(From The National Interest)
A paradoxical mixture of glee and foreboding has taken hold among Western strategists as the world awaits the judgment of the Hague tribunal ruling on the South China Sea case brought by Manila against Beijing.
Into this witch’s brew of obvious conflict precursors, including but not limited to escalating great-power rivalry, nationalism and resource competition, one must now factor in the Donald Trump of Asia-Pacific politics, Philippine Preident Rodrigo Duterte, inaugurated on June 30.
He has already turned more than a few heads in Washington, not only with his extreme statements about law and order and with his misgivings about alleged U.S. intelligence activities in the Philippines, but more particularly with respect to his suggestion that he would negotiate directly with Beijing on the difficult question of conflicting claims in the South China Sea.
That would constitute a nearly 180-degree course correction from his predecessor’s confrontational approach toward China. Indeed, on May 16, Duterte held a friendly consultation in Davao with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua. Read More