Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is as mercurial as Trump: He has in the past threatened to ride a jetski to disputed islands in the South China Sea and plant a flag to keep China at bay but he also claimed to be Chinese as part of his ongoing flattery of the Chinese leadership.
As Beijing stamps its foot in protest after each of the U.S.'s "freedom of navigation" exercises, which are sure to continue, and countries like the Philippines and Vietnam grow increasingly apprehensive of China's activity in the region, it seems the potential for military conflict grows with each passing day.
U.S. freedom of navigation maneuvers are not a new occurrence for the U.S. Navy, who often sails close to Chinese man made islands in the region as a rejection to China's continued buildup in the contested waterway.
But speaking at a hearing focusing on the South China Sea on Wednesday at the legislative assembly, former Philippine maritime officer Rep. Gary Alejano revealed just how quiet the government's been in dealing with China in the disputed waters.
Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with worldwide law".
"We are now working hard for a framework that would not go against the Constitution for the exploration of natural resources". A key topic expected to be discussed will be how to confront China's increasing militarization of the South China Sea.
Mattis said USA diplomats were engaged on the issue and he had heard concerns about Chinese actions not just from within the United States government, but also from regional allies.
They would be China's signals to warn the U.S.
Five lighthouses on five islands in the Spratlys - Pag-asa Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island and Patag (Flat) Island - will be built, Esperon said.
However he mentioned it was unfair to single out China for its superior militarization within the South China Sea.
"(The sailings) contravened Chinese and relevant worldwide law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty (and) harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries", he said. He said the best reaction would be a coherent, consistent and strong strategy that not only makes use of the military tools for deterrence or "compellence" against Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, but also deploys a more holistic set of instruments. "But it's global waters, and a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation, so we'll continue that", he said.
"The diplomats are continuing to meet ... at Panmunjom and there's some folks already in Singapore", Mattis said.
Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.
He told reporters on the flight that, despite the administration's focus on North Korea, other regional security issues, including the South China Sea, will be top priorities. He will be replaced by Admiral Philip Davidson.