Biden vows 'ironclad' defense of Philippines, Japan as China tensions mount

U.S. President Joe Biden made "ironclad" defense pledges to Japan and the Philippines on Thursday as he hosted his counterparts amid growing tensions with Beijing, whose actions the three leaders described as "dangerous and aggressive."

Biden cemented the United States' security commitments in the South China Sea, as repeated confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels have stoked fears of wider conflict.

"Any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels or armed forces in the South China Sea would invoke our mutual defense treaty," Biden said as he met Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.

An increasingly assertive China claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines.

The tensions, combined with saber rattling over China's claims to the self-governing island of Taiwan, have prompted Biden to boost alliances in the region.

 'Dangerous and aggressive' 

As they met around a horseshoe-shaped wooden table in the grand East Room of the U.S. presidential residence, the U.S., Japanese and Philippine leaders hailed the meeting as "historic."

Without mentioning China by name, they painted their alliance as a bedrock of peace and democracy in the Asia-Pacific region in contrast to authoritarian Beijing.

Marcos, seen as closer to Washington than his more China-leaning predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, said they shared an "unwavering commitment to the rules-based international order."

Kishida said that "multi-layered cooperation is essential" and that "today's meeting will make history."

After their meeting, the three leaders...

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