U.S. President Vows To Protect Philippines Interests In South China Sea Amidst Tensions With China

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The US commitments to the defence of Japan and the Philippines remain ironclad, President Biden mentioned on Thursday as he hosted the countries’ leaders amid separate territorial disputes with China.

The comments came as Biden was hosting the first trilateral summit between the three nations, welcoming Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Filipino President, to the White House a day after Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida’s official visit.

Biden declared in Thursday’s East Room of the White House that when the nations stand as one, they can forge a promising future for all.

Japan and the Philippines both have distinct territorial disputes with China, in the case of the former, the Senkaku Islands that lie in the East China Sea and the latter’s regions of the South China Sea.

Filipino-Chinese tensions have focused on the Second Thomas Shoal, which is about 200 km away from the coast of the island of Palawan.

In the 1990s, the Philippines grounded an ageing WWII-era navy transport vessel on the shoal to enforce the claim to the area. The ship is a rusted wreckage manned by Filipino marines stationed on rotation.

In the meantime, China claims the shoal, which is in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, as its sovereign territory, as it does much of the South China Sea, in defiance of an international arbitration ruling.

The recent clashes took place when the Philippine attempts to resupply the forces on the vessel were met by the Chinese Coast Guard vessels firing water cannons at Philippine’s resupply boats, resulting in significant injuries to the Filipino sailors as well as damages to vessels.

Referring to the Filipino-Chinese pressures, Biden on Thursday declared that any attack on Philippine aircraft, armed forces, or vessels in the South China Sea would invoke the existing mutual defence treaty.

The mutual defence treaty of 1951, signed between the Philippines and the US—the oldest US pact in the Asia-Pacific—stipulates that both sides would defend one another if any third party attacked either.

Thursday’s meeting commemorates the administration’s most recent attempt to grapple with that sort of Chinese aggression. A senior administration official mentioned ahead of the meeting that the White House is highly concerned by the Chinese actions ongoing in the South China Sea.

Marcos declared on Thursday that Japan, the Philippines, and the US would meet as friends and partners bound by a shared idea in pursuit of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific zone.

Marcos summed up these nations as related by a respect for democracy, promising governance, and the rule of law.

The meeting comes as the region is grappling with the tension of China’s aggressive posture toward the South China Sea and Taiwan, besides nuclear provocations from North Korea and the burgeoning connection with Russia — concerns that have brought regional allies closer to the US.

Japan has been at the core of Biden’s alliance-specific efforts in the Indo-Pacific region as the officials have witnessed a willing and enthusiastic partner in Kishida, who has shifted the nation’s defence posture over the recent years and extended ongoing aid to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kishida has also committed to boosting defence spending by 2% of the total GDP by 2037 and has acquired American Tomahawk missiles to enhance counterstrike capabilities.

Biden hosted Marcos at the White House in 2023, indicating his objective to reestablish robust ties with Manila that frayed under former President Rodrigo Duterte, who strived to build closer relations with China.

They are going to continue to support the Philippines military’s modernization goals,” Biden notified the visiting leader on that visit, pledging the two nations not only share a strong alliance — they have a deep friendship, one that several Filipino Americans enrich in the communities across the US.

A highlight of the meeting held on Thursday was the multiple announcements meant to strengthen the Philippines amid clashes. A senior administration official said the White House would announce a new infrastructure scheme in the Philippines on Thursday.

CNN reported earlier in the week that one of the major announcements will be on the development of a new shipping and rail corridor between the Clark Air Base of the Philippines and Subic Naval Base. This action is meant to send out a clear message to Beijing. Biden referenced the economic corridor on Thursday.

He explained that it indicates more employment opportunities for people across the region. It also means more investment in the sectors that are critical to the future — ports, clean energy, agriculture, railroads, and a lot more.

The White House is likely to bolster the capability of the Filipino military with a fresh infrastructural investment similar to what the US declared in India in the leadup to the G20.

In the days before the summit, Japan, the US, and the Philippines—besides Australia—carried out maritime military exercises close to the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (abbreviated as the EEZ) after Philippine vessels alleged “harassment” by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

The senior official stated that the White House would be making some announcements through Open Radio Access Network technology and that both Japan and the US would be offering millions of dollars in funding.

Officials further added that they will declare an upcoming Coast Guard patrol in the Indo-Pacific that will take place next year.

Reference: CNN

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Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

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