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Daggers Drawn by Philippines and Taiwan in Latest South China Sea Dispute


Filipino police shot a 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman in the neck a few days ago in the latest dispute to heat up the South China Sea. Things escalated quickly after the “accident” and now two American allies are at each other’s throats.

The Philippines apologized twice for the “accident,” in which the coast guard riddled the fisherman’s boat with dozens of bullets, but Taiwan was having none of it. Taiwan recalled its ambassador and stopped accepting applications from Filipino workers applying to live in Taiwan. Then the Taiwanese navy held threatening drills near the spot where the fisherman was killed. Later, protestors outside a Filipino government office in Taipei screamed and chanted and angrily hurled eggs at the building.

The dispute is just the latest in a series to embroil numerous countries throughout east and southeast Asia. Incidents like this are driving the rise of nationalist sentiment throughout the region. In Japan, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, people are growing more and more hotheaded and angry at their neighbors, pushing their governments into increasingly aggressive positions. It doesn’t seem likely that Taiwan and the Philippines—just like Japan and China or China and Vietnam—will make a return to a friendly relationship any time soon. As an ally of a number of sparring countries and the main stabilizing force in Asia, this is not a good trend for the United States.

[Rear view of the Taiwanese fishing vessel with bullet trajectories, courtesy Wikimedia and Taiwan Ministry of Justice.]

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  • Corlyss

    “two American allies are at each other’s throats.”
    Yet another in the litany of examples of what happens when we get an administration that don’t give a fig about foreign affairs/national security except that America be loved.

    • Thirdsyphon

      Of course the most notorious example of U.S. allies going at each others’ throats was the Falkland Islands War, which I doubt you’re inclined to blame on the toadying isolationism and weak national security leadership of President Reagan.

      Even at the height of the Cold War, America’s allies were never her puppets. They are and always have been free and independent countries with agendas and motivations of their own, a fact which has caused us no end of headaches over the years, but has allowed our alliances to hold firm over multiple generations to the benefit of everyone involved.

      The real lesson to be drawn here is that jingoistic saber rattling begets only more of the same from angry rivals, just as violence begets violence, and war begets only more war.

      • Jim Luebke

        “War begets only more war”. Is that why Europe has been in a constant state of conflict for the last 68 years?

        For everything there is a season — a time for war, a time for peace. (Although, there being a time for war, sometimes it’s too late for peace.)

      • Corlyss

        “I doubt you’re inclined to blame on the toadying isolationism and weak national security leadership of President Reagan.”

        You’re right. I wouldn’t. Reagan’s national security creds were okay by me. He gave a good deal more than a fig about American national security.

        I certainly wouldn’t call the Falklands a notorious example of anything except how pipsqueak nations with delusions of grandeur should be dealt with when they actively menace possessions of great powers. I take another lesson from the Falklands: force must be met with force, not rhetoric. Some matters can only be settled by armed conflict, provided it is fought seriously to a definitive conclusion. I am all in favor of war as politics by other means. I never subscribed the panty-waist notion that war is Evil and must be stopped at all costs. All that notion has ever contributed to any historical situation is hand-wringing interference. War’s a tool for realizing national interests. The Philippines/Taiwan incident would not have happened if there had been any substance to the pivot. Heck, it never would have happened under Reagan.

        • Jim Luebke

          Wasn’t Argentina encouraged by Iceland’s repeated victories against Great Britain in no less than three wars between the 1950’s and 1970’s?

  • Prchunter

    It was the way they apologized that enraged the Taiwanese. Philippines, “I’m sorry your guy died in an accident cuz he was where he shouldn’t be”. When Taiwan was looking for something more like, “I’m sorry our coast guard murdered your guy. We’ll punish him to the full extent of the law.”

  • Napoleon Nalcot

    The Philippine government should have never apologized to Taiwan in the first place. Apologize, for what? The issue is simple: these Taiwanese fishermen are illegally fishing within Philippine waters. The coast guard fired warning shots which the poachers just ignored. And when one of Taiwanese boats tried to ram the coast guard’s vessel, it is just a natural thing to do for the coast guard to disable the incoming boat by shooting the engine area. The killing of a 65 year old Taiwanese fisherman inside the boat was not intentional but just an accident. So it was just that simple. To compensate, out of humanitarian reason, to the family of the slain fisherman, is for me, okay. But to apologize is a big joke. What are the Philippines apologizing for? Apologize to poachers who take everything from our seas? And what are these threats about them going to war with us? Well, then, go! What are they waiting for? The may be advanced in military technology compared to us but they must also remember we have battle-hardened soldiers ready to lay their lives on the line for the motherland. What we may lack in technology and hardware we would make up for in assymetric warfare and strategy. We’ve been so much trodden as a people. They show us no respect. I think it’s about time to defend our national pride and dignity and also show to the whole world that we’re not afraid of these greedy and bully chinks.

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