Biden Aims to Project United Front Against China at White House Summit

President Biden intends to use a first-ever joint meeting with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines on Thursday to send a blunt diplomatic message to an increasingly aggressive China: Beijing’s harassment of Philippine ships in the South China Sea is a violation of international law and must stop.

In recent months, Chinese coast guard ships have been ramming Philippine vessels, blasting them with water cannons and aiming lasers at their crews in what the United States condemns as “coercive and unlawful tactics” in one of the most crucial waterways in the world.

So far, the Chinese provocations, asserting disputed claims to the international waters, have fallen short of the kinds of attacks that would trigger the military defense pact that the United States and the Philippines signed in 1951. But Biden administration officials said the meeting of the three leaders on Thursday is intended to demonstrate to China even stronger military and diplomatic unity among the leaders of the three allies.

One U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting in advance, called the issue of security in the South China Sea a “pillar” of the discussions between Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines.

“The U.S., Japan, and the Philippines are three closely aligned maritime democracies with increasingly convergent strategic objectives and interests,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said on Tuesday. “Just this past week, our three countries and Australia held joint naval drills in the South China Sea.”

Officials said there would be similar drills in the months ahead as the nations continue to assert the freedom of travel through international waters that China claims as its own. They called Thursday’s meeting at the White House a demonstration of support from Mr. Biden and Mr. Kishida for the Philippines in its clashes with China.

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