MANILA— Tensions over Taiwan are expected to be on the agenda when U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr next week, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said on Thursday.
“I’m sure they will touch on the Taiwan situation,” Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told Reuters by telephone, adding that the Philippines wants to play a role in peaceful co-existence between the United States and China.
Harris is likely to give Marcos a “fairly good briefing” on the three-hour meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of this week’s summit of the G20 group of countries in Indonesia, Romualdez said.
Beijing has long said it would bring the self-governed island of Taiwan, which it views as an inalienable part of China, under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so. It has frequently accused the United States in recent years of encouraging Taiwan independence.
“What happens in Taiwan, it will affect the entire ASEAN region. If there is a conflict that happens in Taiwan, nobody is going to be spared,” Romualdez said. “The Philippines is part of this whole equation.”
Harris’ trip marks her second to Asia in three months and the first to the Philippines.
It will include a stop on the islands of Palawan on the edge of the disputed South China Sea, in a move that may be interpreted by Beijing as a rebuke.
Beijing claims some territories in the waters off Palawan and much of the South China Sea, citing their own historical maps. A 2016 international arbitration ruling, however, said the Chinese claims had no legal basis, in a victory for Manila that has yet to be enforced.
Harris is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Southeast Asian nation since it elected Marcos, the son of the late strongman who Washington helped to flee into exile in Hawaii during a 1986 “people power” uprising.
In August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Marcos to affirm U.S. commitment to the defense of the Philippines, its long-time treaty ally.
“All of these visits are clearly an indication of how serious they see our relationship with the United States as more important than ever because of what’s happening in this side of the world,” Romualdez said.
—Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Gerry Doyle