Top Pentagon officials host Filipino foreign minister

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Filipino Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario at the Pentagon on Tuesday, the E-Ring has learned from defense officials. Hagel dropped in on the meeting with Rosario and Carter, which was not previously announced on official schedules, defense officials confirmed. Details of ...

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Filipino Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario at the Pentagon on Tuesday, the E-Ring has learned from defense officials.

Hagel dropped in on the meeting with Rosario and Carter, which was not previously announced on official schedules, defense officials confirmed. Details of what occurred have yet to be released, but one official said the top issue for discussion was expected to be the damage left by the USS Guardian, an American countermine ship that ran aground on a reef in the Philippines.

The meeting comes as U.S. and Filipino relations have grown closer, U.S. officials feel, and as both nations eye threats coming out of North Korea. The Phillipines agreed to host more U.S. troops, ships and aircraft on a rotational basis, during a visit by then-Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.  

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Filipino Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario at the Pentagon on Tuesday, the E-Ring has learned from defense officials.

Hagel dropped in on the meeting with Rosario and Carter, which was not previously announced on official schedules, defense officials confirmed. Details of what occurred have yet to be released, but one official said the top issue for discussion was expected to be the damage left by the USS Guardian, an American countermine ship that ran aground on a reef in the Philippines.

The meeting comes as U.S. and Filipino relations have grown closer, U.S. officials feel, and as both nations eye threats coming out of North Korea. The Phillipines agreed to host more U.S. troops, ships and aircraft on a rotational basis, during a visit by then-Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.  

This week, U.S. Navy ships are steaming to the Philippines for this year’s Balikatan, an annual bilateral military exercise between the two countries that is one of the largest in the Pacific, set to begin on Friday. The exercise will occur this year with the world’s eyes firmly fixed on North Korea, whose officials for weeks have characterized ongoing U.S. military exercises with South Korea — which have included long-range aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons and the Pentagon’s premier fighter, the F-22 Raptor — as belligerent threats.

Following the USS Guardian’s removal from the reef, an environmental assessment is expected from a joint commission. Filipino officials already have indicated they want fines paid for the disaster, which also destroyed the U.S. ship.

The last section of hull was removed from Tubbataha Reef on March 30, the Navy announced.

"As the hull has been removed, the team is now shifting their effort to collecting minor debris that remains on the reef. We also have a collaborative team from the U.S. and the Philippines beginning to assess the condition of the reef," said Capt. Mark Matthews, the salvage supervisor, in a Navy statement.

Six Navy and privately contracted salvage ships remain on site.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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