U.S., Philippines Eye 2+2 Meeting in July; Move Aimed at Countering China’s Dangerous Actions in South China Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP, File
In this handout photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard hold knives and machetes as they approach Philippine troops on a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoal at the disputed South China Sea on June 17, 2024.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Philippine governments have entered into negotiations to hold a two-plus-two foreign and defense ministerial meeting in Manila in late July, it has been learned.

The two countries plan to conclude the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in order to exchange highly confidential information, according to sources close to the matter.

The move is aimed at countering China, which has been taking dangerous actions against the Philippines in the South China Sea, by strengthening security cooperation between the two countries.

In the area around the Second Thomas Shoal, which is effectively controlled by the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ships have repeatedly fired water cannons and collided with Philippine vessels, escalating confrontations.

On June 17, a CCG ship collided with a Philippine Naval vessel, seriously injuring a member of the navy.

As an ally of the Philippines, the United States is obliged to help defend the country and is wary that China’s actions might lead to a conflict between the countries’ militaries. The United States aims to put China in check by becoming more involved in the Philippines, the sources said.

The planned two-plus-two meeting will be attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from the United States, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro from the Philippines. The two countries are considering issuing a joint statement, according to the sources.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also hopes to solidify his country’s relationship with Washington, the sources said.