By Ado Paglinawan
In our podcast last September 29, Ka Mentong Laurel reiterated his concern about Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin.
“Locsin’s endorsement of AUKUS,” he said has undermined ASEAN centrality in the affairs of the region. It has already damaged the Philippines’ standing in the ASEAN and disrupted ASEAN solidarity, sentiment and consensus which is overwhelmingly against the AUKUS alliance and nuclear sub deal.
Following the announcement of the Australia’s security pact with its cousin Brits and Americans, Locsin welcomed it saying “The enhancement of a near abroad ally’s ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilize it.
“Despite advances in military science, time and distance, and the concommittant stopping power of water, remain major constraints in determining security capacity to respond appropriately to threats.”
When I first read this, my reaction was “what threats?” Who is being threatened? Peace and stability in ASEAN, outside of the pandemic, is deafening.
Locsin’s enemy is unseen, and yet it is not Covid-19. Is this man finally breaching senior moments onto alzheimers whose chronic symptom is incessant paranoia?
Or could it be that his dalliance with Her Majesty’s secret intelligence service has again called him to active duty just as he got Mark Malloch Brown in 1985 to front as Corazon Aquino’s public relations handler but who actually served as the MI6 operative who worked through strings of conspiracies, to facilitate the regime change removing President Ferdinand Marcos.
Only an American proxy aka British agent recognizes China as an enemy.
Laurel reports “for almost two years now ASEAN and China have been together intensely focused on overcoming the COVID-19 epidemic. China is pouring in massive number of PPEs, masks, ventilators and has achieved tremendous success in surmounting the unprecedented collective challenge.”
This is over and above the economic cooperation and benefits China has been pouring out to the sub-region, in and outside of its Belt and Road Initiative.
Laurel connects, “At the same time, with the years of dialogue and negotiations, ASEAN and China have finally achieved calm seas on the previously disturbed efforts toward calm and tranquility due to the South China Sea disputes hyped up some of the ASEAN members.”
ASEAN members are all now looking forward to the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea with China by 2022.
But this sub-regional arrangement is only for enforcement by its signatories. This code is perceived by the West to box out the West from its ambitions in this part of the world, far worse than China reclaiming and fortifying eight features of the South China Seas. Thus AUKUS!
But if pundits think the first conflagration would erupt in the Indo-Pacific area, they are clearly mistaken. The termites have already began its work among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The obnoxity of the alliance starts from its being self-serving to the Anglo-Saxon whites – Britain. America and Australia. Europe has started to realize the tentativeness of its affinities postdating World War II.
The Atlantic shares a bit of a history readback to explain a brewing disengagement between France and Britain.
“Watching the fallout from the great Anglo-American heist of France’s submarine contract with Australia, you could be forgiven for concluding that London and Paris are polar opposites in every way.The irony is that the row over the new Australia-U.K.-U.S. defense pact, or AUKUS, reveals how fundamentally similar they really are.
“For Paris, the submarine episode is proof of London’s “permanent opportunism” and preference for junior status in a partnership with the United States over any meaningful association with Europe.
“It is as if nothing has changed since Winston Churchill exploded in frustration at Charles de Gaulle on the eve of D-Day to say that if Britain were ever forced to choose between Europe and the open seas, it would always choose the latter.
“In the French view, Boris Johnson’s pursuit of a “Global Britain” outside the European Union is merely the latest expression of this deep and undignified national instinct.”
French President Emmanuel Macron is not waiting at all and announces a “Europe First” strategy, obviously as caricature of Trump’s “America First” policy.
Its scope is to make the European Union more independent from Washington for defense and sensitive technologies — is causing concern in many EU member states and hampering western efforts to forge a united response to the rise of China.
But reluctance is felt in Eastern Europe, where many countries see the USA as a “protective shield” against Russian aggression. There are also countries in Western Europe that fear that Macron might exaggerate its efforts to “cut off” the US.
To which Macron responds, “I would like to say this: first of all, Europeans have to leave their innocence behind. When we come under pressure, when foreign powers harden their attitude, we have to react, show that we have the strength and the ability to defend ourselves without being able to escalate, but to guarantee respect.”
The French president says he respects the sovereignty of the United States, “but we would be naive, or rather, we would make a big mistake if we did not adapt to these new facts…with the same pragmatism and the same clarity. This is not a substitute, but an activation of the European pillar of NATO in view of the increased demands on our protection.”
A vlogger from Slovakia who identified himself as Niikopol presents a sober reaction, “Imma just gonna ask, but why do we care for next Cold war between US and China? Why is it so important that we follow US into yet another conflict, and probably end up being told to sod off as in Afghanistan, and not instead deal with China from position of our diplomacy to forge some sort of way to resolve our econ issues with them?
“How is China a threat to us that cant be handled on that field? Our interests and threats lie in the near-abroad-around Russia, Turkey, Med region with special interests on Sahel. Not in Far East.” (sic)
US is moving Asia towards war
Mauro Gia Samonte has an even more aggressive analysis.
“At the moment, the world is up against one more nuclear reality, the likes of which one would wish Hiroshima and Nagasaki were things of the past. But no, the recent formation of a trilateral military alliance called AUKUS (for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States) precisely augurs a world situation in which the US and its allies, this time limited to just the UK and Australia, are seemingly into a repeat of what they did to force an end of the Second World War.
“What is alarming to military analysts is that AUKUS, as the name indicates, limits itself to co-mingling on the basis of anti-Chinese leanings. For instance, a distinct element of the grouping is a so-called mega deal for the construction by Australia of some eight nuclear submarines awarded by the US at the fantastic cost of $8 billion apiece.
“You and I have known all the while that the construction package had earlier been dealt by the US with France, actually its longtime ally from way back when, but for the fact that of late French President Emmanuel Macron has been waltzing beautifully with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the latter’s world swing of his Belt and Road Initiative.
“It would do us well to view these shifting alliances in the Indo-Pacific region in the context of what the late President Ferdinand Marcos once said: ‘There are no permanent enemies. Only temporary allies.’ “
Optimism has been at its highest for Asia’s post-pandemic economic recovery with the continuing peaceful economic rise of China. There is hope to avert a “Cold War 2.0” that was discussed at US President Joe Biden’s phone call to President Xi Jinping on September 10. It concluded with a cooperative note on the pandemic and climate change challenges.
But just five days after that hopeful call the US, UK and Australia shook the global high spirits off with the announcement of a new tripartite defense alliance called “AUKUS.” The news carried a menacing announcement of a deal to “support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.”
This immediately triggered alarm bells in many capitals of ASEAN and also in China.
Indonesia and Malaysia immediately warned of an “arms race” being triggered by the announcement. Malaysia announced a mission to China to consult on the matter. Elder ASEAN statesman Mahathir Mohamad blasted Australia “You have escalated the threat”. Thailand’s respected writer Kavi Chongkittavorn said “Bangkok views the latest US move as a destabilizing factor…”
The Hanoi Times reported on Spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang’s polite admonition “The nuclear energy must be developed and used for peaceful purposes and serve socio-economic development, ensuring safety for humans and the environment.”
Laurel said, “how nuclear submarines ensure safety for mankind and nature is quite a stretch of the imagination.”
Singapore’s reaction too was erroneously reported by Western media as an endorsement as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said Singapore “hoped” the AUKUS would “contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region.”
Laurel adds, “Hoping is an admonition. AUKUS could be useful but also harmful. The immediate effect is already hurting the calm of Asia.”
The EU has long felt the absence of US leadership, heightened in 2020 in the Munich Security Conference where the theme was “Westlessness.”
That drift has hardened with France and Germany skeptical of US leadership and Australians themselves are deeply divided about the AUKUS.
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating in a public statement said Prime Minister Scott Morrison has led Australia stray from benefitting from “the Asian Century” and back to the “jaded and faded Anglosphere,” while another former prime minister Kevin Rudd worries about Australian giving up its defense sovereignty to the US-UK in the submarine deal.
Fire the American cannon-fodder!
“As a Filipino,” Laurel shares his conclusion closer to home, “I am very sad to say that the Philippines’ foreign secretary created a very bad impression on its ASEAN partners and in the world by his seriously misaligned and misguided position on the AUKUS with mumbo-jumbo about antiquated “Cold War” “balance-of-power” rationalization of a fawning tribute to the AUKUS saying it “would be beneficial in the long term.
“Neither is Locsin’s fawning appreciated in the West, notably among the EU.”
Laurel was diplomatic, but in essence, wants the American straggler in the Philippine official family, decapitated for poisoning the waters of ASEAN.
“The peace, tranquility, productivity and prosperity of the region is at stake.
“The biggest potential loser from the AUKUS ruckus is ASEAN if it does not reinvigorate its solidarity over the issue and rein in the Philippines’ wayward foreign secretary.
“We in the Philippines appeal to our President to bridle the secretary of foreign affairs. ASEAN must restore its gravitas on this issue and denounce the AUKUS together.
I cannot but agree. At a time when the Americans are shifting the warzone from the west to the east, it is a clear and present danger to keep a British American cannon fodder in high places of our government.
As we speak, President Duterte contrasts his flamboyant secretary by expressing concern and calling for a full cabinet discussion after.
But will anybody in that cabinet have the temerity to confront Locsin with the question, “who do you think will be in the center of the cauldron in case the fireworks begin?
Definitely not China, but the Philippines because of its geopolitical location and the presence of American boots on the ground here and strategic US war equipment.
From what appears, presidential spox Harry Roque, can immediately replace Locsin, as he advanced more wisdom moving forward, saying that most countries in Southeast Asia think the new western pact will introduce a heightened conflict in the area and second, promote an arms race that can take on a nuclear character in the near future.
Locsin displays his ego-centric and dissonant lecturing of Russia Today, mumbling most of the way, straying away to interpret our defense doctrines, the president’s independent foreign policy, turn of the 20th century history, mumbling most of the way but not answering direct questions by the newscaster. Up to 14:45 minutes.