By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com
Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday wrapped up her trip to the Philippines with a visit to Palawan, an island province with a coast on the disputed South China Sea.
From there, Harris delivered a speech onboard a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and said the US would lead a campaign against “irresponsible behavior” in the region, referencing Beijing.
If you are a domestic reader, this is your last chance to become a Patron before Dec. 25 to receive a free book from Robert Scheer while supplies last.
China, the Philippines, and several other Southeast Asian countries all have overlapping claims to the South China Sea. The US has inserted itself into the dispute and rejects most of Beijing’s claims.
Harris is now the highest-level US official to visit Palawan, demonstrating the emphasis the Biden administration is putting on confronting China in the South China Sea.
“We must stand up for principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, unimpeded lawful commerce, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Harris told Philippine coast guard officers.
A day earlier, Harris met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and vowed to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea. She reaffirmed that an attack on Philippine vessels in the waters would invoke mutual defense commitments under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines.
When asked about Harris’ visit, China’s Foreign Ministry said it wasn’t against US contacts with other countries. “We are not against normal interaction between the US and the Philippines, but their interaction should not be damaging to other countries’ interests,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
In her speech on Tuesday, Harris announced a new cooperation with the Philippines to cut down on illegal fishing. A major part of the dispute between China and other Southeast Asian claimants to the South China Sea is over who can fish where.
Harris said the US was providing new funding the Philippine law enforcement to help them combat illegal fishing. She said it was part of an initiative launched in May to “provide more training, assets, and personnel to build maritime law enforcement capabilities across Southeast Asia.”