Blinken: Free and open South China Sea critical to the world


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said keeping the South China Sea free and open is critical to the world, noting that China’s continuing cycle of aggressive actions in the strategic and busy waterway is a threat to global peace, security and freedom of navigation.

Blinken, currently in Manila for an official visit where he held talks with Philippine counterpart Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, and with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also highlighted the importance of “sustaining” and further “accelerating” its decades-old alliance with the Philippines in the face of regional and global challenges.

“These waterways are critical to the Philippines, to its security, to its economy. But they're also critical to the interests of the region, the United States and the world. It's why we stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Blinken told a joint press conference with Manalo.

Although not a party to the disputes, the US maintained that keeping the South China Sea open and accessible is within its national interest.

China, which considers the sea disputes a purely Asian issue, is opposed to any foreign intervention, particularly the US.

The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have been embroiled in years-long territorial disputes over resource-rich features in the South China Sea - feared as Asia’s next potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict.

China claims the waters nearly in its entirety despite an international tribunal ruling on a case filed by the Philippines that invalidated such assertion.

Blinken’s visit this week took place following a series of hostilities between Chinese and Philippine ships and vessels in the disputed waters, which have been denounced by the Philippines along with the US, Japan and other allies.

Trilateral summit

Talks in Manila were also held ahead of a scheduled first trilateral summit of US President Joe Biden, Marcos and Japan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on April 11 at the White House, which Blinken described as a “very important platform” for “greater stability and deepening” of cooperation on several fronts, including defense, security, trade and economy.


During their meeting, Blinken said he and Manalo “shared concerns” on the recent incidents in the South China Sea that “threaten” the “common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

In one of the alarming hostilities at the Philippine held Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal on March 5, Chinese Coast Guard ships blocked, shadowed and surrounded Philippine Coast Guard and supply vessels. Four Philippine Navy personnel aboard Unaizah May 4, which was carrying Western Command commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, were injured after water cannon blasts from two Chinese Coast Guard ships shattered its windshields and prevented it from delivering supplies, to Filipino navy personnel posted at the disputed shoal.

Citing article 4 of its defense treaty with the Manila, Blinken reiterated America’s commitment to defend its ally against any aggression or armed attacks against public vessels and aircraft, including those of the Philippine Coast Guard, “anywhere in the South China Sea.”

“Most important is we stand together in our determination to uphold international law for the Philippines, for everyone else against any provocative actions,” Blinken said.

Without naming China, Manalo and Blinken stressed that a stronger US-Philippines alliance and the expansion of its partnership with other like-minded states are "not directed at any country."

“They are not aimed at any third country and they are specifically in accordance with our interest,” Manalo said.

Manalo also said that the Philippines’ relationship with the US  “has never been higher and greater,” adding that “we're both committed to even elevating it further.”

“We reaffirmed our shared view that a strong and capable Philippines would make a formidable ally for the United States.”

Blinken acknowledged that Manila and Washington have “achieved remarkable progress in our relationship” and highlighted the need to further expand these ties.  

“The alliance has never been stronger, but we not only have to sustain that we have to continue to accelerate the momentum,” he said. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News