Lorenzana: Chinese envoy told me to ‘not touch’ MDT with US
(Updated 7: 22 p.m.)
MANILA, Philippines—China had tried to oppose the review of the Philippines-US 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday (Sept. 30).
At an online event hosted by Stratbase ADRi forum to mark the 70th anniversary of the MDT, Lorenzana revealed that China’s former ambassador to Manila came to him when he first brought up the revisiting of the MDT.
“While the US welcomes the idea of revisiting the Mutual Defense Treaty, an outside party does not,” Lorenzana said. “When I first brought up the idea of revisiting the MDT, the former Chinese ambassador came to me and said: ‘Please do not touch the MDT. Leave it as it is’,” the Philippine defense official said in a pre-recorded address.
Lorenzana first revealed unofficial efforts to review the MDT with the United States back in late 2018. He did not name the Chinese official but back then, China’s ambassador to the Philippines was Zhao Jianhua.
The Philippines has sought to review the MDT, which calls for both countries to aid the other in case of an armed attack in the Pacific, amid the ongoing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
“Is the MDT still relevant or should it be abrogated, replaced or revised? These questions are tricky as each has implications to the security of both parties and individually,” Lorenzana told the forum.
“How does the MDT fit in with the current situation in the region? Are bilateral agreements better than multilateral? Is it time to create a NATO-like arrangement?” Lorenzana said..
A review of the MDT could address many security issues, including China’s grey zone and cabbage tactics in the South China Sea, the top Philippine defense official said.
Lorenzana said it was clear that China was against any resolution of its claim to own nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, that would not be in its favor.
“It knew that any aggression it takes will trigger the MDT,” he said.