Biden holds his first meeting with Philippine President

US President Joe Biden met with his Filipino counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday, the first one-on-one meeting with a prominent Pacific leader who came to power earlier this year.

The two leaders discussed tensions in the South China Sea, bilateral security cooperation, the state of the world economy and other issues on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Biden noted that the Philippines was one of the US allies that was quick to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “This is an important, important relationship,” Biden insisted to Marcos at the start of the meeting. “I hope you feel the same way.”

The talks came amid heightened tensions between the US and China over US policy towards Taiwan. The US “One China” policy recognizes Beijing as the government of China, but allows for informal relations and defense ties with leaders in Taipei. China claims this autonomous island as its own.

Marcos, the son and name of a former Philippine dictator, took office in June. He has said he wants to build closer ties with China, which has also tried to bring him to court.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Biden has prioritized improving relations with Pacific nations, as he sees a rising China as the most dangerous national security and economic adversary to the United States.

For his part, Marcos emphasized Biden that he “has his comrades in the Philippines. We are your allies, we are your friends.” He also thanked the United States for its “massive” help during the pandemic by sharing COVID-19 vaccines and for its role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

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