Philippines says deepening ties with US, Japan a right, not a threat

Philippines says deepening ties with US, Japan a right, not a threat
US President Joe Biden speaks to the press with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (L) at the White House in Washington, DC, April 11, 2024.
AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Thursday asserted its right to strengthen relationships with the United States and Japan as it urged China to evaluate its approach in the South China Sea. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., United States President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met last week in Washington for a historic trilateral summit aimed at boosting economic and security ties. 

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the trilateral cooperation is an “admirable aspiration that should not be considered a threat by any peace-loving country.” 

“It is the sovereign choice and decision of the Philippines to strengthen our alliance with the United States and our strategic partnership with Japan, in accordance with our national interests and in line with our independent foreign policy,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement. 

According to the agency, the trilateral initiative will deliver valuable capacity-building support for infrastructure and critical technologies as well as promote peace and security in the region.

Marcos earlier said that collaborative actions with the US and Japan will lay the foundations for a “brighter and more prosperous future” for the Indo-Pacific region. 

China urged to rethink action

A joint statement issued by the leaders of the three nations last week expressed “serious concern” over Beijing’s action in the South China Sea, criticizing its behavior as “dangerous and aggressive.”

Philippine and Chinese vessels have had a series of confrontations in recent months that included the use of water cannons. 

The Chinese foreign ministry slammed the summit, saying Beijing “firmly opposes the relevant countries manipulating bloc politics, and firmly opposes any behavior that provokes or lays plans for opposition, and hurts other countries' strategic security and interests.”

The DFA urged China to “reflect upon its own actions in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.” 

“The source of tension in our region is well known to all,” the department said. “It is China's excessive maritime claims and aggressive behavior, including its militarization of reclaimed features, that are undermining regional peace and stability and raising tensions.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, encompassing waters and islands close to its neighbors' shores. It has ignored an international tribunal ruling in 2016, which stated that its claims have no legal basis. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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