The US Pacific Pivot That Just Went PFFT!


By Mauro Gia Samonte

Part 3




It is obvious that the American Pacific Century strategy as elaborated by former United States State Secretary Hillary Clinton is a concept on the plane of peace. By this is meant outside of any consideration of war as contraposed to what the United States was getting away from in the Middle East. Precisely, this was Clinton’s tone:  “One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.” Notice that in the entire elucidations she made in proclaiming the American Pacific Century, she makes no mention of war at all. And yet as succeeding events would have it for America, what took place have all been triggers for war.


To begin with, that was 2011, when America continued to feel itself lording it over anywhere it wanted in the world. Such an attitude was expressed by President Barack Obama at the East Asia Meeting that year when to the face of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, he declared with brute arrogance: “While we are not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, and while we do not take sides, we have a powerful stake in maritime security in general, and in the resolution of the South China Sea issue specifically – as a resident Pacific power, as a maritime nation, as a trading nation and as a guarantor of security in the Asia Pacific region.”


But then again, that was 2011 indeed, when China had not yet made its presence felt in the region that much, and much of the sentiments of America and its western cohorts toward it was still as Asia’s “sleeping dragon” which at worst could be contained by what Clinton precisely conceived as the American Pacific Century.


Then suddenly in 2012, the outgoing intelligence chief of the US Pacific Fleet, Capt. James E. Fannel, reported in a speech before admirals and other officers of the US navy that China had already built eight military installations in seven reefs, six of them and the facilities they contained being :


*Johnson South or Mabini Reef – 10 hectares of reclaimed island transformed into a military camp containing a three-storey concrete building ringed with gun emplacements and helipad;

*Mischief Reef – a three storey concrete building ringed with five octagonal concrete structures with searchlights and radars

*Cuarteron Reef – with supply platforms and naval and anti-aircraft guns

*Fiery Cross Reef – the main command headquarters with at least four high-powered naval guns on top of other war facilities

*Gaven Reef – with supply platforms and harbor for navy patrol boats

*Subi Reef – permanent platforms that can house troops and armed with four twin-barrel 37mm naval guns


The preceding details are being cited here to illustrate just how the United States must have suddenly felt frustrated to realize that Clinton’s vision of American Pacific Century must find a stumbling block in these Chinese installations. What America did was prompt then President Benigno Aquino 3rd to file an arbitration case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague over alleged Chinese encroachment into Philippine territory in the South China Sea. But China did not recognize the proceedings and whatever ruling the PCA made appearing to favor the Philippines had remained inutile to this day.


The failure of the Philippines to have what it deemed as favorable verdict of the PCA against China amounts to the first major fizzling out of Clinton’s American Pacific Century. Succeeding ones developed, like the increased trade arrangements concluded between China and Asean nations, such as the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the ten-member nations of ASEAN together with their Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners led by China. With the grouping, the region had gained sufficient economic stability no longer dependent on American intervention.


At the same time, the establishment of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea particularly stresses the exclusion of outsiders (i.e., America) in the settlement of issues among the Asean members. This actually made inutile Obama’s assertion at  the 2011 East Asia Meeting that America is the guarantor of security in the Asia Pacific region. Quite the contrary, America has been the harbinger of war ever since.


As I have already pointed out time and again, the COC finally pulls the rug from under the feet of the ostensible Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) which actually is a duplicitous scheme by America in order to freely sail its warships in waters not their own. There have been times when the United States fly-bys and sail-bys by its aircraft and naval boats on the Chinese fortresses nearly resulted in violent clashes between the two forces.


In conceiving the American Pacific Century, Clinton might have rightly seen that “Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests” and must be “a key priority for President Obama.” But what she utterly failed to realize was that the “sleeping dragon” had awakened and with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), had spread its vision of a world community of shared future such that the development it brings now encompasses already two-thirds of the world.


Against the BRI is America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an aid program for developing nations which has been a miserable failure particularly in the Asia Pacific, as showcased now by the turmoil obtaining in Sri Lanka as well as in the brewing one in Nepal. In the Philippines, the MCC has been withdrawn by the United States as a punitive measure against Duterte, ostensibly because of his war on drugs but actually because Duterte’s evidently intense anti-US stance just had a way of denying the United States’ seemingly last ditch attempt to keep its American Pacific Century alive, this time through instigation of Philippine hostilities with China. 


Having failed with Duterte, it is a matter of course that America would now capitalize on the next Philippine president who very early on had declared in various times during the presidential campaign a foreign policy which he affirmed in his first State of the Nation Address of being “friend to all, enemy to none.”


Chances are that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. would accommodate the fresh offer of friendship by America as expressed by American President Joe Biden and other US officials. And chances are that Bongbong would for the United States amount to a most reinvigorating element for its gasping American Pacific Century vision. Certainly, this should be true on the part of the United States.


Alas but comes this sudden visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. As early as its announcement, the visit had riled the entirety of the Chinese leadership who under the One China Policy consider the visit an affront to Chinese sovereignty. President Xi Jinping had been on record of issuing an admonition to Pelosi that “to play with fire is to die by it.” Having proceeded with the visit despite the warning, Pelosi had plunged the United States into its ultimate damnation.


At this writing, the Taiwan strait is a boiling cauldron of live fire war exercises by naval forces of the People’s Liberation Army, while the airspace around Taiwan had been closeted by the PLA’s fighter jets similarly engaged in awesome live fire sorties, definitely by way of telling the United States, “All in. Bring it on.”


And that’s how, ultimately, the American Pacific Century goes pppffffttt…


READ: Part 1 | Part 2






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