The Philippines and Vietnam are set to sign the “Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” before the end of this year. In the agreement, the two countries will “reaffirm their commitment to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, as well as to the freedom of navigation in and over flight above the SCS (South China Sea) all in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).” Once the deal has concluded, Vietnam would be the Philippine’s second strategic partner, besides Japan. It is possible that they will choose to sign the deal during the APEC leader’s summit in November, held in Manila.
The announcement of an official strategic partnership follows years of relatively minimal strategic ties between the two South East Asian countries, though they have worked with one another on various ASEAN initiatives. This new partnership is likely the consequence of increasing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. Each country has spent a considerable effort defending their claims and territories in the region, and could only benefit from further collaboration in maritime affairs with a fellow ASEAN nation.
In regards to territories within the South China Sea, they committed to resolves differences in a “constructive manner without resorting to threat or use of force,” and to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes.” The agreement, however, does not mention developments on islands and reefs the Philippines or Vietnam already inhabit.
Once the partnership is officially finalized, it will be interesting to see China’s response. The hope is that the cooperation between these two nations will better enable them to stand up to the regional super power. However, there is always the possibility that such an agreement will only serve to incite further Chinese aggression.