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Within the Philippines, Blinken Vows to Strengthen Military Ties

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MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Saturday that their nations were committed to strengthening their military alliance, and that their governments would wish to cope with rising tensions in Asia, including those involving China and Taiwan.

Mr. Marcos said in the beginning of a gathering with Mr. Blinken within the presidential palace that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan had not, in his opinion, intensified those tensions; reasonably, it “demonstrated how the intensity of the conflict has been at that level for a very good while now, but we form of got used to the concept after which put it aside.”

Mr. Marcos’s comment got here as China continued to carry military exercises within the waters near Taiwan, two days after it fired 11 ballistic missiles into the identical area, five of them landing in waters which might be a part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

America, Japan and other nations have issued statements denouncing China’s actions and calling for de-escalation. The words by Mr. Marcos also supported the assertion by Mr. Blinken and other American officials that Ms. Pelosi’s visit was consistent with U.S. policy on Taiwan, not a shifting of the establishment.

Mr. Marcos also spoke of constructing on the mutual defense arrangement between the USA and the Philippines. The 2 countries are treaty allies, and the U.S. military has long maintained a presence within the Philippines. American officials have been discussing possible greater access to military bases within the country, doing more exercises between the 2 militaries and making their defense systems more interoperable — a part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy aimed toward increasing cooperation with allies and partners to counterbalance China.

Mr. Marcos talked in regards to the need “to evolve that relationship within the face of all of the changes that we now have been seeing,” adding that “the Mutual Defense Treaty is in constant evolution.”

Mr. Blinken agreed. “The alliance is powerful,” he said, “and, I think, can grow even stronger.”

Mr. Marcos was sworn in at the tip of June after being elected the seventeenth president of the Philippines in a landslide victory. He’s the son and namesake of a former dictator who fled to Hawaii together with his family in 1986 after a peaceful rebellion by residents furious at the daddy’s brazen corruption. The elder Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989.

The query of tips on how to confront China on its assertive behavior within the region while at the identical time coping with it as a vital economic partner was one which arose throughout Mr. Blinken’s meetings with Philippine officials on Saturday, in addition to in his discussions with other Asian dignitaries at a regional summit in Cambodia this week.

After Mr. Blinken and Enrique A. Manalo, the foreign minister of the Philippines, met by video, Mr. Manalo said in response to a matter at a news conference that the 2 countries could explore the potential of joint naval patrols within the Pacific.

Mr. Manalo spoke with Mr. Blinken by video and took part virtually within the news conference because he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. Blinken told reporters that in his discussions, he had affirmed the “ironclad” commitment of the USA to defending the Philippines and had said that any armed attack on the Philippine military would trigger pledges of their mutual defense treaty.

He also denounced illegal fishing and environmental destruction in Asian waters by “outside actors.” Together, those comments were a transparent reference to actions by China. For years, nations within the region have complained of illegal fishing by Chinese boats, that are believed to operate throughout the seas with the approval of China’s Navy.

The Chinese government has made expansive claims to territorial control of the waters and land features within the South China Sea, despite competing claims by Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, and the insistence by Washington that each one nations maintain freedom of navigation.

Ships from China and the Philippines faced off over the Scarborough Shoal, and a world court in The Hague ruled in 2016 that the shoal was sovereign territory of the Philippines, and that China couldn’t claim all the South China Sea as its own. China has continued to send ships to the realm and assert control of it.

Mr. Marcos’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, tried to adopt more conciliatory policies toward China, including backing down from strong territorial assertions over the South China Sea. But Mr. Marcos has pledged to uphold the ruling of the international court — a call that may almost actually bring his government into conflict with China.

Mr. Duterte, who held office for six years, at one point moved to finish a vital military agreement between the USA and the Philippines. That and other actions by Mr. Duterte, who was widely criticized for human rights abuses and authoritarian practices, strained the connection between Manila and Washington.

But last 12 months, Mr. Duterte reaffirmed the Visiting Forces Agreement between the countries, which the Philippine military strongly supports. The agreement sets terms for the rotation of American troops through the Philippines for drills and exercises.

Within the news conference with Mr. Manalo, Mr. Blinken also criticized China for its decision on Friday to interrupt off eight areas of cooperation and dialogue with the USA over Ms. Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, including military-to-military talks and climate change negotiations.

“Suspending climate cooperation doesn’t punish the USA; it punishes the world, particularly within the developing world,” he said. “We should always not hold hostage matters of world concern due to differences between our two countries.”

Mr. Blinken said he warned Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, at a gathering of foreign ministers on Friday morning on the summit in Cambodia against continuing escalatory actions over Ms. Pelosi’s visit. Hours later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the suspension of the areas of cooperation.

“I believe maintaining dialogue is arguably much more essential after we’re in a period of heightened tensions, as we are actually,” Mr. Blinken said on the news conference in Manila.

After the news conference, Mr. Blinken visited a Covid-19 vaccination clinic on the Manila Zoo and watched a young boy and a young girl get inoculated. Down on a knee, he told the boy he had gotten 4 shots himself. He later talked in regards to the need for nations to work together to stem the coronavirus pandemic, and he fed fruit to an elephant from Sri Lanka before leaving the zoo.

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