Manila, Philippines –
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that China should not hold hostage talks on major global issues such as the climate crisis, after Beijing broke off contacts with Washington in retaliation for the president’s visit to Taiwan. of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, earlier this week.
Blinken was speaking at an online news conference with his Philippine counterpart in Manila after meeting with newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other top officials, as relations between Washington and Beijing plummeted to their worst level in years.
Pelosi’s trip to the self-governing island outraged China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be forcibly annexed if necessary. China launched military exercises off the coast of Taiwan on Thursday and on Friday cut off contacts with the United States on vital issues, including military affairs and crucial climate cooperation, as punishment for Pelosi’s visit.
“We must not hold cooperation on matters of global concern hostage because of the differences between our two countries,” Blinken said. “Others rightly expect us to continue working on issues that are important to the lives and livelihoods of their people, as well as our own.”
He cited cooperation on climate change as a key area in which China closed contact that “it doesn’t punish the United States, it punishes the world.”
“The world’s largest carbon emitter now refuses to participate in the fight against the climate crisis,” Blinken said, adding that China’s launch of ballistic missiles that landed in the waters surrounding Taiwan was a dangerous and destabilizing action. .
“What happens with the Taiwan Strait affects the entire region. In many ways, it affects the whole world because the Strait, like the South China Sea, is a critical waterway,” he said, noting that almost half of the world’s container fleet and almost 90% of The world’s largest ships transited the waterway this year. .
China shut down “army-to-army channels, which are vital to avoiding miscommunication and averting crises, but also cooperation on transnational crime and counternarcotics, which help keep people safe in the United States, China, and beyond.” , said. he said she.
Despite China’s actions, Blinken said he told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Friday in Cambodia, where they were attending an annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that the United States did not want to escalate the situation.
“We seek to de-escalate those tensions and we believe that dialogues are a very important element of that,” he said, adding that the United States would “keep our channels of communication open with China with the intention of avoiding an escalation of misunderstanding or miscommunication.” ”
Blinken is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines since Marcos Jr. took office on June 30 following a landslide election victory. In his brief meeting with Blinken, Marcos Jr. mentioned that he was surprised by the turn of events related to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week.
“It just showed it, how intense that conflict has been,” Marcos Jr. said, citing a transcript released by the presidential palace.
“This just goes to show how volatile the international diplomatic scene is not just in the region,” he added.
Marcos Jr. praised the vital relationship between Manila and Washington, which are treaty allies, and US assistance to the Philippines over the years.
Blinken reiterated Washington’s commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines and “to work with you on shared challenges.”
Blinken told reporters that he also spoke with Marcos Jr. about strengthening democracy and the United States’ commitment to work with the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, protect human rights, freedom of expression and safeguard groups of civil society, “who are fundamental to our alliance”.
Describing the Philippines as “an irreplaceable friend,” he said he reiterated to the president that an armed attack on Philippine forces, public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea “will invoke the mutual defense commitments of the United States.”
Blinken arrived in Manila on Friday night after attending ASEAN meetings in Cambodia, where he was joined by his Chinese and Russian counterparts.
ASEAN foreign ministers called for “utmost restraint” as China staged war exercises around Taiwan and moved against the US, fearing the situation “could destabilize the region and could eventually lead to misstatements.” calculation, serious confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among the major powers”.
In Manila, Blinken visited a vaccination clinic, met with groups helping fight coronavirus outbreaks, and attended a clean energy fair. She also met with US Embassy staff before flying out Saturday night.
Shortly before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, as speculation mounted that her plane might stop briefly at the former US Clark Air Force Base north of Manila for refueling, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said in a TV interview that he hoped “the Philippine side will strictly abide by the one-China principle and handle all Taiwan-related issues prudently to ensure sound and steady development of China-Philippines relations.”
Huang’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said “the ambassador should not pontificate on such policies, especially considering his country stubbornly and steadfastly refuses to recognize a decision handed down by an international arbitral tribunal and ignores and flouts international law.” law in the Western Philippine Sea when it suits his interests.”
Hontiveros was referring to a 2016 arbitration ruling on a Philippines complaint invalidating China’s vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. He used the Philippine name for the disputed waters.
China has dismissed that ruling, which was welcomed by the United States and its Western allies, as a sham and continues to challenge it.
Associated Press writers Andrew Harnik and Kiko Rosario in Manila, Philippines contributed to this report.