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Biden-led policy: ‘Continuity, more careful diplomacy’

THE DIPLOMATIC policy of the United States under President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will not steer too far away from the Trump administration’s stance on security and socio-economic issues in the Philippines as well as the Asia-Pacific Region, an analyst said.

“I expect continuity and more careful diplomacy on the South China Sea,” Ernie Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a forum, hosted by Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute.

“That doesn’t mean a diminishment of the US commitment to the Philippines’ free access or standing up to Chinese, what is seen by many as Chinese coercion in the South China Sea, but it will be strength with diplomacy rather than just strength and blunt words.”

Mr. Biden has been declared as the new president of the US after the Nov. 3 elections and is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20 next year.

The US, under incumbent President Donald J. Trump, had asserted that China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea were unlawful, citing the 2016 Hague ruling that rejected China’s historical nine-dash nine claims.

In a recent visit to Manila, White House National Security Adviser assured the US will maintain its commitments to the Philippines and other states in the region under a new administration.

Moreover, Mr. Bower said the incoming US leader is expected to bring more investment and diplomacy in Asia as he sees Mr. Biden as someone more cautious in US policies relating to the South China Sea.

“You’ll see a return of middle management in US engagement in Asia, and what I mean by that is US departments in Asian agencies will have an assistant and undersecretaries, deputies, assistant secretaries empowered to focus on Asia,” he said, noting this will include the Philippines and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Further, he said the Biden administration will have a more multilateral approach, even in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be “more ASEAN centrality, less America-first,” he said, adding “the US will look to build teams and coalitions, cooperate, and not pursue American-only strategies.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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