March 6 (EIRNS)—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stop in the Philippines over the March 2-3 weekend was aimed at countering the call by Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana for a review of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed with the U.S. in 1951, over two issues: ambiguity over whether the U.S. military umbrella includes the contested islands in the South China Sea (since the U.S. officially does not take sides in territorial disagreements); and secondly, Lorenzana’s statement in December that the Philippines does not want to be pulled into a war with China, which would be required under the treaty if the U.S. and China went to war. Pompeo ignored the second issue, while assuring the Philippines that the U.S. “has your back” if their ships or planes or military forces were attacked in the South China Sea.
But neither Secretary Lorenzana nor President Rodrigo Duterte let it go at that. Lorenzana reiterated in a statement yesterday: “The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future.” He said, “the United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea [the Philippines name for the South China Sea], is more likely to be involved in a shooting war,” in which case “the Philippines will be automatically involved in any such conflict.”
Duterte was typically more colorful. “America [i.e., Pompeo] said, ‘We will protect you. … your backs are covered I’m sure.’ I said, ‘it’s okay.’ But the problem here is they would invoke the [Mutual Defense Treaty] which was entered into by us, by our ancestors…. But in America, it has to pass through Congress. Any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how bullshit America’s Congress is.”
The New York Times (which Trump has declared an enemy of the people) weighed in on March 5, complaining about Lorenzana’s call for reviewing the treaty. In an article, “Philippine Official, Fearing War with China, Seeks Review of U.S. Treaty,” the Times tried to divide the cabinet, saying Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin (who met with Pompeo) was “more receptive to Mr. Pompeo’s message, saying that Manila would take the word of its staunchest ally.”
Locsin also told the press that the ambiguity of the Treaty was a good thing, since it kept China off guard. Lorenzana refuted this, saying: “I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the [MDT] will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis.” He reiterated: “The fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the treaty.”
In an interview with EIR to be published next week, Secretary Lorenzana expressed his condolences over the death of Lyndon LaRouche, with whom he met often during his 14 years at the Philippine Embassy in Washington.