By Nicolás Promanzio
Amid active threats from China’s communist regime, the governments of the Philippines, Japan, and the United States are moving forward in forming a network of security arrangements to ensure safety from the CCP threat.
On Tuesday, February 14, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest asking Beijing for its ships to cease “aggressive activities” after the Chinese coast guard directed a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.
Thus, the Philippine president summoned the Chinese ambassador to Manila to express his concern “over the increasing frequency and intensity of China’s actions against the Philippine coast guard and fishermen.”
In defense of the Philippines, the US State Department spokesman warned that “an armed attack against Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft, including those of the coast guard in the South China Sea, would invoke the US mutual defense commitments under a 1951 treaty.”
The treaty obligates the allies to help defend each other during an external attack.
As just another escalation of the conflict in the Indo-Pacific, this development provides the basis for analyzing the latest moves by the Philippines, the United States, and Japan in what seems to indicate a deepening of the web of agreements that form this alliance to contain China.
In early February, top Philippine and US Defense officials agreed that the US Army would gain access to 4 new military bases in the Philippines.
These would be in addition to the 5 bases already covered in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed in 2014, which allows the US to rotate and build facilities at specific bases in Philippine territory.
The US government welcomed this agreement as the new locations “will enable faster support for humanitarian disasters, enhance military training for the militaries of both states, and respond to other shared challenges,” referring to the proximity of these bases to Taiwan.
Just a week after this, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr visited Japan on a 5-day trip to Tokyo to further deepen bilateral and security ties.
Thus, on February 9, the Philippine leader met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Among the various areas in which it was decided to strengthen cooperation, the security sphere is the one that brought the most interest.
The two leaders agreed to allow their Armed Forces to work together during relief operations.
This document is very important, as it is seen as the basis for a crucial security agreement between the countries threatened by Chinese expansionism.
The item in question is the Visiting Forces Agreement, a treaty aimed at facilitating joint exercises and mutual visits of military forces.
On Sunday, February 12, the Philippine president said that he saw no reason why the Philippines should not have a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan if it would enhance maritime security.
Japan-Philippines relations are currently at their peak.
Japan is for the Philippines, excluding China, the largest source of financial aid for development, as well as the main export destination for Philippine products and the largest investor in infrastructure.
Japan represents an alternative to China, which the Philippines needs while strengthening relations with the United States.
For its part, Japan needs the Philippines to project its power in the region.
Through security arrangements and Japanese fighter jets arriving in the Philippines, it is crucial for Japan to contain China in pursuit of its own security.
At this point, with the renewal of the national security strategy and the increase in the military budget, it is clear that these objectives are the highest priority for the country.
In addition to Japan and the Philippines, the third beneficiary of this alliance is the United States.
As the ‘guarantor’ and main strategic security partner for these two countries, the United States forms a network of alliances in the Indo-Pacific that serve to contain China and keep CCP expansionism and the threat to Taiwan at bay.
After Ferdinand Marcos’ visit to Fumio Kishida, the possibility of a tripartite security pact with the United States came to light.
According to what the president told Kyodo News, such a pact “could be a central element in bringing some stability to all the problems we are seeing around us. […] This would help strengthen trilateral ties in confusing and dangerous situations.”
Coordination between the allies in the Pacific will allow the United States to take control of almost the entire “front line of islands,” which consists of islands located along almost the entire length of the Chinese coast.
Although full line control is still far off, the United States actively pursues this goal.
In the second quarter of the year, the annual Balikatan 2023 maneuvers will take place in which the United States and the Philippines will conduct the largest joint military exercises since 2015, with the deployment of 9,000 military personnel together.
La Derecha Diario has already analyzed the Philippines’ rapprochement with the United States, represented in the speeches of the Philippine president and the country’s need to maneuver between the two key players in the region and make the most of their confrontation.
With information from Derecha Diario