By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The Aquino government is using every opportunity to hard sell the increasing presence of US troops in the country. Right after Typhoon Yolanda caused massive devastation in central Visayas provinces and US troops were sent to help in relief efforts, Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario was quoted in news reports saying that this is one reason why the increased presence of US troops is needed in the country.
And now it is President Benigno Aquino III’s turn. President Aquino was quoted in news reports saying that US Secretary of State John Kerry statements, during his recent visit to the country, made the US’s commitment to the country’s security “very categorical and very clear.”
What did US Secretary of State John Kerry actually say? Here are some quotes of Kerry’s pronouncements as reported by Interaksyon.com, December 17.
“Today, I raised our deep concerns about China’s announcement of an East China Sea air defence identification zone.”
“The zone should not be implemented and China should refrain from taking similar, unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.”
I told the (Philippine) foreign secretary that the United States does not recognise that (East China Sea) zone and does not accept it.”
“The United States is committed to working with the Philippines to address its most pressing security challenges.”
“That is why we are negotiating a strong and enduring framework agreement that will enhance defence cooperation under our alliance, including through an increased rotational presence in the Philippines.”
At the same time, another news report quoted Kerry as saying, “Well, with respect to China, let me make it very clear. We don’t view the situation as one of rising tension. That is not the way we see it.”
“We don’t view it as one of rising tension. We are not looking to do anything except to continue a process that President Obama initiated a number of years ago when he began the rebalance to Asia.”
“We hope to continue to work closely with China on North Korea and other issues such as trade and so forth in efforts to try to resolve this kind of issues in a peaceful way.”
It is really surprising what, in Kerry’s statements, President Aquino viewed as “very categorical and very clear” expressions of US commitment to the country’s defense or to Philippine claims on the disputed islands.
Compare these to what the US said with regards Japan and its competing claims and rising tensions with China.
“US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel assured his Japanese counterpart in a phone call that the two nations’ defense pact covers the small islands where China established a new airspace defense zone last week and commended Tokyo ‘for exercising appropriate restraint.’” (Interaksyon.com US affirms support for Japan in islands dispute with China, November 28, 2013)
The report also said: “Washington does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands but recognizes that Tokyo has administrative control over them and the United States is therefore bound to defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict.”
These are “very categorical and very clear.” First, the US affirmed that the defense pact it inked with Japan covers the disputed islands. Second, the US recognizes the administrative control of Japan over the disputed islands and explicitly said that it would defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict with China.
The same could not be said about the statements of US officials regarding the dispute the Philippines has over China. Kerry merely said that it does not support China’s declaration of air defense identification zones, which is more to the US’s interests. And that it would continue working with the Philippines in addressing its security concerns.
Kerry never said that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of an armed conflict with China. He even clarified that the US is not “looking to do anything” except to continue with its process of rebalancing toward Asia and the Pacific. Even earlier statements of US officials did not even categorically say that they are supporting Philippine claims to the disputed islands. What they merely clarified is that they are supporting Philippine efforts to resolve the dispute peacefully.
I am not saying that US support is essential for the defense of the country; it is the Aquino government that is saying that. But it really is a stretch on the part of the Aquino government when it consistently says that the US would come to the aid of the country in the event of an escalation of the conflict with China. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on their part.
Worse, the Aquino government appears to be selling out the country’s sovereignty. Its top officials, including no less than President Aquino, have been pitching for the increased presence of US troops in the country while it is still in the middle of negotiations with its US counterparts. So how could Philippine officials, assuming that they are doing so, push for the interests of the country?
Perhaps, these statements of Philippine officials are not meant to assure themselves or to persuade the US to come to the country’s aid in the event of an escalation of the conflict with China. More likely, these statements by the Aquino government are meant more to condition the mind of the public to accept the increased presence of US troops in the country. That is a sell out; that is treason. It is out and out puppetry.