US warns China against ‘armed attack’ on Philippines

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Washington, DC [US], March 19 (ANI): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China on Tuesday, stating that any “armed” attack on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea would activate a mutual self-defence agreement between Washington and Manila, underscoring the escalating tensions in the region that could potentially embroil the United States in conflict with Beijing, as reported by The New York Times.

Despite the warning, Blinken’s visit to Manila aimed to mitigate the situation, with no explicit confirmation that recent Chinese actions, such as ramming Philippine vessels and employing water cannons, constituted “armed” attacks.

When pressed during a joint news conference with his Philippine counterpart on addressing China’s “gray-zone coercion tactics,” which include incidents like directing a high-powered laser at a Philippine Coast Guard vessel, temporarily blinding crew members, Blinken emphasised the importance of pursuing diplomatic solutions over military responses, as per The New York Times.

“The very visibility of those actions, I think, has provoked from a number of other countries clear statements in support of the Philippines and against these provocative actions that are a threat to peace, security, freedom of navigation and basic rights under international law,” he said.

According to The New York Times, Blinken seemed to navigate a delicate equilibrium, as the Biden administration aims to uphold improved ties with Beijing while firmly opposing Chinese territorial assertiveness in the region.

Additionally, his presence signalled unwavering American backing for the Philippines during a pivotal juncture in bilateral relations.

Later in the day, Blinken convened with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who has steered his nation’s foreign policy back towards Washington following Rodrigo Duterte’s tenure. Duterte had openly criticised the United States and embraced closer ties with Beijing.

President Biden hosted Marcos at the White House last spring, and Blinken is one of several top administration officials to visit the Philippines since Mr. Marcos’s May 2022 election.

The White House announced on Monday that Marcos would return to the White House on April 11, along with the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, for a joint summit, the first among the three nations. A statement from the White House press secretary hailed “the historic momentum in US-Philippines relations.”The United States recognises both economic and strategic advantages in strengthening ties with the Philippines.

Underscoring this renewed friendship is the allocation of funding from the 2022 CHIPS Act, endorsed by President Biden and approved by Congress.

This legislation earmarks resources to enhance American semiconductor research and manufacturing, as well as to diversify the nation’s high-technology supply chain.

During his visit to Manila, Blinken toured a local branch of an Arizona-based semiconductor company, emphasising the Philippines’ growing significance as a partner in these endeavours.

Since 1951, the US and the Philippines have been bound by a mutual self-defense treaty, initially established a decade after Japan’s occupation of the nation.

This treaty, now a cornerstone of security cooperation, serves as a deterrent against Chinese territorial assertions in the South China Sea, firmly opposed by the United States.

The Chinese media noted Blinken’s visit here with scorn. The nationalist newspaper Global Times reported that “Washington’s use of Manila as a proxy to disrupt the South China Sea situation could bring regional strategic confrontation to an unprecedented level,” and accompanied its story with an unflattering photo of Blinken grimacing and furrowing his brow.

Global Times pointed a finger at Manila, accusing its forces of “illegally trespassing waters off China’s territory in the region and trying to mislead the international community on the issue.”Blinken plans to travel on from the Philippines to the Middle East, with stops in Cairo, Egypt and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He said he would pursue efforts to broker a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas that would lead to a temporary cease-fire, the release of Israeli hostages and an influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Blinken also intends to focus on postwar plans, including how to provide governance and security for Gaza once the fighting stops and “what is the right architecture for lasting regional peace,” a reference to US efforts to broker a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia that would establish normal diplomatic relations between the countries for the first time. (ANI)

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