MANILA, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Tensions over Taiwan are expected to be on the agenda when U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. next week, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said on Thursday.
“I’m sure they will touch on the situation in Taiwan,” Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told Reuters by phone, adding that the Philippines wants to play a role in peaceful coexistence between the United States and China.
Romualdez said Harris is likely to give Marcos a “pretty good briefing” on the three-hour meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of this week’s G20 summit in Indonesia.
Beijing has long said it would bring autonomous Taiwan, which it considers an inalienable part of China, under its control and has not ruled out using force to do so. It has frequently accused the US of encouraging Taiwan independence in recent years.
“What happens in Taiwan, it will affect the entire ASEAN region. If there is a conflict in Taiwan, no one will be spared,” Romualdez said. “The Philippines is part of this whole equation.”
Harris’ trip was his second to Asia in three months and his first to the Philippines.
It will include a stop in the Palawan Islands on the edge of the disputed South China Sea, which could be interpreted as a rebuke by Beijing.
Beijing claims Palawan and much of the South China Sea, citing its own historical maps. However, a 2016 international arbitration ruling said the Chinese claims had no legal basis, a victory for Manila that has yet to be enforced.
Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Southeast Asian nation since the election of Marcos, the son of the late strongman whom Washington helped exile in Hawaii during a 1986 “people power” uprising.
In August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Marcos to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the defense of its longtime treaty ally, the Philippines.
“All these visits clearly show a serious indication of how they see our relationship with the United States as more important than ever because of what is happening on this side of the world,” Romualdez said.
Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Jerry Doyle
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