the Philippines comes amid talks between the two allies on expanding America's military presence at a time when Manila seeks to counter what it perceives as a growing threat from China.

"President Obama will meet President Aquino to discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of our security, economic, and people-to-people ties," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman said.

The proposed deal would allow more US troops, aircraft and ships to temporarily pass through the Philippines, as Washington refocuses its attention on Asia. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said after a visit to the Philippines last month that the two sides were moving towards completing a framework agreement. Filipino officials have expressed optimism the talks will be finalised this year.

In Kuala Lumpur, Obama will take part in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an initiative on job growth he designed to reach out to the Islamic world.

Obama, who spent part of his youth in Indonesia, has put a priority on building relations with Southeast Asia, seeing the fast-growing and largely US-friendly region as neglected in the past.