Silhouette of people on a beach spelling the word Philippines

President Joe Biden met with his Filipino counterpart, Ferdinand Marcos, at the White House last week and assured him that the U.S. military support is “ironclad” as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to increase.

“The United States remains ironclad in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including the South China Sea,” Biden said from the Oval Office.

Biden also assured the leader that the U.S. will continue to support the Philippines’s “military modernization.”

The U.S. and the Philippines issued a statement after the meeting that said the 1951 mutual defense treaty, when distilled, means any attack on Manilla’s military or public vessels “would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.”

Marcos was the first president of the country to visit the White House in a decade. 

The Trends Journal reported that the U.S. and the Philippines have been conducting their largest joint combat exercises ever in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. (See “U.S. RAMPING UP WAR WITH CHINA,”18 Apr 2023.)

We also noted that Manila agreed to give the U.S. access to four additional bases, including one about 250 miles from Taiwan. The Philippine government, like Seoul, wants to avoid problems with China, and said these bases cannot be used to store weapons for a future conflict over Taiwan.

Marcos said the situation in the region is “arguably the most complicated” in the world right now.

“It is only natural for the Philippines to look to its sole treaty partner in the world to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have and the roles that we play in the face of those rising tensions that we see now around the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions,” he said, according to The Japan Times

Marcos said the bases will not be used to wage any offensive attack on any country. 

“I assured him [China’s foreign minister] that, no, these are not intended to be military bases to attack, to move against anyone … not China, not any country,” he said.

He did say that these military bases would be a defensive step that could be “useful” if Beijing ever decided to invade Taiwan. But he said Washington “has not proposed any kind of action for the Philippines in terms of taking part in the defense of Taiwan.”

Herman Kraft, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, told the paper that the decision by the U.S. and the Philippines to include the South China Sea in the statement clarified “an area that has always been unclear in the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

“The Philippines has long asked for reassurance that U.S. security commitments also cover the South China Sea,” Kraft said.

The two countries released a joint statement after the White House meeting that “the historic momentum in US-Philippine relations, and resolve to continue expanding engagement and cooperation on all issues of common concern.”

TRENDPOST: The White House sees Marcos as their man in Manilla after years of watching his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, inch toward China. Indeed, Washington supported his father, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled over the country for 20 years. 

Gregory Poling, director of the Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill that the general feeling in Manilla is that years Duterte bent over backwards to appease Beijing, the “perception in Manila is that they got nothing for it.”

“Now they need to try it the other way—enhancing deterrence by strengthening the alliance with the Americans,” he told The Hill. 

The Trends Journal has reported extensively on the U.S.’s deteriorating relationship with China over Taiwan. (See “CHINA: INTERFERE ON TAIWAN AND FACE ‘DANGEROUS’ OUTCOMES” 25 Apr 2023 and “THE BOTTOM LINE: FRANCE’S MACRON’S PUSHING CLOSER TO CHINA AND AWAY FROM U.S.” 18 Apr 2023.)

We maintain our forecast that the U.S. will not come to the defense of Taiwan when Beijing moves to retake the island, but will promote a conflict by providing weapons and intelligence to Taiwan, much like we’re seeing in Ukraine.

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