Marcos meets Blinken in Philippines amid US-China crisis

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday welcomed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines since taking office, though the meeting was held between Washington and Beijing. As the relationship between the two took place at a delicate time. has fallen sharply to its worst level in years.

There was no live broadcast of Blinken’s morning visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Manila on state TV networks, which featured a local agricultural program and a brief news broadcast later reported the visit of America’s top diplomat. Only a few Manila-based journalists were allowed in the pool coverage of the incident.

The President’s Office later released photos of Marcos Jr. greeting Blinken with a handshake and the two attending a meeting with their officials, where Marcos Jr. mentioned that he was looking forward to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week. The concerned were surprised by the turn of events. ,

Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island angered China, which claims Taiwan as its territory that would be annexed by force if necessary. China on Thursday began military exercises just off Taiwan’s shores and on Friday, despite dire warnings from China, as part of a retaliation against the US for Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on key issues, including military affairs and critical climate cooperation. cut off contact with. ,

Marcos Jr., based on a transcript released by Rashtrapati Bhavan, said, “I don’t think, to be completely clear, I don’t think it has increased the intensity, it just demonstrates – how has been the intensity of that conflict. “

“It shows how unstable the international diplomatic landscape is not only in the region,” he said.

Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30 after a massive election victory, cited important ties between Manila and Washington, which are treaty allies, and US aid to the Philippines over the years, without extending his hope “that We will continue “to grow that relationship in the face of all the changes we are seeing.”

Blinken reiterated the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines and Marcos Jr. Washington’s commitment to “working with you on shared challenges”.

“Our relationship is quite extraordinary because it is truly founded in friendship, it is forged as well as in partnership and it is strengthened by the fact that it is an alliance.”

Blinken arrived in Manila on Friday night after attending ministerial meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia, where he was joined by his Chinese and Russian counterparts. During the meeting, ASEAN foreign ministers called for “maximum restraint” as China conducted war drills around Taiwan and feared retaliation against the US that “could destabilize the region and ultimately lead to miscalculations, serious There can be confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences for the dominant powers. ”

After a brief meeting with Marcos Jr., Blinken was to meet by video with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, who had recently tested positive for the coronavirus. He was to hold a brief online press conference, where reporters were asked to focus their questions only on Blinken’s visit to the Philippines.

Blinken will also visit a vaccination clinic in Manila, where he will meet with groups helping to fight the coronavirus outbreak and then go to a clean energy fair and meet with US embassy staff before flying on Saturday night.

Shortly before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, when there was speculation that his plane might stop briefly to refuel at the former US Clark Air Force Base north of Manila, Chinese Ambassador Huang Zillion asked Pelosi to visit Taiwan. expressed strong opposition to Beijing’s then unannounced plan. He expressed his hope in a TV interview that “the Philippine side will strictly adhere to the one-China principle and handle all issues related to Taiwan judiciously to ensure the sound and stable development of Sino-Philippines relations.”

Huang’s remarks drew sharp rebuke from opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said, “The ambassador should not heed such policies, especially given that his country stubbornly and strongly adheres to a decision by an international arbitral court.” and ignores and violates international law in the West Philippine Sea when it is in its best interest.”

Hontiveros was referring to a 2016 arbitration decision on a Philippine complaint that invalidated China’s vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. He used the name Philippine for the disputed waters.

China has dismissed the decision, which was welcomed by the US and Western allies, as a sham and continues to disregard it.

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AP journalist Andrew Harnick contributed to this story.

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