US finds unlikely ally in Vietnam as a former partner tilts to China

11-Nov-2017 Intellasia | CNN | 6:00 AM Print This Post

US President Donald Trump may have left China for the final leg of his Asia tour, but the specter of Beijing will loom large over his discussions with Southeast Asian nations on the issues dominating the region.

At the core of much of what Trump will do, and what those nations hope he will accomplish during his visit, will depend on America’s ability to counter China’s growth and its ambitions.

China’s used development aid, closer diplomatic ties with nations like the Philippines, and its military expansiveness to spread its footprint in the region. How Trump decides to respond to this will be evidenced during a series of key meetings.

On Friday, Trump will come face-to-face with the outwardly anti-American president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte at the Apec summit in Danang, Vietnam. The US president will then participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, before delivering a speech at the Apec CEO Summit, the White House has said.

On Saturday, he will travel to Hanoi for an official visit and bilateral meetings with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and other senior Vietnamese officials.

Being an American ally has been in the DNA of the Philippines for decades, says Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. The former American colony is the oldest partner the United States has had in the region, but it is a tumultuous history the two nations share, with political, defense and economic challenges that have at times caused friction that has brought them to the brink of diplomatic divorce.

“It’s a relationship that, if handled in the right way, could be promising,” Neill told CNN. “As a businessperson, Trump is going to be wanting to convince the Philippines of the risks of putting too many eggs in the Chinese basket.”

It was this time last year that Philippines’ Duterte announced in Beijing that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.” He told his Chinese hosts that he may also “go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Duterte, known for speaking brashly later backtracked on his comments, insisting what he’d referred to in Beijing was not “a severance of ties,” and that he wasn’t cutting diplomatic relations. “What I was really saying,” he told reporters, “was a separation of foreign policy.”

Whether this so-called “separation” bears out will likely depend on Duterte and Trump’s personal relationship. Duterte, whose savage dislike of former President Barack Obama was well known, has promised to “deal with President Trump in the most righteous way,” when the two meet in Manila. Though he has also said he will “listen to him, what he has to say.”

US President Donald Trump may have left China for the final leg of his Asia tour, but the specter of Beijing will loom large over his discussions with Southeast Asian nations on the issues dominating the region.

At the core of much of what Trump will do, and what those nations hope he will accomplish during his visit, will depend on America’s ability to counter China’s growth and its ambitions.

China’s used development aid, closer diplomatic ties with nations like the Philippines, and its military expansiveness to spread its footprint in the region. How Trump decides to respond to this will be evidenced during a series of key meetings.

On Friday, Trump will come face-to-face with the outwardly anti-American president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte at the Apec summit in Danang, Vietnam. The US president will then participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, before delivering a speech at the Apec CEO Summit, the White House has said.

On Saturday, he will travel to Hanoi for an official visit and bilateral meetings with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and other senior Vietnamese officials.

Being an American ally has been in the DNA of the Philippines for decades, says Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. The former American colony is the oldest partner the United States has had in the region, but it is a tumultuous history the two nations share, with political, defense and economic challenges that have at times caused friction that has brought them to the brink of diplomatic divorce.

“It’s a relationship that, if handled in the right way, could be promising,” Neill told CNN. “As a businessperson, Trump is going to be wanting to convince the Philippines of the risks of putting too many eggs in the Chinese basket.”

It was this time last year that Philippines’ Duterte announced in Beijing that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.” He told his Chinese hosts that he may also “go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Duterte, known for speaking brashly later backtracked on his comments, insisting what he’d referred to in Beijing was not “a severance of ties,” and that he wasn’t cutting diplomatic relations. “What I was really saying,” he told reporters, “was a separation of foreign policy.”

Whether this so-called “separation” bears out will likely depend on Duterte and Trump’s personal relationship. Duterte, whose savage dislike of former President Barack Obama was well known, has promised to “deal with President Trump in the most righteous way,” when the two meet in Manila. Though he has also said he will “listen to him, what he has to say.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/09/asia/trump-vietnam-philippines/index.html

 


Category: Philippines

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