Blinken meets Philippine President Marcos as tensions rise

Blinken meets Philippine President Marcos as tensions rise

MANILA - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos JrMarcos Jr on Saturday, Aug 6 in a bid to bolster the countries' strong alliance, as China conducts military drills around nearby Taiwan.

Since Marcos took office on June 30, Blinken is the most senior US official to visit the Southeast Asian nation.

The alliance is strong and I believe that it can grow even stronger," Blinken told Marcos as they met at the presidential palace in Manila.

Marcos praised the special relationship between the two countries.

The United States has a security pact with the Philippines and has supported its former colony in increasingly heated disputes in the South China Sea with Beijing.

After China launched a series of huge military exercises around Taiwan, which have been condemned by the United States and other Western allies, Blinken met with Marcos.

During the drills on Thursday and Friday, China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships around Taiwan, about 400 km north of the Philippines. The war games will continue on Saturday.

There are several no-go zones around Taiwan, straddling major shipping lanes and coming within 20 km of the island's shores at some points, according to the People's Liberation Army.

The moves came after the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which caused fury in China.

Marcos said Pelosi's visit showed only the existing intensity of the conflict, rather than adding to tensions.

Blinken arrived in Manila late Friday after attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia.

He condemned the military drills of China as an escalation like other members of the ASEAN, the Philippines does not recognise Taiwan formally.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it was concerned with the rising tensions to its north and called for restraint by all parties. Diplomacy and dialogue must prevail, it said in a statement.

The United States has a complex relationship with the Philippines and the Marcos family.

After ruling the former US colony for two decades with the support of Washington, which saw him as a Cold War ally, Ferdinand Marcos Senior went into exile in Hawaii in response to mass protests and the nudging of the United States in 1986.

As regional tensions increase, Washington wants to preserve its security alliance with Manila, which includes a mutual defence treaty and permission for the US military to store defence equipment and supplies on several Philippine bases.

It allows US troops to access certain military bases in the country.

Marcos has indicated that he will strike a balance between China and the United States, which are vying to have the closest ties with his administration.

The US relations rebounded with Manila toward the end of the tenure of Marcos' predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who waged a brutal war on drugs that rights groups say left tens of thousands of dead.