Amid China's rise, U.S. and Philippines reaffirm military alliance
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made their remarks during a major joint military exercise between the United States and the Philippines.
The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made their remarks during a major joint military exercise between the United States and the Philippines, referred to as the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The exercise is the largest ever between the two nations and comes amid growing concerns over China's military activity in the region.
During the dialogue, Blinken, Austin, and their Philippines counterparts all highlighted the potential military threat posed by China in the region. Blinken emphasized that the Philippines is the oldest American ally in the region and that the United States remains committed to standing with the Philippines against any intimidation or coercion, including in the South China Sea.
"Our security alliance is an enduring source of strength for both of our nations," Blinken said during the news conference. "Today we focused on ways to continue our close partnership, under the enhanced cooperation agreement, so that our forces can work even more closely together."
Austin also touched briefly on last week's disclosure of leaked sensitive documents related to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, confirming that he became aware of the documents last Thursday and has directed an urgent cross-department effort.
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Four new military installations
The Balikatan exercise involves a combined 17,600 members of both militaries and is being conducted under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense announced funding to construct four new military installations in the Philippines, as well as money to enhance existing locations.
"The mutual defense treaty applies to armed attacks on either of our armed forces, aircraft, or public vessels, including our Coast Guard, anywhere in the South China Sea," Austin told reporters. "We discussed plans to conduct combined maritime activities with like-minded partners in the South China Sea later this year, as we work to enhance our collective deterrence."
Austin did not elaborate on who the "like-minded partners" may be but emphasized that any troop movements would be joint decisions with the Philippines.
Investing $100 million
Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo said the "basic elements of these sites would be to address humanitarian, disaster-related events, and improve interoperability for training."
The United States expects to invest about $100 million by the end of this year in military infrastructure in the Philippines, and will also facilitate the transfer of defense platforms over the next five years.
"This meeting holds particular significance as it further reaffirms our shared commitment to advancing our common priorities, as treaty allies and close partners amidst evolving regional and global security challenges," Manalo said. "At today's meeting, we re-doubled our commitment to modernizing the Philippine-U.S. alliance, recognizing that our partnership will need to play a stronger role in preserving an international law-based international order."