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US, Philippines flex alliance in heat of Taiwan crisis

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MANILA – Philippine President Ferdinand ily’s longstanding and often fraught relations with the US when he warmly welcomed US Secretary of https://besthookupwebsites.org/local-hookup/norfolk/ State Antony Blinken to the Malacanang Palace over the weekend.

The meeting was held in the same halls that the Marcoses fled 36 years earlier aboard a US Air Force plane in order to escape the wrath of the “people power” revolution that toppled Marcos Jr’s father’s once menacing dictatorship.

It marked the first-ever in-person meeting between the new Filipino president and a US cabinet member; it was also the first time that Blinken visited Manila since becoming America’s top diplomat. Weeks earlier, Marcos Jr held conversations with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as well as a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden.

“We cannot, we can no longer isolate one part of our relationship from the other. We are too closely tied because of the special relationship between the United States and the Philippines and the history that we share,” the Filipino president told Blinken.

The two allies underscored how “extraordinary” and “important” their bilateral relations are, significantly amid particularly turbulent times in the region. Eager to underscore a new chapter in Philippine-US relations following six years of roller-coaster ties under former president Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos Jr reassured Blinken that the US-Philippine alliance is rock solid.

“To be perfectly candid, I did not think it raised the intensity, it just demonstrated it – how the intensity of that [the Taiwan] conflict has been. It actually has been at that level for a good while, but we got used to it and put it aside,” the Filipino president added, subtly rejecting Beijing’s criticism of US House Speaker of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island last week as the main reason behind the latest crisis in the Taiwan Straits.

Blinken was visibly pleased with Marcos Jr’s remarks, which by certain readings represent a policy course shift from his predecessor. Just a year earlier, the Biden administration tirelessly scrambled to prevent Duterte from nixing the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governs large-scale military exercises between the two allies.

Sensing a restoration of the once-robust alliance, Blinken described the Philippines as an “an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally” while reassuring his hosts that “an armed attack on Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under that (Mutual Defense) treaty.”

Blinken visited the Philippines right after attending a high-stakes meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia. The European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were also among top diplomats at the event.

Along with other key Western allies, the top US diplomat encouraged Southeast Asian states to assert “ASEAN centrality” and help de-escalate rising tensions in the region. In response to Pelosi’s visit, China has conducted massive military drills in the South China Sea and waters surrounding Taiwan, while restricting trade with the self-governing island and announcing sanctions against Pelosi herself.

US, Philippines flex alliance in heat of Taiwan crisis

While ASEAN nations refused to take sides in the brewing conflict, they nevertheless warned against any “provocative action” that “could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

Speaking on behalf of ASEAN nations, Kung Phoak, Cambodia’s deputy foreign minister, urged both sides to stabilize the situation, making it clear that “[w]e hope de-escalation happens… and normalcy returns to the Taiwan Strait.”

Likely irked by explicit support from ASEAN nations, if not an implicit criticism of Beijing’s latest military actions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly staged multiple walkouts during the meeting in Cambodia.

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