MOST definitely, absolutely no. That won’t happen. I hope I’m right. If I’m wrong, goodbye, world!
It is the height of naivete over global geopolitics, and the depths of gullibility to believe that the US will assist us if China declares Ayungin Shoal in the Spratlys (Kalayaan to us) off limits to our vessels, in order to starve the Marine contingent from the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre that is supposedly our outpost to protect our rights in that area, and force us to abandon it.
Why? Because any interference by the US in Ayungin Shoal will be interpreted by the Chinese as a grave violation of their sovereign territory they have called Nansha Qundao for three centuries. They will see it as a precedent it cannot allow, as it will pave the way for subsequent American co-occupation with Philippine forces of other features in the Spratly.
The Chinese Communist Party will be risking being overthrown by its own people if it doesn’t order its People’s Liberation Army not only to militarily engage the US forces there but to declare war on the US.
And we all know what that would mean: nuclear Armageddon.
Do you think the US will sacrifice, or even just risk the lives of a hundred million Americans in a nuclear war with China over some godforsaken shoal in the South China Sea, or over some agreement made with a small country (us) 72 years ago?
The US military (and reportedly the Chinese) have run hundreds of simulations in the event that the Chinese invade Taiwan and the US comes to its assistance. While an invasion will not immediately trigger a war between China and the US, with conventional fighting lasting from a few days to months, all the simulations have come to a dark conclusion: a Taiwan invasion will lead to total nuclear war between the two superpowers, with Russia joining the fray to strike back at its nemesis.
This is the reason why even the Chinese are hesitating to invade Taiwan, inarguably its province gone rogue, and will be exerting pressure instead for its government to agree to a peaceful incorporation into China, maintaining their economic system, as in the case of Hong Kong.
Despite all the American blah-blahs — “our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad” the US defense secretary is fond of saying, a term President Biden has never used.
The fact is that the US had never envisioned the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to take it to the brink of a nuclear war. In fact the US has never gone to war because such was required by a mutual defense treaty with another country.
The MDT was signed in 1951 merely in order to give our opportunistic elite some propaganda fodder to defend the more important — and real — Military Bases Agreement signed in 1947.
The US at that time was the unchallenged superpower in the world, the only nation that had nuclear bombs and delivery systems for these. It in fact already used two bombs to kill hundreds of thousands of souls in Japan. While the USSR tested its first nuclear bomb in 1949, it would take another decade for it to have the long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. China got its bomb only in 1964, and at that time was one of the world’s poorest countries.
In short, the MDT was really nothing but a propaganda tool to foil the opposition against the US military bases here when we agreed to it in 1947. It was even some kind of joke: Both the US and the Philippines faced no real threat to their sovereignty. The Philippines would assist the US if it was attacked?
The world has changed since the MDT was agreed upon in 1951. Neither the US nor anyone thought China would grow not just into an economic superpower but also a military superpower with nuclear weapons that it could be a threat to the Philippines, at least in terms of grabbing features in the Spratlys they claim to be theirs.
It would be very easy for the US to wiggle out of the MDT if we are militarily forced out by the Chinese not just from Ayungin but from the entire Spratlys.
It will claim that war would be the obvious consequence of its military engagement with the Chinese in Ayungin and that a declaration of war against any country would need congressional approval under its Constitution’s Article I, Section 8.
One would have to be stupid to think that the US Congress would give an incumbent president such authorization on the basis of a defense treaty with the Philippines that some US president entered into 72 years ago. Most US congressmen wouldn’t even know where Ayungin, or even the Spratly Islands, are.
The US president won’t even try to get such congressional approval, or he would be ridiculed: “Fight China, the biggest economy with the biggest army in the world, which would result in tens of millions of Americans, its economy in shambles, to defend a puny country which threw us out in 1992?” both Republicans and Democrats would cry out.
The American president would most probably tell us that Ayungin Shoal is a disputed area, claimed not just by China and the Philippines but even Vietnam, and that the US stand is that it is neutral in sovereignty and maritime-area disputes in the Spratlys.
It will likely even say that the use of water cannons as well as maneuvers by the Chinese Coast Guard vessels to shoo off a Filipino vessel trying to reach Ayungin Shoal to supply our troops there are not classified as, in the MDT formulation, “an armed attack” on the Philippines’ “metropolitan territory or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.” (Itals mine)
Indeed the use of water cannons by vessels of countries asserting their sovereign rights has been a common practice not just in the Spratlys but elsewhere. (See image.)
This isn’t speculation. The Americans’ hands-off policy in our disputes with China was demonstrated in 2012 in the so-called Scarborough stand-off. The shoal is 220 kilometers from Zambales, which our officials always thought was ours that they forgot to put it in Philippine maps, as it was outside the boundaries defined by the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Chinese government and civilian vessels in 2012 blocked the Philippine Coast Guard’s attempt to arrest Chinese fishermen allegedly poaching endangered turtles and fish.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd made a colossal blunder when he ordered the Navy’s biggest warship, a frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to assist the Coast Guard to arrest the fishermen, which in effect militarized the dispute. China exploited the boo-boo to the hilt, reinforcing their civilian vessels with several more (but not naval ships) and calling upon its fishermen to swarm the area in an ocean version of people power. The stand-off lasted for six weeks.
Aquino and his defense and foreign affairs secretaries went to Washington, D.C. to beg then-president Barack Obama to help the Philippines, even by way of just escorting our vessels out of the shoal’s lagoon. No way, Obama bluntly told them, and a photo of the US president leaving Aquino 3rd is seared in my mind as a demonstration of superpower arrogance.
The Americans of course never let an opportunity pass. “You’re too far from the US for us to send our troops in case you need help,” Obama in effect said, “because you kicked out our bases there in 1992.”
“Allow our forces to use your camps again, so we can assist you next time you’re in trouble,” Obama in effect said. The next year, and as a condition for Obama’s one-day visit to the Philippines, Aquino’s defense secretary signed an agreement (the US ambassador anomalously signing for the US government) to allow such use through the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Rather than risk war with China, the US fooled Aquino and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario. A top US diplomat lied to them that the Chinese had agreed to leave the shoal, simultaneously with the Philippine vessels. Aquino ordered — former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th claimed the order came from del Rosario without the president’s approval — the Philippine vessels out. Only days later did they realize the Chinese had not vacated the shoal. The US helped China take over the shoal by fooling the gullible Aquino and del Rosario.
A traitorous act to us, but it was logical in the geopolitical context: Rather than risk nuclear war, the US threw us under the bus.
When will we grow up to realize that in this world of sovereign nations, each one acts in their self-interest. We cannot rely on any other nation, even the US that claims to be our big brother.
“Get the UN to help us, file another case vs China, ‘rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague ruling,’ as the Senate resolution admonishes us, file diplomatic protests, amend the MDT for the US to automatically defend us, get Asean to support us; stoke international outrage against China.”
Jeez, when were you guys born? Indeed as that aphorism says, the capacity of humans to self-deception is infinite.
Ever consider removing the “Chinese-are-evil” wool over our eyes that the US has put for decades, and negotiate with China, as it has been asking us for decades?
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