Blinken visits the Philippines to boost alliance amid China tensions

6 days ago 44

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will seek to bolster America's alliance with the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during a two-day visit to Manila, as tensions between the United States and China spike.

Mr Blinken will pitch for stronger ties with the Philippines on pandemic recovery, energy, trade and investments when he meets the newly elected president on Saturday (Aug 6), according to a State Department statement.

He is the first Cabinet-level US official to visit Mr Marcos, who assumed power in late June.

His arrival comes as China seeks to warm ties with the Philippines - a former American colony and longtime treaty ally - after Manila's shaky relationship with Washington in recent years.

Relations between the two allies soured under former president Rodrigo Duterte, who rejected American criticism of his human rights record and vowed an "independent foreign policy", including closer ties with Beijing.

While Mr Marcos has said he wants to boost trade ties with the US instead of a "dependence" on aid, and signalled an openness to join an economic initiative pushed by President Joe Biden to counter Chinese influence, Beijing has made early efforts to shore up its gains in the Philippines.

China sent Vice-President Wang Qishan to Mr Marcos' inauguration, while the Biden administration was represented by Vice-President Kamala Harris's husband, Mr Douglas Emhoff.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Mr Marcos last month, and the two sides pledged to maintain a strong relationship.

The Philippines has locked horns with China over the past few years over Beijing's increasing presence in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Mr Marcos has said he will not cede "even a square inch of territory" to any foreign power.

Mr Blinken's Manila trip follows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit this week to nearby Taiwan, which ramped up tensions between the US and China.

The US will want to keep the Philippines as a close ally in the region through Mr Blinken's visit, especially because of Manila's proximity to Taiwan, said Mr Herman Kraft, who teaches political scie...

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