Harris visits the Philippine island of Palawan off the South China Sea: NPR

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Harris visits the Philippine island of Palawan off the South China Sea: NPR
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Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, presents a cha-lom basket to Vice President Harris. Next year, APEC will be in San Francisco.

Haiyun Jiang/POOL/AFP via Getty Images


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Haiyun Jiang/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Harris Visits The Philippine Island Of Palawan Off The South China Sea: Npr

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, presents a cha-lom basket to Vice President Harris. Next year, APEC will be in San Francisco.

Haiyun Jiang/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Harris makes an unusual stopover on her final trip to Asia. On Monday evening, she is expected to become the highest-ranking US official to travel to Palawan, an island in the Philippines bordering the South China Sea.

It is a neighboring island to the Spratly Islands, territory at the center of a protracted dispute between China and neighboring countries, including the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia.

China has clustered man-made islands in the South China Sea, adding airstrips and military installations to the Spratleys. Its maritime claims to the South China Sea have been dismissed by an international tribunal. The United States considers the Chinese claims illegitimate and last year conducted naval exercises in the waters.

Territorial claims in the South China Sea are complex and overlapping. Beijing’s claim, represented here by a thick red dotted line, is often represented on Chinese maps by nine long dashes – hence the term “nine-dash line”.

Map Of The South China Sea Showing Various Territorial Claims

Remarks

These are the rough claims of China and other countries. In many cases, countries are intentionally vague about the scope of their claims. Palawan — the island in the Philippines where Vice President Harris is visiting — is the long, thin island to the right of the nine-dash line in this infographic.

Harris’ visit to Palawan is intended to show U.S. solidarity with the Philippines, a senior administration official told reporters, noting that the United States “will stand with our Philippine ally in upholding the ‘rules-based international maritime order in the South China Sea, supporting maritime transport’. livelihoods and the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing”.

The stoppage comes after Harris met with leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok over the weekend – including a brief chat with Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Biden met Xi in Bali on the sidelines of the G-20 summit a week ago.

Harris also meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila. His visit to the country is important for strengthening bilateral relations as China has become more aggressive in the region, said Joshua Kurlantzick, senior Southeast Asia researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The main point is to focus on consolidating US strategic ties with the Philippines, which is a critical country in case there is…a really dangerous situation between the US and China in the region,” he said. Kurlantzick to NPR.

Kurlantzick said the Philippines remains a key U.S. ally in any potential conflict between China and Taiwan.

“Southeast Asian countries are increasingly concerned about China’s much more assertive regional diplomacy,” including Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, Kurlantzick said.

During her visit, Harris will also discuss the impacts of climate change on the region and the impact of illegal and unregulated fishing in the region on the local economy in Palawan.

NPR News

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