February 13, 2012

This Weekend’s News: For the United States, a Balancing Act in the Asia Pacific

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III sees stronger U.S.
–Philippine ties as an opportunity to amicably settle ongoing territorial
disputes in the South China Sea, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In an interview President Aquino acknowledged the need to
continue the Philippines’ good relationship with China while at the same timing
looking at a developing U.S. role in the region as an opportunity to resolve
longstanding disputes over the South China Sea, noting that “the
territorial disputes in the South China Sea can only be solved if all the claimants
to the area, which also include Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia, can agree
to a lasting multiparty deal to begin exploiting the energy resources believed
to lie below the seabed

President Aquino remarked that “Having
America's involvement, having other countries talk about it more, might bring
us closer to a situation that redounds to everybody's benefit
according to The Wall Street Journal.

President Aquino’s statement comes just weeks after China’s
nationalist tabloid Global Times
published an article advocating the
Beijing cool economic ties with the Philippines as a rebuke of the Philippines
strengthening its relationship with the United States

In recent months, the United States and the Philippines have
grown closer. In January, the United States announced that its annual exercise
with the Philippine marines will be conducted off of Palawan island instead of
the main island Luzon in what may be a subtle gesture to China to respect the
Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone rights. (Increased Chinese oil and natural
gas exploration 50 miles off the island of Palawan has exacerbated tensions
between the Philippines and China in recent months.) Meanwhile on Friday Congress
the transfer of a second Coast Guard cutter to the Philippines as part of a
broader effort to build up the county's historically weak navy
,” The Wall Street Journal reported, augmenting the other U.S. Coast Guard Cutter transferred to the Philippines
last year.  

The United States is engaged in a delicate balancing act in
the Pacific. “America
won't be returning to permanent bases in the country, but U.S. troops already
have been rotating in and out of the Philippines for a decade to help local
forces combat a persistent terrorism problem in the south of the country
,” The Wall Street Journal noted. The U.S.-Philippine relationship may be a model that the United States could
pursue with other countries as it steps up its engagement in the region. Whatever
the path ahead, U.S. policy will need to delicately balance the U.S. desire to
increase America's presence in the region through economic, military and diplomatic
linkages, and avoiding the perception of a containment-like strategy that seeks
to balance against China. The best course ahead seems to be cooperative
engagement with everyone in the region, especially China. 

This Week’s Events

This morning at 9 AM, head to CSIS for Maritime Security: Confronting New
and Non-Traditional Challenges in the Age of Austerity
, featuring
remarks by U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Papp. At 12:30 PM, head to SAIS for Renewing America's Focus on a Secure,
Sustainable Energy Future

On Tuesday at 9:30 AM, head to SAIS for Extractives,
Equity and Conflict: Lessons From Work at Local, National and International

On Wednesday at 6:30 PM, Young Professional in Foreign
Policy will host USAID Famine
War Drought (FWD) Campaign

On Thursday at 10 AM, the Press Club will host The President
Wants 10,000 Megawatts of Renewable Energy: How's That Going to Happen?