Kamala Harris is set to visit the Philippine island of Palawan in the South China Sea on Tuesday. It is part of a three day trip to a staunch American ally that is vital in Washington’s efforts to counter China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region.
Billions of dollars of trade pass through the South China Sea every year while it is believed it also contains very significant oil and gas deposits.
On Monday, the Vice President vowed that Washington would defend the Philippines if it was attacked.
This was seen as the United States’s “unwavering” commitment to its former colony.
“We stand with you in defence of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea,” Ms Harris.
Her comments followed a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who welcomed the Vice President inside the Philippine presidential palace for the first time.
Mr Marcos said that the two countries had become even more important due to “upheavals” in the region.
Ms Harris’ visit is the highest level trip to the Philippines by a Biden administration official.
It is seen as an attempt by Washington to revive its relationship with Manila after the Philippines moved closer to Beijing under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
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Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the region.
Ms Harris is set to visit a fishing village and a Philippine coast guard vessel during the visit, a US official told Reuters.
The visit comes as the relationship between Beijing and Washington has become increasingly strained in recent months, particularly in relation to Taiwan.
However, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Beijing was not opposed to the Vice President’s visit.
She said: “We are not against the US’s interaction with regional countries.
“But it should be good for regional peace and stability and not damaging to other countries’ interests.”