Editorial: US support

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

US President Barack Obama was, as should have been expected, evasive about whether the US would come to the defense of the Philippines in case the latter’s territorial dispute with China sparks an armed conflict. His answer:

“So our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China but to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.”

Critics immediately used this Obama answer to bolster their argument that, in a shooting war between the Philippines and China on the Spratlys, the United States wouldn’t commit its military might in the country’s defense.


That interpretation, though, doesn’t consider diplomatese, which had to be used considering the complex relation between the US and China. Obama had to appease China, which was suspicious of the purpose of his recent trip to Asia.

For now, it’s not what Obama said but what he did. That he included the Philippines in his trip means that US interest in Asia includes keeping the Philippines in its fold.

While Obama said that US goal is not to contain China, his visit to countries with territorial disputes with China contradicts it. The truth is, its “pivot” to Asia is meant to counter China’s growing influence, both economically and militarily, in the Pacific.

This may not sound pleasant, but if we are to be frank about it, the US wants to use the Philippines as a hedge or instrument against China in our part of the Pacific. And because of our territorial dispute with China, we are allowing ourselves to be used.

In a way, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US that was signed a few hours before Obama’s arrival in the country last Monday is a reflection of this intersecting interest. The Aquino administration agreed to it because it is wary of China’s designs.

There is no need, therefore, to seek a definite commitment from the US that it would come to the defense of the Philippines in case China uses its military might to settle the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. US interest will dictate that country to intervene—militarily or otherwise--as it has “intervened” now.

But whether our seeking the US embrace is the best move to take or not is another interesting topic of discussion.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 01, 2014.


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