Biden, Marcos reaffirm ‘ironclad’ alliance as tensions with China grow


WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden, following a meeting with Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr, said any attack on Philippine armed forces or vessels would trigger American defense commitments, a message intended to reassure a key ally in the face of heightened tensions with China.
“President Biden reaffirms the United States’ ironclad alliance commitments to the Philippines,” according to a joint statement from the leaders issued Monday by the White House, which cites the two nations’ 71-year-old mutual defense treaty.
The leaders also underscored “their unwavering commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea” and affirmed the “importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity.”
Marcos on Monday made his first visit to the White House since he took office as Philippines president last year, amid strained relations with China over the South China Sea as well as Taiwan. His talks with Biden were dominated by defense and economic issues as the two sought to strengthen the alliance between their countries.
Other highlights from the meeting include:
*Manila and Washington “look forward” to establishing trilateral modes of cooperation that include Japan and Australia.
*The US and the Philippines also agreed on the adoption of bilateral defense guidelines, which is intended to clear ambiguities in their defense treaty.
*The two nations will co-host the 2024 Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Manila to “further establish” the Southeast Asian nation as a regional supply chain and investment hub.
*The two countries will pursue cooperation on wind, solar and geothermal energy and enhance cooperation to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Planes, trade
Last week, the US accused China of harassing Philippine ships after a near collision in those waters. The episode occurred as Washington and Manila conducted their biggest ever joint defense drills.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Monday that the US would announce new efforts to modernize the Philippine military including providing additional C-130 planes and patrol vessels.
Earlier this year, the American military secured greater access to Philippine military bases near Taiwan and the South China Sea, an agreement that was denounced by Chinese officials.
The Biden administration is also sending a presidential trade and investment mission to the Philippines to bolster cooperation, including on clean energy, critical minerals and food security.
“Together we’re deepening our economic cooperation,” said Biden before the meeting with Marcos. “I think it’s mutually beneficial.”
Marcos, whose father ruled the Philippines until his ouster in 1986, highlighted the security challenges facing the country.
“It is only natural for the Philippines to look to its sole treaty partner in the world to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have,” Marcos said. “The Philippines is possibly, arguably in the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world right now.”
The two leaders’ meeting showed that both nations are determined to “modernize” ties by including other regional allies and by tackling economic issues, said Professor Renato de Castro from the De La Salle University in Manila. “It’s very clear that there’s a concerted effort to widen the alliance, and that is something very significant,” he said.


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