In his first-ever trilateral summit with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines, U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday reiterated Washington’s commitment to defending the Philippines from any armed attack in the South China Sea, in what was seen as a warning to Beijing and an effort to reassure allies worried about Chinese activities in disputed waters.

“The United States’ defense commitments to Japan and to the Philippines are ironclad,” Biden said as he began three-way talks at the White House with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The three agreed on a flurry of defense, security and economic initiatives, including joint naval patrols, increased coast guard cooperation and large infrastructure projects.

“Any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels or armed forces in the South China Sea would invoke our mutual defense treaty,” Biden said amid concerns about the numerous incidents between Chinese and Philippine vessels in recent months, particularly around Second Thomas, a submerged reef also claimed by Beijing that is home to a Philippine garrison sitting atop a grounded warship.