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Blinken reaffirms ‘ironclad’ resolve to defend Philippines

The top US diplomat’s visit to Manila is part of a broader Asia tour aimed at strengthening security and economic ties with allies, amidst rising regional tensions with China and North Korea.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday reiterated Washington’s commitment to defend the Philippines in the face of any aggression in the South China Sea.

Blinken emphasized the importance of the waterways for regional and global security and economic interests at a joint press conference with his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo.

“That’s why we stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the mutual defense treaty,” he said.

“We have a shared concern about (China’s) actions that threaten our common vision for a free open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea and in the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ).”

Manalo thanked the visiting US Secretary of State for his country’s support with regard to recent events in the South China Sea.

On Monday, a senior State Department official said the US is “committed to the Indo-Pacific, to this region, despite everything else that’s going on in the world right now.”

Blinken to meet President Marcos

Blinken is scheduled to hold talks with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and other top officials in Manila later on Tuesday.

His visit to Manila is part of a broader Asia tour aimed at strengthening security and economic ties with allies such as the Philippines and South Korea, amidst rising regional tensions with China and North Korea.

The trip also precedes a significant trilateral summit in Washington, where US President Joe Biden will host President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The South China Sea dispute

Recent incidents involving Philippine and Chinese vessels in the disputed region have contributed to rising tensions in the region.

Two weeks ago, a Filipino admiral and four sailors were injured when a Chinese ship used water cannons against their vessels.

The South China Sea is a major global trade route, which is rich is resource, and has overlapping claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea.

A 1951 US-Philippines mutual defense treaty obligates Washington to defend any “armed attack”  against Philippine public vessels, aircraft, armed forces and coastguard, making US support for its regional allies against China all the more important.

Meanwhile, China contested US assertions on Tuesday with foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian saying, “The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue and has no right to interfere in maritime issues that are between China and the Philippines.”

Earlier, Beijing has accused Washington of using the Philippines as a “pawn” in the ongoing dispute over the South China Sea.

Source: Dw

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