(First of Two Parts)
Extending a modernized role drawn on “all instruments of power,” the U.S. will defend Indo-Pacific interests, deter aggression on American territory and allay threats against its allies in the region, a White House document declassified this month showed.
Nobody probably saw this unfold as did Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, insisting that a relatively unintended military preparation might just get the country pinned into a clash of giants for bigger interests. The Philippine political opposition wanted Duterte to pursue “the gains of the (Philippines’) victory in the International Tribunal” in The Hague over the country’s South China Sea territorial claims—but “not necessarily to go to war against China.”
“For 75 years, the U.S. has maintained a strong and consistent defense presence necessary to support regional peace, security, stability, and prosperity. It is extending and modernizing that role and enhancing capabilities to defend its interests and to deter aggression against U.S. territory and against its allies and partners.”
Moreover, the U.S. “will strengthen Indo-Pacific security, drawing on all instruments of power to deter aggression and to counter coercion,” the White House said in a declassified Fact Sheet on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).
And keen foreign observers see a transnational security alliance in the region will keep at bay China’s probable military aid to Russia in the current Ukraine Crisis in Europe—and beyond.
In the local shores, the security aspect of the IPS strengthened will establish a geopolitically allied position on the much-disputed South China Sea. Albeit unspecific on that issue, some of the countries that have signified interest of claims over certain parts of the SCS are into the IPS alliance, including Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
The sea lane in Taiwan Strait is also mentioned in the U.S. IPS Facts Sheet. It can be recalled that then President Benigno S. Aquino III issued in 2016 a unilateral declaration to rename territorial waters within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
The Indo-Pacific Region is made up of Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor Leste, United States and Vietnam. The South China Sea is by and large circumscribed by the Indo-Pacific Region.
On February 11, nearly six years after the landmark International Tribunal decision in favor of the Philippines over its SCS claims, the White House has disclosed a Fact Sheet on the United States’
Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS). “This strategy outlines President Biden’s vision to more firmly anchor the United States in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the region in the process,” according to a declassified information
The Asia-Pacific Media Hub hosted a press teleconference for select Asian journalists Thursday midmorning, having for resource persons top-level officials of the Department of State: Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. However, some technical issues emerged unexpectedly.
According to the declassified information, the five core objectives of the U.S. IPS are: 1) advance a free and open Indo-Pacific; 2) build connections within and beyond the region; 3) drive regional prosperity; 4) bolster Indo-Pacific security; and 5) build regional resilience to transnational threats.
The fact sheet underscores the historic strides made by the Biden-Harris Administration “to restore American leadership in the Indo-Pacific, as the U.S. adapts to its role in the region in the 21st century.”
Modernizing longstanding alliances, the U.S. has, since last year, strengthened emerging partnerships, and has forged innovative links—among them, to meet urgent challenges, from competition with China, to climate change, to the pandemic.
The U.S. has adjusted to such factors as her allies around the world have increasingly enhanced their engagement in the Indo-Pacific, and at a time that broad bipartisan agreement is emerging at the homefront in the U.S. Congress.
Such a convergence, a commitment to the region across oceans and political party lines, “reflects the reality that the Indo-Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world, and its future affects peoples everywhere.”
That “reality” is the basis of the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.S., even as the White House stated that: “Its central focus is sustained on creative collaboration with allies, partners, and
institutions, within the region and beyond it.”
(To be continued tomorrow)