Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the Sultan of Sulu consistently invokes that 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement which, according to him, assures the Sultanate of American protection “should a problem arise in Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries”.
But the US Ambassador to the Philippines does not agree. According to Ambassador Harry Thomas,
“We’re not looking to respond in any matter to the invocation of the treaty… 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… we do not see this as a matter that affects the United States or the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty… We have confidence in President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib’s ability to resolve this issue peacefully.”
The statement of Ambassador Thomas is actually not surprising.
It will be recalled that the Sultan of Sulu considers Malaysia’s occupation of Sabah as a lease (padjak) – a lease in perpetuity, but a lease nonetheless.
But it will also be recalled that the US also leases a parcel of land in another country and uses the same as a military base – Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, pursuant to leases (here, here, and here) executed in the early 1900s, over which it exercises “complete jurisdiction and control”, and which it refuses to vacate despite consistent demands from the Cuban government – a US military base in a Communist state with whom the US has no diplomatic relations.
In short, the statement of Ambassador Thomas is simply consistent with standing US policy.