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Philippines’ Trilateral Summit Aim: Countering China’s Influence, Bolstering Trade and Security with US and Japan

Summit with US, Japan focused on economy, cooperation in South China Sea, says Marcos

In a significant diplomatic move, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is set to engage in groundbreaking discussions with the United States and Japan, aiming to solidify economic partnerships and ensure the security and freedom of navigation in the contested South China Sea.

The discussions, which are part of the inaugural trilateral summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC, signify a collective intent to counterbalance China’s expanding influence in the region. President Marcos, alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, looks forward to a strategic dialogue that promises to chart a course for mutual prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

“The essence of this trilateral agreement is our mutual aspiration for continued prosperity, support, and, paramount, the maintenance of peace and navigational freedom in the South China Sea,” President Marcos articulated. The summit aims to delve deeper into the execution of cooperation in the maritime domain, a timely move given the escalating naval confrontations involving China and the Philippines.

Expanding the scope of partnership, President Marcos revealed his ambition to explore advancements in infrastructure, semiconductors, cybersecurity, critical minerals, and renewable energy with the United States and Japan. Furthermore, defense and maritime cooperation are on the agenda, highlighting a shared commitment to bolster regional security.

China’s keen eye on the summit underscores the strategic significance of these discussions in the broader geopolitical landscape of the Asia-Pacific. In particular, the summit is viewed as a countermeasure to Beijing’s assertive maneuvers in the region, sparking a call from the Chinese Foreign Ministry for inclusiveness and opposition to exclusive alliances.

The backdrop to this diplomatic gathering is a series of intensified maritime clashes between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea, prompting President Marcos to deepen military engagements with both the United States and Japan. This includes nearly doubling the number of Philippine bases accessible to U.S. troops and negotiating a reciprocal access agreement with Japan, potentially enabling Japanese forces’ presence in the Philippines.

Contrary to reports of a tentative ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with Beijing reached under his predecessor, President Marcos expressed outright rejection of any accord that might compromise the nation’s sovereignty. “Horrified” by such allegations, Marcos’s stand reinforces the Philippines’ stance on safeguarding its territorial integrity and sovereign rights amid overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The contentious backdrop of these claims, notably China’s expansive assertion to almost the entire South China Sea, has been a focal point of legal scrutiny. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China’s claims, stating they lacked legal grounding — a verdict dismissed by Beijing.

This trilateral summit not only exemplifies a strategic pivot in regional diplomacy but also envisions a collective pathway to ensure peace, prosperity, and security in the Asia-Pacific region. As these leaders convene, the world watches closely, hopeful for outcomes that promise a more stable and cooperative regional environment.

Lily Greenfield

Lily Greenfield is a passionate environmental advocate with a Master's in Environmental Science, focusing on the interplay between climate change and biodiversity. With a career that has spanned academia, non-profit environmental organizations, and public education, Lily is dedicated to demystifying the complexities of environmental science for a general audience. Her work aims to inspire action and awareness, highlighting the urgency of conservation efforts and sustainable practices. Lily's articles bridge the gap between scientific research and everyday relevance, offering actionable insights for readers keen to contribute to the planet's health.

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