Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Insights into Philippines' Strategic Re-Alignment

Asia Times has an interesting article outlining the Philippines' strategic embrace of China. We saw the Philippines' rebuke of Sec Clinton at the recent ASEAN conference, and now we have some of the reasons why.

Filipinos are turning against the US due to the legal shelter of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which protects US servicemembers from local prosecution. At the same time, China is donating equipment to the Philippines military. Thus public sentiments align with the elites in turning away from the US.

It is a question whether this re-alignment is temporary or permanent. The article reminds us that the VFA is up for renewal. The ASEAN drama could be the Philippines leveraging their position in the VFA negotiations. It could also be the Philippines steering a neutral course between China and the US, getting the mostest from both sides.

The Philippines dispute the South Sea boundary with China. With this neutral course, it could be bargaining for a more favorable outcome in the border negotiations, compared with Vietnam. That they had not fought a war with China certainly make the Philippines more amiable toward China. China also has an incentive to demonstrate its peaceful intentions to the world. A successful resolution to Sino-Filipino border would be a good counterpoint to the on-going disputes with Vietnam and India.

This is a nice illustration of the axiom that nations do not have friends.

h/t China Defense Mashup

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