Reuters Business Report - REUTERS ASIA MARKETS & ECONOMICS EDITOR, WAYNE ARNOLD:
"Next week forget about China, forget about Japan. Forget about the market meltdown in Southeast Asia. Keep and eye on Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defense secretary. He's going to be taking a tour of Southeast Asia - going through I think seven countries. He's not going there to work on his tan, he's going there to work on defense arrangements with the U.S. Now a nine-day trip for a defense secretary is a big deal. What is he doing? He's going to Singapore for the defense ministers' meeting for ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They'll be talking there and Brunei. Then he'll be flying north to the Philippines.
Now remember twenty years ago, the Philippines was 'Goodbye, see you later Americans!' Now they want them back. Manila's not interested in getting back together per se. They just want to have a more sort of friends with battleships relationship. The only problem is that after they broke up, the U.S. already kind of got into a relationship like that with Singapore - a relationship of convenience where they kind of come in with carriers, come out with carriers, resupply. They also have visitation rights with Thailand. So this is yet another casual relationship that they can have as they exercise that pivot into Asia.
But the person who's going to be most upset is China over this relationship. They're worried about the U.S. presence in the region which they see as their backyard, and the South China Sea in particular. But for Manila this will give them a great deal more comfort to have a stronger military relationship with Washington. And having the presence of a large and modern fleet like the U.S. will make China think twice about how far it pushes the Philippines on those shoals outside in the South China Sea.
So keep an eye on Chuck Hagel as he does a modern day version of island hopping next week."