MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday night arrived in Manila, making his second official trip to the Philippines.
In a tweet, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson showed photos of her and other officials welcoming Austin after his arrival.
"Honored to welcome @SecDef Austin back to the Philippines. His visit shows the United States’ ironclad commitment to our 🇵🇭#FriendsPartnersAllies," she said.
Austin came from South Korea where he held high-level discussions with his counterpart in Seoul on security issues.
Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder earlier said Austin's trips to the Philippines and South Korea this year will reaffirm Washington's "deep commitment to working in concert with allies and partners to chart our shared vision to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific."
Austin's trip to the Philippines comes amid tensions between Beijing and Manila due to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon chief has repeatedly criticized China's actions in the hotly contested sea, where Beijing has overlapping claims with several states in the region, saying it "has no basis in international law."
In July 2021, Austin also visited the Philippines during his Southeast Asian trip, wherein he held high-level meetings with Filipino officials on security issues.
He was among the first top officials of the Biden administration to visit Manila.