Philippines Arming Up For D-Day With China

(MENAFN- Asia Times) MANILA – Wu Shicun, chairman of China's state-funded Huayang Center for Maritime Cooperation and Ocean Governance, fired a shot across the Philippines' bow by saying China should“show our swords when necessary” in the South China Sea.

The Chinese maritime expert added that“patience and self-control from China would not be enough” to manage the sea disputes, according to a provocative article he penned this week in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

Wu's saber-rattling aligns with China's warning earlier this month that the Philippines is“playing with fire” amid reports it is fortifying its military presence with troops and construction on remote but strategically important islands near Taiwan's southern shores.

China is clearly perturbed by Manila's possible decision to grant traditional security partners, namely the United States but also Japan, access to military facilities in Batanes, the island-nation's northernmost province less than 200 kilometers from Taiwan's southern shores.

The Philippines is now reportedly considering major exercises with the US and other allies in its northernmost provinces later this year, maneuvers that would stir China's growing concern that the Southeast Asian nation aims to serve as a hub for an expanded Western military presence south of Taiwan.

US forces and military equipment could be formally deployed to Batanes on a rotational basis under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which Manila recently agreed to expand to allow US forces access to more bases across the country. A similar agreement is reportedly in the works with Japan.

Philippine and US Marines during a surface-to-air missile simulation as part of exercise Kamandag joint exercises on October 10, 2019. Photo: Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck / US Marine Corps

However, US access to Batanes is apparently not yet a done deal. That likely explains why Beijing's foreign ministry warned last week that Taiwan is“at the center of China's core interests and represents an insurmountable red line and bottom line.”

Despite those threats and warnings, the Philippines is doubling down on efforts to preserve its sovereignty in the disputed waters while preparing for contingencies in nearby Taiwan, which is separated by the narrow Bashi Channel from northernmost Philippine provinces.


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