Faced with China, the United States promises an “unwavering” commitment to the Philippines

“We stand with you to uphold international rules and standards for the South China Sea,” Vice President Kamala Harris told Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.

The United States has a commitmentunwaveringtowards the Philippines, said Monday, November 21 the American vice-president Kamala Harris to the president of the archipelago during a visit intended to strengthen the ties between the two allies in the face of China.

Kamala Harris is the most senior US official to visit Manila since Ferdinand Marcos Jr came to power in June. The visit is a sign of a rapprochement between the two allies after years of strained relations under the presidency. of Rodrigo Duterte, more favorable to Beijing. The vice-president also met her Filipino counterpart Sara Duterte, the former leader’s daughter.

“Mutual Defense”

We stand with you to uphold international rules and standards for the South China SeaKamala Harris told Ferdinand Marcos at the start of their talks in the presidential palace in Manila. “An attack on Philippine armed forces, government vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea would trigger the Mutual Defense Commitment…this is our unwavering commitment to the Philippines“.

Ferdinand Marcos, for his part, said he did not consider “future for the Philippines without the United States“. Washington has a long and complicated relationship with the Marcos family. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, father of the current president, led the former American colony for two decades with the support of Washington, which saw in him an ally against the Communist bloc during the Cold War.

military bases

Since the new head of state came to power, Washington has sought to strengthen its alliance with Manila, in a context of growing regional tensions. This alliance includes a 2014 defense treaty and pact, known by the acronym EDCA, which allows the US military to stock defense equipment and supplies at multiple Philippine bases. Under this pact, American troops can access five military bases in the archipelago.

While the pact had stalled under Duterte, the United States and the Philippines have since vowed to speed up its implementation. “We have identified new locations and started a process with the Philippines to finalize thema US official told reporters on condition of anonymity ahead of Kamala Harris’ visit to Manila. “The United States has allocated more than $82 million for operations (of existing bases) and more will follow“, he added.

The US vice president will also meet with the Philippine Coast Guard and travel to the island of Palawan on Tuesday, which faces the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over almost all of this sea, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

“Not opposed”

Asked about Kamala Harris’ visit on Monday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Mao Ning, said Beijing “is not opposed to trade between the United States and countries in the region“. “But these exchanges must be conducive to regional peace and stability and must not harm the interests of other countries.“, she underlined during a regular press conference.

Beijing ignores a 2016 arbitration court ruling that its claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis. Kamala Harris”reaffirm the strength of the alliance and our commitment to upholding the rules-based international order, in the South China Sea and the wider Indo-Pacific regionsaid the US official, referring to the Asia-Pacific region.

The trip comes after she and US President Joe Biden met separately with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. Among the initiatives planned during this visit are negotiations for a civil nuclear pact between the two countries, which could lead to the sale of American nuclear reactors to the Philippines, but which must be preceded by a non-proliferation treaty. of atomic weapons.

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