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Blinken confirms Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Tuesday à Manila commitment "à any &eac;proof" of the United States to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea, triggering a scathing response from Beijing which believes that Washington should not interfere in this dispute.

This is his second visit to the Philippine capital since President Ferdinand Marcos, the son and namesake of the country's former dictator, came to power in June 2022.

The head of American diplomacy reaffirmed Washington's support for the Philippine ally against any possible armed attack in the South China Sea, during a press conference with his counterpart Enrique Manalo.

“These waterways are crucial for the Philippines, its security, its economy, but they are also crucial for the interests of the region, the United States and the world (…) This is why we stand alongside of the Philippines and that we will uphold our ironclad defense commitments, including the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

Under President Marcos, tensions between China and the Philippines have reached levels not seen in several years. The Philippine coast guard regularly accuses its Chinese counterparts of causing collisions.

Blinken confirms Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines

The South China Sea © AFP – Valentin RAKOVSKY, Sophie RAMIS

“The United States is not part of the South China Sea and (therefore) has no right to interfere in the disputes between China and the Philippines,” said retorted Tuesday a spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, Lin Jian.

“Military cooperation between the United States and the Philippines must not undermine sovereignty, to China's maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, let alone serve as a platform for the Philippines' illegal claims,” ​​Lin Jian said.

China is concerned about the strengthening of military ties between the United States and the Philippines, which it sees as a way of thwarting its territorial claims in the region.

Mr. Blinken arrived in Manila on Monday evening, the second stop on a brief tour of Asia intended to demonstrate Washington's commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, which also took it to South Korea, another major ally in the region.

The trip comes ahead of a trilateral meeting in Washington next month between US President Joe Biden, Mr. Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

During his meeting with Marcos, Blinken said the U.S.-Philippines alliance was “beyond rock solid” and a “top priority for President Biden”.

President Marcos declared himself “very concerned” about recent confrontations at sea which have triggered diplomatic tensions between Manila and Beijing.

– “Investments in defense” –

China recently accused the United States of using the Philippines as a “pawn” in the South China Sea, after several incidents around islets that the two Asian countries are arguing bitterly.

Blinken confirms Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (D), at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on March 19, 2024 © POOL – EVELYN HOCKSTEIN

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea. Other neighboring countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims.

In this context, the Philippines has concluded military agreements with the States -United States and Australia. The Americans have access to nine Philippine military bases.

Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said he had communicated to his counterpart the importance of “greater American investments to strengthen our defense and law enforcement capabilities”, such as the coast guard.

Relations between Washington and Manila have improved markedly over the past two years, in contrast to the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, Mr. Marcos's predecessor.

Before his official meetings, Mr. Blinken visited a semiconductor production line in Manila, these electronic chips essential to the global economy.

Blinken confirms Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a semiconductor manufacturing site on March 19, 2024 in Manila © POOL – EVELYN HOCKSTEIN

The Philippines is “an increasingly important partner” in ensuring a “resilient” supply chain, he said.

After years of delay, the United States is seeking to consolidate its leadership position in the chip industry, both for reasons of national security and to face competition from China.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116