US, Philippine leaders to agree on closer 3-way ties with Japan

Kyodo News

Posted at May 01 2023 07:20 PM | Updated as of May 02 2023 01:56 PM

US President Joe Biden is set to agree Monday with his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to enhance trilateral security cooperation with Japan, senior administration officials said, as China's military presence grows in the Indo-Pacific region.

It is expected one major outcome of Biden hosting the Philippine president for a meeting at the White House will be the announcement of "a new set of bilateral defense guidelines," aimed at improving the interoperability of their forces in the domains of land, sea airspace and cyberspace, according to one of the officials.

The summit, in which Biden is expected to reaffirm his country's strong commitment to the defense of the Philippines, comes just after a state visit to Washington last week by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

"It is clear that we are in a deeply consequential period in terms of our Indo-Pacific engagement with allies and partners," said another senior Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With Yoon, Biden reassured Washington's commitment to bolster its deterrence efforts in response to North Korea's nuclear threat, having made a similar promise to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House earlier in the year.

The Biden administration, which regards the United States as being in the midst of a strategic competition with China, has been working even closer with the three key Asian security allies in recent months in an attempt to counter Beijing's efforts toward unilaterally changing the status quo in parts of the region.

The officials said Biden is expected to also announce plans to assist the Philippines in modernizing its armed forces and coast guard, including the transfer of C-130 transport planes and patrol vessels.

Marcos' administration is continuing its pursuit of a different approach to former leader Rodrigo Duterte, who repeatedly threatened to sever Manila's longtime security alliance with Washington and sought closer ties with Beijing and Moscow.

Last month, the United States and the Philippines held the first meeting of their defense and foreign secretaries since 2016. In February, Marcos granted the US access to four more military bases, increasing the number that American soldiers can use to nine.

The Philippines is situated near Taiwan and strategically important sea lanes. The Biden administration views the alliance with Manila as indispensable to boosting deterrence efforts against China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory to be brought under its control, by force if necessary.

Besides security affairs, the two presidents will review opportunities to deepen cooperation on economic issues, climate change and person-to-person exchanges, according to US officials.

On Monday, the two presidents will also discuss opportunities to strengthen collaboration on economic issues, climate change and person-to-person exchanges, US officials said earlier.