Manila, Seoul offer Asia contrasting lesson in diplomacy

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/1 22:18:39

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited Chinese warships in Davao City Monday, highlighting a new high in the Beijing-Manila relationship. The three Chinese vessels arrived in Duterte's hometown Sunday for the first goodwill visit in seven years.

Separately, the Philippines claimed Sunday that US President Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to develop "a warm, working relationship" with Duterte in a phone conversation, and invited his Philippine counterpart to visit Washington. This is a sharp change from the previously fraught Washington-Manila relationship between Duterte and Obama.

Duterte is attempting to win an advantage from both Beijing and Washington. Just one year ago, the Philippines was stuck in a serious confrontation with China and meanwhile actively courted the US for the latter's Asia-Pacific interests. Duterte has refused to act as Washington had hoped over the South China Sea issue. He emphasizes equality in the relationship with Washington, and is firm in safeguarding Philippine national interests.

The Philippines has shifted from siding with the US to a balanced diplomacy between China and the US. A friendly Sino-Philippine relationship not only brings direct interests to Manila, but also wins more respect from Washington. Duterte's "Philippine model" has expanded the ASEAN country's way of diplomatic thinking, and has not exerted any negative effects on the country so far.

Unlike the Philippines, South Korea is a contrasting example. The Beijing-Seoul relationship was at a peak two years ago, but Seoul suddenly announced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system last year, tilting toward the US from its previous balanced diplomacy.

Seoul's diplomatic choice ignores China's status as its largest trading partner, and thus has negatively affected its economy.

Meanwhile, the US, fully aware that Seoul is at Washington's disposal, is showing less respect to South Korea, and is blunt in asking the latter to bear more military costs. Just days ago, Washington said that Seoul should shoulder the costs of the THAAD deployment, which has made South Korea furious.

The Trump administration has not asked the Philippines for "protection fees," a completely different attitude from that toward Japan and South Korea. Trump will not favor a country that does not respect itself.

Beijing does not require exclusive friendly relations with any peripheral country, and has no intention to establish its own sphere of influence. China wants to have friendly cooperation with all regional countries and address disputes through negotiations. We will never accept countries that have disputes with Beijing to play a role as Washington's strategic pawn to counter us.

Duterte regards China as an important partner in the Philippine economy and security and has benefited from this stance. On the contrary, South Korea has suffered heavy losses in the entertainment, automobile, mobile phone and tourism sectors. Its security protection from Washington is not guaranteed either. It is folly to bond with the US to counter China in the face of disputes.

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