Blinken stands by US’ ‘ironclad commitment’ to defend Philippines amid fears of China conflict

Blinken stands by US’ ‘ironclad commitment’ to defend Philippines amid fears of China conflict - Politics - News

United States Reaffirms Commitment to Defend the Philippines Amidst Escalating Tensions with China in the South China Sea

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the United States’ unwavering commitment to defend the Philippines amidst rising tensions with China in the South China Sea. The stability of the region is under threat due to increasing clashes between Chinese coast guard and maritime militia units and Philippine vessels around disputed features in the waterway. In a recent confrontation, a Chinese coast guard vessel employed a water cannon against a Philippine boat, shattering its glass panel and injuring four Filipino sailors.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Philippine counterpart in Manila, Blinken expressed shared concerns about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) actions that infringe upon international law and the rights of the Philippines. He emphasized that these waterways are vital to the Philippines, its security, and its economy, as well as to the interests of the region, the United States, and the world.

The US military maintains a consistent presence in the South China Sea through aircraft overflights, freedom of navigation operations, patrols, and exercises with allies and partners to uphold the international status of the sea as a waterway. Blinken confirmed that the mutual defense treaty signed in 1951, which binds Washington to defend Manila from attack, is an “ironclad” and “extensive” agreement that applies to armed attacks on the Filipino armed forces, public vessels, aircraft – including those of its coast guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.

Blinken and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo emphasized that their closer partnership was not targeted at any specific country but rather focused on upholding international law against provocative actions. The Philippines has consistently advocated for peaceful diplomacy as its preferred approach to resolving disputes and remains committed to this policy.

China claims sovereignty over almost all 1.3 million square miles of the resource-rich South China Sea, contradicting a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague. In response to Blinken’s visit, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lin Jian asserted that the US has no right to interfere in China-Philippine maritime issues.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who openly aligned with the US since taking office, has adopted a more critical stance on China’s actions in the South China Sea. The upcoming trilateral summit between Marcos, Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in April is described as a “new horizon of cooperation” that will focus on promoting inclusive economic growth and emerging technologies, advancing clean energy supply chains and climate cooperation, and furthering peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.

Blinken’s visit to Manila marks his second since Marcos took office and comes shortly before the summit, underscoring the growing partnership between the two countries.