The United States and the Philippines will sign a new security pact on Monday allowing American forces an increased military presence in the Southeast Asian country now struggling to raise its defense capabilities amid territorial disputes with China. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation agreement will run for 10 years, shorter than what the United States was originally asking for, two senior government officials said on Sunday, asking for anonymity due to lack of authority to speak on details of the pact. The pact will be signed just a few hours before U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila, as part of Obama's week-long tour of four Asian allies. The agreement allows the United States to rotate ships, aircraft and troops for a period longer than the current maximum of two weeks during joint military exercises by the two nations, a senior military source told Reuters.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the rights of Myanmar's minority Muslim population were not being fully protected and warned that the Southeast Asian country would not succeed if Muslims there were oppressed. On a visit to Malaysia, Obama praised political reforms under way in once-isolated Myanmar but said the danger of democratization was that it could unleash religious and ethnic conflicts and that such developments could move Myanmar in a bad direction. "You have a Muslim minority (in Myanmar) … that the broader population has historically looked down upon and whose rights are not being fully protected," Obama told a townhall-style meeting of young leaders from across Southeast Asia. "Myanmar won't succeed if the Muslim population is oppressed." Members of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority have been the victims of attacks and widespread abuse in recent years blamed by human rights groups and other observers on security forces and anti-Muslim mobs in the country's Rakhine state.
China should act to ensure religious freedoms, a top US opposition lawmaker said at the close of an Asia trip held as President Barack Obama also visits the region. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the number-two Republican in the lower chamber of the US Congress, was speaking in China as a bipartisan congressional delegation he was leading concluded. "Religion is something that's constitutionally protected for us, and we want to be able to promote that as a human right across the world," Cantor told AFP from Shanghai late Saturday at the end of a trip to China, South Korea and Japan.
President Barack Obama said on Sunday it was necessary to send a message to Russia that its "destabilizing" actions in eastern and southern Ukraine must stop, as the United States and its European partners prepared to impose new sanctions on Moscow. Speaking at a news conference during a visit to Malaysia, Obama said any decision on whether to slap "sectoral" sanctions on the Russian economy at a later time would depend on whether the United States and its allies could find a unified position on how to proceed. "We're going to be in a stronger position to deter Mr Putin when he sees that the world is unified and the United States and Europe is unified rather than this is just a U.S.-Russian conflict," Obama told reporters. He said Russia had not "lifted a finger" to get pro-Russian separatist rebels in Ukraine to comply with an international agreement to defuse the crisis.