(Washington) Joe Biden, who is seeking to consolidate his alliances in Asia and the Pacific, assured Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos on Monday of his “unwavering” support, in the midst of rising tension with China.
“We face new challenges and I couldn’t ask for a better partner than you,” he said as he received his counterpart in the Oval office.
Ferdinand Marcos, accompanied by his wife Louise Araneta-Marcos, was treated to a slightly more solemn reception than that reserved for most heads of state received at the White House.
Joe and Jill Biden greeted the couple as they got out of the car, flanked by soldiers in full dress carrying the flags of both countries.
The two heads of state made short remarks to the press ahead of their bilateral meeting.
The US president said he would send a “trade and investment mission” to the Philippines for the first time.
Above all, he affirmed the “unwavering commitment of the United States to the defense of the Philippines, including in the South China Sea”, and promised to “support the modernization” of the Philippine military.
In particular, the United States plans to transfer military aircraft to the Philippines and help them strengthen their war fleet.
Ferdinand Marcos underlined that his country was in the “most geopolitically complicated region today”.
“So it’s only natural for the Philippines to look to the only country to which they are bound by a treaty,” amid “tensions” in the South China Sea, he added, referring to the deal. of mutual defense which has linked the two countries since 1951.
His name was not mentioned openly in the Oval Office, but it is China that occupies the minds of the two leaders.
On April 23, Chinese and Filipino boats nearly collided about 200 km off the Philippine island of Palawan.
This incident, witnessed by an AFP team, is the latest in a long series between the two countries, which dispute the sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippine president presented himself after his election as a supporter of a balanced relationship with Washington and with Beijing, where he visited in January, with the promise that his country would be “everyone’s friend, enemy belongs to nobody “.
“We will not allow the Philippines to be used as a base for any military action,” he said on Sunday aboard the plane taking him to the United States.
Washington hopes, however, that the surge of tension in the South China Sea will encourage Manila to anchor itself more firmly on its side.
The relationship between the Philippines and Washington was rocked during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte, a supporter of a rapprochement with China.
But it has taken a new turn recently.
The United States and the Philippines have just completed their largest joint military maneuvers in the South China Sea.
Manila will also allow the US military to use four additional Philippine military bases, including naval facilities located not far from Taiwan.
What irritate China, which considers that this island is part of its territory.
The United States assures that its use will be “in full coordination and cooperation, at all times, with the Philippine authorities,” John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council of the House said Monday. -White.
Joe Biden has been increasing diplomatic initiatives in Asia and the Pacific for several months to deal with China’s ambitions and keeping an eye on North Korea.
He recently received the Japanese Prime Minister and the South Korean President. The US president is also due to travel to Japan and Australia in May for a series of meetings with various US allies.