The alliance between the United States and the Philippines is “iron”: ​​Blinken

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  • By Tom Bateman
  • Traveling with Antony Blinken


Blinken, here with his Filipino counterpart Enrique Manalo, is in Manila at a time of intense tensions between the Philippines and China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured the Philippines, a key Washington ally, of US support amid rising tensions with China.

He reiterated the United States’ “ironclad” security commitments to the Philippines during a visit to Manila on Tuesday.

Frictions have increased between Manila and Beijing in recent months over competing claims in the South China Sea.

“These waterways are critical to the Philippines, to its security and to its economy,” Blinken said.

“They are also fundamental to the interests of the region, of the United States and of the world,” he added, in a joint press conference with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Enrique Manalo.

“That is why we stand with the Philippines and fulfill our strong defense commitments, including under the mutual defense treaty.”

Manila and Washington are “committed to further elevating” their alliance, Manalo said.

“I think our relationship with the United States has never been higher, so great,” he said when asked by the BBC about the value of Washington’s commitments ahead of this year’s US election.

Blinken will also discuss trade with Philippine officials, a senior State Department official said.

The visit is also likely to be seen as bolstering American support for Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has leaned toward Washington unlike his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who boosted ties with Beijing.

The White House also announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden will host a summit with Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in April.

As Blinken’s plane descended toward the capital, Manila, the lights of the city’s burgeoning skyscrapers reflected in the bay. The Philippines became Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy last year, but entrenched inequality in a country that has failed to deal with long-standing accusations of government cronyism has influenced its fractious politics.

The Philippines remains a key strategic hub for the United States, especially given its position in an evolving region where China has become a rival to American power and influence.

The waters of Manila Bay extend into the South China Sea, in which the Philippines is one of several Asian nations locked in disputes with Beijing over territory, trade routes and maritime zones.

While disputes are not new, tense encounters between the Philippine and Chinese Coast Guard have escalated in recent months, raising fears of conflict. Collisions Conflicts have been reported between the two countries’ ships and the Chinese fired water at Philippine vessels earlier this month.

“The primary concern will obviously be China’s continued destabilizing actions in the South China Sea that contradict international law,” the senior State Department official said. The Secretary of State would reiterate the importance of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the official added.

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See: Chinese ships “shoot water at Philippine ships”

The United States views China’s maritime activity as part of a campaign of harassment against its neighbors. Washington has a long-standing defense treaty with the Philippines and has previously said that any armed attack on Philippine vessels “would invoke US mutual defense commitments“.

In 2014, Washington also signed a defense agreement with Manila that allowed the United States to fund the development of Philippine military bases and deploy American troops on a rotational basis. And in 2023, the United States secured access to four more bases in a crucial deal that signaled closer ties between the two countries.

China has criticized the deals because of the proximity of some of the bases to autonomous Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province but which the United States has vowed to defend militarily.

Beijing also claims historic rights to much of the South China Sea and says the Philippines has ignored proposals to “manage” the dispute.

Blinken’s trip will also be seen in the country as a new embrace of Marcos, the son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a US ally who ruled for two decades until the mid-1980s. His reign is remembered for years of martial rule, arrest and torture of dissidents and rampant corruption that cost the state approximately $10 billion.

But the young Marcos, who was elected in 2022 thanks to a campaign that whitewashed his family’s dark legacy, has proven to be an indispensable partner for Washington.

He was invited to the White House last year as part of a four-day visit that many saw as a reward for his pivot to Washington.

Image source, fake images


US President Joe Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in the Oval Office in May 2023

His predecessor, Duterte, a strongman who became famous for his brutal war on drugs, forged relations with Beijing, apparently considering China’s growing power too important to challenge.

Blinken’s visit to Manila follows a trip to South Korea in which he warned against growing authoritarianism and “democratic backsliding” in some countries.

The trip is a rare outing in recent months for Blinken beyond the Middle East, where dealing with the Gaza war and a broader regional crisis has dominated his time, with little sign of an imminent breakthrough in ceasefire talks. fire between Israel and Hamas.

Asked if China was trying to exploit a situation in which the United States was distracted by other foreign policy crises, the senior official said they would “categorically reject” the possibility.

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