The United States will ensure freedom of navigation in the seas and will stand by its defense treaty with the Philippines, US Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear said Thursday.

“We will ensure that there is freedom of navigation,” Locklear, chief of the US Pacific Command, said in a press briefing with Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa at the military headquarters in Manila.

“We stand by the defense treaty as it is,” Locklear said, referring to the 61-year-old mutual defense treaty between the US and the Philippines.

Before the briefing, Locklear and Dellosa attended a meeting of the two countries’ mutual defense board.

Issues in the South China Sea were discussed in the meeting, Locklear said, without specifying what topics were tackled.

The meeting “focused more” on preparations for next year’s bilateral military exercises, Dellosa said.

Next year’s exercises will have a “minor change” in activities, focusing on humanitarian disaster response operations and inter-operability of the two countries’ militaries, he said.

There will be no increase in the number of US forces participating for next year’s exercises compared to last year, Dellosa added. (John Roson)

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