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‘Ironclad’ Defense Treaty – Amid Chinese military drills, US assures ‘worried neighbor’ full security, if attacked

On August 6, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured the Philippines that the United States would defend them if attacked in the South China Sea.

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This can be seen as the latest attempt by the United States to assuage concerns about the depth of its commitment to a mutual defense treaty. The significant development came during a meeting in Manila between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Blinken said a defense deal with the Philippines that has been in place for 70 years is “rock-proof”.

However, the meeting was dominated by the issue of escalating US-China tensions related to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Blinken told a press conference that “an armed attack on the Philippine Armed Forces, government vessels, and aircraft will invoke the mutual defense commitments of the United States under this treaty.”

He added that “the Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally of the United States.”

Since Marcos took office on June 30, Blinken has been the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Philippines. In his opening remarks, Marcos attempted to downplay Taiwan’s diplomatic crisis. He expressed his opinion that Pelosi’s visit “did not increase the intensity” of an already tense situation.

“We’ve been at this level for quite a while, but we kind of got used to the idea,” Marcos said. The Philippines serves as a focal point for geopolitical conflict between the United States and China, and Marcos attempts to maintain a fine line in maintaining relations between the two superpowers.

Secretary Blinken stands next to Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos.
Secretary Blinken stands next to Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos. -Twitter

But relations between China and the Philippines have deteriorated since 2009, when China tried to establish its claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has also blocked the Philippines from developing oil and gas projects or fishing in disputed waters.

In 2016, the international tribunal ruled that China’s so-called “nine-dash line”, which it used to claim almost all of the South China Sea, was invalid.

The decision was ignored by Beijing, which instead built artificial islands and sent fleets of fishing boats, coast guards and naval forces to territorial waters claimed by the Philippines.

Thus, the new president is consequently under pressure at home to oppose China in the South China Sea without upsetting its leadership.

defense treaty

Meanwhile, Washington and Manila have been at odds over the visiting forces deal for some time, making it easier for US troops to enter the Philippines for annual military exercises.

Rodrigo Duterte, the former president of the Philippines, said in February 2021 that he was ending the deal after the US Congress moved to impose sanctions on senior Filipino officials suspected of human rights abuses.

Later, Duterte postponed the decision to officially revoke the 1998 pact, using it as leverage against Beijing and Washington.

Compared to his predecessor, Marcos Jr. avoided criticizing Washington in his important speeches, either as a presidential candidate or after becoming the new occupant of the Malacañang Palace.

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines signed the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951, which states that the two nations undertake to “defend each other against external armed attack so that no potential aggressor may have the illusion that one of them is alone in the world”. Pacific area.

According to Article 4 of the treaty, each nation recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific region against either party “would be dangerous to its peace and security and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes”.

Article 5 explains the definition of attack and its objective. It covers any armed attack on either party’s metropolitan territory, island territories under its control in the Pacific, or on its armed forces, commercial vessels or aircraft.

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The U.S. Airforce 354th Air Expeditionary Wing and Marine Aircraft Group 12 performed a capabilities demonstration at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. – USAF

The Biden administration wanted to reassure Manila that Washington would treat any threat to the Philippines as an attack on American soil. However, the ambiguity of security treaties raises certain questions.

The treaties state that the United States would “act to meet common dangers,” but they mention the deployment of American forces to defend partner territories.

Enrique Manalo, the Philippines’ foreign minister, said Aug. 6 that President Joe Biden had invited Marcos to visit Washington and that the two sides were negotiating a suitable date.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the son of the late strongman whom Washington helped flee the Philippines during a “people power” uprising that ended his two-decade rule in 1986 and went into exile in Hawaii.

Marcos has not visited the United States in more than a decade, due to a court order for contempt of his unwillingness to cooperate with a court in Hawaii.

In 1995, the court ordered the Marcos family to repay $2 billion in missing state funds to people the government wronged during his father’s rule. However, heads of state enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Nonetheless, US assurance contributes significantly to regional stability, especially when tensions over the Taiwan issue are rapidly escalating.


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Post expires at 7:48pm on Thursday August 18th, 2022