US pledges $364m to SE Asian nations for maritime security

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on May 21, 2015.
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on May 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS/US NAVY

MANILA (AFP) - MANILA (AFP) - The United States said on Tuesday (Nov 17) it would provide US$259 million (S$364 million) to its South-east Asian allies for maritime security, as tensions rise over Beijing's island-building in the disputed South China Sea.

The pledges of support to the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia came shortly after US President Barack Obama arrived in Manila ahead of an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit.

The United States will commit US$119 million this financial year, with another US$140 million earmarked for the following 12 months, the White House said in a statement.

"We are increasing the maritime security capacity of our allies and partners to respond to threats in waters off their coasts and to provide maritime security more broadly across the region," the statement said.

The Philippines, one of Washington's most loyal allies in Asia and one of the fiercest critics of China's actions in the South China Sea, will get the most support.

The Philippines will receive a record US$79 million in assistance to bolster maritime security, the statement said.

The United States will "grant" the Philippines a US Coast Guard cutter, according to the statement.

The Philippines acquired two similar US Coast Guard cutters in 2011 and 2013, which became top warships in its poorly funded Navy.

The terms of deal of the United States providing the latest cutter were not detailed in Tuesday's statement.