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Philippines' Marcos to meet Blinken next week as South China Sea tensions rise

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken visits Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) -Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 19 to tackle cooperation and security matters, the office of the Manila leader said in a statement late on Wednesday night.

Their meeting comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the Philippines and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Marcos also vowed to defend the Philippines' maritime claims after Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the armed forces to coordinate preparations for military conflicts at sea.

"So, I’m not surprised, but we will have to continue to do what we can to defend our maritime territory in the face of perhaps a more active attempt by the Chinese to annex some of our territory,” Marcos told a news conference during a working visit to Berlin this week.

Japanese newspaper Asahi has also reported leaders from Japan, the United States and the Philippines are in the final stages of planning a summit meeting in Washington, D.C. next month.

A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague found that China's sweeping claims had no legal basis, but Beijing has rejected the ruling, claiming "indisputable sovereignty" over most of the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Chris Reese and Nia Williams)