Stopping China by engagement

Admiral Locklear being received by President Aquino.

Admiral Locklear being received by President Aquino.

In Bangkok last week, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said the usual line that their Asian allies expect from visiting American officials: we will oppose China’s expansionism.

“We will oppose the change of status quo by force of anyone,” Locklear said referring to the situation in South China Sea where China is reported to be positioning in Ayungin Reef, just 25 miles away from Mischief Reef, 130 miles away from Palawan, that China occupied in 1994.

But just like other American officials, Locklear did not commit that the US will fight China if the latter gets embroiled in violent confrontation with any of the countries in this part of the world. That’s because, in truth, the US will not because it values relations with China.

Although the US would like to contain China’s power, it would not want make an enemy of the Asian behemoth.The cordial meeting between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House this week where maritime issues were not raised affirmed that pragmatic strategy.That’s being wise. It goes without saying that it would also not want to be embroiled in a war between the Philippines and China.

Last year, a month after the standoff with China in Bajo de Masinloc (also known as Scarborough or Panatag Shoal) was broken, the cabinet agreed to send back the Bureau of Fisheries and Acquatic Resources ship because three Chinese ships remained in the area.

When the US Defense officials learned of the cabinet decision, they advised Philippines officials against it. They knew the danger of having ships of both countries in the disputed area. What happened in Balintang Channel last month where Philippine Coast Guards shot and killed a Taiwanese fisherman demonstrates the risks.

China policy is “We will not attack unless we are attacked; but we will surely counterattack if attacked.” We would not dare imagine the scenario if Chinese ships were involved.

Locklear, the wire reports said, advised compromise in the South China Sea conflict. He said the US would not take sides and stressed the importance of a code of conduct that would govern activities in the South China Sea.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has approved the elements to be included in the COC. What is needed is for China to agree to sit down and begin the talks on the COC.

The Philippines has brought the issue China’s expansionism to the United Nations where it asked the Arbitral Court to declare as illegal China’s nine-dash-line map. The decision is expected in three to four years time.

Meanwhile, what can the Philippines do to stop China from moving into disputed islets in West Philippine Sea?

Given that the we cannot match China might, retired Ambassador Lauro Baja, Jr., who was the Philippines’ permanent representative to the UN, advised that the Philippine should not exclude the option of engaging China.

He said: “We must re-examine our position against bilateral approach to dialogue on West Philippine Sea issues, especially those are really bilateral in context and where other countries have no dog in the dogfight.

Baja said the Bajo the Masinloc is a classic bilateral case. Only the Philippines and China are involved unlike other islets in the Spratlys that are claimed also by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

We have seen it that lip service is the only support other countries would give the Philippines in a direct conflict with China. The Philippines should wise up and learn more mature ways in dealing with China.

June 10, 2013 1:37 am  Tags: ,   Posted in: Foreign Affairs

407 Responses

  1. MPRivera - June 12, 2013 6:24 pm

    An excerpt from former Sen. Rene Espina’s article, “Cabbage Strategy”:

    “…………Sure our Philippine action in bringing the matter to the UN Arbitration Tribunal for compulsory arbitration is substantially advantageous. But we should not allow the bullying actions of the People’s Republic of China in the West Philippine Sea to continue without a proper response. First before we can even determine what the Philippine reaction would be, let’s all agree that our attitude as a nation would be like that of the “red ants.” When an animal tramples on a red ant hill, their “warrior ants” come out to fight; not even a panda would escape their wrath.

    Let those who think they can scare us realize that we are like red ants. We will defend our territory with whatever resources we have. By all means let us acquire the necessary armaments that will produce the most effective defensive and offensive capability with the least cost and, at the same time, with the least vulnerability.

    As I have written before, I believe we should stop buying second-hand armaments like the refurbished US Coast Guard Ships. They could become sitting ducks against the PLA Navy which has missiles. Ships and airplanes are just platforms for weapons, so that they can be carried and brought for action in the theater of operations. We are facing a PLA that has numerous ships, airplanes, and helicopters. So, two US Coast Guard Ships which the Philippine Navy has just acquired are nothing compared to the strength of the PLA Navy. Instead why don’t we acquire state-of-the-art missiles that will provide defensive and offensive capabilities that will at least cover our territorial waters as well as the exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. Let’s use the “BRP Palawan,” “Mindoro” and “Zambales” – “our unsinkable aircraft carriers.”

    Yes, these provinces can be armed with missiles that cover the Spratlys as well as Scarborough. Perhaps with the existence of such “unsinkable warships,” our diplomatic initiative to settle peacefully our dispute will be addressed by the opposing party with serious consideration.

    In realpolitik, foreign relations can be conducted with better chances of success when that country has the means to credibly defend its territory.”

    rene.g.espina@gmail.com

  2. MPRivera - June 12, 2013 6:34 pm

    but with what our “brave president” always says that he is willing to defend our souvereignty and territory at all cost, do we need to worry about china’s actions?

    but wait! who does he saysshall and can defend our shores? our soldiers whose capabilities do not match even an inch of mighty chinese forces?

    can an emerging powerful armed forces be defeated with just blah blah blah blah and uhu uhu uhu, ubo ubo ubo?

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