U.S. Vice President Harris, Philippines’ Marcos to discuss Taiwan -envoy

MANILA, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Tensions over Taiwan are expected to be on the agenda when US Vice President Kamala Harris meets Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr next week, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said on Thursday.

“I’m sure they will address the situation in Taiwan,” Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told Reuters by phone, adding that the Philippines wants to play a role in peaceful coexistence between the US and China.

Harris is likely to give Marcos a “pretty good briefing” on the three-hour meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia this week, Romualdez said.

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Beijing has long said it will take control of the autonomous island of Taiwan, which it views as an integral part of China, and has not ruled out using force to do so. In recent years, it has often accused the United States of encouraging Taiwan independence.

“What happens in Taiwan will affect the entire ASEAN region. If there is a conflict in Taiwan, no one will be spared,” Romualdez said. “The Philippines is part of this whole equation.”

Harris’ trip is his second to Asia in three months and his first to the Philippines.

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It will include a stop in the Palawan Islands on the edge of the disputed South China Sea, a move Beijing could interpret as a rebuke.

Beijing claims some territory in Palawan waters and much of the South China Sea, citing its own historical maps. A 2016 international arbitration ruling, however, said the Chinese claims had no legal basis, a victory for Manila that has yet to be fulfilled.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Southeast Asian country since it elected Marcos, the late strongman’s son, whom Washington helped flee in exile to Hawaii during a 1986 “people power” uprising.

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In August, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Marcos to reaffirm the US commitment to the defense of the Philippines, its longtime treaty ally.

“All these visits clearly show how seriously they take our relationship with the United States to be more important than ever because of what’s happening on this side of the world,” Romualdez said.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Gerry Doyle

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