US President Joe Biden met with his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos to discuss China’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea, including its strategic islands and trade routes. Marcos’s four-day visit to the US is his first in decades. According to a US official, it is the first time that the two countries have met “at this intensity and level” for many years. Washington and its Asian partners are interested in the Philippines because it is close to Taiwan and key sea routes. Biden’s administration has been prompted to quickly boost its military capabilities by the tension and constant saber rattling about Taiwan.
According to a senior US official, recent events have prompted both capitals to focus more on taking steps to improve engagement between the United States of America and the Philippines on the security front. Manila wants reassurances and is determined to maintain stability and peace. The Philippines is implementing new “bilateral defense guidelines”, including a number of measures to support the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Officials also stated that new military muscles are being implemented in response to the changing geostrategic conditions in the Asia-Pacific.
The statement made by a senior US official ahead of Marcos’s visit highlights Asia-Pacific engagements within the Indo-Pacific. It is an important time as China asserts its sovereignty claims over the South China Sea despite a ruling by international law that these claims are unfounded. The Philippines has identified four bases to which US forces will have access. One of these is near the tense Spratly Islands. This has alarmed China who accuses Washington of trying drive a wedge in between Beijing and Manila.