Biden says security for the Philippines is 'ironclad'

STORY: The U.S. recommitted to a security pact with the Philippines on Monday as concerns grow about China’s influence in the Pacific.

Both President Joe Biden and leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr alluded to pressure from Beijing in a White House visit.

The trip marks a sharp turnaround after a decade of icier relations with Manila.

"The United States also remains ironclad, remains ironclad in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including the South China Sea. And we are going to continue to support the Philippines' military modernization goals."

A joint statement said new guidelines for stronger military ties meant any attack on Philippines armed forces or public vessels would trigger American defense commitments under a 1951 treaty.

"It is only natural that the Philippines look to its sole treaty partner in the world to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have.”

Since taking office last year, Marcos has warmed up to Washington, in contrast to his Beijing-friendly predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

Public opinion in the Philippines has turned against China, too, over the harassing of Philippine ships and fishermen in parts of the South China Sea both countries claim.

U.S. officials say on top of the new guidelines, Washington will also send over three military transport planes and, possibly more patrol ships.

The U.S. sees the Philippines as key to any effort to counter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

If the People’s Liberation Army does launch an amphibious assault on Taiwan, experts say the Philippines would be a potential location for the U.S. to base rockets, missiles, and artillery systems that would repel the Chinese invasion force.

Earlier this month, the U.S. gained military access to four new sites on the Philippines, three of them that face north towards Taiwan.

While the exact shape of a U.S.-Philippine alliance in a wartime scenario remain unclear, Marcos has told reporters before he does not want the Philippines to become a “staging post” for military action.

Separately, President Biden also announced he would bolster economic ties, sending a mission to Manila to advance trade and investment in clean energy, critical minerals and food security.