WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden Reiterating America’s commitment to the Philippines’ defense and noting the two countries’ “deep friendship,” he welcomed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. White House talks on Monday raised concerns about Chinese naval harassment of Philippine ships. In the South China Sea.
Marcos’ visit to Washington comes after the United States and the Philippines wrapped up their biggest military exercise last week. The air forces of the two countries will conduct the first joint combat exercise in the Philippines since 1990 on Monday. The US is looking to counter China’s increasingly aggressive actions in Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China angered the Philippines by repeatedly harassing them Its navy and coast guard patrol and chase away fishermen in waters near the Philippine coast, but which Beijing claims as its own.
But when Biden sat down with Marcos, the U.S. president stepped aside to note the progress of the U.S.-Philippines relationship — which has had years of ups and downs and was in a rough spot when Marcos took office. A year ago.
“We face new challenges and I can’t think of a better partner than you.” Biden told Marcos at the start of their Oval Office meeting. “The United States remains ironclad in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including in the South China Sea, and we will continue to support Philippine military modernization.”
Marcos said the relationship is necessary because the Philippines and the Pacific Ocean are “in the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world right now.”
Monday’s Oval Office meeting was Biden’s latest high-profile diplomatic engagement with Pacific leaders as his administration grapples with China’s increased military and economic assertiveness and concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program. Marcos’ official visit to Washington by a Philippine president in more than 10 years.
The US president hosted South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on a state visit last week, during which the two leaders introduced new measures aimed at deterring North Korea. from attacking its neighbors. Biden plans to travel to Japan and Australia in May.
The two leaders discussed the security situation and announced new economic, education, climate and other initiatives as part of Marcos’ four-day visit to Washington.
Following the meeting, the White House announced the transfer of three C-130 aircraft and two coastal patrol ships to the Philippines, a new U.S. trade mission focused on increasing U.S. investment in the Philippines’ innovation economy, new education programs, and more.
Increasing Chinese harassment of ships in the South China Sea has added another dimension to the visit. On April 23, journalists from the Associated Press and other outlets were on the Philippine Coast Guard’s PRP Malapascua near the Second Thomas Shoal when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel intercepted a Philippine patrol vessel. Steam in the disputed shoal. The Philippines has registered 200 diplomatic protests against China since last year, and at least 77 since Marcos took office in June.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Saturday called media reports of the encounters a “stark reminder” of Chinese “harassment and intimidation of Philippine vessels during routine patrols within their exclusive economic zone.”
“We call on Beijing to desist from its provocative and indefensible behavior,” Miller said.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said recent criticism of the Philippines for increasing access to bases for the U.S. military has also alarmed U.S. and Taiwanese officials.
At the April forum, Huang is reported to have said that the Philippines should oppose Taiwan’s independence “if you really care about the 150,000 OFWs” in Taiwan.
China claims Swarajya Island as its own island. The Philippines, like the United States, has a “one China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations with Taiwan. Marcos has not made it clear that his country will help the United States in any case of an armed attack on Taiwan.
Officials described Huang’s comments as one of several recent provocative moves by the Chinese to put pressure on the Philippines.
Marcos still wants to work closely with both Washington and Beijing, but he “finds himself in a situation,” one official said, in which “China’s actions are profound.”
Closer US-Philippines relations were not a given when Marcos took office. The son and namesake of the late Philippine strongman seemed intent on following the path of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who pursued close ties with China.
Before Marcos took office last year, Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, acknowledged the “historical considerations.” Can present “challenges” to the relationship with Marcos Jr. This is an oblique reference to the long-running lawsuit in the United States against the estate of his father, Ferdinand Marcos.
In 1996 a US appeals court upheld nearly $2 billion in damages against the estate of the elder Marcos for the torture and murders of thousands of Filipinos. The court upheld a 1994 verdict by a jury in Hawaii, where he fled after being forced from power in 1986. He died there in 1989.
Marcos noted that the last time he visited the White House was when his father was in power.
Biden and Marcos met during the UN General Assembly in September, where the US president acknowledged the two countries’ sometimes “rocky” past..
During their private meeting, Biden, a Democrat, stressed to Marcos his desire to improve ties and asked Marcos how the administration “can fulfill your dreams and hopes,” a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
Marcos is scheduled to visit the Pentagon, meet cabinet members and business leaders, and make remarks at a Washington think tank during his visit.
Gomez reported from Manila. AP writer Darlene Superville contributed reporting.