As Marcos downplays Xi orders for China to prepare troops

BERLIN—President Marcos said he will meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Manila on Tuesday (March 19) as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation amid the ongoing incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

“The first item I will be seeing [is a] meeting with Secretary Anthony Blinken on Tuesday,” Mr. Marcos told reporters in an interview before leaving for Prague Wednesday evening.

Mr. Marcos arrived at the capital of the Czech Republic, the second leg of his Central Europe tour, at 6:25 p.m. Prague time (1:25 a.m. in Manila).

The President also shrugged off Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent order to his troops to prepare for conflicts in the East and South China Seas, saying Beijing is already doing this.

“Well, frankly I don’t think there is anything new there. That’s whatthey’ve been doing already. They have defined the ten-dash line and they continue – they’re there to defend it, and on our part wecontinue to defend what we, and the international community, has recognized —our maritime territory,” he said.

“That really has been the policy since, I think, years already, for the last two, three years,” the President added.

Mr. Marcos said he is looking forward to trilateral discussions withthe US and Japan next week, as Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa is also expected to arrive in Manila.

“Well, of course we’ll hope the intention is to continue the plan to strengthen the cooperation between the three countries—the United States, Japan, and the Philippines,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Blinken is set to arrive in Manila on the eve of March 18 before paying a courtesy call on Mr. Marcos on Tuesday.

Manalo said his Japanese counterpart has yet to confirm his arrival.

Sources earlier said President Marcos will visit the United States from April 11 to 13, when he will have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House before a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Mr. Marcos will also meet top US security officials during his visit as well as attend a business forum organized by the US-ASEAN Business Council.

The United States and Japan are both critical of the ongoing tensions in the West Philippine Sea and have expressed their support to the Philippines amid China’s recent provocations.

The Philippines and the US have a Mutual Defense Treaty that commitsthe two allies to come to each other’s aid if one becomes the subject of an armed attack in the region.

Manila also has ongoing negotiations with Tokyo for a Reciprocal Access Agreement that will allow larger numbers of Japanese Self Defense forces to enter the Philippines for joint military training.

China has repeatedly denounced joint military exercises and patrols in the South China Sea, saying the US was militarizing the contested region and threatening regional stability.

China claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea as its own,ignoring legal precedents and competing claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijingis hoping the possible expansion of a military agreement between thePhilippines and Germany would contribute to peace in the region.

“We hope that cooperation between relevant countries is conducive topeace, stability and development of the region,” Wang said.Germany has been providing training for the Armed Forces of thePhilippines since 1974, making it the Philippines’ second oldest formal defense partner. With Rey Requejo