Diplomacy in the time of DU30
The past few weeks we had President DU30 travelling to Japan and Vietnam for visits and in relation to the APEC and ASEAN meetings. There has been high profile diplomacy not just because the Philippines is hosting the ASEAN Summit, but also because of very significant issues like the conflicting claims in South China Sea and the North Korea nuclear threats to Japan and the US. This week, starting on November 12, the heads of states of all the ASEAN countries, the Asia-Pacific countries and even observer countries will be in Metro Manila to attend the ASEAN Summit.
Except for a few unnecessary comments, like when DU30 criticized again Obama, DU30 have mellowed and toned down most of his rhetoric. He was very respectful and tactful in Japan in the meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Emperor. It was also a socially uneventful visit to Vietnam for the APEC dialogues but fruitful in terms of touching base with the APEC member states. Are we now going to see a more gentile and diplomatic DU30 in the coming months and years of his presidency? Maybe yes and maybe no. But you can be sure he will be, when it comes to international relations.
There are two reasons for this: one is the increasing complexity of international affairs and relations. We now live in a more interdependent world with multiple nations in a rapid information and communication environment. We live in a cyberworld and the impact and implications of events to nations all over the world are fast and unpredictable. Unlike before when the Philippines deals and relates only to three or four other nations, we now deal with many more countries in politics, trade, investments, and culture. Our dealings with other countries have grown exponentially. Many events that happen in other countries that were not a concern to us before, now have social and economic impact; as we now trade with many countries, with Filipinos and OFWs in many countries, and many countries have investments and their people living in the Philippines. Economic integration, territorial integrity, terrorism and foreign aid are global monumental issues. So, international relations and diplomacy have now to be carefully planned and managed to have a positive impact to our country. It is not an area to be careless in our pronouncements and actions.
The second reason is the transitional and transactional approach of politicians. Politicians dealing with other politicians or other parties always have a negotiating posture that depends on the relative strength of that politician in his home country. The more secure or popular they are in their home country, the stronger position they may take in negotiating with their counterparts in diplomacy. This has been true since time immemorial and was particularly evident in the 12 Tribes of Israel and in the Middle Ages among the European city states. President DU30 has to deal with the likes of Premier Xi, Putin, Abe, Moon and Trudeau who are popular and respected in their premiership or presidency. He has also to deal with Trump who is losing popularity and confidence in the US, so he has and should calibrate his discussions and actions.
In the long term, diplomacy and international relations should be anchored on universal ideals like "the rule of law," "human rights" and "liberty." But as world society is still evolving and there are all kinds of regimes existing all over the world, we will have to accept the balancing and counterbalancing maneuvers of countries in diplomacy and international affairs. The consolation is that we don't wait for history to judge our leaders. Technology has made leaders accountable sooner than later. Look at all the past and present world leaders who are criminally charged, on trial or are in prison.
‘In the long term, diplomacy and international relations should be anchored on universal ideals like “the rule of law,” “human rights”