2017 年 63 巻 4 号 p. 24-38
This paper explores territorial disputes in the South China Sea by comparing the approaches of the Philippines and Vietnam. The analysis centers on a) the process of approximating the two countries’ approaches; b) conditions on which to differentiate the two countries’ relationship with the South China Sea policy; and c) mutual interactions between the two countries, as evidenced through both the ASEAN mechanism and bilateral relations. The concept of “hedging” is employed in order to achieve equilibrium when considering their external relations.
In 2012, Philippino President Aquino reinforced a confrontational stance toward China, during a stand-off in the Scarborough Shoal. This stance included the strengthening of the Philippino-U.S. military alliance and emphasized the utilization of international arbitration. However, the subsequent Duterte administration completely changed Aquino’s approach by engaging in bilateral talks with China, and eroding the Philippines’ cooperation with the U.S. The Philippines shifted from a strong hedge to a weaker one.
Vietnam had adopted a policy of “omnidirectional military diplomacy” to address the South China Sea, reinforcing cooperative ties with all external players, including China. However, the 2014 oil-rig incident revealed the limited effect of “omnidirectional military diplomacy.” Since this incident, Vietnam pursues a strengthened relationship with the U.S., while continuing to keep ties with China. Vietnam has been shifting from a weak hedge to a stronger one. In this regard, the hedging strategies of the Philippines and Vietnam continue to approach that of the other.
The differences of approach between the two countries stem from differences in preconditions regarding relations with the U.S. and China. The Philippines has long been a U.S. military ally, whereas Vietnam’s foreign policy has emphasized maintaining a stable relationship with China. Vietnam also has pursued its strategic independence by promoting an “omnidirectional military diplomacy” with all major players in the region, including the U.S. and Japan. Domestically, the Philippines’ foreign policy changes greatly with a change in administration, while Vietnam’s basic stance in external relations is relatively consistent, regardless of any changes to its political leadership. Furthermore, as the Philippines, under President Duterte, prefers a reconciliatory attitude toward China, Vietnam, still strongly critical of China, might be “isolated” within ASEAN.