People's Daily: US-Philippines Alliance Won't See Fundamental Change

Source
China Military Online
Editor
Zhang Tao
Time
2016-09-21

BEIJING, Sept. 21 (ChinaMil) -- Scolding the US president, cancelling a formal meeting, stopping the joint patrol in the South China Sea and driving away American troops stationed in the Philippines…the series of actions by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently triggered intense discussions and threw the US-Philippines relations into a complicated state.

How will the US respond and where are their bilateral relations going?

Concerned but not worried

The US Military Times lately reported that Gary Ross, the spokesperson of the US Department of Defense, continued to stress that the US and the Philippines are a "firm" alliance. Although the Philippine president Duterte made "provocative" remarks against the US repeatedly, the US seemed very "calm".

After cursing the US president, Duterte, according to Associated Press, recently announced to end the joint patrol with the US in disputed South China Sea waters in order to stay away from possible "hostile operations" and that he would consider buying weapons from China or Russia.

AFP also reported that previously Duterte demanded all US special operation troops stationed on the Mindanao Island in southern Philippines to leave on the grounds that they were susceptible to the attack of Islamic extremists.

Duterte's remarks worried some people. Military Times quoted a researcher at the US security center as saying that "Duterte is putting in jeopardy the alliance".

But the US government seemed to want to play down the situation. Washington Post reported that John Kirby, the spokesperson of the US Department of State, said the US was aware of Duterte’s comments, but is “not aware of any official communication by the Philippine government to that effect and to seek that result".

According to Kyodo News' report, the White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said "surprise" was not the word he would choose, primarily because of the tendency of Duterte to make some rather colorful comments, and refuted that American troops were stationed upon the request of the Philippine government.

"Generally speaking, the US has the confidence to control the situation and isn't very worried although it is concerned and dissatisfied," said Yuan Zheng, director of the American Diplomacy Section of the Institute of American Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Deep foundation for US-Philippines relations

Why is the US so calm and composed?

"The Aquino administration relied too much on the US diplomatically, but that didn't get the Philippines any substantial benefits. What Duterte is doing now is trying to ask for more from the US. I don't think they will split up," said Yuan Zheng. "The Americans know very well that the Philippines need it even more now on the South China Sea issue."

RIA Novosti quoted a Russian expert on September 17 as saying that there is a strong force among the Philippine military and political elites that supports cooperation with the US.

According to Liu Xuecheng, director of the Department for American Studies at China Institute of International Studies, "the common Philippine people are very supportive of the US and it also has close ties with the Philippine military."

Associated Press reported that the Philippines will have $120 million military aid from the US this year, the largest of its kind since the US military resumed training and exercise in the Philippines in 2000.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the two countries signed a new treaty in March this year that allows the US military to temporarily station at five military bases in the Philippines.

The countless links between the US and the Philippines date back a long time. Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the School of International Studies of Renmin University of China, said in an interview that "the Philippines used to be an American colony in history, so the US has a deep foundation there. On the political level, the Philippines implements a typical modern oligarchy that is controlled by more than 200 families, most of which can be controlled by the US."

Reinforced alliance

An official from the US Department of State told Reuters that the US-Philippines alliance remains tight.

"It’s unfortunate, but doesn’t fundamentally derail the relationship,” said the official.

The former advisor on Asian Affairs at the Obama administration also believed that the recent frictions between the US and the Philippines is a “speed bump, not a road block”.

"The Philippines is an important ally of the US in the Asia Pacific and a key pillar state in the Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy initiated by the Obama administration." Liu Xuecheng noted that "we shouldn't make judgment about the future development of US-Philippines relations based on one person or one matter, but should see through the nature, which is that Duterte never opposed the US-Philippines alliance. Therefore, the Obama administration won't make tough public responses, but will continue to observe and carry out back-door diplomacy by imposing pressure behind the scene."

"To ensure its interests, the US government may make concessions on the human right issue in the future and deal with Duterte with both hard and soft means. It won't change the Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy, and the US-Philippines alliance won't see fundamental change either," said Yuan Zheng.

 

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