‘Hitler statement a trial balloon’
MANILA, Philippines—Why did President Aquino refer to Adolf Hitler’s occupation of the Sudetenland in calling for more international support for the Philippines in the country’s maritime dispute with China in his interview with The New York Times on Tuesday?
The statement was “very deliberate” and was intended to know what the Philippines’ allies would do in the face of China’s military buildup in disputed areas in the South China Sea, the Inquirer has learned.
“He’s always been curious. Will they really help?” according to a source from the diplomatic community, who described Aquino’s interview with the Times as a “trial balloon.”
In the 90-minute interview, the President likened the Philippine situation to that of Czechoslovakia, which lost the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany as part of an “appeasement” policy intended to avoid war.
World must say it
“At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’ Well, the world has to say it—remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II,” Aquino said in the interview.
“If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?” he said.
Particularly telling was Aquino’s statement, “Well, the world has to say it,” according to the source.
Not meant to anger China
But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma sought to play down the President’s mention of Hitler, architect of the Nazi expansionist policy that led to World War II. Coloma said it was not meant to offend China.
“As a storyteller and as a conversationalist, the President often gives details of a particular situation. So it could happen that he was simply citing a fact that there was such an incident [the ceding of the Sudetenland],” he said.
“I didn’t think of that scenario, that he said that to have that kind of effect,” he added, referring to the possibility that the President’s comment might inflame Beijing.
Coloma later issued a statement, saying that the comment “affirms the country’s position on the importance of upholding the rule of law with respect to resolving territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.”
“It is a principled position that draws from historical lessons, including that which he cited in the interview,” he said. “The President also underlined the importance of international solidarity in addressing threats to regional peace and stability.”