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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Reaffirming international law

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Visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has had his words loud and clear the expanded defense cooperation with the Philippines is “extraordinary” and underlined Washington’s expanding alliances are not aimed at China.

That Blinken, who just flew in from a democracy summit in Seoul, stated this should remind the skeptics that indeed Washington and Manila share a common concern about China’s actions in the South China Sea, more than 90 percent of which it claims as its own under its mythical nine-dash line, now upgraded to ten-dash line.

Such disturbing actions have been seen within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, particularly on some shoals and reefs, when Philippine vessels, on humanitarian missions, were blocked or subjected to water cannons.

The Manila trip comes one month before a trilateral meeting on April 11 among US President Joe Biden, President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, when the three, according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, would push a “shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Blinken said that arrangement was “a very important platform” for peace and building greater stability.

“It is not designed against anyone, but in service of realizing a common vision for the future to the benefit of people in all of our countries,” Blinken said.

Washington is keen to improve relations with its regional allies, such as Manila and Seoul, in efforts to check China and North Korea as tensions rise in the South China Sea, over Taiwan and on the Korean peninsula.

The Tuesday meeting, the second visit by Blinken since President Marcos took office on June 30, 2022, is seen as part of efforts to boost security and economic ties in face of growing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

Such commitments are also included in the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States, signed on Aug 30, 1951 by their representatives in Washington, DC.

The treaty has eight articles and requires both nations to support each other if another party attacks the Philippines or the United States.

Last year, President Marcos succeeded in pushing Washington to make clear the extent of Washington’s security commitment.

During his Manila trip, Blinken stressed the deal was “ironclad,” adding it extended to armed attacks on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels and aircraft, including those of its coast guard anywhere in the South China Sea.

Of course there will be some who will maintain and insist the Philippines is the one continuing provocation on the South China Sea issue, on the same wave length as Chinese foreign ministry statement, and illegally trespassing waters off China’s territory.

Beijing has accused Washington of using Manila as a “pawn” in the dispute over the waterway and various reefs while claiming almost the entire South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, and an international ruling in 2016 that has declared its stance baseless.

We hope the Mamila meeting will help clarify some security issues for everyone to appreciate.

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