• War in Korea: Should we host America’s forces?


    Ricardo Saludo

    OUR Tuesday column argued that US President Donald Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte despite the storm of American liberal and media protest, at the Pentagon’s behest, to get Duterte’s nod for full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

    The Edca would escalate rotations of US forces and give them access to our bases. And that capability to host and provision massive military assets, especially air and naval, may be sorely needed if America goes to war in Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program.

    Now, should President Duterte fall for Trump’s charm and allow American might to set up in the archipelago for possible conflict?

    This issue is way above our paygrades, of course. Our elected President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the full mandate to decide what the country’s foreign and defense policies should be in the catastrophic event that war breaks out in the Korean Peninsula.

    Thankfully, in deciding how the Philippines should act and position ourselves if things get bloody between Pyongyang and Washington, President Duterte knows full well how bad such a war could get for Asia, certainly far more than the billionaire who phoned him last Saturday.

    For starters, US airstrikes on Pyongyang’s nukes and rocket facilities would almost surely trigger retaliation by the forces of leader Kim Jong-un. Projectiles and artillery would rain upon South Korea, especially the urban agglomeration centered on Seoul just a few dozen miles from North Korean troops, tanks, artillery and rockets massed along the 38th Parallel dividing the peninsula. Defense experts also fear missile attacks on the US base in Okinawa, and airfields of the Japanese air force, expected to back America.

    How China and Russia respond would decide how much wider the conflict gets. Beijing is keen to prevent total defeat or collapse of the North, which would likely spawn a unified Korea allied with America and Japan, and probably hosting US forces close to the Chinese border.

    And if war goes nuclear, which Kim has threatened to do from the start, the radioactive fallout could contaminate vast waters and lands, depending on Pacific winds, which are building strength as the June-September typhoon season nears.

    Caught in the middle of that cauldron would be 60,000 overseas Filipinos in South Korea, and some 300,000 in Japan. Plainly, the Philippines is not equipped to assist or evacuate most of those compatriots, and would need to get massive help from other countries, most probably Japan, China and America.

    Should we dance the Edca?
    This war scenario is the nightmare President Duterte and the National Security Council need to ponder and prepare to face, if things go bad. And their deliberations may get even more urgent if Duterte accepts Trump’s invitation to visit the White House, or gets more calls from his phone after the Saturday night ring.

    With the Edca, the Pentagon would pre-position and amply provision massive assets much closer to the theater of battle than the Guam, Hawaii, California, and other bases where they are now.

    The US may be most keen to station warplanes, considering the five airbases it initially selected for use under the Edca, none of which are for naval vessels: Mactan near Cebu, Puerto Princesa, right next to its newly upgraded airport, Cagayan de Oro, San Fernando in Pampanga, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

    But President Duterte has openly opposed the Edca, even threatening to abrogate it, as he certainly can without congressional concurrence. The Supreme Court ruled that it is an executive agreement not needing Senate ratification.

    And when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced in January that the US would build facilities in some bases over the next three years, Duterte himself squelched such talk when he fumed over the rumored entry of US nukes in the country.

    So, despite sure-fire outrage among American liberals and media incensed over Duterte, the Donald gives him the ultimate presidential accolade, in the Pentagon’s hope to improve the Edca’s chances of instant implementation

    Now, should Digong go along? And what should he ask in return for support?

    The first thing to consider, of course, is the risk to the country of hosting forces sure to be targeted by an enemy brandishing nuclear-tipped projectiles. North Korea has a truck-mounted intermediate range missile, the Hwasong-10, also known as BM-25 or Musudan. It is being developed to have a range of 4,000 km, encompassing the Philippines from North Korea. But it is still being tested and not yet fully deployed.

    While attack from Pyongyang seems unlikely, there is the danger of China entering the fray to prevent total defeat or collapse of the North. If that happens, then the wider conflict could make US forces in the country magnets for Chinese attack. And as the US Army-sponsored “War with China” report by the RAND think tank argued, if there are hostilities with the People’s Liberation Army, prime PLA targets would be aircraft carriers and air bases used by US forces.

    Besides the danger of attack on the Philippines, another consideration is geopolitics. How will America respond if we don’t join it in battle? And if we do, how will China react?

    On balance, China can make more trouble and offer far greater benefits for us than America, now and in the future, so geopolitics slightly favors Beijing.

    The third consideration is the fate of tens of thousands of Filipinos in Korea and Japan. We need massive aid to assist and possibly evacuate them. And we should probably go along with the nation or nations offering the most aid to safeguard our OFWs.

    If we do support Uncle Sam—and we may have to anyway under the Mutual Defense Treaty—Duterte should set three conditions for hosting American assets: No nuclear weapons in the country. Clear limits to where US forces go, to contain collateral damage from attack. And mountains of aid, to get ships and planes for Filipinos in Korea.

    Pray we never need a single ship or plane. So help us God.


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    1. If we want to have an independent foreign policies, then hosting foreign force against another country must be out of the question. Mutual Defense agreement doesn’t include United States being the offensive force. Only if the United States is attacked by foreign power, the Mutual Defense Agreement will kick in.

    2. arnel amador on

      or perhaps, russia would consider dropping an extra large kwetis on new york and nearby pentagon as a reminder that usa own medicine isn’t good at all for the human consumption on this planet. the americans do not fell the heat every time their smart ashls are sending their toys overseas under the guise of protecting usa a..s everywhere. while the chosen and righteous men and women of usa are enjoying dysnies and hollywood movies, in other corner of the world are at the receiving end of their favorite toys. only few days back more than 50 of it dropped on unlucky part of this planet. of course very few cares, nasanay na eh. now back to our own backyard. i’d like to think that we are lucky enough we have meyor digong this time. when he said, “mr us prez, do not play his (fat-ill) hand/mind, he wants to end the world that’s why he keeps smiling” or to that effect. digong knows the game and he is pragmatic….those noisy folks in the us could be reminded by arab’s saying, “when the caravans passed by dogs barked, let them bark. caravans would pass and continue anyway”….

    3. dating kriminal on

      Philippines will not be needed to host in the event of war with North Korea. The fat boy leader of North Korea cannot afford to seek direct military conflict with the United States and its allies, such as South Korea and Japan. There will be not much troops on the ground, and this type of tasks will be handled at the DMZ, a demilitarized zone at the demarcation line that divides North and South Korea. That place if fully pack with sophisticated weaponry and the newest weapon that are in U.S. arsenal. The other day, U.S. tested an ICBM, InterContinental Ballistic Missile that originated from Brandenburg Air force base in California and ended up in one of the Atoll in Micronesia, over 4,700 miles and the distance to North Korea is much shorter than Bikini Atoll. The ICBM carried a dummy warhead and the U.S. just demonstrating to North Korea that if they program those few ICBM towards his country, That would be the end of him and his whole country.

      China, Russia, Iran, do not want military confrontation with the U.S. and as the whole world had seen when the U.S. sent 59 missiles to Syria’s Air Force Base, President Asma-Al Assad’s balls shrunk. Lumubog po ang mga bayag nya, and he did not do anything, nor the Russians because they know, deep in their hearts that they will end up ruined. Back to North Korea, the fat boy with ugly haircut is just bluffing and the whole world should understand that this fat boy is having an Attention Deficiency Disorder.

    4. The philippines may very soon need to make its mind up. No sitting on fences, but remember there are always consequences for your actions.

    5. Duterte is a very smart guy. He is not dumb and stupid like Pinoy. I fully trust this guy even though I do not like his speeches.

    6. Amnata Pundit on

      If we assume that the people running America are still rational, then there will be no war in the Korean peninsula and that all this war drums beating are just theater. But what if America is indeed ruled by madmen? Then you have only two choices: to face Chinese and Nork missiles or to face a financial attack by America on our economy. I don’t think you need a PhD from Harvard to make the right choice. We should reject outright any American demand to increase their military presence here, period. The imposition of capital controls combined with OFW remittances are enough to blunt American attempts to crash our economy. We can always join BRICS, and the threat of entering into bilateral currency trade deals with other countries effectively bypassing the dollar and convincing the rest of the ASEAN to do the same will be enough to make the Americans back off. Lets pray for Duterte, he is the country’s last chance.

    7. President Trump cozied with President Duterte because it irritates American liberals; or maybe because he’s selling condo’s in Makati, or maybe because that’s the side of the bed he crawled from that morning; if President Trump has given the in-depth thought you mention, such as consideration of the EDCA – which is too complicated for him – or relative proximity of Pampanga to Pyongyang compared with Honolulu, I can sprout wings to fly over and help.

      If it comes to it, heaven forbid, Seoul and Tokyo have more reason to support US Forces than the Philippines. Manila is closer than Agana or Alaska, but the U.S. has carrier battle groups and KC-135’s refueling bombers, and missiles, and it’s hard to see how bases on Luzon – much less Mactan – could make a difference.

      Really, if you want peace pray his golf buddies continue to let him win and Melania stays pretty.

    8. There is nothing to be gained by involving the Philippines in another Asian war. We should stay out of it. There is nothing we can do about it anyway. It is a Chinese issue. They have to take responsibility for their creation. North Korea is a humanitarian disaster and the Chinese are to blame.