Reuters. On August 6, 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. posed for a picture at Manila’s Malacanang Palace. Reuters/Ezra Acayan/Pool Submitted by David Brunnstrom and Karen Lema
DAVAO CITY (Reuters) –
In an effort to ease concerns about the scope of the U.S. commitment to a mutual defense treaty, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the Philippines the assurance that the United States would defend them if they were attacked in the South China Sea on Saturday.
Blinken asserted that a 70-year-old defense agreement with the Philippines was “ironclad” during discussions in Manila where talk of simmering U.S.-China tensions over U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan predominated.
Blinken stated at a press conference that “an armed attack against Philippine armed forces, public boats, and planes will invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under that treaty.”
The Philippines is the United States’ incomparable ally, partner, and friend.
The new president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is the son of the late strongman Washington assisted in fleeing into exile in Hawaii following a “people power” movement that ended his two-decade dictatorship in 1986. Blinken was the highest ranking American official to meet Marcos Jr.
In his opening remarks to Blinken, Marcos attempted to downplay the diplomatic crisis surrounding Taiwan and expressed his opinion that Pelosi’s visit “did not heighten the severity” of an already tense situation.
We have been operating at that level for quite some time, but we have grown accustomed to the concept, according to Marcos.
Marcos has a difficult task in balancing relations between the two big powers given that the Philippines is at the center of the geopolitical conflict between the US and China.
Additionally, he will be under domestic pressure to oppose China in the South China Sea without upsetting the country’s leadership.
Rodrigo Duterte’s predecessor’s moves toward China, well-known anti-American rhetoric, and threats to sever their military connections caused a rift in relations between the United States and the Philippines.
Enrique Manalo, the foreign minister of the Philippines, said on Saturday that President Joe Biden had extended an invitation to Marcos to visit Washington, and that the two parties were negotiating a suitable time.
Due in large part to a contempt of court order for his refusal to cooperate with a Hawaii court, which in 1995 ordered the Marcos family to return $2 billion of missing state wealth to victims of abuses by the state under his father’s rule, Marcos hasn’t visited the United States in more than a decade.
A $353 million fine is also pending against Marcos Jr. and his mother, Imelda.
Heads of state have diplomatic immunity, according to the American embassy in Manila.
Washington, according to Manalo, is a crucial ally, but in regards to neighboring Taiwan, the Philippines “looks to the big countries to assist calm the seas,” he told Blinken.
We cannot afford for tensions to rise further, he continued.