Philippines wary of China’s aggressive stance in South China sea

Philippines today is possibly the most important country due to its strategic placement in South China sea. While it feels threatened in case of a possible invasion of Taiwan by China there is also a possibility of the United States using its land as a military base to counter China.

China has been playing an aggressor in South China sea and a recent example of it was China using of water canon by its coast guard against a Philippine vessel carrying goods and supplies to Manila. The location where the attack took place is also a fault line in the rivalry between the U.S. and Beijing in the region. Over the years, China had built militarized, manmade islands in the South China Sea and started claiming areas thatconflicts with the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Tensions were high in Taiwan strait when China sent fighter jets and the implications of a possible conflict between China and Taiwan were contemplated world over. China and the US are already in a severely disturbed relation and most of the Southeast Asian countries would adopt a neutral stance if China attacks Taiwan. Philippines is the only country that would find it difficult to stay neutral as the choices it will make would matter the most to both to China and the United States.

Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have serious and specific implication on Philippines due to its geographic placement. The Philippines northernmost islands are 190 kilometers

slightly further than Japan’s nearest island. Philippines proximity to Taiwan renders it vulnerable to possible attack from China. Moreover, US and Philippines security alliance would compel the Philippines to allow Unites States access to its air space and military bases in case of a direct conflict making the country a possible launching site for the US military.

Philippines occupies strategic real estate vital to US national interests and even for the rest of the world. The country offers safe passage through sea lines of communication; furthermore, it is vital for countries in Indo-Pacific region to dissuade China from pursuing its hegemonic plans. Philippines archipelago is also a part of first island chain in the East Asian continental mainland coast that is most effective point to counter any Chinese invasion and expanding influence.

The mutual defense treaty with the United States would help Philippines expand military presence in the region and gaining additional control in the South China sea. Philippines here is acting as a key strategic partner to the Washington in case of a conflict with China over Taiwan. Unites States has been continuously putting in efforts the reinforce partnerships with allies and bolstering relations that had soured in the recent years.

Moreover, there are fear of China claiming territory under its one China policy.

Among the five treaty allies the US has in Asia, the Philippines and Japan are the most geographically close to Taiwan. Philippines has increased US military access in Northern Luzon that is closes to Taiwan and both the nations would like to have a front and center role in Northeast Asian security. Philippines is also strategically important due to its

proximity to series of sand mounds in the sea that China often uses as military bases and stealth submarine movements. The US Marine Corps have suggested shifting towards smaller units in the region that could deploy to remote islands for missile attacks, rear support, counter attack, and intelligence gathering in case of a war with China. The islands in Japan and Philippines are of great importance to American military planners.

Philippines considers maintaining a status quo paramount to its national security. It is not in the country’s interest to be dragged into a military conflict in case of a China-Taiwan war.

Taiwan is a strategic buffer against Chinese ambition to dominate the first island chain that overlaps with Philippines maritime claims in the South China sea. China is playing an aggressor in the South China sea and Philippines need to move ahead cautiously as situation can anytime escalate into a direct Sino-US conflict. The Chinese invasion of Taiwan can also turn into a humanitarian disaster that might lead to refugee outflows. Similar situation was faces by Philippines after the end Vietnam war as tens and thousands of refugees and Vietnamese navy evacuates in the Subic Bay in Philippines.

A successful invasion of Taiwan would bolster the power of China and weaken the ability of the US to support its allies though air and naval presence in the region. While the US hopes that other Southeast Asian nations, except Singapore, would give practical assistance in case of a conflict the Philippines would be a spotlight. The dearth of any other viable option makes Philippines a vital ally for the US that would further assist in deterring China from eroding the status quo in Taiwan or the South China sea.

Taiwan separated by narrow straight by mainland China faces constant threats from its powerful nation but is also supported by the United States in form of arms supplies ranging from defense systems to anti-ship missiles to fighter jets. US President Joe Biden has publicly stated that the US would come in defense of Taiwan if China attacks, which means a direct conflict between the world’s two big super powers. The US would also be readily supported by allies such as Philippines, South Korea, and Australia, which would further weaken the Chinese military and create political risk for China’s Xi Jinping. Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos has recently hinted at China attacking his country’s sovereignty and despite challenges in the South China sea the country would keep asserting for its territorial rights as per international laws. He also wished to keep communicating with Chinese counterparts in Beijing to come onto some conclusion. China in its response has accused Philippines of not following rules and asked the US to stop supporting Philippines.

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