Independent foreign policy by going ‘rogue’

In two previous articles, I discussed ways to achieve an independent foreign policy: by (a) neutrality, or (b) within the Western Alliance (PDI 03/04/20 and 07/22/20 ). The third way to pursue such a policy is through “rogue state diplomacy.”

There are two “rogue states” now — North Korea and Iran. Both countries have a truly independent foreign policy. They have no alliances. Even the vaunted United States does not have an independent foreign policy because of numerous alliances it maintains with other countries. When a country joins an alliance, it accepts limitations on its actions. North Korea and Iran are termed “rogue states” since they flout international agreements and sponsor state terrorism. Thus, they are subject to international sanctions.


Both North Korea and Iran have nuclear ambitions coupled with a program to create a delivery system by rockets. Their sponsorship of state terrorism adds a novel delivery system for nuclear weapons. The world is not worried about Israel and India having nuclear weapons. Both countries will not turn over such weapons to terrorists. However, the world is deeply concerned that rogue regimes may give the N weapons to terrorists or, worse, give them the technology to build nuclear weapons; this is akin to allowing a crazy guy to wander around town with a loaded AK-47.

These actions by the rogue states come at a stiff price. The estimate is that North Korea spends over 50 percent of its GDP on defense. The outcome is that it has an economy of scarcity with periodic famines, as inputs for agriculture are siphoned into defense.


But the compensation is, these countries don’t get pushed around in international affairs. It is a contrast to the submissive attitude of the Duterte administration to Beijing. Diplomacy, an integral part of international relations since time immemorial, has disappeared in our vocabulary when we deal with China. Apparently, Xi Jinping has warned President Duterte that asserting our claims to the West Philippine Sea would mean war. This differs with the endless negotiations between the US and North Korea, emphasizing that at least the latter’s rogue diplomacy is working.

If we pursue rogue diplomacy to have an independent foreign policy, this will be the scenario: We develop nuclear weapons and the rockets to deliver them. We could develop the nuclear weapons first. Once a rogue nation acquires nuclear weapons, it is a game-changer. In our case, China will worry that we could give the technology to the dissident Uyghurs. At least China will negotiate earnestly with us, the same way the US is negotiating with the North Koreans now.

All three options of pursuing an independent foreign policy have one thing in common: They are prohibitively expensive and could be achieved only through the impoverishment of our people.

Our countrymen should be able to incisively evaluate the claim by our government that we now have an independent foreign policy. The usual discussions on this issue follows: We adopt an independent foreign policy and we shall live happily ever after. But any claim that we can have an independent foreign policy without any cost is a scam. Such a claim originates from three sources: a) pseudonationalists whose hidden agenda is to convert our country into the 23rd province of China; b) politicians who will support any issue that will win them votes; or c) instant experts on international relations who do not know what they are talking about.

The stakes are high — the very survival of our country as a sovereign nation.

* * *

Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a retired career ambassador with 32 years of service in the DFA. He holds a graduate degree in International Development Studies jointly conferred by Tufts University and Harvard University.


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TAGS: Commentary, Hermenegildo C. Cruz, PH-China relations, Rodrigo Duterte, rogue states
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