US Vice-President Kamala Harris on Tuesday visited the Philippine island of Palawan in the South China Sea as part of a three-day trip to an Asian ally that is central to America’s bid to counter China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region.
China claims more than 80% of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain massive oil and gas deposits and through which billions of dollars in trade passes each year.
Ms. Harris on Monday pledged the US would defend the Philippines if it came under attack in the waterway, reaffirming Washington’s unwavering commitment to its former colony.
Her visit to the Philippines sends a strong message to China that Washington will stand by its defense commitments to Manila, Chester B. Cabalza, president and founder of the International Development and Security Cooperation, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
“Both the US and Philippines have realized that they need each other amidst China’s economic and military rise,” he said. “And this alliance will remain amid China’s aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.”
Ms. Harris’ comments followed a meeting on Monday with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who welcomed Ms. Harris for the first time at the Philippine presidential palace in Manila.
Mr. Marcos said the two nations’ strong ties had become even more important, given what he called upheavals in the region.
He said her visit to the Philippines is a “very strong symbol” that the relationship of the Philippines with its former colonizer “remains strong.”
Mr. Marcos also said Philippine relations with the United States had gone through different phases and has been strengthened in every way.
The Philippines signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, the country’s key western ally, under the late President Benigno S.C. Aquino III.
His successor Rodrigo R. Duterte had threatened to scrap a visiting forces agreement with the US after the US Embassy…
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