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Thursday, October 27, 2016, 17:20

Cracks grow in US alliance system

By Wang Hui

Manila’s call for a ‘separation’ from Washington’s foreign policy could prompt other governments to follow suit

Cracks grow in US alliance system The position taken by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the US-Philippine alliance is giving the United States a headache. Yet what the US is experiencing now may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the years, Manila has played the role of frontrunner in the US’ strategic maneuvering in the region. The allegiance of the previous Philippine government led by Benigno Aquino III to the US made Manila the most loyal ally of Washington in the Asia Pacific, perhaps even the world at large.

Since his inauguration in July, Duterte’s remarks have suggested he is unwilling for the Philippines to continue doing Washington’s bidding. And during his Oct 18-21 visit to Beijing, he declared his country’s “separation” from the US. Understandably, such words have raised eyebrows in the US and the rest of the world.

While US officials asked Duterte to clarify his words, others had little difficulty deciphering what the Philippine leader wanted to say: Manila wants to shake off the pressure and troubles brought by its alliance with Washington.

Upon returning to Manila from his Beijing trip, Duterte clarified that he meant a separation of foreign policy, rather than the cutting of ties.

Though the Philippines has continued to soften its remarks and reassure the US that it will not break up the alliance, it is clear that the Duterte administration is no longer willing to be used as a pawn in the US’ strategic rebalancing to Asia, which has been widely seen as a move to contain China’s rise.

As an ally with blind devotion to the US, the Philippines has gained little in return over the years except some secondhand US warships. Hence, a change of position was just a matter of time, and that time has come since Duterte took office.

As long as Manila continues to seek peaceful solutions to its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, the prospects for bilateral cooperation are promising. Beijing and Manila have pledged to deepen their reciprocal cooperation in various fields now that the ice between them has begun to thaw.

Better China-Philippine ties not only help to restore healthy relations between the two neighbors but also contribute to building peace and stability in the South China Sea, in which the US too has claimed a stake.

However, the US should not lament the possible loss of a devoted ally, as its military alliance system no longer conforms to the trend of our times. Forged after World War II and prevailing through the Cold War era, the US’ global military alliances bear such features as inequality and exclusiveness, which are now outdated.

In recent years, NATO, the biggest military alliance involving the US, has disagreed with Washington over global and regional security issues. US military ties with Saudi Arabia and Turkey are obviously in trouble too. Indeed, skepticism and criticism over military alliances involving the US are growing by the day.

This is the backdrop to the sentiments expressed by Duterte, and it could prompt other US allies to rethink their dependent relations with the US in light of the changing global political and security conditions.

The US has relied on its global military alliance with more than 30 countries to bolster its global leadership and the role it has played as the world’s policeman. In a world where international cooperation on an equal footing is gathering greater consensus, the weakening of the US alliance system will prove to be a natural process.

The author is China Daily Asia Pacific’s deputy editor-in-chief.

jasmine@chinadailyhk.com

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