Destabilizing speculation

Marcos meets Blinken in the Philippines amid US-China crisis

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that China should not hold talks hostage on important global issues such as the climate crisis, after Beijing cut off contact with Washington in retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week.

Blinken spoke at an online press conference with his Philippine counterpart in Manila after meeting with newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other top officials, as relations between Washington and Beijing plummeted. worst level in years.

Pelosi’s trip to the self-governing island has outraged China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. China launched military exercises off the coast of Taiwan on Thursday and cut off contact with the United States on vital issues, including military matters and crucial climate cooperation, on Friday as punishment for Pelosi’s visit.

“We should not hold cooperation on issues of global concern hostage because of the differences between our two countries,” Blinken said. “Others rightly expect us to continue to work on issues that matter to the lives and livelihoods of their people as well as our own.”

He cited cooperation on climate change as a key area where China has ended contacts that “don’t punish the United States, but punish the world.”

“The world’s biggest carbon emitter is now refusing to commit to the fight against the climate crisis,” Blinken said, adding that China’s firing of ballistic missiles that landed in waters surrounding Taiwan was a dangerous move. and destabilizing.

“What happens in the Taiwan Strait affects the whole region. In many ways, this affects the whole world because the strait, like the South China Sea, is a critical waterway,” he said, noting that nearly half of the world’s container fleet and nearly 90% of the largest ships in the world have passed through the waterway this year. .

China has closed “military-to-military channels, which are vital to avoid misunderstandings and crises, but also cooperation on transnational crimes and counter-narcotics, which help keep people safe in the United States, in China and beyond,” he said.

Despite China’s actions, Blinken said he told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Cambodia on Friday, where they were attending an annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that the United States didn’t want to make the situation worse.

“We are looking to defuse those tensions and we think the dialogues are a very important part of that,” he said, adding that the United States would “keep our channels of communication with China open in an effort to avoid escalation to misunderstanding or miscommunication”.

Blinken is the most senior U.S. official to visit the Philippines since Marcos Jr. took office on June 30 following a landslide election victory. During his brief meeting with Blinken, Marcos Jr. mentioned that he was surprised by the turn of events related to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week.

“It just goes to show – how intense this conflict has been,” Marcos Jr. said based on a transcript released by the presidential palace.

“It shows how volatile the international diplomatic scene is not only in the region,” he added.

Marcos Jr. praised the vital relationship between Manila and Washington, who are treaty allies, and U.S. aid to the Philippines over the years.

Blinken reiterated Washington’s commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines and “to working with you on common challenges.”

Blinken told reporters he also spoke with Marcos Jr. about strengthening democracy and the United States’ commitment to working with the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, protect human rights, freedom of expression and protecting civil society groups, “which are essential to our alliance”.

Describing the Philippines as “an irreplaceable friend,” he said he reiterated to the president that an armed attack on Philippine forces, government vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea “will invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments. “.

Blinken arrived in Manila late Friday after attending ASEAN meetings in Cambodia, where he was joined by his Chinese and Russian counterparts.

ASEAN foreign ministers have called for “maximum restraint” as China holds war exercises around Taiwan and moves against the United States, fearing the situation “could destabilize the region and lead possibly to miscalculations, serious confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences between the great powers”.

In Manila, Blinken visited a vaccination clinic, met with groups helping to fight coronavirus outbreaks and visited a clean energy trade show. He also met with US Embassy staff before flying out on Saturday evening.

Shortly before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, as speculation mounted that his plane might make a brief stopover at the former US Clark Air Force base north of Manila to refuel, the Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said in a TV interview that he hoped “the Philippine side will strictly abide by the one-China principle and handle all Taiwan-related issues with caution to ensure the healthy and steady development of China-Philippines relations.” .

Huang’s remarks drew a sharp rebuke from opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said “the ambassador should not pontificate on such policies, especially since his country stubbornly and firmly refuses to recognize a decision rendered by an international arbitral tribunal and ignores and flouts the international community”. law in the Western Philippine Sea when it suits his interest.

Hontiveros was referring to a 2016 arbitration decision on a Philippine claim that invalidated China’s extensive territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. She used the Filipino name for the disputed waters.

China dismissed the move, which was hailed by the United States and its Western allies, as a sham and continues to challenge it.


Associated Press reporters Andrew Harnik and Kiko Rosario in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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