Briefly: The US and the Philippines are expected to start conducting joint coast guard patrols in the South China Sea. This comes after the Philippines accused a Chinese ship of aiming a military-grade laser at a Filipino vessel, temporarily blinding the crew.
And lasers are only the half of it. The Philippines says both its civilian and military ships have consistently been harassed in the South China Sea, including a November incident when a Chinese ship “forcefully retrieved” a piece of debris a Filipino vessel was hauling.
Intrigue’s take: China’s “aggressive activities” (the Philippines’ words, not ours) have prompted Filipino President Marcos Jr. to double-down on his country’s security ties with the US. On 1 February, he granted the US access to four key bases across the Philippines, just three years after his predecessor sought to scrap a key US defence treaty altogether.
Many Filipinos will be comforted by a greater US presence. But there’ll also be more friction between US and Chinese military movements in the region. And friction often makes fire.
Also worth noting:
- The US military is set to have its largest troop presence in the Philippines since American forces ended a 94-year mission there in 1992.
- Marcos Jr. signed a deal with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week that experts say is a prelude to a mutual defence agreement.