The Philippines is one of the oldest and main non-NATO allies of the US in the region that is central to American competition with China….reports Asian Lite News
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met Philippine president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila on Thursday in a diplomatic push to deepen Washington’s alliance with its major Asian partner.
Sherman is the first top foreign official to meet the incoming Philippine leader, who takes office on June 30. She also met outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs tweeted that Sherman was in Manila “to meet with both outgoing and incoming administrations to reaffirm US commitment to the PH-US alliance.”
The Philippines is one of the oldest and main non-NATO allies of the US in the region that is central to American competition with China.
The US-Philippines alliance is anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits Washington and Manila to extend military support to each other if either of them is attacked by an external party.
“I was pleased to meet and congratulate President-elect Marcos,” Sherman tweeted after the meeting. “We discussed strengthening our longstanding alliance, expanding people-to-people ties, deepening our economic relationship, advancing human rights, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The alliance has been under strain since 2016 under incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, who tried to distance the Philippines from its former colonial master the US, and embraced a Beijing-friendly direction.
Although during his presidential campaign Marcos committed to continuing the warm relations with China ushered in by Duterte, he said after his landslide win in the May 9 vote that he would also seek to tighten ties with Washington.
President Joe Biden was one of the first world leaders to call Marcos and congratulate him on the victory in last month’s poll, even before the results were officially announced.
During the call on May 12, Marcos invited Biden to attend his inauguration to “further fortify the relationship of the two countries.”
In a statement from the US embassy in Manila after Sherman met Marcos, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the two sides had “highlighted the importance of the US-Philippine Alliance to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world and the importance of fostering respect for human rights and rule of law in the Philippines.”
Marcos’s meeting with Sherman was also attended by Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, incoming Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, and incumbent Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro.
Sherman was in Manila as part of her nine-day visit to Asia, where she will also meet top officials in South Korea, Japan, Laos, and Vietnam in a broader effort to reach out to leaders in the region, as US concern increases over China’s push to expand its own influence in a strategically important area.
The area includes the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich waterway claimed by China almost in its entirety, with countries including the Philippines and Vietnam also having overlapping claims.