DFA: Urgent talks on MDT to thwart China maneuvers

Heads together Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko (second from right) at the UN General Assembly in New York with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Philippine DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo (third from left). 

The ministers discussed the way forward to enhance trilateral cooperation among Japan, the US, and the Philippines. 

They concurred on the promotion of multilayered collaboration with allies and like-minded countries for upholding and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law, given the recent severe strategic environment including the situation in the South China Sea.
Heads together Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko (second from right) at the UN General Assembly in New York with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Philippine DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo (third from left). The ministers discussed the way forward to enhance trilateral cooperation among Japan, the US, and the Philippines. They concurred on the promotion of multilayered collaboration with allies and like-minded countries for upholding and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law, given the recent severe strategic environment including the situation in the South China Sea. Photograph courtesy of Japan in Manila

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo emphasized the urgency of discussing the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States to thwart China's escalating actions in the South China Sea.

Manalo raised the idea during a meeting of Filipino diplomats and defense officials with their American counterparts in Washington, DC, on the sidelines of a trilateral summit of leaders of the Philippines, the US, and Japan.

“I think our meeting today will enable us to hopefully be in a better position to coordinate our response, both diplomatic and on the defense and security fronts, about any actions in the South China Sea, whether they’re positive or negative, including in the Ayungin Shoal,” Manalo said in his opening remarks 3+3 Meeting at the US State Department.

Manalo stressed the importance of the discussions in the wake of China’s recent “harassment” in the West Philippine Sea, which injured four Philippine Navy crew.

“So, we also hope that this 3+3 meeting will be a regular event and reinforce our regular Bilateral Strategic Dialogue and our ongoing maritime dialogue,” he said.

He added: “Finally, we do underscore the need to continue further clarificatory discussions on the MDT, as we think this would also help in deterring further escalation by China.”

Also in the meeting were Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, National Security Advisor Eduardo Año, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “unprecedented 3+3” reflects the growing and deepening cooperation between the Philippines and the US “on a broad array of issues and, of course, of shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea.”

“We very much welcome this opportunity to pursue that cooperation, collaboration, and of course, we stand with the Philippines in our ironclad defense commitments, including the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Blinken assured the Philippine security delegates.

Austin emphasized that shared security relies on strong military bonds, shared economic opportunities, and robust people-to-people ties between the US and the Philippines.

“And at the Department of Defense, we're working in lockstep with our colleagues at the Department of National Defense, to strengthen interoperability between our forces, to expand our operational coordination, and to stand up to coercion in the South China Sea,” he said.

In a joint vision statement, the Philippines, United States, and Japan look forward to conducting more combined naval training and exercises.

Japan and the US vowed to strengthen their cooperation with the Philippines to promote domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

“We resolve to advance trilateral defense cooperation, including through combined naval training and exercises between our three countries and additional partners… and by coordinating US and Japanese support for Philippine defense modernization priorities,” the joint statement read.

Among the planned initiatives are the combined training with Southeast Asian regional partners and the Japan-Philippines-US humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercises.

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