Marcos Jr’s fourth US visit is different

By Alex P. Vidal

“Successful diplomacy is an alignment of objectives and means.”— Dennis Ross

SINCE becoming president of the Philippines in 2022, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has made a total of four visits in the United States.

And his US trips are making China restless and suspicious, according to some geopolitical observers privy to the diplomatic turmoil involving the Philippines and China.

These US visits by Mr. Marcos were: in September 2022 for the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City; a five-day official in May 2023; for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in California in November 2023; and now a bilateral meeting with US President Joseph “Joe” Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Mr. Marcos appeared to be one of the only few Southeast Asian leaders who regularly received invitations to the White House. The fourth meeting was different from the previous three meetings.

The Philippine president arrived in Washington April 10 at 7:53 p.m. (Eastern time) and was welcomed by several Filipino and American officials including his cousin, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, and US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson.

Mr. Marcos’ April 11 bilateral meeting with Mr. Biden was crucial for the Philippines which has been experiencing increasing harassment in the disputed South China Sea from China these past months.


Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela has reported that only last week, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) harassed Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, specifically, in the vicinity of Rozul Reef,

CCG fired water cannon at a Filipino-manned ship on March 23, which the PCG said sustained heavy damage while crew members suffered injuries. The Philippine vessel was en route to deliver supplies to military personnel stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Mr. Biden met Mr. Kishida April 10 and Mr. Marcos April 11. The three held trilateral summit that focused on countering Chinese pressure on the Philippines in the disputed sea.

“Close cooperation between Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines is crucial for a free and open order based on the rule of law and for economic prosperity in the region,” Kishida said.


U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said on Monday China was constantly using “coercion” and pressure on countries including Japan and the Philippines, and his counterpart, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., Shigeo Yamada, said the overall approach to Beijing would be among the issues discussed.

Yamada told the same think tank event Kishida would emphasize to the U.S. Congress that Japan is ready to work collaboratively on global issues. He said Japan would continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself and keep its economy going – another issue the leaders could discuss.

Biden and Kishida are also expected to announce steps to allow more joint development of military and defense equipment, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said last week.

Under Kishida, Japan has pledged to double defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, which could make it the world’s third-biggest military spender. Its plans include acquiring hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike targets 1,000 km (620 miles) away.

Japan has also become important to the U.S. as a potential production base for munitions, including Patriot PAC3 anti-missile systems that will be re-exported to Ukraine, and for its shipyards.

Reuters reported that the Biden-Kishida summit was expected to address Japan’s future involvement in the three-way AUKUS defense pact between Australia, Britain and the United States, but officials and experts say obstacles remain given a need for Japan to introduce better cyber defenses and stricter rules for guarding secrets.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)