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Blinken assures Philippines of US ‘ironclad defense commitments’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 23, 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave assurance to the Philippines that his country will adhere to its “ironclad” commitment to defending the archipelagic country amid heightened tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

In a joint press briefing with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in Pasay City, Blinken stressed that the Philippines and the US have a “shared concern” about China’s actions in the disputed waters. He also said that Beijing’s behavior threatens the “vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Blinken is in Manila from March 18 to 19 to boost “shared economic priorities” and deepen bilateral cooperation between the US and Philippines, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“These waterways are critical to the Philippines, to its security, to its economy, but they’re also critical to the interests of the region, the United States, and the world,” the US Secretary of State said.

“That’s why we stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he added.

But Blinken remained unclear on how the US and the international community will address Beijing’s “gray zone” tactics against Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea since they are not categorized as “armed attacks” that would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

Nevertheless, he reiterated that the US stands behind MDT’s Article 4, which extends to armed attacks on Filipino armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft anywhere in the disputed waters.

Tensions rose in the West Philippine Sea following several incidents where the China Coast Guard shadowed and fired water cannon at Philippine vessels en route to bring supplies to military personnel aboard the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Currently, the Philippines has three defense treaties with the US: the MDT, Visiting Forces Agreement, and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca). The Philippines is a longtime US partner and was even described by Blinken as its oldest ally in the Indo-Pacific region.


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