Washington/Beijing/Manila: Philippines Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana has warned that ‘Risk of US-China war in the South China Sea is growing, and if it sparks, the Philippines will be dragged into it’. The Philippines defense secretary said that the possible war is the biggest security threat to the Indo-Pacific region. Simultaneously, the US has initiated movements to strengthen defence capabilities of the Philippines. The US is found to have supplied the Philippines with smart bombs and advanced drones in the last seven days.
The changed position of the Southeast Asian nations on the South China Sea and the support they have received from the US and other leading countries of the world have made China increasingly nervous. Considering the situation, the Philippine defense secretary’s warning on the war and remarks on its possible participation is noteworthy. At the time, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana spoke about China’s decision to arm its coastguard and naval militia.
Lorenzana stated that ‘The US and China are both claiming their actions in the South China Sea are defensive. However, there always remains the fear of a war flaring due to miscalculation.’ The Philippine defense secretary reminded about an incident from 2018 when there was a near collision of two frigates belonging to the US and China. ‘Any such incidence could cause a conflict to erupt, and the Philippines will be dragged into it. If ever a shooting war happens, the Philippines, which is right smack in the middle of the conflict will be involved whether she likes it or not,’ he claimed.
The Defense Secretary underscored that the Philippines had tried to maintain decent relations with the US and China in the past few years. Meanwhile, the US has strategised to prepare nations in the region to counter China due to its growing activity in the South China Sea. In a visit to the Philippines, a few days ago, the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien supplied the country with smart bombs and other systems worth $20 million. On Wednesday, the US Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett was on tour to the Philippines. During the visit, the Philippines received 8 ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs. A Filipino officer informed that the $15 million UAVs would be used for maritime surveillance.
For the past few years, China has been making aggressive attempts to gain control of the South China Sea. In 2016, after the international tribunal ruled against it, China became more aggressive and is trying to threaten and intimidate the Southeast Asian nations. China is making use of its economic and military clout for doing so. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had adopted the policy of cooperating with China to avoid a conflict with it. Even so, China neither stopped incursions within the Philippine territory nor pressurising it.
The Philippines, therefore, appears to have decided to maintain relations with the US on the matter. Two months ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Durterte had openly warned China it would not negotiate on the ruling of the international tribunal on the South China Sea Arbitration. Also, Duterte said that if necessary, it would seek assistance from the US Navy to counter activities against the Philippines. Moreover, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the ASEAN had condemned China’s actions during a summit in clear terms.