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Polish leader presses NATO on permanent presence
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Jan 18, 2016

Philippines plans flight-tracking system in disputed sea
Manila (AFP) Jan 18, 2016 - The Philippines said Monday it would install a civilian flight-tracking system in the disputed South China Sea after China landed several aircraft on one of its man-made islands in the potential flashpoint region.

The automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) machine, which detects aircraft positions using satellite signals, will be operational by November on Pagasa island, the biggest Filipino-occupied feature in the disputed Spratlys, said Rodante Joya, acting director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

An average of 200 civilian flights pass over the Spratlys daily, Joya told AFP, adding the Pagasa surveillance system was part of a broader 10-billion-peso ($209 million) effort to expand the country's commercial flight radar coverage to 80 percent from the current 30 percent.

"Our objective is to track all commercial flights passing over our airspace," Joya said, adding the radars would not be used to monitor military aircraft.

China has built massive structures over South China Sea reefs claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan, including a 3,000-metre (9,842-foot) runway on Fiery Cross reef.

The Philippines has expressed concern that China's test landings on Fiery Cross reef earlier this month would lay the groundwork for the declaration of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) similar to the one Beijing claimed over the East China Sea in 2013 that riled Japan.

Joya said a CAAP plane received a radio message as it was about to land on Pagasa island on January 6, warning against landing in "Chinese territory".

The message, which was in English, appeared to have been taped, he said. The Filipino crew ignored the message and proceeded to land and survey the site for the plane-tracking ADS-B machine.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters the Philippine foreign affairs department has been informed of the incident.

The Philippines has asked a United Nations-backed tribunal to declare China's sea claims as invalid and expects a decision early this year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda pressed NATO on Monday to establish "as permanent as possible" a presence in eastern Europe to counter a growing threat from Russia after its intervention in Ukraine.

"I insist on one thing, that this presence should be as permanent as possible to give a security guarantee," Duda told a press conference with NATO head Jens Stoltenberg after they met at alliance headquarters in Brussels.

Duda said NATO should not "neglect dialogue with Russia" but the Ukraine crisis and especially Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 showed there could be no compromise on security.

Russia's intervention in Ukraine and its takeover of the Crimean peninsula sparked fears NATO was too slow and unwieldy to meet the challenge posed by what Stoltenberg said was "a more assertive Russia."

But the US-led military alliance was now revitalised and capable of maintaining "a persistent presence in a region of which Poland is a part," Stoltenberg said.

Poland has led demands for a permanent NATO presence in the former communist states once ruled from Moscow but NATO and the West have been cautious for fear of being accused by Russia of breaching key treaties ending the Cold War.

These agreements ban NATO setting up permanent military bases in eastern Europe but do allow the alliance to hold exercises and rotate limited forces through the area.

In November, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski called for one of the treaties -- the 1997 Founding Act on NATO-Russia relations -- to be scrapped so that his country could host permanent bases.

Moscow shot back: "We consider these statements to be extraordinarily dangerous and exceptionally provocative."

Since the Ukraine conflict, NATO has established a high-speed response force complete with forward command and logistic centres in its eastern members so it can deploy much more rapidly.

NATO says these forces are very small and cannot be considered bases, and while the overhaul may have been driven by the Ukraine crisis, the revamp is equally aimed at dealing with new threats emerging on its southern borders in the Middle East and North Africa.

NATO's 28 member states also agreed to reverse years of defence cuts and increase spending to the equivalent of two percent of annual economic output by 2020 -- a target Poland already meets.

Poland hosts a NATO summit in July when all these changes will be formally concluded.

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Previous Report
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Manila (AFP) Jan 13, 2016
The Philippines is set to offer the US military use of eight bases, a military spokesman said Wednesday, after the country's supreme court upheld a security agreement with Washington forged in the face of rising tensions with China. The facilities include the former US Clark airbase and air and naval facilities on the southwestern island of Palawan which faces the South China Sea, the focus ... read more

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