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First Trilateral Summit Meeting of US, Japan, and Philippines

American President Joe Biden hosted the inaugural trilateral summit among the United States, Japan, and the Philippines on April 11, 2024, at the White House in Washington D.C. The meeting underscored the commitment of the United States to support its allies, Japan and the Philippines, amid escalating territorial disputes with China.

Maritime Cooperation and Tensions

  • Joint Maritime Exercise: Prior to the summit, the maritime forces of the Philippines, Japan, the United States, and Australia conducted a joint maritime exercise named Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone on April 7, 2024, in response to Chinese harassment allegations by the Philippines.

Dispute with China

  • Philippines’ Dispute: Tensions between China and the Philippines focus on the Second Thomas Shoal, situated about 200 kilometers from Palawan. The Philippines grounded a ship, BRP Sierra Madre, in 1999 to strengthen its claim on the shoal, leading to ongoing clashes with Chinese vessels attempting to block or harass Philippine resupply missions.
  • Japan’s Dispute: The Senkaku Islands dispute between China and Japan involves incursions by Chinese ships into Japanese territorial waters since 2008. The United States affirms its defense treaty with Japan, asserting that Senkaku Island falls under its protection.

South China Sea Dynamics

  • Strategic Importance: Both the Senkaku Islands and the Second Thomas Shoal lie within the South China Sea, a region vital for trade and potentially rich in oil and gas reserves. China’s expansive claims in the area have sparked conflicts with multiple neighboring countries.

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