The Pertinence Of The Philippines In The Taiwan Strait Conflict – Analysis


By Kung Chan

In the context of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait, particularly during a war, the significance of the Philippines as a strategically crucial location surpasses that of Taiwan. This is because Taiwan’s small size and lack of strategic depth make it susceptible to large-scale military landings that could swiftly result in complete control of the island. The constrained maneuverability of the Taiwanese military and the difficulties in sustaining prolonged defense highlight the fatal flaw imposed by Taiwan’s geographic environment. To effectively address this challenge, strategic solutions must be sought through the confrontation between land power and sea power.

Perhaps to address such geopolitical strategic issues, the United States and the Philippines are accelerating their cooperative efforts. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin stated on Tuesday this week that senior defense and diplomatic officials of the two countries agreed in a meeting to complete a roadmap for U.S. security assistance to the Philippines in the next five to ten years, and the U.S. will deepen its overall strategic relationship with the Philippines.

Austin said that long-time allies discussed the delivery of “priority defense platforms” at the so-called 2+2 ministerial meeting held in Washington, including radar, drones, military transport aircraft, coastal and air defense systems, with the participation of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their Philippine counterparts. Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo also stated in the same press conference that both sides are committed to the modernization of the Philippines-U.S. alliance and recognize that “our partnership will need to play a stronger role in preserving an international law-based international order”.

Numerous American military experts, including former U.S. defense officials, have stated that the U.S. considers the Philippines as a potential location for the deployment of rocket, missile, and artillery systems to counter China’s potential amphibious attack on Taiwan, given China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan. In light of this, Austin has set a significant space for the U.S.-Philippines relationship, stating that it is premature to discuss which military assets the U.S. would station in Philippine military bases, based on the recently expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Manalo remarked that the EDCA sites are primarily aimed at improving military interoperability, addressing potential humanitarian disasters, and possibly addressing other types of security challenges, but without providing detailed explanations.

The Pentagon has not provided specific explanations for the purposes of these additional locations, but mentioned that the work will include airport expansion and training involving naval assets. Manalo stated on Monday that Washington and Manila will need to discuss measures that may be taken regarding U.S. access to EDCA sites. EDCA allows the U.S. to enter Philippine bases for joint training, prepositioning of equipment, and construction of facilities such as runways, fuel storage, and military housing, but does not permit permanent basing.

It is worth noting that under the leadership of Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., U.S.-Philippines relations have significantly warmed, and the 2+2 meeting emphasized that this is the first such meeting in seven years. However, Manila maintains a delicate relationship with the economic powerhouse China in the region. Marcos assured China on Monday that the military bases accessible to the U.S. will not be used for offensive actions, and emphasized that the arrangements with Washington are aimed at enhancing his country’s defense capabilities.

Compared to diplomatic rhetoric, actions in geopolitical strategy are much more significant. In fact, the U.S. is turning the Philippines into a strategically important forward military base, which has crucial implications for Asian geopolitics, Japan’s security assurances, and especially the future security of Taiwan. In fact, from a military perspective, if the U.S. and the Philippines establish a military alliance relationship and form an unspoken military relationship between Taiwan, the U.S., and the Philippines, the likelihood of war in the Taiwan Strait will be greatly reduced, as Taiwan’s strategic depth will be greatly expanded. Even if a war in the Taiwan Strait breaks out, a large number of fighter jets, warships, and missiles can be continuously supported to Taiwan from the Philippines, and even Taiwan’s missiles and warships can enter the Philippines as a base during wartime. This strategic situation will render Mainland China’s strategy of “encircling Taiwan” ineffective, as the combined sea and air power of Taiwan and the U.S., from Taiwan to the South Sea, and then to the Philippines, has formed a regional whole, trapping Mainland China’s sea and air power within. This will fundamentally change the strategic situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Therefore, looking at the current Philippines-U.S. relationship, the U.S.’s patience is paying off, as the Philippines is returning to the strategic game of the U.S., and this has a huge impact on the situation in the Taiwan Strait. As a result, the situation in the Taiwan Strait has changed dramatically. For Mainland China, the small regional military alliance between the U.S., Taiwan, and the Philippines means that it either needs to be prepared for regional wars, including comprehensive wars with the U.S. or that it has to exercise restraint in the Taiwan Strait. Any singular action of its part in the Taiwan Strait has become highly unlikely, because of the changing geopolitical situation in Asia.

Kung Chan is a researcher at ANBOUND


Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound's research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.

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