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Philippines hopes US history won’t repeat itself, again

President George W Bush once described himself as “a uniter, not a divider.”
China’s leader, Xi Jinping is a uniter as well – though in a different sort of way.

On April 11, US President Joe Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr will meet in Washington, DC. This is the first such joint meeting.

And it’s Chinese pressure on both the Philippines’ and Japan’s maritime territory that is bringing everyone together. Some meetings are more important than others. And this one’s important.

Back to the future

The Philippines is fighting off aggressive Chinese encroachment on its maritime territory in the South China Sea. It isn’t the first time and last time it ended badly for the Philippines, in part because the country didn’t get effective backing from the US.

In 2012, the Chinese grabbed Scarborough Shoal, which had long been claimed by the Philippines.

The US did nothing when the Chinese broke their promise to then-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell to withdraw its ships and instead remained to occupy Scarborough Shoal.

State Department lawyers presumably worked overtime to come up with excuses for why the mutual defense treaty didn’t apply. The Filipinos were dismayed.

Then, in 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Philippine claims and largely demolished Beijing’s wide-reaching claims in the South China Sea. The Obama administration remained mostly mute – expecting the PRC would reciprocate the restraint.

It didn’t. Instead, it dismissed the ruling as a piece of “scrap paper.” Even worse, the Americans had encouraged the Philippines to bring the suit. The Americans now have two strikes on them as far as many