Photo Source: National Interest

There is a growing trend among the regional powers in the Indo-Pacific on the development of aircraft carriers.  This may be the result of the maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China Sea, as well as the growing geostrategic shifts manifested by China’s rise. China recently activated its first operational aircraft carrier the Liaoning in 2016. At the same time, it is also developing more carriers to bolster its fleet, challenge US power in the Indo-Pacific, and establish stronger maritime control in the region. In effect, a handful of key regional powers have also started to develop their own aircraft carriers despite certain limitations. In effect, other regional powers also began their own aircraft carrier development projects and would lead to the possibility of a low-level naval and air arms race. While the deployment of aircraft carriers is not as numerous in the region compared to other effective naval platforms such as attack submarines, the mere operational deployment of a single aircraft carrier can be a powerful strategic force multiplier to any country that effectively commands one.

In March, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Publicly, and in no uncertain terms, he declared that the United States would honor its commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) should any Philippine vessel or aircraft be attacked anywhere in the South China Sea. Pompeo’s comments came amid uncertainties with respect to the alliance under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, including talk of a potential review of the alliance. Though international focus was on the U.S. commitment itself and its significance, Philippine responses to Pompeo’s comments were more mixed due to a range of factors and in spite of Washington’s best efforts to boost collaboration with Manila. But beyond this, the hope is that Pompeo’s commitment will jumpstart a broader effort by the two allies to reinvigorate the U.S.-Philippine alliance in the coming years.

Photo Source: The Diplomat

Photo Source: Howie Severino on Facebook

He would have celebrated his 83rd birthday last April 27. But Rodolfo C. Severino, Jr. passed away on April 19. He will be sorely missed.

In his most provocative statement yet, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged China to stay away from a Philippine-controlled island in the South China Sea: “I am asking you, I will not plead or beg, but I’m just telling you, lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there. And if you lay a finger on them, it’s another story. I will tell my soldiers, prepare for a suicide mission.” 

Known for his pro-China overtures, Duterte’s warning came as quite a shock. Since assuming power in 2016, Duterte launched a radical shift on the Philippines’ South China Sea policy — downplaying a favorable 2016 arbitration ruling, threatening to scrap joint maritime patrols with the United States, and pursuing joint oil and gas exploration — that saw Manila cozying up with Beijing, amid overlapping territorial claims. Acting out of sheer pragmatism, Duterte aimed to strike a compromise with Beijing rather than embroil the Philippines in a war against China, which it cannot win.