U.S. Seeks ASEAN Proxy Willing To Poke China

On Wednesday, May 11, the Associated Press published a piece of the election in Philippine which included some dubious editorial assertions:

Marcos presidency complicates US efforts to counter China

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s apparent landslide victory in the Philippine presidential election is raising immediate concerns about a further erosion of democracy in Asia and could complicate American efforts to blunt growing Chinese influence and power in the Pacific.

Marcos, the namesake son of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos, captured more than double the votes of his closest challenger in Monday’s election, according to the unofficial results.

If the results stand, he will take office at the end of June for a six-year term with Sara Duterte, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, as his vice president.

Duterte — who leaves office with a 67% approval rating — nurtured closer ties with China and Russia, while at times railing against the United States.

The whole piece is much longer than the quote. But it nowhere explains why a free and fair election, like the one the Philippines just held, would lead to ‘a further erosion of democracy in Asia’. It also does not explain why anyone might doubt the results when indeed nobody really does.

What it does explain well is why Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will not become a U.S. puppet:

[A] 2011 U.S. District Court ruling in Hawaii finding him and his mother in contempt of an order to furnish information on assets in connection with a 1995 human rights class action suit against Marcos Sr.

The court fined them $353.6 million, which has never been paid and could complicate any potential travel to the U.S.

Marcos has said that he will keep the Philippines on the same neutral foreign policy line as Duterte did. Developing better relations with China is part of that.

That does not fit U.S. plans to use the Philippines as a proxy to poke the Chinese tiger.

Currently Biden is holding a summit with the leaders of countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Myanmar was not invited to the summit and Duterte did not take part.

The agenda of the summit is astonishingly thin:

The summit, which concludes on Friday, is intended to cover an array of topics, including trade, human rights and climate change. But it is also part of an effort by Mr. Biden’s foreign policy team to highlight one of the president’s primary goals: assembling a united front against China as it increasingly demonstrates its economic and military might around the world.

On Thursday evening, the White House announced new investments of about $150 million in the region as part of a series of agreements between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

The investments by the United States include $40 million for clean energy projects in Southeast Asia.

The United States also pledged to invest $60 million to deploy additional maritime assets — led by the Coast Guard — to the region, and to perform training and other activities in coordination with other countries aimed at enforcing maritime laws.

And the administration said it would spend $15 million to expand health surveillance programs in Southeast Asia and better detect Covid-19 and other airborne diseases in the region.

These numbers are stingy and will not move anyone to support the U.S. against China which spends billions on infrastructure in those countries.

They also include a Trojan hoarse program none of those countries is really interested in. More on that later.

The program for the summit looks a bit like a snub:

On Thursday, the leaders from the ASEAN countries met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers before gathering at a Washington hotel to discuss business opportunities with Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, and executives from American industries.

Mr. Biden welcomed the leaders to the White House on Thursday evening in a brief ceremony on the South Lawn. The group posed for a picture before walking into the White House for dinner.

On Friday, the Asian leaders will meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in the morning, and then with Mr. Biden at the White House later in the day. According to the administration official, the group will discuss trading opportunities; transit through disputed waterways, including the South China Sea; and other topics.

These are presidents and prime ministers who are not really interested in talking with underlings like Raimondo and Blinken. They want to talk with the boss. But Biden seems to have little interest in making friends with them.

Was this summit intentionally designed to fail?

Anyway. Back to the Trojan horse for which the U.S. will spend $60 million in an attempt to poke the tiger.

A year ago Peter Lee wrote an excellent piece on the Philippine election that took place this week. It explains what the ‘additional maritime assets’ are supposed to do.

Will a New Philippine President Work with the US Coast Guard to Light Off World War III in the South China Sea?

For those of you who plan ahead, May 9, 2022 is the big one. Mark your calendars. That’s the date of the Philippine presidential elections.

Recapturing the Malacañang Palace for a pro-American president is an obsession of U.S. strategists. And if I’m thinking about it now, they’ve been thinking about it ever since Rodrigo Duterte won the last election in 2016.

I expect that the old guard in Manila, in coordination with the United States, will do whatever is necessary to make sure that, no matter who makes it to the Palace, the embarrassment of a Duterte-style balancer presidency is not repeated.

A pro-US presidency means turning away from the PRC to deepen the security relationship with the United States and Japan and perfect the “First Island Chain” anti-China picket line.

And the Philippines will reassume its place at the center of US plans to confront the PRC in the South China Sea.

As we now know that plan did not work out. But it is interesting how it was supposed to be followed by tackling the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea:

Post-Duterte I expect there will be continual poking at PRC vulnerabilities in the SCS as they relate to Philippine claims and can be construed to demand US support.

These include Reed Bank, an energy play within the Philippines EEZ that the PRC tries to claim as inside its nine-dash line.

Then there’s the Scarborough Shoal, a fishing spot now controlled by the PRC but a flashpoint for Philippine nationalism.

And there is the aptly-named Mischief Reef.

China has made Mischief Reef into an artificial Chinese island within the Philippine’s economic zone. If the Philippine would reclaim the reef by force the ‘additional maritime assets’ the U.S. sends could come to its help:

If the Mischief Reef op goes down, that backing will probably come from, of all things, the US Coast Guard.

The US Coast Guard’s scope of operations, despite its name, is not America’s coasts. It’s a global power projection arm in the realm of law enforcement, not warfare.

Or as the head of the Coast Guard himself puts it, the Coast Guard is “a maritime bridge between the Department of Defense’s lethality and the State Department’s diplomacy.”

The Coast Guard is in the process of basing three so-called Fast Response Cutters at Guam. They are armed with 4 machine guns and a cannon and are designed for extended duration patrols of 2500 nautical miles.

The stated Pacific mission for the Coast Guard is to offer logistics and escort i.e. armed US backup for the coast guards of friendly states in their enforcement activities in the Pacific in the realms of illegal fishing, drug trafficking, and “the threats these activities bring” mostly, I would think, from China.

Stage one is implementing this US-backed enforcement regime on behalf of Palau and the other Polynesian satrapies whose defense and foreign relations are managed by the US government.

Then, if conditions permit, you got the South China Sea.

Guam is too far from the South China Sea, so to operate in the SCS the US Coast Guard will have to rely on tenders—unless the cutters are permitted to operate out of the Philippines,

That’s something I think the US military would dearly love, and is undoubtedly on its wish list for any post-Duterte Philippine administration.

I am pretty sure that Peter Lee had that right. But with Marcos junior at the helm of Philippine that country will not agree to those plans:

Allowing the U.S. to play a role in trying to settle territorial spats with China will be a “recipe for disaster,” Marcos said in an interview with DZRH radio in January. He said Duterte’s policy of diplomatic engagement with China is “really our only option.”

The coast guard cutters to be stationed in Guam are the ‘$60 million additional maritime assets’ Biden promised to the ASEAN leaders.

Maybe some other country can be convinced to proxy-poke China to then ask for armed U.S. coast guard backup.

I doubt though that it is truly in anyone’s interest as China is certain to poke back – harshly.

Via https://www.moonofalabama.org/2022/05/us-seeks-asean-proxy-willing-to-poke-china.html#more