The Philippines has expressed its intention to strengthen its security cooperation with the United States amidst rising tensions in Asia. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says this move is not meant to antagonize China but is a response to the region’s new geopolitical realities. The Philippines would like to cooperate economically with China while acquiring security guarantees from the United States, which is the same path taken by most Asian countries. However, the Philippines, like many other countries in the region, has become entangled in territorial disputes with China, particularly in regards to the Spratly Islands. In 2016, a court in The Hague ruled that China has no claim to the Spratly Islands, but Chinese President Xi Jinping still aims to bring the Western Pacific and South China Sea under Beijing’s control.
As a result, the number of US troops stationed on the Philippine islands will increase, especially in the north near Taiwan. US soldiers will be given permission to use two bases in this area to quickly deploy troops in case China’s military blockades Taiwan. The Philippines fears that if this were to happen, it would suffer global repercussions and immediate consequences, particularly as Kaohsiung, a city on the south coast of Taiwan, is the 15th busiest container port in the world.
Philippine President Marcos Jr. says that his country does not seek a conflict with China, but wishes to follow the path other Asian countries have taken. India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are reorganizing their alliances with the United States to deepen cooperation between security services and increase military spending. This surge is due to democracies across the region being aware that China is demanding more and more and could use economic cooperation to win political concessions.
While President Xi Jinping recently claimed that China has been “surrounded” by the United States, his government is misrepresenting the truth, as he so often does. Xi’s neighbors fear being invaded by China, not the other way around. It is in the context of new alliances in Asia in the face of China’s imperial aspirations that these tensions must be understood.