Tropical storm keeps US Secretary of State John Kerry away from Philippines

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 4:18am

US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday called off a planned visit to the Philippines due to an approaching tropical storm, a week after US President Barack Obama also cancelled a trip to the US ally because of the federal government shutdown.

Kerry, flanked by Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario at the East Asia Summit in Brunei, said the decision was made based on "the judgment of our pilots and the airlines" due to the typhoon. He was scheduled to be in Manila today.

"I want to emphasise the strength of our relationship and the bilateral ties that we have that are literally unbreakable," Kerry added, adding that he was committed to returning to the region "within a month or so" on a visit that would include the Philippines.

"This is a big storm. Obviously storms can change paths at the last minute," Kerry said.

Obama's cancellation was seen as a blow to Washington's steady rebuilding of ties with the Philippines as part of its strategic rebalancing of military and commercial ties towards Asia. Washington is helping to upgrade the Philippines' ill-equipped military and is in talks for an agreement on establishing a rotational presence of US forces there.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has launched a US$1.8 billion modernisation programme and revived plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay, the largest US military installation in Southeast Asia before it was shut in 1992.

Nari is expected to make landfall tomorrow on the northeastern coast of the main Philippine island of Luzon, about 150 kilometres north of Manila.

Yesterday it was packing winds of up to 120 km/h and bringing heavy rain to large parts of the archipelago nation.