US Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday visited a Philippine island near waters claimed by Taiwan and China to show support for the longtime US ally and counter Beijing’s growing influence in the region.
Harris is the highest-ranking US official ever to visit the western island of Palawan, the closest Philippine landmass to the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the hotly contested South China Sea.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have overlapping claims to parts of it.
Harris met with fishers in a coastal village and members of the Philippine Coast Guard.
In a speech, she said that “international rules and norms” must be upheld and the UN-backed tribunal decision rejecting China’s claims over the South China Sea respected.
“The United States — and the broader international community — have a profound stake in the future of this region,” Harris said, on board a Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
“As an ally, the United States stands with the Philippines in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea,” she said.
Harris’s trip to Palawan comes a day after she held talks with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in Manila.
She reaffirmed the US’ “unwavering” commitment to defending the Philippines if its vessels or aircraft were attacked in the South China Sea.
Washington has a decades-old security alliance with the Philippines that includes a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 pact, known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows for the US military to store defense equipment and supplies on five Philippine bases.
It also allows US troops to rotate through those military bases.
Harris’s visit conveyed a “stronger sense of commitment” to the Philippines’ position on maritime claims, but also underscored the need for the EDCA’s continued implementation, said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
“The US cannot adequately carry out its obligations if it is forced to stay several thousand kilometers away in Japan or Guam,” he said.
Of all the claimants to the South China Sea, Beijing has in the past few years pressed its stance the most aggressively. Hundreds of Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels prowl the waters, swarming reefs, harassing and attacking fishing and other boats, and interfering in oil and gas exploration, as well as scientific research.
China’s Global Times yesterday accused Harris of “fanning the flames of the South China Sea issue” in an editorial.
“The Philippines has the right to receive any foreign visitor. What we want to emphasize is that any bilateral exchanges should not be at the expense of the interests of any third country as well as regional peace and stability,” it said.
The rivalry between Asia’s two biggest countries has extended into outer space. After India’s landing of its Chandrayaan-3 rover on the moon last month — becoming the first country to put a spacecraft near the lunar south pole and breaking China’s record for the southernmost lunar landing — a top Chinese scientist has said claims about the accomplishment are overstated. Ouyang Ziyuan (歐陽自遠), lauded as the father of China’s lunar exploration program, told the Chinese-language Science Times newspaper that the Chandrayaan-3 landing site, at 69 degrees south latitude, was nowhere close to the pole, defined as between 88.5 and 90 degrees. On Earth,
A cat wearing a black and yellow security vest strolls nonchalantly past security guards lined outside a Philippine office building waiting to receive instructions for their shift. Conan, a six-month-old stray, joined the security team of the Worldwide Corporate Center in the capital, Manila, several months ago. He is one of the lucky moggies unofficially adopted by security guards across the city, where thousands of cats live on the street. While the cats lack the security skills of dogs — and have a tendency to sleep on the job — their cuteness and company have endeared them to bored security guards working 12-hour
He is better known for rallying global support for Ukraine, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday picked up another favorite tool of diplomacy — his guitar. The lifelong music fan turned top US diplomat showed off his guitar chops, as he launched a new initiative of music diplomacy through which the US is to send top artists to countries including China and Saudi Arabia. After performances in the US Department of State’s formal reception room by the likes of jazz icon Herbie Hancock, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, and rising young pop singer Gayle, Blinken took
NEW ENERGY: Mark Lambert, the next deputy assistant secretary for China and Taiwan, is to head China House, which has been criticized for slowing policymaking Washington on Friday named veteran diplomat Mark Lambert as its top China policy official at the US Department of State at a time when ties between the two strategic rivals remain fraught over issues including Taiwan, trade and US curbs on Beijing’s access to US technology. Lambert is to be deputy assistant secretary for China and Taiwan, and is to head the Office of China Coordination, informally known as China House, the State Department said in a release. The division was created late last year to unify and better coordinate China policies across regions and issues, but has faced criticism for adding