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US will defend the Philippines if attacked in the South China Sea: Blinken

At meetings in Manila dominated by discussions about the lingering tensions between the US and China over the Taiwan Visiting Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Blinken, said a 70-year-old defense pact with the Philippines was “cast iron”.

“An armed attack on Philippine military forces, public ships and aircraft will invoke the US’s mutual defense obligations under that treaty,” Blinken told a news conference.

“The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally of the United States.”

Blinken was the top U.S. official to appoint new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met, the son of the late strongman who helped Washington flee into exile in Hawaii during a 1986 “people’s power” uprising that ended his two-decade rule.

In his opening address to Blinken, Marcos tried to downplay the diplomatic flare-up over Taiwan, saying he believed Pelosi’s trip “didn’t increase the intensity” of an already unstable situation.

“We’ve been at that level for a while, but we’ve kind of got used to the idea,” said Marcos.

The Philippines is a fulcrum of the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China, and Marcos faces a tough challenge to balance the ties between the two superpowers.

He will also face domestic pressure to stand up to China in the South China Sea, without angering its leaders.

Ties between the US and the Philippines were shattered by Pastor Rodrigo Duterte’s rapprochement with China, his famous anti-US rhetoric and threats to cut their military ties.

On Saturday, Philippine Secretary of State Enrique Manalo said President Joe Biden had invited Marcos to Washington, and both sides were working on a suitable date.

Marcos hasn’t been to the U.S. in over a decade, largely as a result of court order disregard for his refusal to cooperate with a Hawaii court, which in 1995 ordered the Marcos family to return $2 billion in missing state assets. to victims of state abuse under his father’s rule.

Marcos Jr. and mother, Imelda, are also fined $353 million.

The US embassy in Manila has said heads of state have diplomatic immunity.

Manalo said Washington was an important ally, but regarding nearby Taiwan, he told Blinken that the Philippines is “looking to the great powers to help calm the waters”.

“We cannot afford any further escalation of tensions,” he said.

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