A U.S.-Philippine Policy Option for the South China Sea

  • Lieutenant Colonel Joe Daniels Bookard

Since taking office, the Obama Administration has pursued a policy to expand its role in Asia by rebalancing diplomatic, military, and economic resources to the Asia-Pacific region. An important part of the rebalancing has been on Southeast Asia. In addition to the economic and strategic interests, the United States is also concerned with conflicts in the South China Sea surrounding Philippine-China territorial disputes. These concerns present significant security challenges for vital U.S. national interests in the Asia-Pacific, specifically in the Southeast Asia region. This writing raises a challenging question: how can the U.S. honor its treaty obligation to the Philippines without getting into an armed conflict with China in the Philippine-China territorial dispute in the South China Sea? The analysis will show, the U.S. can maintain regional security in the South China Sea without getting involved in three ways: by continuing its alliances and military-military aid with the Philippines, by investing in modernizing and training the Philippines Armed Forces, and by empowering the ASEAN as a collective security body. This policy option allows Southeast Asian states to resolve South China Sea territory and maritime disputes with China.