Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Thrilla in Manila

What the Hell is the Philippines government up to?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday he would visit Russia and China this year to chart an independent foreign policy and "open alliances" with two powers with historic rivalries with the United States.

Duterte said the Philippines was at the "point of no return" in its relations with former colonial ruler the United States, so he wanted to strengthen ties with others, and picked two global powers with which Washington has been sparring with on the international political stage.

Does Duterte believe that while he is on a charm offensive with China and Russia (and an anti-charm offensive against America) that China might refrain from taking Filipino territory in the South China Sea in hope of scoring a big win by flipping the Philippines and stripping it from our alliance system?

Does Duterte believe flirting with the Russians and Chinese will leverage more American material help for his armed forces and more solid pledges to help the Philippines resist actual Chinese moves in the South China Sea?

Or is Duterte just a Filipino version of Trump who just enjoys saying outrageous things?

I'm not sure what we do with a problem like Rodrigo when the status of the Philippines is a crucial objective for who becomes the heavyweight champion of the western Pacific.

But hey, we'll always have our loudly proclaimed pivot to the Pacific to focus our diplomatic and military might here, right?

UPDATE: Seriously, what is going on with Duterte?

The firebrand Duterte pledged to honor a longstanding security treaty with the United States but said China opposed joint marine drills in the Philippines starting next week and there would be no more war games with Washington after that.

"I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise," Duterte said during a visit to Vietnam. "Jointly, Philippines-U.S.: the last one."

Their president is aware that the security treaty involves America defending the Philippines, isn't he? This treaty isn't a favor to us, although it is of value.

We pulled our military out when asked after the Cold War ended, recall. We are not the threat.

Does Duterte think he has a commitment from China to leave the Philippines alone? If so, it is only to pick off another target which will only bring the Philippines higher on the Peking list in the long run.