US State Secretary Blinken arrives in Manila, to meet PBBM tomorrow

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Manila Friday night amidst a growing tension between the US and China in Taiwan Strait following the controversial visit of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Blinken just came from Phnom Penh for series of meetings with the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) including Asean-US Foreign Ministers Meeting and Asean Regional Forum, as well as side meetings with his counterparts with the European Union, Indonesia and host Cambodia.

US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson, and DFA assistant secretaries Wilfredo Santos for Protocol and JV Chan-Gonzaga for American Affairs welcomed the US top diplomat at the Villamor Airbase around past 10pm.

He is scheduled to meet Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, who skipped the Asean meetings in Cambodia due to COVID-19 infection. 

On Thursday, the DFA said Manalo and Blinken meeting will push through on Saturday, but late in the afternoon, the DFA announced Friday that their joint press conference will only be held virtually, suggesting that Manalo has not yet fully recovered and that their bilateral meetings will also be to be held via online platform.

Blinken is scheduled to pay courtesy call to President Marcos in Malacañang.

U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director Enoh Ebong is also joining Blinken during the visit to Manila.  During the trip, Director Ebong will highlight USTDA’s work to advance the Philippines’ clean energy transition in close partnership with public and private sectors. “Our model of assistance focuses on access and inclusivity and is based on the core principles of mutual benefit and trust. This is why we are successful.” 

Blinken’s visit in southeast Asia is overshadowed by the visit of Pelosi in Taiwan. While in Cambodia, Blinken had to make extra effort to assuage the region that the US has no plan to change the status quo in Taiwan Strait. US media reported that it was Blinken who first warned of the planned visit of Pelosi during his side meeting with Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi at the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia last June. The State Department had tried to discourage Pelosi but the 82-year old Democrat leader is reportedly determined to push through with her trip.

“The United States continues to have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  We oppose any unilateral efforts to change the status quo, especially by force.  We remain committed to our “one China” policy, guided by our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Communiqués, and the Six Assurances.

“And I want to emphasize nothing has changed about our position, and I hope very much that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity.  We, and countries around the world, believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests, including ASEAN members and including China.  We’ve reached out to engage our PRC counterparts in recent days at every level of government to convey this message.  Maintaining cross-strait stability is in the interests of all countries in the region, including all of our colleagues within ASEAN,” Blinken said.