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US Defense chief Austin arrives in Philippines for meeting with Duterte

United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has arrived in the Philippines to pay a courtesy call to President Rodrigo Duterte as both nations celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties.

According to the US Embassy, Austin will emphasize the US’ commitment to the Philippines and discuss avenues to further strengthen bilateral security cooperation during his visit.

The visit also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The Mutual Defense Treaty binds the US to defend the Philippines from aggression.

Also expected to be present at the Pentagon chief's courtesy call on Malacañang are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Chief Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje.

Austin is currently on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam, and Manila.

In Singapore, he declared that China's expansive claims in the South China Sea have "no basis in international law," taking aim at Beijing's growing assertiveness in the hotly contested waters. — Joahna Lei Casilao/BM, GMA News