MANILA (UPDATE)—US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Manila for his expected meetings with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique Manalo.
The US Embassy in Manila confirmed Blinken's arrival on Friday night.
It posted a photo of the American top diplomat being welcomed by US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson and officials from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
"@SecBlinken's first visit to the Philippines as Secretary of State symbolizes the U.S. commitment to strengthening and expanding our relationship with the Philippines as #FriendsPartnersAllies. Welcome and mabuhay!" the embassy said.
Blinken arrived from Phnom Penh, Cambodia after attending the US-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price earlier said Blinken will meet Marcos Jr. to talk about the Philippines and the United States' "increased cooperation on energy, trade, and investment, advancing our shared democratic values, and pandemic recovery."
"Secretary Blinken will reinforce and underscore to our Philippine allies that our commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty is ironclad," East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel J. Kritenbrink also said in a press conference.
"He also intends to have important discussions on enhanced cooperation on trade and investment and on clean energy, as well as on advancing our shared democratic values and strengthening respect for human rights, including press freedom."
Blinken is the first US Secretary of State to visit the Philippines since his predecessor Mike Pompeo's trip to Manila in 2019 during the Trump administration.
The US official's trip to Manila came amid soaring tensions between the United States and China, especially in the Indo-Pacific, wherein Washington has pivoted its leadership efforts to challenge Beijing's aggression and rising influence in the region.
China launched its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored threats to visit the self-ruled island.
During Pelosi's visit to Taiwan late Tuesday, the US Navy's Seventh Fleet said the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan was operating in the Philippine Sea, south of Taiwan, along with several other US warships.