U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Junior in a White House summit Thursday, sending a clear message to Beijing to stop behaving aggressively against its neighbors in the South China Sea. Leaders focused on dealing with Chinese so-called grey zone tactics of intimidation that fall dangerously close to triggering a mutual defense treaty between Washington and Manila. VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara has the story.

Ramped up aggression in the South China Sea, with Chinese Coast Guard vessels deploying water cannons and performing other dangerous maneuvers on Philippine boats.

It was a focus of the trilateral summit Thursday between President Joe Biden and leaders of two U.S. allies in Asia - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Joe Biden
US president
Any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels or armed forces in the South China Sea would invoke our mutual defense treaty.

China’s so-called gray zone tactics of intimidation, including ramming into ships fall dangerously close to triggering the mutual defense treaty between Washington and Manila. Marcos did not publicly mention China but couched his words in diplomatic terms often used to target Beijing.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Philippine president
Facing the complex challenges of our time requires concerted efforts on everyone’s part, a dedication to a common purpose and an unwavering commitment to the rules-based international order.

Kishida is concerned with similar Chinese tactics around disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

Fumio Kishida
Japan prime minister
In the midst of compound crises faced by the global community, multilayered cooperation between allies and like-minded countries is essential if we are to maintain and bolster a free and open international order based on the rule of law.

Last week, the Philippines, the U.S., Japan and Australia held joint naval and air operations in the South China Sea to deter Beijing, prompting criticism by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

Mao Ning
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson
China is resolutely opposed to the Cold War mentality and bloc politics, and to words and deeds that make and exacerbate contradictions and undermine other countries’ strategic security and interests.

Biden, Marcos and Kishida announced new maritime defense deterrence measures, alongside infrastructure investments in the Philippines and collaboration on global humanitarian assistance efforts.

Patsy Widakuswara, VOA News, Washington.

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