Could America sustain such a commitment? More important, why should we? Has the White House thought through the implications of what the Pompeo threat may bring?
As President Trump flew home from his Hanoi summit with Kim Jong Un, Mike Pompeo peeled off and flew to Manila. And there the Secretary of State made a startling declaration.
Any armed attack by China on a Philippine ship or plane in the South China Sea, he told the Philippine government, will be treated as an attack on an American ship or plane, bringing a U.S. military response.
“China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security and, therefore, economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States,” said Pompeo. “As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under article 4 of our mutual defense treaty.”
Article 4 requires the U.S. and the Philippines to come to the defense of the other if one is attacked. The treaty dates back to August 1951. There are Americans on Social Security who were not born when this Cold War treaty was signed.
Pompeo’s declaration amounts to a U.S. war guarantee.
Why would we make such a commitment? Why take such a risk?
Is Trump aware of what Pompeo’s promise could entail?
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For years, Beijing has claimed as national territory virtually the entire South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines all reject China’s claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands within that sea. But Beijing has occupied and expanded half a dozen islets; landed planes and troops; and fortified them as military and naval bases.
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