Back in 1999, the Philippines grounded a warship near Ren’ai Jiao in the South China Sea. It repeatedly promised to remove it, but nothing happened. On August 5, two Philippine vessels sailed into the area not to remove, but to deliver construction materials for overhauling and reinforcing that ship. China had repeatedly warned against that action, but eventually the China Coast Guard (CCG) had to step in to stop them.
It’s not the first incident this year. In April, the CCG had to stop two Philippine vessels from barging into these waters. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the vessels carried journalists on board aimed at deliberately showing faults with China and to hype a potential incident.
We can see that Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration hardened its position against China. He was very clear that he would use the so-called 2016 South China Sea arbitration to “continue to assert our (Philippine) territorial rights.” He said he would talk to China “consistently with a firm voice” but going to war with China is not an option.
Zha Wen, Associate Professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, said in interview that “President Marcos is indeed facing pressure as the South China Sea issue remains the biggest challenge in the two countries’ relationship. Nationalism has been running high in the Philippines in recent years, which is not conducive to cooperation. People might perceive any move to cooperate as a betrayal of sovereignty. On the other hand, the Philippines’ military ties with the U.S. remains strong.”
That’s the problem. Since Marcos Jr. shifted the tone, the United States has been eagerly, if not aggressively, trying to consolidate and expand its military ties with the Philippines. Last November, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris became the highest ranking American official to visit Puerto Princesa in the Philippines’ Palawan Province. It was described as the “frontline of the Philippines’ territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited the country in early February this year. Before his visit, the U.S. military had already had access to five bases in the country. Since then, it has access to four more, now nine. In April, the U.S. and the Philippines held their largest-ever joint military drill. Some 17,000 troops participated in it. About 12,000 were Americans.
When Marcos Jr. visited America in May, U.S. President Joe Biden claimed the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of the Philippines is “ironclad.” Even AP described it as the president going out of his way to note the progress in the bilateral relationship. And as the U.S. got word of the August 5 incident, it made its threat: The United States reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces – including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea – would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
President of the Asian Vision Institute Chheang Vannarith said that “So, the U.S.’s grand strategy, is to maintain the U.S.’s supremacy by shoring up this, what we call in the 1950s, the first island chain strategy to contain the Soviet Union and China at the time. But, the Taiwan(region) and the Philippines are two core strategic locations in this first island chain. So, it’s kind of reviving that first island chain strategy to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region.”
We’ve all become familiar with the “economy with China, security with the U.S.” strategy. The Philippines is trying its own version of it.
It’s a bad idea. Just look at Europe. It’s been forced to do many things against its own interest just to appease the United States. And it’s trapped in a prolonged conflict as a proxy. That’s what will eventually become of the Philippines should it insist on walking down this path. The U.S. may make it feel safe now. But it won’t be so happy in the future.
Source : CGTN