Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is pushing for a review of the 1951 MDT because should a “shooting war” erupt between the US and China in the South China Sea, the Philippines will be involved, contrary to what Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has said.
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Delfin Lorenzana warns vs sustained US operations in South China Sea
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana cautioned yesterday that sustained US Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea might drag the Philippines into a conflict not of its own making but due to ambiguity in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with America.

Lorenzana is pushing for a review of the 1951 MDT because should a “shooting war” erupt between the US and China in the South China Sea, the Philippines will be involved, contrary to what Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has said.

Locsin believed that in “vagueness lies the best deterrence,” in reference to the “non-explicit or non-definitive” provisions in the MDT.

“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the (MDT) will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana added in a statement that with increased US presence in the South China Sea, it “is more likely to be involved in a shooting war.”

“The fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the treaty,” the defense chief added.

The Philippine proposal for the treaty’s review was among the key topics when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with President Duterte and other officials during an overnight visit to Manila last week.

The MDT calls on the US and the Philippines to come to each other’s defense against an external attack. In the past, the Philippines has tried to clarify whether the treaty would apply if its forces come under attack in a disputed region like the South China Sea.

Pompeo assured the Philippines that America will come to its defense if its forces, aircraft or ships come under armed attack in the South China Sea, in the first such public US assurance in recent memory.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday that the defense department was checking a report that Chinese vessels have been blocking Filipino fishermen from approaching sandbars near Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, which is called Pag-asa by Filipinos, in the disputed waters.

In addition to China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the strategic waters.

US Navy ships have sailed close to Chinese-occupied islands to assert freedom of navigation, provoking angry protests from China and tense moments between the rival naval forces.

Lorenzana said the MDT would have been reviewed as far back as 1992, when huge US military bases were closed in the country and the Philippines lost its security umbrella. – AP

DELFIN LORENZANA MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY SOUTH CHINA SEA
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