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Boosting defense ties

Manila Standard

ASIAN nations will have their eyes and ears glued to Washington this week with the scheduled trilateral summit aimed at boosting defense ties, following the four-way military drills in the South China Sea with Australia.

Military and diplomatic observers say this is a key upgrade of US defense ties with increasingly self-confident Japan and its long-time ally the Philippines, which has been continually harassed by China within the former’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

Also on the agenda will be securing access to vital supplies like semiconductors and rare metals, North Korea’s growing belligerence, and the Japanese takeover of US Steel opposed by President Joe Biden.

The White House said the talks will “advance a trilateral partnership built on deep historical ties of friendship, robust and growing economic relations… and a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The summit kicks off Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minster Fumio Kishida, 66, and President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., 66, both expected to be received with full honors at the Whie House.

President Joe Biden, 81, and President Marcos, seen as closer to Washington than his more China-leaning predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, will also hold separate talks.

They are the latest Asia-Pacific allies to be hosted by Biden, who was joined by Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David in August.

Biden has also moved to manage tensions with China, holding a two-hour phone call with President Xi Jinping last week and a face-to-face meeting in San Francisco in November.

On Sunday, the Philippines, the United States, Japan and Australia held joint military exercises to “(ensure) that all countries are free to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” according to US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin in a joint statement.

China claims territorial sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea under its upgraded mythical and legally baseless ten-dash line and has been increasingly aggressive in the region in recent years.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command said it was organizing “joint naval and air combat patrols in the South China Sea” the same day.

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