Blinken to Stress Security Ties in Philippines, Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken will use a visit to Manila to stress the US security commitment to the Philippines and emphasize freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at a time when China’s being more assertive in the region, a senior State Department official said.

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Blinken, who arrived in Manila late Monday after a stop in South Korea, will talk about the mutual defense pact between the US and the Philippines and stress the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the broader Indo-Pacific, the US official told reporters traveling with the secretary on customary condition of anonymity.

The top US diplomat is set to meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other senior officials, roughly a week after US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo led a business delegation there that pledged to invest around $1 billion.

Marcos’s office said last week that the president would discuss security matters and cooperation with Blinken. Marcos said his nation will “continue to do what we can to defend our maritime territory in the face of perhaps a more active attempt by the Chinese to annex some of our territory,” according to statement.

Earlier this month, the Philippines and China both protested after their ships collided again in the South China Sea, worsening tensions between the two nations over the disputed waters.

The collision between the coast guard ships took place during a Philippine military resupply operation that also saw two Chinese coast guard vessels deploy water cannons against a Philippines-chartered supply boat, Manila’s task force on the disputed sea said in a statement. Four crew members of the Philippine supply boat were injured.

The Biden administration has been concerned about maritime tensions in the South China Sea and is focused on trying to manage them because of the risk of a possible miscalculation and escalation, the State Department official said.

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