The United States was merely exercising “good offices” when it told the Philippines and China to “stand down” during the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Monday night.
Locsin made this clarification in an apparent rebuttal to the statements of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario who claimed that China “deceitfully breached” an agreement brokered by the US for the Philippine Navy ship and the Chinese vessels to withdraw from the Scarborough Shoal to defuse the tension.
“But when they confronted themselves, the interference — the participation of the United States was to try to stop people from attacking each other. It’s a — they think it’s their job. So they said, “stand down”. So they stood down. And then United States told both sides, not taking sides, said ‘withdraw’… These are only good offices of the United States, it is a suggestion, ‘I think you should both withdraw’,” the DFA chief said during the Talk to the People with President Duterte.
Locsin pointed out that the Americans could not force the Philippines and China to withdraw from the standoff and merely put up a suggestion for both sides to stand down or withdraw “so you guys don’t kill each other”.
In the same breath, the foreign affairs secretary said the United States has no obligation to defend the Philippines when it opted to withdraw from the standoff unless attacked, as provided for under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“When we withdrew, the United States has no obligation, Mr. President, to go to war. The thing about the Mutual Defense Treaty is you have to be attacked. Nobody was attacked. We withdrew,” he said.
On the possibility that China could have attacked the Philippine Navy ship had it remained in the “face-off”, Locsin said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told him years later that China has no intention to do that.
“If the Chinese wanted to attack, there was nobody to attack. The other side left. And I don’t know if they would have attacked. That’s one thing. I have talked to the Chinese, to Foreign Minister Wang Yi, they have no intention to do that,” the top Filipino diplomat said.