The U.S. Must Maintain Its Defense Agreement with the Philippines
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has breathed new life into his country's Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. This is great news because you don't have to believe that China developed the COVID-19 virus to see it take advantage of it - and to show us the future if the US and its allies are not strong. These include the Philippines, America's oldest ally in the region.
We all know that China has used the world's pandemic to declare the end of Hong Kong's more than two decades of autonomy. Beijing also tensed its muscles elsewhere during this time. With the Philippines in particular, it only penetrated further into the controversial Spratly Islands by creating two new districts on artificial islands and naming an administrative center. "
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So it was strange that Duterte announced in February that if the two countries didn't renegotiate, the Philippines would cancel the US treaty within six months - and it was just as strange that President Trump replied that this " ok ”because“ we will save a lot of money. "
According to the VFA, US military aircraft and ships have free entry to the Philippines. U.S. military personnel are subject to a relaxed visa and passport policy. The repeal of the agreement would jeopardize approximately 300 joint military exercises and engagements, said R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs.
The VFA is not the entire mutual defense contract signed in 1951, but the "nuts and bolts," said Derek Grossman, chief defense analyst at RAND Corporation, with Voice of America. The mutual defense treaty would be severely weakened and the Chinese regime would be happy.
China has been fairly open to its goal of taking over the world within a generation. So economically. However, a military claim to anything nearby is a step towards that goal, especially in the South China Sea, where the Philippines is located.
Here the regime has aggressively tried to expand not only against the Philippines, but also against many other countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. In fact, these islands, which China has just penetrated further, were assigned to the Philippines by an intergovernmental tribunal four years ago.
Without allies, the United States cannot contain the rapidly growing 1.4 billion nation. Relations with South Korea have cooled so much, however, that a defense agreement with China was signed last year - ironically, because the United States is technically at war with China over Korea. Guam, with its naval and air force bases, is vital but also vulnerable. Only three or four of the eleven US supercarriers are available and can be ordered to defend Taiwan.
In addition, the 7,000 islands of the Philippines covered with dense jungle roofs have long been havens for terrorists and other subversives, now including ISIS. US troops are not allowed to attack them directly, but non-combat aid is required to keep them at bay. ISIS is a threat to the United States and the world everywhere.
Duterte initially announced his intention to revoke the Obama Obama deal, which did nothing to stop it. But it was Duterte's trip to China in 2018 that he received pledges for aid to build the infrastructure (possible) and share the controversial islands (highly doubtful) - which really did lead to it. Taking advantage of COVID-19, China is again sending goodies such as medical devices and consumables to the Philippines.
Given the events in Syria and Ukraine, Duterte may also be concerned about the strength of US engagement. When America gives some allies reasons to distrust him, the others notice.
But this sudden change in Duterte, although only a suspension of the technically intended step, shows that the Philippine President is rethinking the whole thing. There is no other explanation. He knows that the Chinese government never does something out of the goodness of a heart that it does not have.
It gives him and Trump (or possibly Trump's successor, depending on the outcome of the November election) more time to negotiate a deal to maintain the VFA. And many people are asking them to use what Trump has described as "a great relationship" between them to get the job done.
Current and former officials in both countries want to keep the VFA. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper described the lifting of the agreement as "a step in the wrong direction." Albert del Rosario, former Foreign Minister of the Philippines, says the lifting is a "national tragedy". The Philippines should "not throw aside a long-standing, reliable ally in favor of an aggressive neighbor who is clearly demonstrating its lack of respect for international law," he said in a statement.
Del Rosario is not the only Filipino who thinks this way. After all, Americans and Filipinos have strong historical ties: they fought side by side from 1941 to 1945, shed blood and lost lives to drive out brutal Japanese invaders. Filipinos have not forgotten. In fact, the nation they still feel closest to could not be geographically further away, and English is one of the country's two official languages.
Neither Duterte nor Trump may intend to end this necessary relationship. But if they're not careful, these hard-won connections can break up. Even today, the Philippines, these 7,000 islands, and their over 100 million people are vital to American interests. And this time if we lose her to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, we won't be going back.
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