U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in the Philippines on Sunday for talks aimed at reviving ties with Washington’s oldest ally in Asia and one that is central to U.S. efforts to counter China’s increasingly assertive policies towards Taiwan.
Harris, who will meet President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., comes to the region as the Biden administration seeks to shore up relations with allies worried about growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia and possible conflict over Taiwan, the self-governing island China regards as its own.
The Philippines is an important part of this diplomatic push. Military access to the country, just 120 miles (193 km) from Taiwan and adjacent to the South China Sea, would greatly complicate any attempt by China to invade Taiwan, according to military analysts.
In Marcos, son and namesake of the Philippines’ onetime dictator, President Joe Biden and his national security aides see a strategic and unexpectedly strong ally for its top foreign policy challenge — competition with China — according to administration officials.
“It makes sense to invest high-level attention to restore deepened cooperation across the board with this youthful, populous, prospering, and strategically located ally,” said Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama and now with the Asia Society.