MANILA - China can "veto" potential military exercises between Southeast Asian nations and foreign powers outside the region if the current draft code of conduct is passed, an analyst warned Wednesday.
In the present document, Beijing proposed that it and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations cannot engage in "joint military exercises with external powers without the notification and consent of the other states," said Jay Batongbacal, director of U.P. Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
"If this were to be agreed upon, you will have a situation where for example, the Philippines would not be able to have Balikatan exercises simply because China has objected to it," he told ANC's Headstart.
Such a scenario would be to China's advantage because it "does not have any military alliances yet it is a dominant power in the region," said Batongbacal.
In the draft text, as reported by Agence France-Presse, Beijing suggested that China and the 10 ASEAN states should carry out joint military exercises regularly.
However, the drills should not involve countries outside the region "unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection."
"I don’t think that the Philippines should accept this, in the same way that other nations in the region because it will limit their options, limit their ability to even defend themselves and to enhance or develop their own military capabilities," said Batongbacal.
"They should have the choice. What this will do is to severely undermine the alliances between the Philippines and United States, between Thailand and the United States, etc.," he added.
The US and the Philippines are bound by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and two other agreements that allow US troops to have rotating presence in the country.
A Palace spokesman earlier said Malacañang does not object to Chinese proposals to hold military drills with Southeast Asian nations that will exclude the United States, a major military power in the Pacific and South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said China’s objective in pursuing an all-Asian military drill was to “have a military relation [with its] neighbors.”
“I’m sure defense authorities will study the matter seriously. We find nothing objectionable to the fact that China would want to exclude non-Asians from the military exercise,” Roque said in a press briefing in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
“The United States is 10,000 miles away. If the intention is to build stronger relations between military forces who are neighbors, then the US would be out of place.”