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US supports Philippines over China executions

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 (AFP) – The United States on Thursday voiced support for the Philippines after China executed three Filipinos on drug charges in defiance of repeated appeals.

“I believe that this is something that we will want to support our Filipino friends on,” Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told Congress. He said he would speak with Philippine officials in coming days.

The Philippines had pressed for China to spare the lives of the three. In December, President Benigno Aquino said the Philippines skipped the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in hopes of persuading Beijing.

“It’s fairly unusual in Asia when a government makes a very, almost personal, appeal at the very highest levels,” Campbell said.

“I think you know how strongly the Philippines government and President Aquino’s own cabinet felt about this issue. To be turned away in such a manner, I think it was a little bit of a surprise to Filipino friends,” he said.

However, Campbell said he was not suggesting that the three should have gone unpunished.

The three Filipinos were arrested in 2008 for attempting to smuggle heroin into China. The Philippines, a largely Roman Catholic nation where many oppose the death penalty, said the trio had been duped by crime syndicates.

Campbell was responding to questions by Representative Ed Royce, a Republican whose district in southern California has many Filipino Americans.

“The radical disparity of the death penalty here when the people organizing it get off scot-free is riveting,” Royce said.

The United States has a long-standing alliance with the Philippines, a former US colony. A number of Asian nations have recently sought closer ties with Washington amid concerns over a rising China.

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