AS SOUTH CHINA SEA tensions continue to escalate between Beijing and Vietnam, an expert has revealed how the Philippines has employed to try and assert its own dominance on the disputed territory.
Dr Namrata Goswami, Senior Analyst and Author, argues that Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte could be playing Russia against China, and both nations against the US. The aim for the president is to attempt to gain a foothold in the region, while also securing trade deals. According to Forbes, Dr Goswami said: “It is clear since 2016 when Duterte became President that he has shifted his focus to China as the pre-eminent partner.
“This was obvious from his five visits to China and with none to the US to meet Trump.”
“From Duterte’s perspective, if the US is serious about the South China Sea, it should have clearly responded with military might when China started building those artificial islands,” she says.
“Since it did not, Duterte views a relationship with China as more to Philippines’ advantage than the US China has also been building upon its influence in the region, through its economic and diplomatic efforts and Duterte’s change in tactic reveals that.”
“The deeper strategic implication of Duterte’s move could be that it is a deliberate ploy to establish closer ties with China so that the US does not take its former colony for granted, or ignores some of its internal issues, or think it’s ok to meddle into Philippines’s internal problems.”
South China Sea news: The secret plan the Philippines have employed to gain upper hand
It comes as Russia have been courted by Duterte, who met officials this week.
During the meeting new partnerships were formed centred around defence and trade.
It comes as Vietnam launched a stunning attack at Beijing as it accused a Chinese oil-surveying vessel of territorial violations, worsening the already bitter tension between the two nations.
Hanoi said the vessel and its coastguard escorts had widened its activities by entering Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
On Friday, Beijing’s Haiyang Dizhi 8 made numerous passes through the disputed waters, according to Marine Traffic satellite tracking data.
South China Morning Post reports that at least two coast guard ships were spotted manoeuvring around a Singaporean-flagged support boat in an oil block.
Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said: “The Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escort vessels continue, and expand their operations within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, thus seriously violating Vietnam’s sovereign rights.”
“Once again, Vietnam demands that China immediately cease its serious violations, withdraw all of its vessels from Vietnam’s maritime zones and desist from repeating similar violations.”
China and Vietnam have been embroiled in a bitter spat, with tensions escalating since July.
The feud rose after the Chinese state-owned surveyor first started following and working on seabed of the South China Sea.
It comes as Beijing has begun deploying coastguard ships in the highly disputed South China Sea, as it attempts to make itself visible to rivals.
Experts believe the move from China is an attempt to assert its dominance in the region.
Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has released a report which claims 14 vessels have been identified as Chinese ships.
They were discovered due to the broadcast of automatic identification system (AIS) signals while out in the Luconia Shoals, Second Thomas Shoal and the Scarborough Shoal over the past year.
The report said: “There don’t appear to be any other contested areas where China Coast Guard presence is so persistent, and where China clearly wants regional counterparts to know they are present.”