February 7, 2023

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday received US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines since taking office, although the meeting came at a sensitive time in relations between Washington and Beijing. It has quickly fallen to its worst level in years.

There was no live broadcast of Blinken’s morning visit to the presidential palace in Manila on the state-run television network, which showed a local agricultural program and later reported on the visit of the top US diplomat in a short newscast. Only a handful of journalists based in Manila were allowed to collectively cover the event.

The presidential office later released photos showing Marcus Jr. greeting Blinken with a handshake and the two gathering at a meeting with their officials. Marcus Jr. said he was surprised by the turn of events related to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week. .

Pelosi’s trip to the self-governing island has infuriated China, which is demanding the annexation of Taiwan as its territory by force if necessary. China on Thursday launched military exercises off the coast of Taiwan, and on Friday cut off contacts with the United States on vital issues, including military matters and critical climate cooperation, as part of retaliatory moves against the United States over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan despite strong warnings from China. .

“I don’t think, to be completely frank, that didn’t raise the tension, it just showed it – how intense this conflict has been,” Marcus Jr., based on a transcript from the presidential palace, said.

“This only shows how volatile the international diplomatic scene is, not only in the region,” he added.

Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30 after a landslide election victory, noted the vital relationship between Manila and Washington, two treaty allies, and US aid to the Philippines over the years, adding without elaborating his hope that “we will continue to develop that relationship in the face of all The changes we are seeing.

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

“Our relationship is quite extraordinary in that it is truly founded in friendship, also shaped by partnership and strengthened by the fact that it is an alliance.”

Blinken arrived Friday evening in Manila 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 launched war games around Taiwan and retaliatory steps against the United States, fearing that the situation could destabilize the region and could eventually lead to miscalculation, dangerous confrontation, open conflicts and unforeseen consequences between powers. grand”.

After meeting briefly with Marcos Jr., Blinken was scheduled to meet via video link with Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus. They were to hold a brief online press conference, in which reporters were asked to focus their questions solely on Blinken’s visit to the Philippines.

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

Shortly before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, when speculation surfaced that her plane might make a brief stop at the former US Air Force Base Clark north of Manila to refuel, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian expressed Beijing’s strong opposition to Pelosi’s then-unannounced plan to visit Taiwan. In a TV interview, he expressed the hope that “the Philippine side firmly adheres to the one-China principle and wisely handles all Taiwan-related issues to ensure the sound and steady development of China-Philippines relations.”

Huang’s remarks drew a sharp rebuke from opposition senator Risa Hontiferos, who said, “The ambassador should not express such policies, especially given that his country stubbornly and consistently refuses to recognize a decision of an international arbitration court and ignores and violates internationalism.” law in the West Philippine Sea when it is in their best interest.”

Hontiveros was referring to a 2016 arbitration ruling over a Philippine complaint that invalidated China’s vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. It used the Filipino name for the disputed waters.

China dismissed the ruling, which was welcomed by American and Western allies, calling it a hoax and continues to defy it.


Journalist Andrew Harnick contributed to this story.

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