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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr stated that the cooperation agreement between the Philippines, the United States, and Japan will have a significant impact on the South China Sea and the region as a whole. He emphasized that the trilateral agreement was not aimed at any specific country, including China. The three leaders expressed concerns about China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, which is a major shipping route. The goal of the agreement is to strengthen economic and security relations among Manila, Washington, and Tokyo.

Despite a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that found China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea to be baseless, tensions between China and other countries in the region have escalated. The Philippines and China have had recent confrontations at sea, leading to diplomatic tensions between the two countries. China has expressed displeasure with what it views as negative comments from the Philippines and Japan. The United States has increased its security engagements with the Philippines under Marcos, including granting expanded access to Philippine bases.

Philippine President Marcos Jr. is optimistic about the potential investment deals that could materialize from the trilateral summit, estimating around US$100 billion over the next five to ten years. Additionally, President Biden has requested additional funding from Congress for infrastructure projects at Philippine bases. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reaffirmed U.S. support for the Philippines, emphasizing the importance of regional cooperation for security and prosperity. There are also plans for Japan to sign a reciprocal troop pact with the Philippines, further enhancing security cooperation among the three countries.

The trilateral agreement is seen as a critical step in changing the dynamic in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the context of the South China Sea disputes. The summit underscored the growing concerns over China’s behavior in the region, with all three countries calling for a more unified approach to address the challenges posed by China’s actions. While the agreement is not explicitly directed against China, it is aimed at strengthening the strategic partnerships among the Philippines, the United States, and Japan in the face of growing security threats and economic opportunities in the region.

The deepening relationship between the Philippines, the United States, and Japan reflects a broader trend of strategic alignments in the Asia-Pacific region amid shifting geopolitical dynamics. The three countries are working together to enhance their cooperation on various fronts, including security, economic, and diplomatic initiatives. This trilateral partnership is expected to have a significant impact on regional stability and prosperity, as well as in addressing shared security challenges. By deepening their engagement and collaboration, the Philippines, the United States, and Japan are seeking to uphold a rules-based order and ensure a peaceful and secure environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

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