Balance of Power and Power Shifts
By Erick San Juan
I am one of the millions of Filipinos observing this year’s national elections and I can’t help but notice that there’s no one candidate who has a firm stand when it comes to foreign policy and the nation’s relation to the world community. Methinks this is something very crucial when choosing a candidate to take the highest office of the land. All I can hear from the candidates are motherhood statements that can be translated as playing safe when it comes to foreign relations.
We are blessed to be situated in a very strategic location in this part of the region which makes us prone to be used by other countries if we don’t play our cards well. The recent development that we missed because of this election fever happened in mid-April, where two Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) destroyers, the Choukai and Suzunami, unexpectedly encountered several Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships, including a pair of submarines and eight destroyers, approximately 140 kilometers west-southwest of Okinawa near the Nansei (Ryukyu) Islands. The Chinese warships were heading out of the East China Sea and into the Western Pacific. They passed north of Miyako Island - the northernmost island in the Nansei group - through the Miyako Strait and then proceeded to head southeast. They were there to practice anti-submarine warfare, underway refueling and helicopter flight training, to name a few of the procedures.
According to report, proper communique ensued between Japan and China's military. The above mentioned was a clear ascendancy of China’s naval power in this region as other countries look on with envy.
Also, very few did some follow up with what happened in the tragic sinking of the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette Cheonan in the West Sea or Yellow Sea on the night of March 26,2010.
"A North Korean torpedo attack was the most likely cause for the sinking of a South Korean warship last month," an unnamed US military official told CNN on April 26. Up to 46 of the ship's 104 sailors were killed in the sinking.
Actually, The disaster took place precisely in the waters where what the Pentagon has called "one of the world's largest simulated exercises" was underway which involved scores of shiny, ultra-modern US and South Korean warships equipped with the latest technology. This war exercise, known as "Key Resolve/Foal Eagle" did not end on March 18 as was reported but actually ran from March 18 to April 30. There were speculations that the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan was an accident due to the said war exercise.
Washington is now faced with several problems in East Asia and Southeast Asia while trying to balance Beijing’s growing naval power in the region. One of Obama’s problem is the renegotiation of the relocation of the Futenma US naval base in Japan, particularly its 50,000 US military personnel. I wrote about this last February, when the newly elected Mayor of Nago, Okinawa – being true to his promise that he will not allow the relocation of the US Futenma base to his area of jurisdiction. Backed by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its Prime Minister Hatoyama, the US-Japan alliance is now being put to a serious test as more than 90,000 Okinawans protested before the end of April over the proposed relocation. The pressure is now with PM Hatoyama who has promised a decision on the base by the end of May and politically speaking, it seems that all is not well with his party and its secretary general as issues were thrown against them. Let us all hope for the best to Japan’s leadership and its people that they may surpass this pressure and predicament with flying colors.
As for our future leaders, I recall what some presidentiables said with regards to their “foreign friends”. Some of them parroted that they will keep the country’s old friends and will make new ones that will benefit us in the long run. The usual safe answer. What this nation needs is a true leader who will always put the best interest of the Filipinos first regardless of any foreign ally's wants. We must play our cards well as the balance of power in Asia is gradually shifting in favor of the Asians.