The United States is using the Philippines and the South China Sea issue in its strategic competition and containment strategy against China, said an expert.
“The United States is using the Philippines as a pawn and a proxy,” said Anna Malindog-Uy, vice president of the Manila-based think tank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute.
The maritime issue is between the Philippines and China, and the United States is not a party to the quarrel and hence should refrain from intervening or meddling in this matter, Malindog-Uy told Xinhua.
“Given the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, escalation could lead to increased U.S. military involvement and interference in … the South China Sea and the wider Asia Pacific region, potentially leading to a direct confrontation between the United States and China,” she said.
The U.S. meddling in the South China Sea issue is “akin to fueling a fire, complicating further the already complex situation,” she said.
Its involvement in the South China Sea dispute could further escalate tensions, complicating diplomatic efforts to resolve disputes pragmatically, diplomatically, and peacefully, said Malindog-Uy.
It is quite hypocritical for the United States to push for respect for international law, specifically United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the South China Sea, given that it is not a signatory to UNCLOS. While the U.S. has signed the agreement, it has not ratified it, she said.
“It undermines ASEAN’s unity and centrality in managing the South China Sea issue and could diminish the efficacy of multilateral forums at the ASEAN level aimed at conflict resolution,” she said.
The expert warned that an escalation of tensions between the Philippines and China in the area would have a ripple effect across various domains and potentially reshape the regional order in the Asia-Pacific region.
“One of the immediate impacts would be heightened security concerns among the Southeast Asian nations,” she said, adding that this could potentially lead to a more militarized and divided ASEAN region, affecting fishing stocks and the livelihoods of local communities dependent on the sea.
Malindog-Uy said diplomatic efforts, confidence-building measures and the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea could help defuse tension.
“Indeed, despite dialogue, there is still no comprehensive solution to the dispute in the South China Sea,” she said.
The Philippines and China should focus on practical cooperation instead of dispute and develop jointly so as to benefit both sides tangibly and amicably, the expert said.
“Both sides should rather think of joint fishery management, joint oil and gas exploration, joint marine research and joint initiatives in protecting and safeguarding the marine ecosystem in the South China Sea,” she said.