Thursday, September 15, 2016

Philippines’ reversal on troops, patrols could upend US-China strategy

America’s strategy for confronting China in the South China Sea is threatening to unravel as the new leader of a key frontline state backs away from military cooperation — including joint naval patrols — with the U.S.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said this week he wants U.S. special operators to leave Mindanao island, where they are assisting in the fight against Islamist extremists.
The next day, Duterte said he won’t allow the Philippine navy to conduct joint patrols with foreign powers near the South China Sea, apparently scrapping an agreement his predecessor reached with the U.S. before he took office in June.
“The Obama administration’s containment strategy against China is falling apart as front-line countries like the Philippines change gear, creating a cascade effect,” Richard Heydarian, a security analyst De La Salle University in Manila, said in a phone interview last week.
“They (U.S. officials) want enough diplomatic pressure on China to give it an incentive to behave. That is where the U.S. might have a problem with Duterte,” he said.
The Filipino strongman has expressed regret for calling President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” at the recent G20 meeting in China. But he raised more questions Monday about the U.S.-Philippines relationship.
Speaking during an oath-taking ceremony for state officials, Duterte blamed America for Islamic militancy in the archipelago’s south and called for the withdrawal of U.S. advisers from the area, according to The Associated Press.  more