Biden Meets With Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos!
At a time when worries about Chinese navy harassment of Philippine ships in the South China Sea are growing, President Joe Biden welcomed Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the White House for discussions and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the security of the Philippines while praising the “deep friendship” between the two countries.
Following the conclusion of their largest war games ever last week, the United States and the Philippines’ air forces will conduct their first joint fighter jet training in the Philippines since 1990 on Monday, just before Marcos arrives in Washington.
This year, the Philippines agreed to allow the United States access to four more bases on the islands to stop China from acting aggressively toward Taiwan and in the contested South China Sea.
While this is happening, China has enraged the Philippines by repeatedly obstructing the country’s coast guard and navy patrols and chasing away fishermen in waters close to Philippine shores but that Beijing claims as its own.
Although the relationship between the United States and the Philippines has had its ups and downs over the years and was in a challenging place when Marcos took office less than a year ago, as Biden sat down with Marcos, the American president made a point to note the progress in that relationship.
“We are facing new challenges and I couldn’t think of a better partner to have than you.” Biden told Marcos at the start of their Oval Office meeting. “The United States also remains ironclad in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including in the South China Sea, and we will continue to support the Philippines military modernization.”
The alliance, according to Marcos, is crucial because the Philippines and the Pacific are currently in “possibly the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world.”
The Oval Office meeting on Monday is the latest instance of Biden’s high-level diplomacy with Pacific leaders as his government deals with China’s escalating military and economic aggression and concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program. The official visit by Marcos is the first by a Philippine president to Washington in more than a decade.
President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea paid the U.S. president a state visit this week, and the two leaders unveiled new initiatives meant to discourage North Korea from attacking its neighbors. In May, Biden is expected to visit Australia and Japan.
The transfer of three C-130 aircraft and two coastal patrol vessels to the Philippines was announced by the White House after the meeting. The two nations also said they had enacted defense directives to enhance their armies’ collaboration and interoperability in all spheres of space, including cyberspace.
The administration also announced the creation of a new trade mission aimed at boosting American investment in the innovation economy of the Philippines, new educational initiatives, and more.
The visit has taken on a new dimension due to increased Chinese harassment of ships in the South China Sea. On April 23, a Chinese coast guard ship barred the Philippine patrol ship from entering the contentious shoal while journalists from The Associated Press and other outlets boarded the Philippine coast guard’s BRP Malapascua.
Since last year, the Philippines has lodged more than 200 diplomatic protests against China, at least 77 of which were done so since June, when Marcos assumed office.
The incidents’ coverage in the media, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Saturday, serves as a “stark reminder” of Chinese “harassment and intimidation of Philippine vessels as they undertake routine patrols within their exclusive economic zone.”
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Miller added, “We call upon Beijing to cease its provocative and hazardous conduct.
Huang Xilian, China’s ambassador to the Philippines, recently made some negative remarks about the Philippines giving the U.S. military more access to bases, which also alarmed U.S. and Taiwanese authorities.
Huang, using the abbreviation for overseas Filipino workers, reportedly stated at a symposium in April that the Philippines should oppose Taiwan’s independence “if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs” in Taiwan. The island is regarded as belonging to China.
The Philippines and the United States both adhere to the “One China” policy, which accepts Beijing as the legitimate government of China while allowing for informal ties with Taiwan. Marcos has not specifically stated that his nation would support the US in any armed conflict in Taiwan.
According to the authorities, Huang’s remarks are only the latest in a string of hostile Chinese moves towards the Philippines.
According to a senior official, Marcos still wants to collaborate closely with both Washington and Beijing, but he “finds himself in a situation” where “the steps that China is taking are deeply concerning.”
When Marcos assumed office, good ties between the US and the Philippines were not a given. The late Philippines strongman’s son and namesake had appeared determined to follow Rodrigo Duterte’s lead in pursuing closer ties with China.
Kurt Campbell, the White House National Security Council’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific issues, admitted that “historical considerations” would offer “challenges” to the relationship with Marcos Jr. before Marcos assumed office last year. It was a veiled allusion to the protracted legal battle waged in the US against Ferdinand Marcos’ estate.
In 1996, a U.S. appeals court upheld $2 billion in damages against the estate of the elder Marcos for the torture and murder of thousands of Filipinos. He fled to Hawaii after being driven from power in 1986, and the court upheld a jury’s decision from that state in 1994. In 1989, he perished there.
Marcos mentioned that his father was in charge when he last went to the White House. At their September meeting at the U.N. General Assembly, Biden and Marcos acknowledged the occasionally “rocky” history between their respective nations.
A senior administration official told the Associated Press that during their private discussion at the UN, Biden, a Democrat, emphasized to Marcos his desire to improve relations and asked Marcos how the administration could “fulfill your dreams and hopes” to do that.
During his visit, Marcos is also expected to visit the Pentagon, meet with members of the Cabinet and business executives, and deliver a speech at a think tank in Washington.
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