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Marcos, Biden, and Kishida Forge Trilateral Partnership

The Philippines, along with the United States and Japan, is in the advanced planning stages for the inaugural meeting between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his counterparts, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in Washington next month. This meeting aims to strengthen trilateral cooperation among the three allies in response to China’s growing assertiveness.

Scheduled for mid-April, the planned meeting aligns with Prime Minister Kishida’s visit for the US-Japan Summit, according to a government official familiar with the arrangements.

Kishida, marking the first Japanese leader to embark on a state visit to the United States since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015, has a packed agenda ahead. Reports indicate that he is set to engage in discussions with President Biden on April 10, followed by delivering an address to a joint session of the US Congress the following day.

This unique summit, a standalone event involving the three leaders, is anticipated to concentrate on strengthening economic and security relations between the two nations.

Notably, Mr. Marcos has previously interacted with both leaders individually during his official visits as well as on the sidelines of various multilateral gatherings.

Last November, the President also welcomed Kishida, marking the first time a Japanese leader addressed both chambers of Congress in a dedicated session.

During Mr. Marcos’ upcoming visit, a series of bilateral meetings between Manila and Washington officials are anticipated to occur, following up on the results of his previous trip to the United States last year. An unnamed official, speaking under condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to address the press, disclosed this information.

Blinken’s Visit to Manila

During a recent visit to Manila, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with President Biden to discuss the ongoing strengthening of the Philippines-US alliance. This visit comes after Biden welcomed President Marcos to the White House last year during a four-day trip to Washington.

The discussions between Blinken and President Biden focused on various ways to expand cooperation between the two countries, particularly in defense. Last year, several agreements were reached, including plans to finalize a significant intelligence sharing pact and the adoption of bilateral defense guidelines.

These guidelines are aimed at formalizing key priorities, mechanisms, and processes that will deepen alliance cooperation and promote interoperability across various domains such as land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. The ongoing efforts underscore the commitment of both nations to enhancing their partnership and ensuring regional security and stability.

The scheduled meeting of the foreign ministers from the Philippines, United States, and Japan in Manila this week ahead of the upcoming summit has been canceled due to scheduling conflicts, an official announced.

Despite this cancellation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his second visit to Manila on Monday and Tuesday to discuss ways to enhance the partnership between both nations, particularly in the economic realm, as per the Department of Foreign Affairs’ announcement last week. His visit comes shortly after a high-level trade and investment mission from the United States was sent to the Philippines.

Last year, the national security advisers of the three countries—Eduardo Año, Jake Sullivan from the US, and Takeo Akiba from Japan—convened in Tokyo for their inaugural meeting. During this meeting, they affirmed their commitment to bolstering defense cooperation to uphold peace and stability in the region amidst China’s escalating assertiveness.

The Philippines and Japan, both allies of the US, have ongoing territorial disputes with China. Manila faces Beijing’s expansive claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, while Tokyo deals with China’s repeated incursions into the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

An ongoing reciprocal access agreement being negotiated between Manila and Tokyo aims to facilitate larger military exercises between the two nations and increased access to each other’s bases in the future.

Recently, the Philippine Marine Corps dispatched a small contingent to observe the Japan-US military exercise Iron Fist in Japan’s Kyushu and Okinawa regions. Reports indicate that this exercise simulated a scenario labeled as a “Taiwan emergency.”

In the past year, the Philippines has expanded US access to its military bases through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Both countries are gearing up to conduct one of their largest joint military exercises in the Philippines next month.

Since assuming office amid escalating tensions with China over the West Philippine Sea, President Marcos has been actively strengthening alliances with like-minded countries. During his official visit to Germany last week, he expressed his commitment to enhancing cooperation with Washington and Tokyo.

President Marcos emphasized the need to continue planning and reinforcing cooperation among the United States, Japan, and the Philippines, hinting at potential formal agreements yet to be finalized during discussions with reporters.

“It’s likely that we’re formalizing what’s already underway, bringing more structure to our ongoing efforts in interoperability and joint cruises. However, this aspect is still evolving, so we need further discussions. Let’s wait for updates from Washington, Tokyo, and Manila,” Mr. Marcos commented.

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