Proxy War and Gunboat Diplomacy
By Erick A. San Juan
Overheard over the radio, some pundit’s comments on how diplomacy is currently working to avoid any conflict in the South China Sea. Diplomats are actually using rhetorics, doublespeak and play of words. As if the world, especially the media are being taken on a whirlwind ride on what to report and to believe from the statements coming from the different camps involved in the issue surrounding the SCS disputes. If that is how the “game” is being played, are we going to get along with it as long as we know how to benefit from it?
Like in the case of Olongapo City where the Mayor himself, our good friend James Gordon is once again open to the idea that his city should take advantage of the impending 40 percent US military buildup in the Pacific and make Subic be home again of the American forces.
To quote : “There’s nothing wrong with the bases. If you are talking about $15 billion in investments, if you are the mayor of a city and you are visited by the appropriations committee chairman and vice chairman of the US Senate, I guess you would entice them (in)to coming here.” (Source: The Subic Examiner 6.15.2011)
We wrote last May 2 (Testing the Water Might Lead to Its Boiling Point which can be read from www.ericksanjuan.blogspot.com) of the so-called visit of the two senior US senators and how the different sectors of our society have speculated the possible return of the US bases, particularly in Subic. Accusations from the various sectors came out of how the visit was shrouded with secrecy of its real motive.
Coming from the Mayor himself, he said - “Do you think the Pentagon will tell us what their strategy is? Of course not. But why are they visiting, why would the chairman and vice chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee visit Subic on a special flight?” he asked.
Gordon said the plane that took Inouye to Subic also landed in Guam but the senator did not step down from the aircraft there. “Here, they looked at the seaport and the airport,” he said. “Can you read between the lines?” (Ibid)
He was sure with his statements because the interview was done after he returned from his US trip and that according to him, some US officials informed him of the planned military buildup in the Pacific.
It is very clear that Uncle Sam is getting impatient and could not afford to waste much time on the fate of their military bases in Japan and in Guam, as China is slowly inching it's way to become the region’s superpower.
In the recently concluded 2+2 meeting in Washington attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates with their counterparts, Japan Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Japan Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, they reaffirmed their commitment to the Guam military buildup and extended a 2014 deadline for the completion of a new air station needed to "the earliest possible date after 2014." (Source: www.guambuildupnews.com)
But from now until that "earliest possible date after 2014", Washington had to realign around 30,000 forces from Afghanistan throughout Asia Pacific. Even the Nato is wondering why the urgency? And where else do we think they will deploy such big number of US forces? Your guess is good as mine. This is the basis of the Olongapo mayor, need we say more?
Actually, the planned Annual RP-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB) meeting (tentatively set in the middle of August this year) in Hawaii will tackle the review of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the US access to its former Philippines-based military bases at Subic and Clark which the US abandoned in 2001 after Manila refused to renew a lease deal with Washington. Now economic zones, Subic and Clark boast US-built ports and airports which could be of strategic importance both amid mounting tensions with China over the Spratly Islands and Washington's wider aim to contain China's strategic rise. (Source: US-Philippines flex collective muscle by Al Labita @www.atimes.com)
As we are experiencing more of Uncle Sam’s rhetoric of its intention to modernize our AFP, translation – disposing decommissioned military junks to AFP, and the so-called “soft power” of Beijing (but actually engaging in “gunboat diplomacy”), we have to be very wary. If we are going to play both US and China cards, we have to play it well or else we will be shortchange again, and worst, be the pawn in their proxy war.