The White House said it was deeply concerned about China's actions in the South China Sea ahead of the key trilateral meeting

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US President Joe Biden, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.


Washington
CNN

United States commitments to the defense of Japan and the Philippines remain “firm,” Mr. President Joe Biden He said this on Thursday while hosting leaders of those countries amid their separate territorial disputes with China.

These comments came as Biden hosted the first-ever trilateral summit between the three countries, welcoming Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the White House a day after the summit was announced. Official visit Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“When we stand together, we are able to shape a better future for everyone,” Biden said in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.

Both Japan and the Philippines It has separate territorial disputes with China, In the case of the former, the Senkaku Islands are in the East China Sea and in the latter areas in the South China Sea.

Tensions between the Philippines and China were focused on Second Thomas Shoal, which is located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan. In the 1990s, the Philippines parked an old World War II-era naval transport ship on the shoal, to help enforce its claim to the area. The ship is now mostly a rusty wreck and manned by rotating stationed Philippine Marines.

On the other hand, China claims the shallow waters, which lie in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, as its sovereign territory, as it does over much of the South China Sea, in defiance of an international arbitration ruling. Recent clashes It occurred when Philippine attempts to resupply troops on board were met by Chinese Coast Guard vessels firing water cannons at Philippine resupply boats, injuring Filipino sailors and damaging the ships.

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Referring to Philippine-China tensions, Biden said on Thursday that “any attack on Philippine aircraft, ships or armed forces in the South China Sea will invoke our mutual defense treaty.”

The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines – the oldest US treaty of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region – stipulates that the two sides will help defend each other if either is attacked by a third party.

Thursday's meeting represents the administration's latest attempt to deal with this kind of Chinese aggression, and a senior administration official said before the meeting that the White House was deeply concerned about China's actions in the South China Sea.

“What you will see is a clear show of support and determination from both President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Marcos ready to support and work with the Philippines at every turn,” one official said before Thursday’s meeting. .

Marcos said on Thursday that the Philippines, Japan and the United States “gather today as friends and partners committed to a shared vision in pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Marcos added that the three countries “are bound by a deep respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.”

The meeting comes as the region grapples with uncertainty over China's aggressive stance toward Taiwan and the South China Sea along with nuclear provocations from North Korea and its burgeoning relationship with Russia — concerns that have drawn regional allies closer to the United States.

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Japan has been at the heart of Biden's coalition building in the Indo-Pacific region, with officials seeing a willing partner in Kishida, who has dramatically changed the country's defense posture in recent years and provided continued support to Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Kishida has committed to increasing defense spending by 2% of GDP by 2037 and has purchased US Tomahawk missiles to increase its counter-strike capabilities.

Biden hosted Marcos at the White House last year. It shows his determination to restore strong relations with Manila that were strained under former President Rodrigo Duterte, who sought closer ties with China.

“We will continue to support the goals of modernizing the Philippine military,” Biden told the visiting leader during that visit, pledging that the two countries “not only share a strong partnership — we share a deep friendship, one that has been enriched by millions.” of Filipino Americans in communities across the United States.

Among the highlights of Thursday's meeting were several announcements aimed at supporting the Philippines amid these clashes.

A senior administration official also said that the White House will announce a new infrastructure project in the Philippines on Thursday. CNN reported earlier this week that one of the announcements will be the development of a new rail and freight corridor between the Philippine Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base, a move aimed at sending a clear message to Beijing.

Biden briefly mentioned this economic corridor on Thursday, saying: “It means more jobs for people across the entire region.” “It means more investment in sectors vital to our future – clean energy, ports, railways, agriculture and much more.”

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The White House is also expected to increase the capacity of the Philippine military through new infrastructure investment similar to what the United States announced in India in the run-up to the G20 summit.

In the days leading up to the summit, the United States, Japan and the Philippines – along with Australia – participated in the meeting. Conducted naval military maneuvers near the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, after Filipino ships claimed they were harassed by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

The senior official added that the White House will also make announcements in “open radio access network technology” and that both the United States and Japan will provide millions of dollars in funding.

Officials also said they will announce an upcoming Coast Guard patrol in the Indo-Pacific region that will take place “next year.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN's Brad Lyndon, Arlette Saenz and Kayla Tosh contributed to this report.

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