OPINIONS Is Philippines becoming US's new hotspot for China containment operations?


Is Philippines becoming US's new hotspot for China containment operations?

By Makhdoom Babar | People's Daily app

17:20, March 22, 2023

With the US securing a new military deal with Manila to expand its military presence in the region last week, amidst tension with China over the issues pertaining to Taiwan and South China Sea, Philippines has emerged as a new hotspot for provoking China or China containment operations for Washington, reveal the findings of The Daily Mail's Investigations Cell.

This bird eye view shows the scenery of China's Xisha Islands, South China Sea, June 1, 2011. (Photo: Xinhua)

Despite the meeting between the US President Joe Biden and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, last year on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, the Biden administration appears to be withdrawing from the commitments made by the US President to his Chinese counterpart. During said meeting, Chinese president was once again reassured by his US counterpart of the non-interference into China’s internal affairs by the US and that the US would continue to stand by its five NOs pledge that it made with Beijing and that both side would respect each other’s trade and diplomatic policies to ensure a steady global peace and development.

Back in 1979, United States made a clear commitment in the China-US Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. The Joint Communiqué stated that “the United States of America recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.”

Apart from this document, US signed a total of three historic documents with China that are regarded as the fundamental political documents which have ensured stability and progress in bilateral ties over five decades. Washington, in all the three documents has very clearly acknowledged that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China, the “Five NOs” pledges which the US made state that: the US won’t seek a “new Cold War”; It won’t seek to change China’s system; the revitalization of its alliances is not against China; not support “Taiwan independence” and Washington won’t look for conflict with China. However, overtime, US started moving away from its commitments and eventually completely withdrew from these pledges that it made with China.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that a tester that the US used to gauge the regional and global response to its meddling in China’s internal affairs and to breach the one-China principle was by sending US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on an official visit to Taiwan last year, which didn’t work well for Washington. The global response to this misdeed pushed White House to back foot. After Nancy Pelosi’s visit debacle, Washington decided to sandwich China over Taiwan via Philippines.

Less than a month after Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made his first visit to China, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the Philippines. After the meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, Austin announced the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries. He also added that a great decision had been made by the Philippine government to allow for another four military bases for the United States. Under the EDCA, the US military will not only be able to rotate in the Philippines but also access Philippine bases and facilities.

From former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s suspension of the termination of the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in June 2020 to its restoration in July 2021, and then the resumption of the US-Philippines “Balikatan” military exercise in April 2022 and finally the latest development involving EDCA, everything regarding the US-Philippines ties and engagement is targeted by the US mainly for encircling China and threatening One-China Policy via Taiwan mischief.

In October, the US announces $100 million in foreign military financing to the Philippines, terming it as part of efforts to boost the Southeast Asian country’s defense capabilities and military modernization. In February, US Secretary of State canceled his visit to China, with the excuse that the US had detected a so called spying weather balloons of China and a number of weeks later, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits the Philippines to upgrade the bilateral military ties with the aim to make the Philippines an important part of US deterrence for China.

This all exposes actual US intentions towards peace, stability and sincerity in its talks with China with simple crystal clarity to everyone across the globe. The announcement that the US military is expanding its presence in the Philippines leaves little doubt that the United States is positioning itself to constrain China and bolstering its ability for military intervention in Taiwan. This announcement comes as only the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to expand military alliances and partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region with an eye toward countering China, especially as tensions over Taiwan rise. The US Defense Secretary announced a deal to give the US military access to four more bases in the Philippines, bringing the total to nine adding that the greater military presence “sends a deterrent message to China.” This announcement signals that the United States could use its own armed forces to push back harder against the Chinese military in the South China Sea.

The Philippine government and President Marcos Jr. in particular has been advised by a few credible and serious minded think tanks from ASEAN States to stay away from being pawn of the US foreign policies in the region and to keep a balance of ties with US and China both, maintaining Philippines own sovereign Foreign Policies.

President Marcos Jr. has been advised that the building new military bases by US has aroused great concern in China, and the issue is extremely sensitive. People are worried about potential military operations jointly launched by the United States and its allies and partners targeting China. Therefore, the Philippines needs to correctly understand China’s concerns over defense cooperation. In other words, if the Philippines wants its balancing act to work, it needs to delicately develop relations with the US without provoking China. The Philippines president has also been advised to draw a clear line between normal cooperation with the U.S. Navy and its involvement in any US confrontation with China and that the Philippine government especially needs to avoid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, if there is the slightest mistake in this regard, the Philippines’ US-China balancing act will slip into dangerous imbalance.

The Article II Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution expressly states that: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy.” To prevent the Philippines from being overly dependent on any one country, and to increase strategic capability and diplomatic freedom of action, the Philippines must get its own house in order, which includes making it a priority to rectify structural and domestic constraints preventing comprehensive development and continuous stability.

Under the background of these media investigations, the choice is clearly left up to the government and the people of the Philippines to choose between the path of destruction or to march on the road to prosperity, peace and development by negating US military desire and by maintaining good and balanced relations with both Washington and Beijing and not becoming a part of any Cold War Era type alliance.

The author is president and editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, a Pakistani newspaper. The opinions of the expert reflect his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the People's Daily.

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