US, Philippines Call for Peace Across Taiwan Strait in Joint Statement

US, Philippines Call for Peace Across Taiwan Strait in Joint Statement
U.S. President Joe Biden meets with President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Oval Office at the White House, in Washington on May 1, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The United States and the Philippines reaffirmed the need for peace across the Taiwan Strait in a joint statement issued Monday amid Beijing’s intimidating actions against the self-ruled island.

President Joe Biden met with his Philippine counterpart, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., at the White House and issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to deepen the U.S.-Philippines security alliance.

Marcos’s visit to the United States marked the first by a Philippine president in over a decade.

“We are facing new challenges. And I can’t think of any better partner to have than you,” Biden told the Philippine leader.

Marcos emphasized the importance of the United States as his country’s sole treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific region, which he said is facing “arguably the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world right now.”

“It is only natural for the Philippines to look to its sole treaty partner in the world to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have and the roles that we play in the face of those rising tensions that we see now around the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions,” he said.

President Joe Biden Meets President Of The Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr
President Joe Biden meets President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Oval Office at the White House on May 1, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The two leaders affirmed their commitment to “freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea” and “maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” where China has increased its military activities.

Both allies “affirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity,” the joint statement reads.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry applauded the U.S.-Philippines joint statement, saying it highlighted the “high degree of consensus among countries in the region on preserving cross-strait peace and stability.”

The U.S.-Philippines leaders meeting came as Beijing was accused of violating the Philippines’ territorial zone in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely based on its nine-dash line. More than 100 Chinese militia maritime vessels were spotted within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone from April 18 to 24.

Chinese Coast Guard Ship
A Chinese Coast Guard ship with bow number 5201 blocks Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Malapascua as it maneuvers to enter the mouth of the Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, South China Sea on April 23, 2023. (Aaron Favila/AP Photo)

Hours before departing for Washington on April 30, Marcos urged Beijing to establish a “direct communication line” between their officials to prevent dangerous collisions between vessels in the disputed waters.

“The Philippines’ goal is simple: We work for peace. We will not encourage any provocative action … We will not allow that to happen,” he told reporters.

China Envoy Threatens Philippines

Chinese envoy Huang Xilian earlier criticized the Philippines for granting the United States greater access to its military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The Philippines must “unequivocally oppose” Taiwan’s independence if it “genuinely cared” about the 150,000 Filipinos living in Taiwan, Huang said at a forum in Manila on April 16.

“We will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” he stated.

Huang warned that allowing the U.S. access to Philippine military bases would only inflame the situation.

In response, the Philippine Department of National Defense reiterated that its decision to expand the EDCA sites was not directed against any country but rather to bolster its defense capabilities.

“Amid the tensions in the cross Straits, however, the department deems it prudent to prepare for any contingencies to ensure the safety of Filipinos overseas, especially those based in Taiwan,” it stated.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to conquer it by force if necessary. But any attack on Taiwan could threaten Philippine security because of its proximity to Taiwan, with which it shares a sea border off the Luzon Strait.

The Philippines earlier granted American forces access to four new military bases, including a naval base, an airport in Cagayan province, and an army camp in Isabela—all located near Taiwan.

The two nations are allies under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which dictates that the United States and the Philippines will defend each other if either is attacked.

The United States warned Beijing on April 29 that any armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft would invoke its mutual defense treaty.

From The Epoch Times