Did Obama say what we wanted him to Say?
Will America rush to the aid of the Philippines in the event of an attack by China? This question following aggressive Chinese claim on islands in the West Philippine Sea was answered by US President Barack Obama in front of media yesterday at the MalacañangPalace. But his response wasn’t what the public had been counting on.
‘Our goal is not to counter China; our goal is not to contain China,’ Obama said. He added that the plan to deploy and rotate American troops around the country was meant to boost Philippine military capability through trainings and humanitarian assistance. ‘We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks,’ he clarified.
Obama’s evasive answer turned down hopes that America will defend the Philippines should a direct confrontation with China arise. Instead, the American president said that it continues to support the Philippines’ pursuit for greater security since it is consistent with international law: ‘Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.’
He added that America believes in resolving conflicts peacefully through dialogue and is also ready to partner with China ‘in upholding international law.’
Obama clarified that the Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement (EDCA), a 10 year pact, was made ‘By the invitation of the Philippines’ and will only give American troops access to Philippines bases. It does not aim to reclaim or build new bases. In this way, Philippine military will be more ready to deal with threats like natural disasters and ‘not simply deal with issues of maritime security.’
The American president said ‘I am pleased that we are beginning an important new chapter in the relationship between our countries. And it starts with our security.’
What the US president said could be seen as a logical answer of an elected president whose primary job is to secure the interests of his country. Any other answer would have been illogical from the US’ point of view. Could those hoping for an American intervention on our behalf in an event a Chinese military aggression are simply suffering from an illusion? Reassessing our relationship with the US and studying how to engage China should be the focus of our policy and concern.