U.S., Japan, and Philippines leaders convene to address China’s pressure in South China Sea

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U.S. President Biden

12th April 2024 – (Washington) Leaders from the United States, Japan, and the Philippines will gather at the White House on Thursday for a trilateral summit aimed at countering China’s increased pressure on Manila in the disputed South China Sea. US President Joe Biden will announce joint military initiatives and infrastructure investments in the Philippines, as he hosts Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington.

The focal point of the meeting will be China’s escalating pressure in the South China Sea, despite President Biden’s personal appeal to Chinese President Xi Jinping last year. Recent maritime incidents between the Philippines and China, involving water cannons and heated exchanges, have heightened tensions. The disputes revolve around the Second Thomas Shoal, where Filipino troops have been stationed since 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims.

President Biden will affirm that the 1950s-era mutual defence treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines would require the U.S. to respond to an armed attack on the Philippines in the Second Thomas Shoal. This clarification comes in response to Marcos’ efforts to resolve ambiguity over the treaty, emphasising its applicability to disputes in the South China Sea.

The trilateral summit aims to demonstrate unwavering support and solidarity with the Philippines. It sends a clear message to China that Manila is not isolated in the face of pressure campaigns. The U.S. plans to conduct joint patrols with the Philippine Coast Guard in the Indo-Pacific region and engage in joint maritime training activities. Additionally, Washington will provide humanitarian relief commodities for Philippine civilian disaster response.

The leaders will also discuss broader regional challenges and economic development, with investments in undersea cables, logistics, clean energy, and telecommunications. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and UPS are among the companies set to announce deals during the visit. The summit comes after two U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan bill to provide the Philippines with $2.5 billion to enhance its defence capabilities against Chinese pressure.