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In the Philippines, Blinken vows to strengthen military ties

Aug. 6, 2022 Updated Sat., Aug. 6, 2022 at 9:05 p.m.

FILE -- American troops after the closing ceremony for joint U.S.-Philippines war exercises at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines, April 8, 2022. Against a backdrop of rising regional tensions with China, the U.S. secretary of state reaffirmed Washington's commitment to defending Manila. (Ezra Acayan/The New York Times)  (EZRA ACAYAN)
FILE -- American troops after the closing ceremony for joint U.S.-Philippines war exercises at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines, April 8, 2022. Against a backdrop of rising regional tensions with China, the U.S. secretary of state reaffirmed Washington's commitment to defending Manila. (Ezra Acayan/The New York Times) (EZRA ACAYAN)
By Edward Wong New York Times

MANILA, Philippines – Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said that their nations were committed to strengthening their military alliance and that their governments would need to deal with rising tensions in Asia, including those involving China and Taiwan.

Marcos said at the start of a meeting with Blinken in the presidential palace that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan had not, in his opinion, intensified those tensions; rather, it “demonstrated how the intensity of the conflict has been at that level for a good while now, but we sort of got used to the idea and then put it aside.”

Marcos’ comment came as China continued to hold military exercises in the waters near Taiwan, two days after it fired 11 ballistic missiles into the same area, five of them landing in waters that are part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The United States, Japan and other nations have issued statements denouncing China’s actions and calling for de-escalation. The words by Marcos also supported the assertion by Blinken and other American officials that Pelosi’s visit was consistent with U.S. policy on Taiwan, not a shifting of the status quo.

Marcos also spoke of building on the mutual defense arrangement between the United States and the Philippines. The two countries are treaty allies, and the U.S. military has long maintained a presence in the Philippines. American officials have been discussing possible greater access to military bases in the country, doing more exercises between the two militaries and making their defense systems more interoperable – part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at increasing cooperation with allies and partners to counterbalance China.

Marcos talked about the need “to evolve that relationship in the face of all the changes that we have been seeing,” adding that “the Mutual Defense Treaty is in constant evolution.”

Blinken agreed. “The alliance is strong,” he said, “and, I believe, can grow even stronger.”

Marcos was sworn in at the end of June after being elected the 17th president of the Philippines in a landslide victory.

He is the son and namesake of a former dictator who fled to Hawaii with his family in 1986 after a peaceful uprising by citizens furious at the father’s brazen corruption.

The elder Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989.

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