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Tensions in the South China Sea UPSC NOTE

 

  • With Ferdinand Marcos Jr., at the helm in the Philippines, Manila seems ready to confront China head-on

  • The United States-Philippines relationship has seen an upswing since Mr. Marcos Jr.’s landslide electoral victory in 2022

  • In a recent dialogue, he sharply criticised China’s “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions” in the South China Sea, a region that has been the subject of increasing tensions due to territorial disputes and competing claims

  • China, on the other hand, has continued to categorise Mr. Marcos Jr. alongside former President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan as an American lackey, bent on inviting chaos and conflict in the region.


US Involvement

  • America has had a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines from 1951

  • However, it is wary of opening up another front and becoming entangled in a naval battle with China, its peer competitor. 

  • America has about 4,00,000 citizens, including many military veterans, residing in the Philippines

  • The only U.S. Veterans Administration regional office outside the U.S. is located in Manila.

  • With its geographic location in the South China Sea, the Philippines is an indispensable actor in the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China.

  • To meet its security needs, the Philippines is focused on enhancing its surveillance and power projection capabilities

  • It has revived plans to modernise Subic Bay, once a formidable U.S. Navy installation, and the nearby Clark Air Base, formerly the largest U.S. Air Force installation overseas.

Quad Support 

  • Mr. Marcos Jr. is leveraging the support he receives from Quad partners (India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.) to transform his country’s forces

  • This year, India delivered the first set of BrahMos launchers and missiles ordered by the Philippines as part of a $374.96 million deal signed in January 2022

  • India has officially given a statement of full support to the 2016 Tribunal ruling, which had found China guilty of breaching the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

  • China expediently ignored the ruling.

  • Tokyo is also engaged in helping the growth of the Philippines Coast Guard. 

  • Japan pledged to fund seven patrol ships, which are in addition to the 12 ships handed over, following a diplomatic visit to Manila in November.

  • South Korean shipyards are also being approached for the development of coast guard vessels. 

  • Australia is the Philippines’ second largest bilateral grant aid donor


  • Ironically, even as the Philippines prepares to confront the PLA (Navy), it remains reliant on Beijing’s financial support

  • China committed a total of $9.1 billion in 2000 and 2022

Possible outcomes

  • It is uncertain how long this dual engagement, i.e., military assistance from the U.S. and developmental aid from China, will maintain the balance. 

  • However, Mr. Marcos Jr.’s increasing friction with China is likely to affect financial flows from Beijing while strengthening U.S.-Philippines military ties as well as its relative importance for Quad operations.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Tensions in the South China Sea UPSC NOTE
Tensions in the South China Sea UPSC NOTE
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