TREMENDOUS pressure was put on President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to implement quickly and expand the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), sources in the Foreign affairs department disclosed.
They pointed out that the US ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Loss Carlson, even inadvertently revealed such pressure when she said in a recent TV interview: “Never in my 38 years as a diplomat have I seen so many of our top officials talk to a head of state in such a short span of time.”
She said: “Three of what we call the ‘big four’ have been here to talk to Marcos: Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. And not only that, you have had visit here the secretary of the Navy, the commandant of the US Marine Corps, the undersecretary of state for political affairs Victoria Nuland, and in the coming week the secretary of the Air Force.”
Indeed as the US ambassador pointed out, that number and quality of US leaders talking to Marcos in such a short time — when the US has been busy with the Russian war to take over Ukraine — is unprecedented. And I certainly don’t think all those high-ranking US officials were here for just getting-to-know-you chit-chats or without any agenda in their talks with Marcos.
For six years under Duterte, the US didn’t raise a finger to convince him to at least start negotiations to implement the EDCA, which President Aquino 3rd agreed to without consulting Congress. Yet just after a month in office, the Americans put pressure on Marcos, during Secretary Anthony Blinken’s official visit August 5 last year. By the end of last year, sources said, Marcos already had agreed not just to accelerate the implementation of the EDCA but to allow the Americans to use four more of our camps on top of the five Aquino had agreed in 2014.
Apparently, US officials had been talking to Philippine officials in the Defense and Foreign Affairs departments to determine which other camps or sites could be used as EDCA sites months before Marcos agreed to an expanded EDCA.
For instance a document provided me (see image) was a September letter from a Defense department assistant secretary to his counterpart in the Foreign Affairs department saying that his department concurs with the “US proposal to include the Basa Air Runway Repair Project and the Cagayan North International Airport as additional project and additional location” under the EDCA. So far, the Cagayan airport, though, has not been mentioned at all by our defense officials as another EDCA site.
Why has the US put such tremendous pressure on Marcos for an accelerated and expanded EDCA, at this time when he hasn’t even finished his first year in office?
The answer, which I think is obvious, worries me a lot. The Americans are convinced, most likely by their intelligence services — which has proven to be spot-on in predicting the Russian invasion of Ukraine months before it happened — that the Communist Party of China has decided to invade Taiwan sooner than later.
A top US Air Force General, Mike Minihan, head of the Air Mobility Command, in a recent interview with an American TV show said: “My gut feel tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason.” Another date mentioned a lot by US analysts is 2027, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China: What more event to prove the PLA’s glory than to conquer Taiwan, to make up for its failure in 1949 in stopping the defeated Kuomintang forces escape to that small island?
The US ambassador to Manila thinks Filipinos are stupid when she said in that interview that the expanded EDCA has nothing to do with American preparations to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.
While the four additional EDCA sites are still to be announced, mentioned in different reports as likely to be EDCA sites are the Osias Naval Base and Cagayan North International Airport in Cagayan province as well as Camp de Cruz in Isabela which are 400 to 600 kilometers, respectively, from Taiwan’s coast.
With these additions, six of the nine sites will be in Luzon, rather than in the south, nearer the South China Sea. The US’ first project under EDCA is the $26 million repair and extension of the runway at Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, so that, I would guess, it would accommodate the US Air Force’s war and transport airplanes.
My sense is nothing could have convinced Marcos to implement and expand EDCA other than the top US officials’ convincing him that China would invade Taiwan soon, and that it is crucial for American forces to be pre-positioned, including their stockpile of weapons and war materiel, in northern Luzon, for quick mobilization as this would be just 400 kilometers from Taiwan.
But if Marcos was given concrete data that would indicate that China’s invasion of Taiwan would happen in the next few years — which convinced him to accede to the US wishes — shouldn’t he inform us, so we can make our own decisions on an eventuality that would affect deeply our very lives, the country’s involvement in a war between superpowers? There would even be many, many old folks who lived through World War 2 who would want to leave the country, rather than suffer another war.
Despite the war drums beating stronger every day though, there are analysts that argue that there are no indications — so far — for a China invasion, at least not right now.
An article in the website of the respected think-tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in October 2022, by John Culver, a former CIA senior intelligence officer, argued so. The piece was entitled, “How We Would Know When China Is Preparing to Invade Taiwan.”
Excerpts from article
“If China has actually decided to go to war with Taiwan — and, per President Joe Biden’s recent gaffes, with the United States — in 18 or 24 months, how would we know? For one, it almost certainly would not be subtle, at least to the US intelligence community and probably not to Taiwan and other Western observers. Modern war between great powers consumes huge stocks of key munitions, especially precision-guided ones for high-intensity naval, air and amphibious warfare.
So, China would have already started surging production of ballistic and cruise missiles; anti-air, air-to-air and large rockets for long-range beach bombardment; and numerous other items, at least a year before D-Day… Major production by China of key munitions would be noticed by international government and nongovernment observers alike.
China also would take visible steps to insulate its economy, military and key industries from disruptions and sanctions. This would go beyond its current industrial policies and dual circulation strategy, which collectively aim to achieve technological and material self-sufficiency, or even its limited measures against increasing US use of export controls, sanctions, and economic and financial pressure.
As Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Fellow Gerard DiPippo recently noted, near-term indicators of approaching conflict would include financial elements such as imposition of stronger cross-border capital controls, a freeze on foreign financial assets within China, and rapid liquidation and repatriation of Chinese assets held abroad. It would also include a surge in stockpiling emergency supplies, such as medicine or key technology inputs; a suspension of key exports, such as critical minerals, refined petroleum products, or food; measures to reduce demand or ration key goods, especially imports such as oil and gas; and prioritization or redirection of key inputs for military production. Chinese elites and high-priority workers would also face international travel restrictions.
And China’s leaders probably would be preparing their people psychologically for the costs of war: austerity, tens of thousands of combat deaths, and civilian deaths from US- and Taiwan-launched strikes.
If China decides to fight a war of choice over Taiwan, strategic surprise would be a casualty of the sheer scale of the undertaking. Even if Xi were tempted to launch a quick campaign and hope that Taiwan’s will to fight would quickly collapse, Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine probably has induced more caution in Beijing.
Such a roll of the dice on China’s part would be far riskier than Russia’s land invasion, not only because the PLA would have to conduct the largest and farthest amphibious invasion in modern history, but also because — unlike in Ukraine — cautious PLA war planners would have to assume that the United States and some of its regional allies would quickly commit combat forces to the island’s defense. Any invasion of Taiwan will not be secret for months prior to Beijing’s initiation of hostilities. It would be a national, all-of-regime undertaking for a war potentially lasting years.”John Culver , “How We Would Know When China Is Preparing to Invade Taiwan.”
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Book orders: www.rigobertotiglao.com/shop