Lorenzana says former Chinese ambassador asked him not to ''touch'' Mutual Defense Treaty with US
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that a former Chinese ambassador asked him not to'' touch'' or revisit the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States.
"While the US welcomes the idea of revisiting the MDT, an outside party does not. When I first broached the idea of revisiting the MDT, the former Chinese ambassador came to me and said: 'please do not touch the MDT. Leave it as it is”," Lorenzana said in his speech during a virtual conference on Thursday.
He did not name the former Chinese envoy.
Lorenzana emphasized the importance of revisiting the MDT to fit in the current situation in the region.
"The Indo-Pacific region is currently relatively peaceful, but beneath this calm surface are issues between and among nations, that if not managed properly, could ignite open hostilities," he said.
Lorenzana explained that the review of the MDT was proposed to address the situation in the South China Sea.
"The Chinese, having embedded themselves with their artificial islands, are not in a hurry for any resolution that is not in its favor. So how do other nations deal with this strategy?," he said.
"China likewise is adept at gaming the system. It knows that any aggression it takes will trigger the MDT. So what it did was to employ what is called the gray zone tactics using maritime militias in asserting its so-called historical claims and cabbage tactics, that is, to overwhelm and seize control of an island by surrounding and wrapping it in successive layers of ships," said Lorenzana.
"How do claimants deal with this tactic? Is the US and other nations’ freedom of navigation operations...effective in stopping China from pursuing its designs in the South China Sea? One suggestion that has been put on the table is to revise the mdt to address all or most of the concerns," he added.
Lorenzana said "with the ongoing dialogue between and among nations, the likelihood of a shooting war is remote as every nation involved will suffer dire consequences."
"There will be no victors in the next war, only losers. We live in very interesting times. There are challenges facing us but there are also opportunities to build consensus within our reach that will benefit everyone in the region," he added.
"The pandemic that is currently ravaging the world is in a sense a blessing in disguise. It has taught us to slow down and to learn to work together to achieve a common objective. If all of us can fight the COVID-19 virus as one, we can also rise above ourselves and our petty national interests for the benefit of the whole region and the world," he added. Robina Asido/DMS