MANILA, Philippines—Nobody wins with hard power, the Department of National Defense said Saturday in a warning directed at hardliners in the Chinese military reportedly pressing for decisive action to strengthen Beijing’s claims to the Panatag Shoal.
“Of course there are hardliners who wish to use hard power, but let us not forget history, that the use of hard power has never resulted in favorable consequences,” defense department spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said.
“Nobody wins in that course of action,” he added in text messages.
Galvez said “soft power”, or the political and diplomatic approach, should not be underestimated, as opposed to “hard power”, or the use of military force.
“Further, let us not forget the majority who continue to understand the value of soft power, the politico-diplomatic approach. Our counterparts are fully aware of this as well,” he said.
On Friday, a Chinese army general described as a hardliner for having hawkish views, said in a commentary on a state-owned website that China’s “peaceful rise” should not be construed as abandoning the option of military action.
“Peaceful rise and ‘period of strategic opportunity’ preclude war,” People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan was quoted as saying in news reports.
Galvez expressed optimism that the 18-day impasse with China over the Panatag Shoal would be ironed out peacefully in spite of the presence of more Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.
He pointed out that both the Chinese and Philippine ships in that part of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) off Zambales province were civilian vessels.
A Philippine Coast Guard ship and a vessel from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are facing off with at least two Chinese maritime surveillance ships and some seven fishing boats on the shoal, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal.
“We continue to maintain our peaceful initiatives towards a diplomatic resolution re the impasse. All our actions will be towards this end,” he said.
“We must understand that our relationship with our neighbors manifest in several important facets and this impasse is just one that needs ironing out. We continue to be optimistic of the diplomatic initiatives by our DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” Galvez said.
On Friday, at the closing of the Philippines’ joint Balikatan exercises with the United States, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Jessie Dellosa pushed for the use of “smart power” in the country’s dealings with its neighbors and in defense of its territories.
“Today’s emerging challenges, in the context of the dynamics in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, require pragmatism and the use of smart power,” the AFP chief said in an apparent allusion to the country’s tense relations with China.
“It is apparent that a practical blend of the concepts of ‘might is right’ and ‘right is might’ should be explored, shared among friends and allies, and eventually put to good use,” he said.