US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised the Philippines that the White House will protect it in an eventual armed attack by China in the South China Sea region. The pledge comes amid geopolitical tensions that have escalated in the last week between Beijing and Taiwan, after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the autonomous island whose territory is claimed by the Chinese.
Blinken recalled that the US and the Philippines have a mutual defense agreement that has lasted 70 years and, in the event that China attacks Philippine territory, they would be “obliged” to defend them, to maintain the “resistance” of that treaty.
“An attack on the Philippine military, public vessels and aircraft will invoke the US mutual defense commitments under this treaty. The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally of the United States,” the US secretary told reporters.
During the meeting with Blinken, the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, denied that the visit of Nancy Pelosi was the preponderant factor to “increase the intensity” of the diplomatic crisis between China and Taiwan, as they already live under “this level of tension a long time ago”.
The Philippines is trying to maintain balance amid ongoing crises between the United States and China, and the current Philippine president seeks to strengthen ties with the White House after his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, became known for his anti-US stance.
Now Ferdinand plans to pay a visit to US President Joe Biden, according to Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Crisis between China and Taiwan
Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week has heightened tensions between Taipei and China. The congresswoman’s trip was part of an itinerary of the Democrat for Asia, and symbolized the first visit by a Speaker of the House of the United States to Taiwan in 25 years.
A vocal critic of China and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pelosi said her visit symbolized a “choice between autocracy and democracy”. However, the Democrat denied that the trip to Taipei contradicts the policy adopted by the US in relation to the island. In response, Beijing said Washington “will pay the price” for the visit.
After Pelosi’s departure from the island, China responded by firing missiles during military exercises around Taiwan, in what Antony Blinken called an unwarranted escalation. Also, Beijing has said it will impose sanctions on Nancy. The White House, meanwhile, has positioned four warships, including an aircraft carrier, east of Taiwan.
Taiwan, a disputed territory
China considers Taiwan a province that has not yet been reunited with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war. Beijing repeatedly cites the possibility of regaining territory, including by force if deemed necessary.
Taiwan’s relations with China have been cold since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016. For her, the island is a sovereign nation that is not part of China.
“The president even compared the situation in the country to that of Ukraine today:
“The Ukrainian people’s commitment to protecting their freedom and democracy, and their courageous dedication to defending their country, have found deep empathy in the people of Taiwan, because we too are on the front lines of the battle for democracy,” said Ing- wen.
Last week, the presidents of China and the United States had a tense telephone conversation, during which Xi Jinping told Joe Biden that the US government should not “play with fire” when it comes to Taiwan.
While senior US officials frequently visit Taiwan, China considers the trip by Pelosi, one of the state’s top personalities, a major provocation. In addition, Pelosi has a history of criticizing the Chinese government and has supported pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in recent years.