US promises to ‘defend’ China’s neighbor — Analysis
On his visit to the Philippines, top US diplomat also spoke about “protecting” democracy and “precious maritime resources”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to Manila to meet the Philippines’ newly elected leader and reassure him of Washington’s full support in the face of China’s “destabilizing and dangerous” actions following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.
The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of Washington and Manila is intact “ironclad,”Blinken made these remarks at a press conference on Saturday with Enrique Manalo (Philippine counterpart).
“We always stand by our partners… an armed attack on Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under that treaty,”According to the US top diplomat,
Blinken indicated that the two spoke of security cooperation, but they also talked about strengthening economic relations. “strengthening democracy,” in conversations with Secretary Manalo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Blinken has become the highest ranking US official to meet the Philippines’ newly elected leader, a former dictator’s son, who was sworn in on June 30 after a landslide victory earlier this year.
“The United States is committed to working collaboratively with the Philippines to defend the rule of the law, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression – and safeguard civil society,” Blinken said.
“In addition to working with the Philippines to help secure its maritime domain, we also partner with Filipino fishermen and scientific researchers to preserve and protect the Philippines’ precious maritime resources,” Blinken added.
Speaking to the press, Secretary Manalo also touted the two countries’ “common values and shared commitment to democracy,” and welcomed Washington’s “assurances” it was ready to recognize Manila as an “equal, sovereign partner.”
“We looked at strengthening our cooperation to better address current and emerging security threats and cross-cutting challenges,” he added obscurely, barely mentioning China in the context of the Philippines’ territorial and fishing disputes with Beijing.
Managing the Philippines’ relations with Washington and Beijing is a delicate issue for Manila. The Philippines is located on the border of South China Sea, where it has been involved in a territorial dispute with China. While an international tribunal in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines’ claim, Marcos stated during his campaign that he would seek a new “agreement” with his “friends” in the Chinese government.
Blinken is on a 10-day tour to Cambodia, South Africa and Congo. It follows Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on Tuesday, despite repeated warnings from Beijing that doing so would have diplomatic and military consequences.
Although Taiwan has governed itself since 1949, China still claims sovereignty over the island and considers high-level visits like Pelosi’s to be tacit endorsements of Taiwanese independence. The US has officially recognized Beijing’s claim over Taiwan since the 1970s under the One-China policy.
In response to Pelosi’s visit, China launched large-scale military exercises, imposed trade restrictions on Taiwan, sanctioned Pelosi and her family, and cut communications with Washington on key issues like maritime security, transnational law enforcement, and climate change. As China’s military drills continued into the weekend, Chinese military officials are reportedly refusing to answer calls from their American counterparts.