Wednesday, 10 June 2015 00:00
It was, of course, a chilling experience to see your president receiving a standing ovation from leaders, movers and shakers of his country’s former enemies after he delivered a speech likening a former friend who has become his enemy to Nazi Germany.
Describing himself as an amateur student of history, President Aquino did compare China’s leaders to the Nazis, not once but twice (He first did in an interview with the New York Times last year).
He was, of course, trying to drag his audience in Tokyo to sympathize with the Philippines, which is protesting China’s incursion on its territories by building permanent structures in reefs and the Spratlys which are being claimed by the Philippines along with several other countries.
Tokyo also has a territorial dispute with China and the standing ovation the Japanese gave Aquino was expected somehow of the former enemy turned ally. Aquino’s reference to the Nazis, however, came somewhat off to the Japanese who were once Nazi allies in the axis of power during World War II.
Aquino is not an amateur in this branch of history as he claims.
The last great war may have been touched many times in many Aquino gatherings. The Chief Executive’s grandfather and namesake of his and his father Ninoy, Benigno “Igno” Aquino Sr. once served in the Japanese-sponsored government during the occupation years as speaker of the national assembly. Benigno Sr. was jailed in Japan by the US during what our oldies called were “liberation” years, and was branded a “collaborator” by the many patriots who have endured the war years without consorting with the enemies.
Still, even with the Japanese working hard to erase its past crimes against humanity, they offer themselves as allies now because being friends would be most convenient to themselves and their patron, the United States, which is fast losing control over the sea and air lanes of Asia amid China’s aggressive moves in claiming most part of the West Philippine Sea.
Aquino based his Nazi comparison with “how Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers.” He then also compared the past to the present situation, likening the belated action by the US and Japan by mentioning: “Unfortunately, up to the annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, and eventually, the annexation of the entire country of Czechoslovakia, nobody said ‘stop.’
“What if somebody said stop to Hitler at that point in time, or to Germany at that time? Could we have avoided World War II?” Aquino asked. Further adding: “And that is really a question that still occupies the thoughts of so many individuals.”
Yet, Aquino could not drag even the closest but unwilling allies to go to a war.
Like the Philippines, Japan has also avoided firing shots against Chinese boats in the Senkaku Islands despite the protection it receives from the US, much more than what the Philippines receives from its Big Brother.
The US has conducted exploration flights over the islands and has confirmed the existence of the structures, including big guns indicating China’s readiness for a military defense, just in case.
The US is also weighing its future role on this issue. But, however the US tries to cover for its interests in Asia, it only continuously coaxes its junior partners in the region to carry the fight in its behalf.
Losing the sea and air lanes would render the US incapable of protecting its economic and military interests in Asia.
But other than soft warnings, no key US official has yet to issue stronger words that would make China give further outward movements a second thought. In fact, China is the one sending chilling messages to the countries it is now at odds with — an indirect statement such as telling the US not to mess up with China’s own designs.
Without a strong military force, the Philippines is banking on international support to assert it claim over the islands it has already lost.
All indications, however, point to China not giving in to international pressure. It wants bilateral talks with the Philippines, a small country which has no chance of winning concessions with a new superpower.
Yet, government persists in convincing the free world that the islands belong to the Philippines. It is set to present 300-year old Murillo Velarde map (published in 1734) as proof before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in The Hague this week. It is a move which is better than trading bullets with the Chinese, but one which China is expected to continue to ignore.
China is not expected to recognize an old sheet of paper and scoot back to its walled cities with its tail down.
The Philippines and Japan, meanwhile, can only issue big words while their backs get tapped by their US sponsor. They can continuously console each other and give whoever speaks in the favor a big round of applause and a standing ovation, their pasts notwithstanding.