Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos’ four-day visit to the White House will be focused on curbing China’s aggressive expansion into the trade routes and strategic islands of the South China Sea. Marcos’ meeting with US President Joe Biden comes after last week’s state visit to Washington by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and a meeting at the White House between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in January.
A senior US official said the meeting will be of significant importance and intensity in terms of the Indo-Pacific engagements between the two countries, which is the first in decades. China’s moves to assert its sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea have alarmed the US and its Asian allies. The Philippines is of particular interest as it is situated close to crucial sea lanes and Taiwan. The US has rapidly bolstered its military capabilities in the region in response to China’s aggressive actions.
The Philippines has identified four military bases where US forces will be given access, including one located near the tense Spratly Islands, and the two allies have carried out their largest-ever military maneuvers in recent weeks.
The senior official briefing journalists ahead of Marcos’ visit said Manila is looking for reassurance and a strong desire to maintain peace and stability in this complex period. New “bilateral defense guidelines” will also see “a series of steps to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization.”