PH, US, Japan leaders reaffirm cooperation in South China Sea dispute

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) —President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., United States Vice President Kamala Harris, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to work together against “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force” in the disputed South China Sea, the Japanese government said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan on Wednesday said the three leaders reaffirmed their countries’ commitment towards cooperation during informal talks at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit gala dinner in Indonesia.

“Prime Minister Kishida, President Marcos and Vice President Harris confirmed that the three countries would continue to promote the further strengthening of coordination among Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines in various ways,” the ministry also wrote.

In a meeting in Tokyo in June, the national security advisors of the three nations vowed to advance trilateral defense ties.

They said this is in response to regional security challenges and to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, a statement released by the White House on Wednesday said Marcos and Harris separately talked about the sea dispute during a one-on-one pull-aside meeting.

Harris reiterated the US government’s “ironclad alliance commitment” to the Philippines, with the two countries touching on the “maritime security environment” in the disputed waters, where China has sweeping claims.

The discussion also builds on previous talks with US President Joe Biden and Marcos in Washington earlier this year, the White House said.

“[Harris and Marcos] discussed opportunities to deepen commercial and economic cooperation, as well as their shared commitment to upholding the rules-based international order,” its readout stated.

The US official also expressed a desire to further deepen their maritime ties with the Philippines.

Harris likewise welcomed Marcos’ move to identify four additional American military sites, saying this would allow the US to pour in investments in local communities.

On Tuesday, Marcos said that achieving peace in the SCS “remains a distant reality” amid ongoing territorial disputes. However, he also said the Philippines has seen progress in talks on the SCS code of conduct.