Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines and met with President Marcos amid tensions with China

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The island nation's navy accused Xi Jinping's regime's coast guards of “forcibly” seizing a floating object that its troops had just recovered in disputed waters

Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines and met with President Marcos amid tensions with China

Kamala Harris meets with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in Manila (Reuters)

US Vice President Kamala Harris met with Philippine President on MondayFerdinand Marcos during a visit to the archipelago to strengthen ties and counter China's growing influence in the region.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit Manila since the Marcos' June inauguration and trip signals increased interaction between two longtime allies whose relations have cooled with former President Rodrigo Duterte, who is close to Beijing.

The US vice president also met with her Philippine counterpart Sara Duterte, daughter of the former leader whose deadly war on drugs is the subject of an international investigation.

Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines and met with President Marcos amid tensions with China

(Reuters)

Episode of tension at sea

The Philippine Armed Forces on Monday denounced an incident between Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels near a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, one day away of Kamala Harris's visit to the Philippine island of Palawan, the closest coastline to the disputed waters.

The incident occurred when A Philippine coast guard vessel attempted to pick up an unidentified object drifting near Pag-asa Island, a Philippine-occupied islet located some 290 nautical miles off the western coast of Palawan and close to a Chinese-appropriated island in the disputed Spratly archipelago.

As the Filipino crewmen had already begun to collect the object, an inflatable boat deployed by a Chinese coast guard vessel appeared hastily and appropriated it, according to the statement sent to EFE by Philippine Armed Forces in the South China Sea (WESTCOM) spokesman, Maj. Cherryl Tindog. The Chinese crew members “cut the rope connecting the boat to the drifting debris” and brought it towards the Chinese vessel, Tindog explained.

Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines and met with President Marcos amid tensions with China

Remains of a Chinese rocket, found at sea (Coast Guard/AP)/file)

Hours after the clash between the two patrol boats, “explosions or artillery fire” was heard, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper, which was able to speak with several residents of Pag-asa, the only island occupied by the Philippines that has civilian settlements and whose population is around 190 residents, including military and civilian personnel.

Washington approaches Manila

The United States has had a long and complex relationship with the Philippines and the Marcos family.

The patriarch and father of the current president led this former US colony for two decades in a dictatorial manner and with the backing of Washington, which saw him as an ally in the Cold War.

Now, The White House wants to reinvigorate its security alliance with Manila under his son's presidency, including a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 pact that allows the United States to store defense equipment and supplies at five Philippine bases.< /p>

This agreement, acronym EDCA, was paralyzed with Duterte but now both countries want to speed up its implementation in the face of China's increasingly assertive foreign policy in the region.

On Tuesday, Harris will visit the Philippine island of Palawan, which lies just below disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims sovereignty over most of this sea, in conflict with Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines and met with President Marcos amid tensions with China

Thitu Island in the South Sea South China (AP/File)

A 2016 international ruling ruled that China's claims were baseless, but the Asian giant has ignored it.

Harris will “reaffirm the strength of the alliance and our commitment to uphold the international legal order in the South China Sea” and in the Asia-Pacific region, a US official said.

The trip to the Philippines is part of Washington's efforts to underscore its commitment to the region in the face of China's growing influence.

The thorny relations between the two Powers seemed to get back on track with meetings last week between US President Joe Biden and Harris with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

(With information from AFP and EFE)

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