Top US military official Gen. Martin Dempsey expressed concern over China’s actions in the South China Sea and suggested that the US strengthen its forces in the Philippines, a defense official said.

This after defense and military officials brought up China’s “aggressiveness” in the South China Sea, particularly at Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) during a meeting with Dempsey in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.

“We told them that China is really aggressive in that area and we are considering our restraint efforts in that area,” Undersecretary for defense affairs Honorio Azcueta told reporters.

Dempsey said the US is also concerned about the issue and recommended that the US strengthen its forces in the Philippines, according to Azcueta.

“Kailangan palakasin lang namin ‘yung puwersa dito para we can monitor and do some capabilities,” Azcueta said when asked what Dempsey recommended on how to address the issue at Panatag.

Azcueta said he and other officials welcomed the suggestion but reminded the US officials that that foreign troops cannot stay permanently.

“Sinabi namin na we welcome them basta walang resemblance of permanence in the country,” he said.

Aside from the issue at the South China Sea, Philippine officials also discussed the military’s modernization with Dempsey and his group.

“We gave them a list if they can provide us with their excess defense articles, long range patrol (aircraft), and radars,” Azcueta said.

“We welcome his (Dempsey) visit and appreciate it, it is a manifestation of their commitment to the mutual defense treaty,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –