US will stay out of Sabah issue

MANILA, Philippines - The United States will stay out of the Sabah dispute despite claims that Washington is bound to protect the Sulu Sultanate under a century-old treaty.

"We're not looking to respond in any matter to the invocation of the treaty," US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas said during the annual Kapihan sa Embahada informal meeting with defense reporters on Wednesday, March 21.

Days after his followers crossed over to Sabah, self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III asked US President Barack Obama for help in their quest to reclaim the territory from Malaysia.

The 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement assures the sultan American protection “should a problem arise in Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries” according to Kiram's spokesman Abraham Idjirani.

Idjirani later insisted that and Washington has a "historical obligation" to the Sultanate.

Carpenter Agreement by


Thomas disagrees.

"I can't stop them from invoking it, but we don't want to interfere in the issue and tell President [Benigno]Aquino and [Malaysian] Prime Minister Najib Razak what to do," the ambassador said.

Thomas explained that "we do not see this as a matter that affects the United States or the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty" regardless of any treaty signed almost a hundred years ago.

"We have confidence in President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib's ability to resolve this issue peacefully," he added.

The 1915 document, signed by US-appointed Governor of Mindanao and Sulu Frank Carpenter with then Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, gave the colonial authorities rights over sovereignty, tax collection and arbitration laws in exchange for an allowance, land and recognition as the religious leader of Sulu.

However the agreement does not cover Sabah as part of North Borneo, leased by the sultanate to British businessmen in the 18th century. -