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Marcos meets Blinken in Philippines amid US-China crisis

Manila: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr welcomed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday, the highest ranking American official to visit the Philippines since he took office, although the meeting came at a delicate time as ties between Washington and Beijing have rapidly plummeted to their worst level in years.

There was no live broadcast of the morning visit by Blinken at the presidential palace in Manila on the state-run TV network, which showed a local agricultural programme and later reported on the the visit of America's top diplomat in a brief newscast. Only a few Manila-based journalists were allowed in a pool coverage of the event.

The presidential office later released photographs showing Marcos Jr greeting Blinken with a handshake and the two huddled in a meeting with their officials where Marcos Jr mentioned he was surprised by the turn of events related to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan this week.

Pelosi's trip to the self-governed island infuriated China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. China on Thursday launched military exercises just off Taiwan's coasts and on Friday cut off contacts with the United States on vital issues, including military matters and crucial climate cooperation, as part of retaliatory moves against the US for Pelosi's visit to Taiwan despite dire warnings from China.

I do not think, to be perfectly candid, I did not think it raised the intensity, it just demonstrated it how the intensity of that conflict has been, Marcos Jr said based on a transcript released by the presidential palace.

This just demonstrates how volatile the international diplomatic scene is not only in the region, he added.

Marcos Jr, who took office on June 30 after a landslide election victory, cited the vital relationship between Manila and Washington, which are treaty allies, and US assistance to the Philippines over the years, adding without elaborating his hope that we will continue to

evolve that relationship in the face of all the changes we have been seeing .

Blinken reiterated to Marcos Jr Washington's commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines and to working with you on shared challenges .

Our relationship is quite extraordinary because it is really founded in friendship, it's forged as well in partnership and it's strengthened by the fact that it's an alliance."

Blinken arrived Friday night in Manila after attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meetings in Cambodia, where he was joined by his Chinese and Russian counterparts. During the meeting, ASEAN foreign ministers called for maximum restraint as China mounted war drills around Taiwan and retaliatory moves against the US fearing the situation could destabilise the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.

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