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Blinken’s China Visit ‘important’ to Philippines, Indo-pacific: US Official

Washington, Beijing agree to manage competition, keep lines open

MANILA — The United States and China’s agreement to responsibly manage their growing competition is “critically important” in ensuring peace and security amid persisting tensions in the South China Sea, a senior US diplomat said Tuesday.

Reflecting on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China from June 18 to 19, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said Washington’s talks with Beijing are also important to the Indo-Pacific region, which the Philippines is a part of.

Kritenbrink said that while the US commits to keep lines of communication open with China to “prevent the risk of miscalculation,” it will also counter Chinese activities in the South China Sea, including those directed at Manila.

“We have made clear that we will stand up to and we will counter a range of concerns that we have with Chinese activities including in the South China Sea, and including those directed at some of our key partners and allies such as the Philippines,” he told reporters at a regional press briefing Tuesday.

“But at the same time, we’re absolutely committed to keeping our channels of communication open so that we can responsibly manage this competition, responsibly manage the range of issues before us, and most importantly, prevent the risk of miscalculaton,” he added.

Kritenbrink also said the Blinken’s Beijing visit also demonstrated US commitment to “rules-based international order” and to the “security and defense of our allies.” Washington had previously described its decades-long ties with Manila as “iron-clad.” 

Reestablishing senior-level communication lines between Washington and Beijing, he added, was among US President Joe Biden’s marching orders to Blinken upon meeting with Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping over the last 2 days.

Xi earlier said that the 2 countries “made progress” on a number of issues. 

“The Chinese side has made our position clear and the two sides have agreed to follow through the common understandings President Biden and I had reached in Bali,” Xi told Blinken when they met on Monday.

Blinken’s visit is the highest-level trip by a US official to China in nearly 5 years with ties severely strained between the world’s two largest economies.

Geopolitical issues, including those in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, have contributed to the increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Last April, China said the US was “endangering regional peace” when the latter was allowed expanded access to 4 Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 

Beijing noted that 2 of the newly-identified EDCA sites were a few hundred kilometers to Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that it claims as its own. 

“Out of self-interest, the US maintains a zero-sum mentality and continues to strengthen its military deployment in the region… The result will inevitably be increased military tension and endangering regional peace and stability,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning claimed.

Source : ABSCBN