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China-Philippines clash in South China Sea could draw in US

Concerned by the Biden administration’s continuation of former US president Donald Trump’s military-first approach to its South China Sea issues with China, I have sketched out a scenario in which the two are dragged into a kinetic conflict via the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). 

The scenario is that an element of the Philippines military – possibly rogue – provokes a clash with China’s military. The Philippines demands that the US honor its commitment to come to its defense. The US then has to choose between conflict with China or losing its credibility in the region.

This hasn’t happened yet. But it darn near just did – and may yet become reality. 



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