Blinken: China should not hold global concerns ‘hostage’

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that China should not hold talks hostage on major global issues such as the climate crisis, after Beijing cut ties with Washington retaliates for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. earlier this week.

Blinken spoke in an online press conference with his Philippine counterpart in Manila after meeting with newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other senior officials, while relations between Washington and Beijing fell to their worst level in recent years.

Pelosi’s trip to the self-ruled island angered China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force 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 issues and crucial climate cooperation, as punishments against Pelosi’s visit.

“We must not hold cooperation hostage on matters of global concern because of the differences between our two countries,” Blinken said. “Others rightly expect us to continue working on issues that matter to their people’s lives and livelihoods as well as ours.”

He cited cooperation on climate change as a key area where China closed contact that “does not punish the United States, it punishes the world.”

“The world’s largest carbon emitter is now refusing to fight the climate crisis,” Blinken said, adding that China’s launch of ballistic missiles that landed in the waters surrounding Taiwan was a dangerous action and destabilizing

“What happens to the Taiwan Strait affects the whole 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 nearly 90% of the world’s largest ships transited the waterway this year. .

China closed “military-to-military channels, which are vital to prevent miscommunication and crisis prevention, but also cooperation on transnational crime and counter-narcotics, which help keep the people of the United States, China and beyond safe “, he said.

Despite China’s actions, Blinken said he told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Friday in Cambodia, where they attended an annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that the US did not want to escalate the situation .

“We seek to de-escalate these tensions and we believe that dialogues are a very important element of that,” he said, adding that the US would “keep our channels of communication open with China with the intention of preventing the escalation of misunderstanding or miscommunication”.

Blinken is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines since Marcos Jr. took office on June 30 after an election victory. In his brief meeting with Blinken, Marcos Jr. mentioned that he was surprised by the turn of events surrounding Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week.

“It just showed, how intense this conflict has been,” Marcos Jr. said. based on a transcript released by the presidential palace.

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

Marcos Jr. he praised the vital relationship between Manila and Washington, which are treaty allies, and the United States’ 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. on strengthening democracy and the US commitment to work with the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, protect human rights, freedom of expression and safeguard civil society groups, “which are central to the our alliance.”

Describing the Philippines as “an irreplaceable friend,” he said he reiterated to the president that an armed attack against Philippine forces, government ships or aircraft in the South China Sea “will invoke US mutual defense commitments.”

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 “the utmost restraint” as China mounted war drills around Taiwan and moved against the United States, fearing the situation “could destabilize the region and ultimately , could lead to miscalculations, serious confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences between the great powers.”

In Manila, Blinken visited a vaccination clinic, met with groups helping to fight the coronavirus outbreak and went to a clean energy fair. He also met with US Embassy staff before leaving on Saturday night.

Shortly before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, as there was speculation that her plane might make a brief stop at the former US Air Force base north of Manila to refuel, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian he said in a television interview that he hoped the “Philippine side will strictly adhere to the one-China principle and handle all Taiwan-related issues prudently to ensure the solid and steady development of China-Philippines relations.”

Huang’s remarks drew sharp rebuke from opposition senator Risa Hontiveros, who said “the ambassador should not be pontificating about these policies, especially given that his country stubbornly and steadfastly refuses to recognize a decision issued by an international arbitral tribunal and ignores and disregards international law in the West Philippine Sea when it suits him.”

Hontiveros was referring to a 2016 arbitration award on a Philippine complaint that invalidated China’s vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. He used the Philippine name for the disputed waters.

China has dismissed the decision, which was welcomed by the US and Western allies, as a farce and continues to defy it.

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Associated Press reporters Andrew Harnik and Kiko Rosario in Manila, Philippines contributed to this report.

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