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  • Strengthening U.S.–Philippine Cooperation Key to Stability in the South China Sea

    A renewed U.S. interest in the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia, has come amid heightening tensions in the South China Sea, where six nations—including China and the Philippines—maintain competing claims over the area and its resources.

    China, whose claim expands to within mere miles of Philippine territory, has harassed Philippine ships on numerous occasions. Indeed, protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is clearly in America’s national interest, as $1.2 trillion in U.S. trade flows through these waters annually.

    Key to that is the Philippines, which, according to press reports, is welcoming a greater U.S. role in the region.

    Last week, Philippine President Benigno Aquino expressed his desire that the U.S. and the Philippines have “more of the same,” referring to more ship visits, more exercises, and more joint training—not unlike an agreement between the U.S. and Australia last November. More recently, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario stated that “we would like the Americans to come more often,” including opening Philippine military facilities for joint use with American forces. He also noted that the Philippines would request a third refurbished cutter and a squadron of excess F-16s during the 2+2 meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and their Philippine counterparts on April 30.

    These steps are very encouraging, and the U.S. should stand ready to reciprocate by providing the Philippines with badly needed hardware and any necessary training. Moreover, the two sides should come to an agreement regarding cooperation on reconnaissance from Philippine airfields, so as to bolster the nation’s flagging maritime domain awareness in the South China Sea, until such time as the Philippines can establish sufficient capacity of its own. Rotating U.S. forces through Philippine training facilities, as the U.S. Marines will soon do in Australia, as well as maintaining the U.S. counterinsurgency training force and observers in Mindanao, should also be discussed at next month’s meeting.

    But U.S. commitment to the Philippines has to be more than defense oriented. Expanding trade, through vehicles such as the SAVE Act and ultimately facilitating the Philippine’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership will help ensure that the Philippines has a diverse base of robust trading relationships and is not too dependent on America but also not dependent on China. High-level attention, including follow-through on a planned state visit by President Aquino to Washington this summer, is also important, especially as the election cycle divides U.S. attention.

    Moreover, the best way to guarantee stability in the South China Sea is by maintaining a forward-deployed, ready military posture across the western Pacific. The Philippines is shifting its defense posture from counter-insurgency to territorial protection because of ongoing instability in the South China Sea, and it is no coincidence that recent clashes have occurred as China rises and the U.S.—the vaunted “pivot” notwithstanding—reduces its forces through draconian defense cuts.

    Without the funding to back its rhetoric, the U.S. risks losing credibility within the region, precipitating even greater uncertainty and instability. Providing the Philippines with a few ships certainly helps our ally, but in the long run, peace will be preserved through an institutionalization of our presence in a sustained budgetary commitment—particularly in the area of shipbuilding.

    The 20th ASEAN Summit kicks off next week with China-friendly Cambodia in the chair and the South China Sea off the agenda, despite the Philippines’ insistence. Even under its most competent and sympathetic leadership, ASEAN is not capable of protecting U.S. interests in maritime security and freedom of the seas. The U.S.—and the Philippines, for that matter—will not fair well during Cambodia’s year as chair.

    With that in mind, strengthening our treaty alliances and looking for new partners wherever possible will be America’s most effective tool in preserving stability. Thankfully, the Philippines is proving a very willing and increasingly capable ally.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Strengthening U.S.–Philippine Cooperation Key to Stability in the South China Sea

    1. different says:

      Childish thingking.
      Obama came to power with hope of change, including US-China relationship.
      He did a little bit but quickly faded because his unable to reject old noise to selling weapon to taiwan and meeting dalai lama.
      then, he created a term called "return to asia".
      these are not US foreign policies, only sound good to media and play into hands of some small countries which indeed are afraid of China.

      But US is a big country, should have independent thinking of her future.
      China is rising and projected to continue the trend.
      US, to improve her own power, needs to join the trend instead of against it.
      China has huge market that is what needed by US. To keep US jobs, we must open more, export more. otherwise, the business will move to China, not only for efficient labours, but also for the market (when chinese buy more iphones, why Apple stay in US).
      US still has high tech and and make money by exporting to China because they still needs it. Some people worry about possible use of technology to against US back, but while chinese develop their own technology and we restrict our own ability to export, we are losing money. We pay cost heavily when we try to delay their progress.
      If we think that US-Philippines relationship is that important, where is our relationship to China? Not a key in south China sea?
      In the past 40 years, most successful US diplomacy is the relationship with China. It is also the most stable one, though our side constantly add hurdle to it.
      We already lose economic ground and momentum. If we continue to indulge in playing word game, we soon will see losing field in education (University going to China), entertaining (Holywood going to China) and millitary (Too expensive to make F-22 compare to J-20).
      For future America, we need very good relationship with China. Only China can give and take at the same time.

    2. different says:

      Childish thingking.

    3. eyedrd says:

      Tensions in the East Sea/ South China Sea/ West Philippines Sea continue to be covered daily by the local and English language-media. Westerner analysts have a good grasp of the issue and Chinese strategy.

      As Vietnam was colonized by China for 1,000 years without interruption and has ever been invaded by every Chinese dynasty for the past thousand years including the Chinese communists, Vietnamese people inherently understand the Chinese play-book of “V?a ?n c??p v?a la làng,” which means literally “stealing while screaming out for thieves.
      China’s strategy in East Sea/South China Sea dispute: V?a ?n c??p v?a la làng http://www.eyedrd.org/2012/04/chinas-strategy-in-

    4. eyedrd says:

      China is a big country and should show the way by following through its deeds with actions.
      Tensions in the East Sea/ South China Sea/ West Philippines Sea continue to be covered daily by the local and English language-media. Westerner analysts have a good grasp of the issue and Chinese strategy.

      As Vietnam was colonized by China for 1,000 years without interruption and has ever been invaded by every Chinese dynasty for the past thousand years including the Chinese communists, Vietnamese people inherently understand the Chinese play-book of “V?a ?n c??p v?a la làng,” which means literally “stealing while screaming out for thieves.
      China’s strategy in East Sea/South China Sea dispute: V?a ?n c??p v?a la làng http://www.eyedrd.org/2012/04/chinas-strategy-in-

    5. dan says:

      If the Philippines agree to host an American bases, my believe is China will immediately invade the islands, and dare America to protect the Philippines before the bases were even built.

      • romy says:

        This is a big deception. While China wants to hegemonize Asia including Philippines, it will not. There is no longer any need. China each week carries off 100 thousand of tons of Philippine quarried soil each week. Chinese illegal and legal entrants are all over – China need pay for its soldiers to occupy the land; Chinese are themselves paying off customs, immigrations, police, politicians – buying off corrupt Filipinos, to stay. So why should China as government spends for something its private citizens are already doing and spending for without any shot? To defeat an enemy without a single shot is the most victorious effort of an army. And talking of bases that would be built? Already the US need not to. The Philippine government has been saying all along and offering that the US can park their planes and subs and ships in any Philippine port including the prostitutionalization of its women. No war shall everf take in the Philiippines with China now or in the near future.

    6. Romy says:

      Philippines has been telling that to US eversince, but only when serves its purpose does it minds Philippines. There lies the difference. US considers Philippines as a lackey, with or without our thoughts, and will continue to do so unless the Philippines can wean away from US. Is this the time for Philippines to be free of US? How we wish!

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