Harris visits an island near waters disputed with China

Harris visits an island near waters disputed with China
Harris visits an island near waters disputed with China

Harris visits an island near waters disputed with China

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrived yesterday on the Philippine island of Palawan, in waters China claims its right to, to show its support for the old US ally and to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

Harris is the senior US official to visit the western island of Palawan, which lies closest to the Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea, over which Beijing disputes sovereignty with its neighbors.

China says its sovereignty covers almost the entire sea, ignoring a ruling by an international tribunal that what it claims has no legal basis.

Certain parts of the South China Sea are claimed by the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

A US official told reporters ahead of the visit that Kamala Harris will emphasize “the importance of international law, freedom of legitimate trade and freedom of navigation” in her speech.

The visit comes after a day of bilateral talks between Harris and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in Manila, during which they reaffirmed the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to the Philippines.

“We support you in supporting international laws and norms related to the South China Sea,” Harris told Marcos at the start of their talks at the Presidential Palace in Manila.

“An attack on the Philippine Armed Forces, government ships or aircraft in the South China Sea will activate the Mutual Defense Commitment…It is our unwavering commitment to the Philippines,” she added.

Relations between the Philippines and the United States have been strained for years under ex-president Rodrigo Duterte, who is close to Beijing. Washington is trying to strengthen its security alliance with Manila under the new presidency amid escalating regional tensions.

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