Amid China aggression, Blinken says: We stand by our partners
MANILA — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday vowed that the American government will help the country secure its maritime domain amid tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
During a press briefing here, Blinken warned China that any attack on Filipino assets and armed forces in the South China Sea would trigger their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Hours earlier, the US top diplomat and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reaffirmed their commitment to the defense pact, which compels both sides to help each other in case of outside aggression.
"I reiterated our ironclad commitment to the US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty and reaffirmed that an armed attack on Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US’ mutual defense commitments under that treaty," Blinken told reporters.
Aside from this, the American official said his government would help the country secure its maritime domain by partnering with Filipino fisherfolk and scientists to "preserve and protect the Philippines precious maritime resources."
These, he said, "are under threat from illegal fishing and environmental destruction by outside actors."
Last year, the US Embassy said the value of illegally caught fish in Philippine waters is estimated to be at P63 billion a year, as reported recently by the USAID and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Blinken also criticized China for its continuing aggression in the Taiwan Strait, which serves as a crucial international economic pathway, after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit there that angered Beijing.
He emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Taiwan Strait as the developments there might also affect the Philippines.
"Maintaining peace and security in the Taiwan Strait is vital not only in Taiwan but for the Philippines and many other countries. What happens to the Taiwan Strait affects the entire region in many ways," Blinken said.
"It [also] affects the entire world because the strait, like the South China Sea, is a critical waterway," he added.
Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs this week maintained that the Philippines is adhering to the "One-China" principle, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory despite the island asserting it is a self-governing entity.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the Philippine government is closely monitoring the developments there amid the mounting tensions.
Tensions flared between Taiwan, China, and the United States after Pelosi visited the island despite strong opposition from Beijing.
The visit also prompted China to promise "punishment," announcing military drills in the seas around Taiwan — some of the world's busiest waterways.