Manila’s continuous attempts to drag the United States and some other countries further into the South China Sea disputes are irresponsible and counterproductive, and will only exacerbate the already complicated situation.
Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin said Monday that his country is seeking a “stronger commitment” from Washington in light of what he claimed the disruption of the freedom of navigation and the freedom of flight in the South China Sea as a result of China’s construction activities there.
Furthermore, Gazmin will join Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on a three-day visit to Japan next week to discuss the transfer of Japanese military equipment to the Philippines to boost maritime security.
In fact, it is not the first time that Manila has cried wolf to cover up the reality that it has been a real troublemaker in the South China Sea.
By playing up “China threat” and continuously taking provocative actions, Manila has always ignored the common interests of countries in the region.
Earlier this month, the Philippine military invited foreign journalists to visit Zhongye Island, part of China’s Nansha Islands, by military aircraft.
Meanwhile, Gregorio Pio Catapang, the Philippine military chief, said his country welcomed a possible U.S. move to assert freedom of navigation around Chinese-made artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Manila’s recent attempts to plead support from Washington on the South China Sea issue is best described by a Chinese fable: The fox seeks authority in the forest by parading behind a tiger.
Manila should understand that acting like a crying baby and begging for support from the United States and some other countries would never help solve the issue, which should and could be properly handled only by the parties directly concerned.
In addition, it can hardly be accepted as coincidence that Manila would become provocative on the South China Sea issue whenever U.S. officials are trying to sow the seed of discord and embolden its Asian allies like the Philippines in a larger strategy of Washington to contain China.
Commenting on China’s legitimate island construction in the South China Sea, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told young cadets of the U.S. Navy Academy at a graduation ceremony last week that China is the destabilizing factor in the South China Sea and the United States should keep peace in the region “as it has for the past 60 years.”
Coinciding with Biden’s speech and the Pentagon’s indication that the U.S. military would conduct surveillance over China’s island construction in the region, a U.S. P-8A anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft flew over waters off China’s Nansha Islands.
Clearly, the United States wanted to play up China’s island construction activities and portray the country as a threat to regional stability in a dangerous and irresponsible move that may lead to miscalculation and untoward incidents.
As the United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue, it should honor its commitment of not taking sides. If Washington allows itself to be dragged further into the disputes, it will only muddy the water and benefit a handful of countries in the region.
For Manila, it is advisable to be discreet with its words and actions and stop playing fire, so as to create a favorable environment for consultation rather than stir up trouble in the South China Sea.
This commentary originally appeared in China’s state news agency, Xinhua. Author unknown.