Philippines in the USA-Japan-South Korea Triangle

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The Asia-Pacific Region is a region where the fault lines of global security located and the main site of the new great competition. As a matter of fact, the United States of America (USA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are trying to gain influence and presence in order to surround China and counter North Korea’s nuclear activities. For this reason, the Western side, led by the USA, is trying to gain influence over the states of the region through joint exercises, alliances and organizations based on Western ideology.

At this point, it can be said that South Korea and Japan are the most important and consolidated allies of both the USA and NATO in the region. In this context, it can be argued that the West is trying to make new allies in the region and to consolidate its current influence mainly through these two states. Because it is possible to say that the union on the Washington, Tokyo and Seoul lines constitutes the most proactive alliance of the region.

At this point, it can be argued that the Philippines is seen as an important ally for the West due to its Western-based structure, its geopolitical and geostrategic location, and the problems it has with Beijing over the South China Sea. As a matter of fact, the Philippines is already a state with a Western perspective. However, it can be said that Manila is trying to improve its dialogue with China by following a multi-vector foreign policy. Therefore, it can be deduced that the West wants the Philippines as an ally on its side and is trying to establish this through the USA-Japan-South Korea triangle. Because there are important developments related to this issue in the region.

The first is that the Philippines gave four military bases to the United States.[1]  Also, Philippine National Defense Minister Carlito Guancing Galvez Jr.’s says that granting of US access to the Philippines’ military bases was not intended for aggression, but only to increase its ability to defend itself against external threats. Galvez stated that they were not prepared for war, only trying to develop national defense strategies.[2]

The conflict with Beijing over the South China Sea is also effective in the said move of the Philippines. As a matter of fact, all these constitute a conjuncture that is beneficial for the USA and the West at the same time. Because Manila’s current conflict is pushing it to the West. Taking advantage of this situation, Washington is trying to strengthen its influence and presence in the Asia-Pacific Region through the Philippines and at the same time try to surround China.

It can be said that military bases will disturb China and push it to make a counter move within the scope of its national security. At this point, it can be claimed that the bases in question will increase the American presence in the region, while at the same time escalating the struggle for influence.

Another important development experienced is that the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visited the Philippines and South Korea on January 26, 2023 and discussed increasing their defense cooperation. At the same time, promoting regional stability is also on the agenda of these talks.[3] It can be stated that Washington is trying to use Seoul to have an impact on Manila.

Moreover, Austin had a phone call with Galvez on February 22, 2023, and the South China Sea was discussed in this meeting.[4] This shows the importance that the USA attaches to the South China Sea regarding the Philippines and that it is trying to draw Manila to its side through this issue.

On the other hand, on 17 February 2023, the delegations of South Korea and the Philippines held a meeting and it was emphasized that bilateral relations should be developed on many issues with the theme of security and defense.[5] The situation in question reveals the role played by South Korea in the West’s acquisition of new allies in the region.

In this context, an example that can be examined through Japan is the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. As a matter of fact, this meeting is also based on defense and security. At the same time, the danger felt by China was also discussed in this meeting. It was also agreed that Japanese troops would gain greater access to Philippine territory.[6]

At this point, the emphasis on the discourse of the Chinese threat can be read as the West trying to gain influence over the Philippines through Japan. In addition, Japan follows an increasingly proactive and pro-Western foreign policy. This increases the tension between Tokyo and Beijing. Indeed, Tokyo wants to expand the anti-Chinese side. Because, on this occasion, Tokyo aims to both increase its own influence and expand the operation area of the USA and NATO.

As a result, it can be said that the Philippines attracts the attention of the West. As a matter of fact, it is clear that the West aims to increase its influence over the Philippines through the USA, South Korea and Japan, and thus to expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific.

[1] “U.S. to Boost Military Role in The Philippines in Push to Counter China”, The New York Times,,Air%20Base%20in%20the%20south., (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

[2] Expanded US Access To Philippines Bases ‘Not For Aggression’, Defence Chief Says” Channel News Asia,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

[3] “Secretary of Defense Travels to Republic of Korea, Philippines”, U.S. Department of Defense,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

[4] “Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s Call With Philippine Senior Undersecretary and Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez”, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

[5] “Ph, S. Korea Hold Bilateral Talks, Reaffirm Strong Partnership”, Philippine News Agency,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

[6] “Japan, Philippines Agree To Sharply Boost Defense Ties”, AP News,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten graduated from Yalova University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations in 2021 with his graduation thesis titled "American Foreign Policy" and from Anadolu University, Open Education Faculty, Department of Foreign Trade in 2023. Gülten, who is currently pursuing her Master's Degree with Thesis at Marmara University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations, was a student at the Faculty of International and Political Studies at Lodz University for a semester within the framework of the Erasmus+ program during her undergraduate education. Working as an Asia-Pacific Research Assistant at ANKASAM, Gülten's main areas of interest are American Foreign Policy, Asia-Pacific and International Law. Gülten is fluent in English.