The Philippines and Australia boosted defense and diplomatic ties as both countries called for respect of international law in the South China Sea where Beijing has been asserting its claims.
(Bloomberg) — The Philippines and Australia boosted defense and diplomatic ties as both countries called for respect of international law in the South China Sea where Beijing has been asserting its claims.
In the first bilateral visit by an Australian leader to the Philippines in 20 years, Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signed an agreement with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to elevate both countries’ relationship to a strategic partnership.
“We see our future as very much lying here in our region and the prospect of increased trade and economic engagement is very important,” Albanese told Marcos during their bilateral meeting, days after unveiling a plan to bolster economic ties with Southeast Asia.
Marcos thanked the Australian leader for his “strong support” in the Philippines’ maritime claims. Manila has been ramping up its protests against China’s actions in the disputed sea, which Beijing has said was justified.
Albanese also said the Philippines’ 2016 victory in the arbitral tribunal that dashed China’s claims in the South China Sea must be upheld. Since the election of Albanese’s center-left Labor government in May 2022, Australia has worked to boost ties with Southeast Asia to diversify its diplomatic and economic partnerships in the face of increased strategic competition in the region.
During Albanese’s visit, Australia and the Philippines agreed to hold annual meetings of both countries’ defense ministers. Australia is the only other country besides the US with whom the Philippines has a Visiting Forces Agreement.
The two nations have been strengthening ties over the past months, recently holding military drills near the South China Sea. Australia has also pledged to provide drone equipment and training to the Philippine Coast Guard, which has actively been publicizing encounters with Chinese vessels in contested waters.
(Updates with comments after the meeting.)
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