CNN says in its report “Philippines formally ends Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with US” yesterday, “The Philippines has finally sent the United States a notice to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, marking the start of the 180-day period from when the two-decade military pact will be effectively scrapped. Malacañang on Tuesday confirmed that the document has been signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro ‘Teddy Boy’ Locsin, Jr. and sent to the US government.”
That worries Philippine Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon as according to him, scrapping VFA will make ineffective the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries (EDCA), which allows the US military to use and control five bases in the Philippines. He says, “If the VFA and EDCA are no longer effective, then the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries), as mentioned by Sec. Locsin, would be inutile and would serve no purpose,”
However, the MDT has already proved by facts as serving no purpose as proved by US inaction during the Scarborough standoff between the Philippines and China. The US did not defend Philippines’ claimed rights to Scarborough Shoal. As a result, the shoal has entirely been taken over by China and Philippine fishermen who fished on the shoal and in the area around the shoal, were forbidden to fish there.
The US told the Philippines to file an arbitration at The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and helped it to get a favorable ruling. The US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept the ruling but China challenged it with war. The US failed to fight a war to defend the rights the Philippines claims. Since the US has failed to defend the Philippines, the MDT has already been inutile and been proved serving no purpose.
Media are used to blame China’s influence for the Philippines distancing from its long-term ally the US. The truth is facts have made the Philippines see that its alliance with the US serves no purpose.
It is only possible for the US to defend the Philippines when China attack the Philippines but China simply will not do so. It has no intention to take back the islands and reefs it claims but are occupied by the Philippines. On the contrary, it wants win-win cooperation to exploit the natural resources in disputed areas.
Before Scarborough standoff, China and the Philippines both fished there but the Philippines tried to forbade Chinese fishing but had its own fishing banned by China there. The US did nothing to help the Philippines.
When he Philippines accepted China’s win-win suggestion, China allowed the Philippines to fish there.
The same with the exploitation of energy resources in disputed areas. China does not allow the Philippines to exploit the resources alone but is willing to conduct win-win cooperation with the Philippines in exploiting the resources.
If the Philippines is not willing, China can wait as it is rich and has no urgent need to exploit the resources. The Philippines, however, is poor and wants urgently to exploit the resources. As a result, it is trying hard now to find an acceptable way to cooperate with China to exploit the resources there.
The above proves that the US has in effect lost its only ally the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNN’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/2/11/Philippines-ends-VFA-United-States.html.
Business Insider says in its report “China’s South China Sea strategy takes a hit as the US Navy threatens to get tough on Beijing’s sea forces”, “The US Navy’s top admiral has warned China that the US could treat China’s coast guard and maritime militia the same as the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Financial Times reported.”
US military is notorious for its attack on civilians in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but always claims that it attacks civilians by mistake or its enemy is hidden in civilian area.
Now, it threatens to attack China’s maritime militia with its true intent to kill Chinese civilians. When the US invades Chinese islands and territorial marine areas, Chinese civilians have the right to drive US military away. The US is well aware of Chinese people’s patriotism so that when it wants to kill Chinese civilians it will invade Chinese territorial sea to cause Chinese civilians’ resistance and thus find excuse to attack Chinese civilians.
Chinese navy is strong, especially in the South China Sea as it has air support from the three air strips on China’s artificial islands. As without ground support, US navy will lose to Chinese navy, at present the US dare not attack Chinese fishing boats when they voluntarily protect China’s rights and interests there.
The report regards Chinese people and military’s protection of their country’s rights and interests in the South China Sea as aggression on the ground of the arbitration ruling of a court of arbitration the US regards it as a UN agency, but the UN has declared that the court of arbitration is not a UN agency. As a result, few countries in the world support the court’s decision.
The US has declared that it does not take side in China’s territorial disputes with other claimants, but now the US media describes in its report China’s protection of its rights and interests as aggression.
It spreads the lie that China has been scared by US military’s warning. That is utterly untrue. Recently, Chinese fishing boats surrounded the disputed Zhongye Island occupied by the Philippines. Just as US military did at the Scarborough standoff between China and the Philippines, US refrained to help the Philippines.
In fact as far back as after the arbitration decision was made, China challenged US navy to war when the US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept the arbitration decision. US Navy, however, refused to fight as the US has no interests in the South China Sea and it certainly will not fight for Philippines’ interests.
No one is scared by US military as it has showed its weakness in failing to attain US strategic goals in its decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Business Insider’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://amp.businessinsider.com/us-navy-tough-on-china-paramilitary-fishing-fleet-gray-zone-tactics-2019-4.
Reuters says in its report “ASEAN, China agree ‘milestone’ text as basis for South China Sea talks” on August 2, “Southeast Asian nations and China have reached a “milestone” in talks with China over a code of conduct in the South China Sea with a working text that will serve as a basis for future negotiations, Singapore’s foreign minister said on Friday.”
The US helped the Philippines obtain a favorable arbitration award to deny China’s historical rights and interests, but the Philippines cannot enforce it as the UN immediately declared that the arbitration court was not a UN agency so that the Philippines cannot seek remedy from the International Court of the UN.
The US sent two aircraft carrier groups to scare China so as to force it to accept the award, but China challenged the US to war. Having no geographical advantages in a war near China, the US refused to fight.
China, though has military superiority over not only its neighbors but also the US in the areas near China, prefers win-win cooperation to jointly exploit the natural resources in the South China Sea.
In fact, China is entirely able to exploit the resources alone as no one even the US can stop it. The Scarborough standoff is a good example. The Philippines sent its navy to ban Chinese fishermen fishing there. China sent its navy to drive away Philippine fishing boats and had the fish resources exclusively. The US simply refused to help the Philippines so that Philippine fishermen could not fish in the sea area around the shoal until its new president Duterte had improved relations China.
Yes, all claimants want to exclusively have the resources they claim except China who is willing to share through win-win cooperation. Since they cannot rely on US help to get the resources exclusively, they shall think themselves lucky to be able to conduct win-win cooperation with China. That is why smooth progress has been made in having consensus on the code of conduct so quickly.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-asean-singapore-southchinasea/asean-china-agree-milestone-text-as-basis-for-south-china-sea-talks-idUSKBN1KN14V.
Judging by US military’s keen interest in the South China Sea one may think that the South China Sea lay just off America’s East Coast and that what China does in the disputed waters is a threat to US lifelines. In reality, China’s moves only affect the interests of rival claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam. US core interests in the world are not affected at all.
The sea lanes through the South China Sea are indeed very important as $3.4 trillion in goods passes them each year, but blockade of the sea lanes by China is out of the question. China has now the largest world trade volume. If it blocks the sea lanes in the South China Sea, its trade lifelines through the oceans will be cut by powerful US navy that dominates the oceans. Therefore, the concerns about the sea lanes are but exaggeration by US military, politicians and media. No one really worries about the sea lanes.
Why then does the US pay such keen attention to South China Sea that is located far away from the US and does not affect US core interests?
US encirclement of China has been broken but China remains a potential major challenger to US world leadership. At the time when Xi Jinping took over the reign from Hu Jintao, the US was aware that only China not Russia has the potential to be rival to or even replace the US as world number one; therefore, the US continue to make great efforts to contain China in spite of its failure to encircle China.
US pivot to Asia to Contain China in South China Sea
By that time China had grown relatively rich and was developing its navy quite quickly. The Philippines has occupied some islands and shoals claimed by China but in spite of China’s much stronger navy than the Philippines, China has no intention to take back those islands and shoals by force. Therefore, though China claimed sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, it allowed the Philippines who had rival claim to the shoal, to patrol and fish in the rich fishing area around Scarborough Shoal.
Encouraged by US pivot to Asia, the Philippines, however, began to contend with China for the islands, reefs and sea areas in the South China Sea. It sent its navy to round up Chinese fishing boats and fishermen in order to deprive China of the right to fish there. China sent its navy and coast guard ships to protect its fishermen and fishing boats and drive away Philippine boats and fishermen. The Scarborough standoff had thus begun.
In my opinion, even though China has sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, the two countries shall maintain the previous status quo. China shall allow Filipino fishermen to fish there as like Chinese fishermen, quite a few Filipino fishermen had been fishing there for generations; therefore, before the standoff, China did not drive away Filipino fishermen from the sea area.
Luckily for China, Filipino navy’s attempt to drive away Chinese fishermen provided China with the excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen. China is thus very lucky to gain complete control of Scarborough Shoal peacefully.
Luckily again, Filipino coast guards fired at Taiwanese fishermen and killed one of them. As China regards Taiwan as a part of China, the incident gave China additional excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen when China thinks fit.
China was not so lucky with Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). If the Philippines had sent building materials to stabilize it shipwreck there, China would have had the excuse to drive Filipino troops away from the shoal, but the Philippines did not give China such a chance to remove the shipwreck that the Philippines placed there as its outpost.
There has been allegation that China has become more assertive in the South China Sea, but the above-mentioned Chinese actions have proved that it does not want to give such an impression. The Philippines started the Scarborough standoff by refusing Chinese fishermen access to the shoal so that China responded by refusing Philippine fishermen access to the shoal. When Philippine new president Duterte has corrected his predecessors’ mistakes and made efforts to restore friendship with China, China allows Philippine fishermen to resume fishing there. China just wants to preserve the status quo. If that is assertive, it has been assertive for a long time. There has been no change in China’s assertive attitude.
The US encouraged the Philippines to start the standoff but did not send its navy to help the Philippines. On the contrary, it told the Philippines to retreat and file an application for arbitration at the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague. The shoal was but a small issue. The arbitration was a big issue. If the court controlled by the West gave an arbitration award that entirely deny China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea, the US will have the excuse to send its navy to drive China entirely away from the South China Sea.
That was America’s wishful thinking. Chinese leaders had the wisdom to know what the US wanted and thus be very clear that the US had fallen into Thucydides Trap.
China’s Efforts to Avoid Thucydides Trap
In the annual U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue in 2013, in order to please the US, China promised to make the following major concessions:
China committed to move to a market-determined exchange rate for its yuan currency;
It pledged to better protect against trade secret misappropriation through strengthened enforcement;
It promised to liberate its financial sector:
1. Foreign banks and securities firms would be allowed to directly trade government bond futures and sell them to foreign and domestic institutional investors; and
2. China would also welcome participation by foreign firms in corporate bond underwriting and had pledged to facilitate further evaluations of interested underwriters for participation in this market; and
It had for the first time pledged to ensure that enterprises of all forms of ownership had equal access to inputs, such as energy, land, and water, and to develop a market-based mechanism for determining the prices of those inputs.
China has fulfilled some of the promises but not all of them as China has to conduct its major economic reforms in order to be able to fulfill them in their entirety, but Xi Jinping’s economic reforms have encountered serious resistance from vested interests. That is why Xi further concentrated his power in the coming 19th Party Congress in 2017.
If Xi has succeeded in enhancing his centralism, he will be in much better position to make the economic concessions that US President Trump has been pressuring China to yield. With those concessions, China will be able to please the US that it has no intention to contend with the US for economic dominance in spite of the prospects of surpassing the US in economy.
However, that will be too late as the arbitration award may come out well before Xi would be able to conduct the reform. Moreover, even if China does have conducted the reform to please the US, the US, being in Thucydides Trap, may not be satisfied as that would not contain China enough to stop China’s rise.
How can China remove the threat of US attack? Can it give up its rights and interests in the South China Sea? Certainly not as it will be a repetition of China’s humiliation by foreign bully. What shall China do?
Article by Chan Kai Yee
In SCMP’s article “Willingness to explore resource sharing points to cooperative future for China, the Philippines”, the writer Richard Heydarian, a Manila-based academic and author, says “peaceful dialogue over resource sharing in disputed areas could in itself contribute to improving diplomatic relations among competing neighbours.”
However, he points out the seemingly insurmountable obstacles including Philippine constitution and popular nationalism so that former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo failed in her attempt for such sharing.
Mr. Heydarian fails to see that situation is different now. Before Philippines’ failure to get its ally’s help in countering China in the Scarborough standoff and imposing Hague arbitration award, the Philippines still has the illusion that with the help from China’s rival and its long-term ally the US, it can be benefited from the resources in the disputed waters fully alone.
Now, without Chinese consent, it cannot even exploit the fish resources in the disputed waters claimed by it. It simply cannot exploit the energy resources without cooperation with China, but China has the technology, equipment, funds and military strength to exploit the resources alone without any sharing with other claimants. What if China extracts all the resources alone? No one can help the Philippines to prevent that. Neither the US, ASEAN or the permanent court of arbitration at the Hague can.
Therefore, the Philippines has no alternative but share the resources with China or it will get nothing.
Its current president Duterte is wise to see that, but his people perhaps do not realize that and would rather give China the opportunity to enjoy the resources entirely alone.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2108202/willingness-explore-resource-sharing-points-cooperative.
Foreign Policy published an article titled “The United States Is Losing Asia to China” by Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar on May 12, which this blogger finds quiet interesting.
The article begins with China’s One Belt, One Road summit and described it as “the latest manifestation of Chinese leadership at a time when U.S. commitment to the region is less certain than ever.”
The article mentions Senator John McCain’s proposal of a $7.5 billion “Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative” ($1.5 billion annually through 2022) that, though mentions making U.S. regional posture “more forward-learning, flexible, resilient, and formidable,” mainly focuses on the military such as improvement of military infrastructure, purchase of additional munitions, etc.
However, the article believes that for the near-term battle to resuscitate American power in Asia will rise and fall on economics instead of the military.
Trump seems to blame for withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) aimed at containing China to make China unable to replace the US as leader in Asia. However, Democratic candidate Clinton who lost to Trump in the election also opposes TTP due to its failure to benefit the US. The US is too hard up to afford giving economic benefits to Asian countries at its own expense.
However, China’s One Belt, One Road benefits itself while benefiting other countries. Why is the US unable to do so?
Perhaps the US is too obsessed with military approach in its relations with other countries. It maintains the most powerful military machine in the world to scare others but fails to make them subdue to its leadership.
Why does the US fail to conduct win-win cooperation with other countries like what China has been doing so as to benefit both itself and others?
It is simply unable to do so as it lacks wise leadership at home to put its house in order so that it will have a growing economy and market to attract Asian countries.
Its media has been busy for decades to demonize China in order to make Asian countries believe they need US military protection. The problem is that though China’s military has grown much stronger, it prefers peaceful approaches in solving its disputes with other countries. It does not use its military to threaten other countries to subdue to it and accept its claims.
The obvious example is its disputes with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.
Before Philippine former president Aquino sent Philippine navy to drive away Chinese from the shoal, China, though has a much stronger navy, does not drive away the Philippines from the shoal and allow the Philippines to fish there. China drove the Philippines away merely in response to Philippines’ hostile move. That is all.
When Philippine resumes friendship with China, China allows the Philippine to go there again.
In addition, China provides funds for Philippines’ construction of infrastructure. That will certainly benefit China as China can export its excessive infrastructure industries and materials but the Philippines will be better benefited. That is win-win cooperation.
What the US has done to make the Philippines switch to China?
It provides the Philippines with its retired warships that are regarded as rubbish in modern warfare as its military aids. Can such ships fight China’s modern navy?
The Philippines has to depend on US protection. However, the US refuses to perform its obligations to protect Philippines’ interests in Philippines’ disputes with China.
That has made the Philippines realize that US has forged alliance with the Philippines to protect its own interests and contain its own potential enemy instead of protecting its ally the Philippines’ interests.
The Philippines has switched to Chinese side first of all due to military factor instead of economic factor.
The article is right that the US loses due to economic factors but fail to point out it also due to military factors as the US military is strong only in weapons but has no financial resources to support it to win a war even in a small country such as Afghanistan nor the military wisdom to achieve its strategic goal in wars as proved in its wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article, full ext of which can be found at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/12/the-united-states-is-losing-asia-to-china/
In its report “Xi tells Duterte that Scarborough Shoal will stay open to Philippine fishermen” yesterday, SCMP says Chinese “President Xi Jinping called on China and the Philippines to explore maritime cooperation” and promised that China’s Huangyan Island (also known as Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea will remain open to Philippine fishermen.
It’s the result of Obama’s pivot to Asia undesirable to the US and Philippines, but very good to China.
Before the pivot, both Chinese and Philippine coast guards patrolled the shoal and fishermen fished there as China, though much stronger than the Philippines, did not want to drive away the fishermen and coast guards of the Philippines, its friendly neighbor.
US pivot gave Duterte’s predecessor former Philippine President Aquino the illusion that with the help of the powerful navy of his ally the US, he could drive away Chinese coast guards and fishermen from the shoal and have exclusive possession of the shoal. He sent navy to round up Chinese fishermen there and thus gave rise to what the West regarded as a standoff between China and the Philippines there.
It was in fact not a standoff in its proper sense. It was in fact the operation of Chinese coast guards and navy to deny the Philippines access to the shoal and the sea around it. The Philippines only sent its coast guards to watch nearby without any action to drive away the Chinese to enable Philippine fishing boats to enter the area near the shoal.
Aquino asked the US for help, thinking that the mere appearance of powerful US navy will scare the Chinese away. However, instead of sending its navy to help him, the US told Aquino to withdraw and promised to have China retreat too. However, China would not retreat and continue to impose effective control of the shoal.
The US told Aquino to seek remedy from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague where the US had influence. Aquino did get an arbitration ruling in his favor but the US could not help him enforce the ruling though it has sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to scare China.
For years, Aquino’s illusion about US help to scare away China caused Filipino fishermen’s misery. They were banned by China to fish in the area around the shoal and thus lost what they depended for their survival.
Aquino simply did not care, but his successor President Duterte cares. Duterte wants to help the fishermen to have access to their traditional fishing ground. Since the US cannot help him, it is natural that he seeks help from China. To please China, he insulted US president Obama. Western media ascribed Duterte’s rude behavior to his anger at US opposition of his killing of drug dealers and addicts. That is only the excuse exploited by Duterte to attack the US and please China.
Duterte had long been well-known for his killing of drug dealers and addicts before he was elected as president. He must have got used to US criticism about the killing; therefore, attacking the US to justify his killing was not his priority. As he has declared, his priority is to enable Filipino fishermen to have access to the area around the shoal for their survival.
In fact, it is enough for Duterte to put an end of Aquino’s enmity and recover Philippines’ friendship with China. There is no need for him to upset the US to please China. True, China has been developing its military to counter US threat, but that is purely for self defense as US military always makes plan to attack China. China wants good relations with the US as such relations are favorable to China.
Chinese leaders are not so stupid as to contend with the US for world leadership. China is not rich or strong enough for that.
US belief of its world leadership is but an illusion in spite of its largest economy and strongest military. No one in the world follows its leadership now. Duterte wants to separate from the US because what has happened related to Scarborough standoff and Hague arbitration ruling have made him realize that there is no US world leadership. The US boasts that it is world leader that protects other countries including the Philippines. In fact it protects only its own interests. It will not fight to protect others if its own interests have not been affected.
The disputes between China and other South China Sea claimants will perhaps remain forever, but as long as China pursues win-win cooperation, it will be able to manage the disputes satisfactorily. That will make the US unable to exploit the disputes to contain China.
Other claimants have to learn from the lessons of Philippines’ failure in exploiting US pivot to Asia to get exclusive control of Scarborough Shoal. In the end, the Philippines has, on the contrary, enabled China to have exclusive control of the shoal and act as the host of the shoal.
Unlike the situation before the standoff, Filipino fishermen have no free access to the shoal. They have access now due to Chinese president’s personal promise instead of any right based on agreement or ruling.
If a claimant wants to exploit the resources in disputed waters, it has to cooperate with China. Otherwise, China will exploit the resources alone and the US simply will not interfere. That is the reality now in the South China Sea.
Comments by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2047747/xi-tells-duterte-scarborough-shoal-will-stay-open