MANILA – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Saturday that their nations were committed to strengthening their military alliance and that their governments will need to deal with rising tensions in Asia, including those involving China and Taiwan.
Mr. Marcos said at the start of a meeting with Mr. The blink in the presidential palace that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, in his opinion, had not intensified these tensions; rather, it “demonstrated how the intensity of the conflict has been at that level for quite some time now, but we got used to the idea and then put it aside.”
Mr. Marcos’ comments came as China continued to hold military exercises in waters near Taiwan, two days after it fired 11 ballistic missiles into the same area, five of which landed in waters that are part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The United States, Japan and other nations have issued statements condemning China’s actions and calling for de-escalation. The words of Mr Marcos also supported the contention of Mr Blinken and other US officials that Ms Pelosi’s visit was in line with US policy on Taiwan, not a change to the status quo.
Sir. Marcos also talked about building on the mutual defense arrangement between the United States and the Philippines. The two countries are treaty allies, and the US military has long maintained a presence in the Philippines. US officials have discussed possible greater access to military bases in the country, conducting more exercises between the two militaries and making their defense systems more interoperable – part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which aims to increase cooperation with allies and partners to counter China .
Mr. Marcos spoke of the need “to develop this relationship in light of all the changes we have seen,” adding that “the mutual defense treaty is constantly evolving.”
Sir. Blinken agreed. “The alliance is strong,” he said, “and I think it can grow even stronger.”
Mr. Marcos was sworn in at the end of June after being elected the 17th president of the Philippines in a landslide victory. He is the son and namesake of a former dictator who fled to Hawaii with his family in 1986 following a peaceful uprising by citizens outraged by his father’s brazen corruption. The elder Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989.
The question of how to confront China over its assertive behavior in the region while dealing with it as a major economic partner was an issue that arose during Mr. Blinken’s meetings with Philippine officials on Saturday, as well as in his discussions with others. Asian dignitaries at a regional summit in Cambodia this week.
After Mr. Blinken and Enrique A. Manalo, the Philippines’ foreign secretary, were greeted by video, Mr. Manalo, in response to a question at a press conference, that the two countries could explore the possibility of joint naval patrols in the Pacific.
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Mr. Manalo spoke with Mr. Blinken via video and participated virtually in the press conference because he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Blinken told reporters that in his discussions he had reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines and had said that any armed attack on the Philippine military would trigger pledges in their mutual defense treaty.
He also condemned illegal fishing and environmental destruction in Asian waters by “outside actors”. Taken together, these comments were a clear reference to China’s actions. For years, nations in the region have complained about illegal fishing by Chinese boats believed to be operating throughout the seas with the approval of China’s navy.
The Chinese government has made sweeping claims to territorial control over waters and lands in the South China Sea, despite competing claims from Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines, and Washington’s insistence that all nations maintain freedom of navigation.
Ships from China and the Philippines stood over Scarborough Shoal, and an international court in The Hague ruled in 2016 that the shoal was sovereign territory of the Philippines and that China could not claim the entire South China Sea as its own. China has continued to send ships to the area and assert control over it.
Sir. Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, tried to adopt more conciliatory policies toward China, including backing away from strong territorial claims over the South China Sea. But Mr Marcos has vowed to uphold the ruling by the international court – a ruling that will almost certainly bring his government into conflict with China.
Sir. Duterte, who held office for six years, moved at one point to end a key military deal between the United States and the Philippines. That and other actions by Mr Duterte, widely criticized for human rights abuses and authoritarian practices, strained relations between Manila and Washington.
But last year, Mr. Duterte reaffirmed the Visiting Forces Agreement between the countries, which the Philippine military strongly supports. The agreement sets terms for the rotation of US troops through the Philippines for exercises and drills.
At the news conference with Mr. Manalo criticized Mr. Blinken also blasted China for its decision on Friday to suspend eight areas of cooperation and dialogue with the United States over Ms. Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, including military-to-military talks and climate change negotiations.
“Suspending climate cooperation does not punish the United States; it punishes the world, especially in the developing world,” he said. “We should not hold matters of global interest hostage because of differences between our two countries.”
Mr. Blinken said he warned Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, at a meeting of foreign ministers Friday morning at the Cambodia summit against continuing escalating actions related to Ms. Pelosi’s visit. Hours later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the suspension of the cooperation areas.
“I think maintaining dialogue is probably even more important when we’re in a period of heightened tensions like we are now,” Mr. The flash at the press conference in Manila.
After the press conference, Mr. Blinken a Covid-19 vaccination clinic at the Manila Zoo and saw a young boy and a young girl being vaccinated. Down on one knee, he told the boy that he himself had been shot four times. He later spoke about the need for nations to work together to contain the coronavirus pandemic and fed fruit to a Sri Lankan elephant before leaving the zoo.