Posts Tagged ‘air defense identification zone’

China island expansion moves ahead in South China Sea

December 25, 2017


© AFP/File | In this photo taken on June 15, 2016 a vendor stands behind a map of China including an insert with red dotted lines showing China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea


China’s large-scale land reclamation around disputed reefs and shoals in the South China Sea is “moving ahead steadily”, state media has reported, and is on track to use giant “island-builders” to transform even more of the region.

Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment in the area where it has conflicting claims with neighbours.

“The course of construction is moving ahead steadily and a series of striking results have been achieved,” according to a report that appeared Friday on Haiwainet, a website under theHaiwainet’s flagship newspaper the People’s Daily.

The projects have “completely changed the face of the South China Sea’s islands and reefs”, the report said.

The aggressive campaign has been a source of contention with neighbouring countries. China’s sweeping claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

During 2017 China built 290,000 square meters (29 hectares) of facilities on South China Sea reefs and islands, including underground storage, administrative buildings and large radar installations, the report said.

“To improve the livelihood and work conditions of people living on the islands, and strengthen the necessary military defences of the South China Sea within China’s sovereignty, China has rationally expanded the area of its islands and reefs,” it said.

The sea is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and $5 trillion in annual trade passes through it.

The report noted that with last month’s introduction of the new super-dredger Tianjing, a “magical island building machine”, and other “magical machines” soon to come, “the area of the South China Sea’s islands and reefs will expand a step further”.

China is also building a floating nuclear power plant, the report said, to provide power for those living in the Sansha city area.

Sansha lies on Woody Island in the Paracel chain — which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan — and administers much of China’s claims in the South China Sea.

China established Sansha in 2012 by unilaterally awarding it two million square kilometres of sea and declaring it the country’s largest city.

Earlier this month a US think-tank released new satellite images showing deployment of radar and other equipment on the disputed islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said that over the course of 2017, China had been advancing the next phase of development with construction of infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as underground storage areas and large radar and sensor arrays.

“We believe that some individuals are making a fuss about this. They’re trying to hype it up,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang after the first report was published.


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


Study: China to Boost Military Muscle at Sea to Deter Foreign Powers

December 21, 2017

By Ralph Jennings
December 20, 2017 12:27 PM

FILE - Chinese structures are pictured on the disputed Spratlys island in South China Sea, April 21, 2017.

FILE – Chinese structures are pictured on the disputed Spratlys island in South China Sea, April 21, 2017.

China is widely forecast to bolster its military power next year in the South China Sea to resist Japan, India and the United States, as well as the Asian states that dispute Beijing’s maritime claims.
Scholars believe China will eventually enhance radar surveillance and let fighter jets use tiny islets for stopovers. Beijing might declare an air defense identification zone or other means of maritime control, too, they suggest.It probably hopes the United States, along with militarily powerful allies such as Japan and India, will stay out after they jumped into the dispute this year, according to Oh Ei Sun, international studies instructor at Singapore Nanyang University.”I don’t think they’re primarily offensive in nature, but of course with those installations in place, they will have more bargaining chips, they’re in a stronger position to say the U. S. should not perform [freedom of navigation operations] and such in the South China Sea,” Oh said.

New hardware

China this year added installations in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, said the Asia Maritime Transparency Institute of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In 2017, China built underground storage areas, administrative structures and “large radar and sensor arrays,” said the Washington-based research group. The construction covered about 290,000 square meters “of new real estate.”

FILE - Philippine military's images of China's reclamation in the Spratlys, Mabini (Johnson) Reef, March, 2015. (Armed Forces of the Philippines)

FILE – Philippine military’s images of China’s reclamation in the Spratlys, Mabini (Johnson) Reef, March, 2015. (Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Beijing built most actively at Fiery Cross reef in the Spratlys, it said, including work to finish tunnels that are likely for ammunition storage. High-frequency radar gear also appeared on the reef, it adds.

China is the most militarized of six governments that claim all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, which is valued for fisheries and fossil fuels. It has been building up islets since 2010.

China has enough installations to land fighter jets, refuel, rearm and let crews rest, said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

State-run China Central Television said earlier in the month the military had deployed jet fighters to Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

China may draw a line of control around its holdings in the Spratly Islands, contested by four Southeast Asian countries plus Taiwan, and consider an air defense identification zone, the initiative’s director Gregory Poling said.

China declared an air defense identification zone off its east coast, in a sea disputed by Japan, in 2013.

Outside influence

Analysts say China’s buildup is aimed at claimants Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam as well as powerful nations that do not claim ownership over the sea.

But the United States particularly irks China as a powerful arms supplier and military trainer for the Philippines. Washington sends naval vessels into the South China Sea periodically to back its position the waters are open to freedom of navigation.

“When the Chinese are suddenly trying to stop resupply of the Philippine forces at Pag-Asa or on the Sierra Madre [ship] at Second Thomas Shoal, then [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte is going to face an enormous amount of pressure to react strongly,” Poling said, referring to two Manila-held features in the Spratly chain.

“The only way the Philippines can possibly react, really, is to strengthen the defense relation with the U. S.,” he said.

India, a Western ally, upgraded its partnership with Vietnam last year year as part of its Act East policy, which analysts say is designed to check Chinese expansion.

Japan, an ally of the United States, passed a helicopter carrier through the sea in mid-2017, adding to repeated comments from Tokyo the waterway should be ruled by international law.

China bases its claim to about 90 percent of the sea on historical fishing records. It has eased the dispute through offers of aid and investment around Southeast Asia. Next year, it’s due to sign a code of conduct with regional countries to head off accidents at sea.

Deterrent effect

After appeals by other claimant countries a U. N. arbitration tribunal said China lacked a legal basis to much of its claim.

But China’s buildup has continued. It’s “like the Cold War,” when opponents stocked nuclear weapons to head off attacks, Oh said.

Some other countries see China’s current level of control as a “fact,” Koh said.

But in November, heads of state from Australia, India, Japan and the United States met in Manila to call for “free, open, prosperous and inclusive” Asian seas, according to an Indian external affairs ministry statement.

China, which resents the role of outside powers in the South China Sea, sees provocation from outside players as cause to keep strengthening its claims, Koh said.

“Now they are trying to demonstrate to the U. S. or allies like Japan and Australia that China is in to stay, and more importantly it’s not just purely staying power,” he added, “It’s the ability to sustain and project force in that area. ”





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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

May 9, 2017

May 8, 2017

The Associated Press

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A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.



China’s state broadcaster has shown navy fighter bombers taking part in exercises over the South China Sea, including one involving the detection and expulsion of foreign military surveillance aircraft such as those deployed regularly in the area by the U.S. and others.

The video shown on CCTV’s military channel over the weekend shows a squadron of two-seater Xian JH-7 Flying Leopards flying in formation and dropping bombs on targets in the ocean below. Other video showed planes flying just meters (yards) above the ocean surface.

Following that, pilots were “notified that foreign aircraft had entered our airspace to conduct surveillance. One of the planes taking part in the exercise was immediately ordered by the tower to break off and intercept the foreign aircraft,” the report said.

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That plane increased its elevation and “responded effectively,” seizing the commanding position and “successfully expelling” the foreign aircraft, it said.

The report did not say when the exercise took place but said training this year was designed to be more realistic and focused on specific situations, taking the Chinese aircraft to the limits of their range and capability.

“In the process of unceasingly challenging ourselves, the building of our team of talents has entered the fast lane,” Tian Junqing, commander of an unidentified South China Sea naval air force regiment, told the station. “The overall combat capability of the force is increasing by stages, forging a formidable force that dares to fight and thunders over the South China Sea.”

Missions by U.S. Navy surveillance planes flying in international airspace off the Chinese coast are a particular bone of contention for Beijing.

Twice last year U.S. and Chinese aircraft came close, in one instance to within 15 meters (50 feet) of each other. In August 2014, a Chinese fighter jet came within 9 meters (30 feet) of a Navy P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance plane off Hainan Island — a major military hub — and carried out a series of risky maneuvers, including rolling over it.

In April 2001, a Chinese jet fighter collided with a U.S. surveillance plane over the South China Sea, leading to the death of the Chinese pilot and China’s detention of the 24 U.S. crew members for 10 days.

The U.S. and China in 2015 signed rules of behavior to make air-to-air encounters safer, but some analysts say they don’t go far enough.



A Philippine Supreme Court justice has released a book that questions China’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea and said he will distribute it online to try to overcome China’s censorship and reach its people.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said his e-book can be downloaded for free in English now and will be made available later in Mandarin, Vietnamese, Bahasa, Japanese and Spanish to help more people understand the basis of the Philippines’ stand against China’s territorial claims.

Carpio said public opinion, including in China, can help pressure Beijing to comply with an arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s historic claims based on a 1982 maritime treaty. Carpio helped prepare the arbitration case, which the Philippines largely won.

China has dismissed the ruling and continued to develop seven artificial islands in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago. China’s construction of the islands on disputed reefs has alarmed rival claimants and the United States.

In the book, titled “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio uses old maps, photographs, excerpts from the arbitration ruling, Chinese government statements and documents to question the validity of China’s claims.

Carpio warns in the book that China may be planning to build more island outposts at Luconia Shoal off Malaysia and Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

If it constructs an island base at Scarborough, China would have enough radar coverage of the South China Sea to be able to impose an air defense identification zone similar to what it did a few years ago in the East China Sea in a region where it has a territorial dispute with Japan, he said.



U.S. President Donald Trump has made an unexpected diplomatic initiative toward several Southeast Asian counterparts, telephoning Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to reaffirm traditional close relations and invite them for meetings.

The invitations extended last week followed another one to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a call during which Trump also affirmed America’s alliance and friendship with the Philippines and its president, who has maintained an antagonistic stance toward U.S. security policies.

Prayuth’s office said he had accepted Trump’s invitation, while a Singapore Foreign Ministry statement said the two leaders “looked forward to meeting each other soon.” No dates were mentioned for the visits.

Duterte said he has not accepted the invitation because of scheduled trips to Russia, Israel and other countries.

Washington’s diplomacy in Asia has focused recently on China and tensions with North Korea, although Vice President Mike Pence included Indonesia on a recent Asia tour.

Washington has strategic concerns in countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines are historically the most pro-Western nations in the region, but China’s influence has been increasing as it flexes its economic muscle and projects its military power into the South China Sea.

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts or all of the South China Sea that straddle busy sea lanes and are believed to be atop undersea deposits of oil and gas.

Prayuth’s office said he and Trump reaffirmed the importance of their countries’ long-standing alliance. It also said Prayuth invited Trump to visit Thailand at a convenient time.

The White House statement about the call to Lee mentioned that “robust security cooperation and close collaboration on regional and global challenges” mark the two countries’ partnership.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke by phone last week with Duterte, reflecting radically improved relations between the two governments. China’s official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying the Philippines and China are deepening political mutual trust, carrying out cooperation in various fields, and have set up a channel of dialogue and consultation on the South China Sea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) returns a salute from a Chinese naval officer (L) as Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (R) looks on during Duterte’s arrival to visit the guided missile frigate Changchun berthed at the Davao international port on May 1, 2017. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 1 visited Chinese warships docked in his home town and raised the prospect of future joint exercises, highlighting fast-warming relations despite competing claims in the South China Sea. Manman Dejeto/AFP


Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.


 (Judge Carpio’s book)


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Seismic research vessel of the type typically used by China before mining the sea bed


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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law and nobody has even complained.

Op-Ed: If we’re going to rule out negotiations with North Korea, we have to be ready for war — Chinese air traffic controllers eager to chase away U.S. military aircraft

March 23, 2017

By Robert L. Gallucci
The Los Angeles Times

March 23, 2017

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Robert L. Gallucci

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”

Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city. In a New Year’s address, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un indicated such a test could come sooner than we think.

But Tillerson’s warning did signal that the Trump administration is taking U.S. policy toward North Korea in a new direction — that we may be serious about abandoning engagement and willing to pursue containment through military action.

If North Korea is newly capable of striking an American city with a nuclear-armed missile, however, it would not be the first time that the U.S. was defenseless against an adversary’s weapons.

Americans lived for years with Soviet and Chinese missiles pointing in our direction. We had no way to defend against Soviet missiles in the 1950s, nor Chinese missiles in the 1960s. We were worried in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, pounded his shoe against a table during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. For many reasons, Mao worried us even more.

Analysts can read Tillerson’s comments in different ways. If he meant to indicate that the U.S. would undertake a military strike on North Korea to prevent the testing and development of an ICBM — a “left of launch” program, as the Pentagon would call it — such an act could not properly be called preemption, because it would not be responding to an imminent attack. Rather, we would be taking preventive action and risking a preventive war with the goal of cutting off the emergence of a future threat. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was a preventive war, not an act of preemption. Ethics, law and prudence are on the side of preemption but not on preventive strikes.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. intelligence community were to conclude that North Korea was about to launch a missile at Los Angeles, Seoul or Tokyo, we should fully expect Trump to order a preemptive strike to take out the missile before it is launched. If this is the only line Tillerson meant to draw, he should have saved the ink and not made news with the threat.

In either scenario, we can expect that attacking North Korea, even with an intended “surgical strike,” will bring retaliation, most likely against South Korean and American forces and civilians on the Korean peninsula — there are a lot of both within range of North Korean missiles and artillery — and possibly a second Korean War. The U.S. and its allies should be ready for this. At the moment, neither we nor our allies are prepared for war.

With so much at stake, Tillerson should disclose what exactly is new about the North Korean threat that makes deterrence suddenly unreliable. Certainly it is not the quality or quantity of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War, the number of Soviet weapons — counting tactical and strategic weapons deployed in silos, on submarines and aboard bombers —reached 30,000 or so. The North Koreans have less than 20. It is possible that U.S. officials lack confidence in the rationality of Kim Jong Un. If this is the case, the American people should be informed that this is why we are risking another Korean War.

Some argue that an alternative to military action is the adoption of tougher sanctions together with more pressure on China to allow them to work. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an approach, there is little reason to think it will be effective in stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. So the real alternative to war is a negotiated settlement that addresses the threat. There is a lot of work yet to be done in order to set the table for productive negotiations. More than 20 years ago, we struck a deal with the North that froze plutonium production for almost a decade before the deal collapsed: They cheated and we caught them. That was still a deal worth making, and the next one will have to be better. For starters, we should require that North Korea improve the human rights of its citizens as a condition of normalizing relations with the U.S.

The United States has no real capability to shoot down ICBMs, but we never have. We have been defenseless against this threat for six decades. For all those years, we have relied on deterrence and the promise of devastating retaliation. The logic is that the capability of our conventional and nuclear weapons deters our enemies and provides for the nation’s security. If the U.S. is going to abandon this logic now, it should be done with great care, and with the full understanding that we are risking war.

Robert L. Gallucci is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. He served in the State Department as chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and as an ambassador-at-large and special envoy dealing with threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.


China threatens American B-1 bomber flying off South Korea: Stand off as Beijing claims US aircraft violated its ‘defense zone’

  • China has accused the US plane of operating in its airspace without permission 
  • Pliots of a Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to controllers 
  • Chinese Air Traffic officials radioed the bomber flying 70 miles from Jeju Island 
  • The US bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone
  • American and Japanese officials do not recognize the airspace China claism 

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea.

Pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to Chinese air traffic controllers during a flight about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

American officials told CNN the pilots told the Chinese controllers they were conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path’.

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

The network revealed the tense moment was the result of the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone – a controversial area of sky over the East China Sea.

The airspace also covers islands claimed by Japan, and it is not officially recognized by the US.

‘Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,’ US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura told CNN.

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

‘The ADIZ has not changed our operations.’

Chinese authorities demand airplanes flying over or through the airspace must first notify officials.

US Air Force sources said B-1 bomber was carrying out training operations with Japanese and South Korean jets in recent days.

On March 21, the American bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s.


Center for Strategic and International Studies: What is The Position of the Philippines on the South China Sea?

March 3, 2017

By  – Reporter / @jiandradeINQ

/ 05:49 PM March 03, 2017

Senior officials of a Washington-based think tank group stressed the importance of asserting the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea, expressing skepticism over a code of conduct being pursued by member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

In a press conference on Thursday’s closing reception of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) international conference “US-Asean Relations: Charting the next 40 Years,” CSIS Southeast Asia program senior adviser Ernest Bower pointed out the popular clamor for the Philippines to assert its claim over the South China Sea using the ruling of the international court in the Hague.

“Tthere’s always war and peace. If I am not ready for war then peace is the only thing,” President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua. PPD/King Rodriguez

READ: Philippines wins arbitration case vs. China over South China Sea

“I think if President (Rodrigo) Duterte is reading the polls, he would think carefully about the July 12 decision because if you look at what Filipino people think they are very strong in the arbitration case in the South China Sea,” Bower said, pointing out that 82 percent of Filipinos want to see the arbitration case “followed up and followed through on.”

READ: 8 in 10 Filipinos want PH to assert rights in South China Sea—Pulse Asia

“It’s what Filipinos want to do and I think the Philippines showed a lot of courage. It had nothing to do with Philippine domestic politics, it had to do with the Philippines’ sovereignty and the rest of Asia and I think the world admired the Philippines’ courage and leadership to take that case and get the decision and I believe President Duterte would be wise to follow through on it,” Bower said.

According to Bower, the Philippines’ failure to invoke the arbitral ruling could endanger its security and sovereignty.

“I think the reason the Philippines took the arbitral case to the Hague is because they wanted a decision based on rule of law and they got a decision based on international rule of law about what the court thought about the South China Sea issue,” he pointed out.

He stressed: “To squander that opportunity to use such a high-level international legal standard would seem to put the country’s national security and its sovereignty at risk. Rolling the dice. I don’t think that’s the type of leader President Duterte is… He seems to be a very good reader of Philippine national opinion and I think, if I was him, I would heed my people on this question.”

Asked on the importance of establishing a code of conduct in the South China Sea, CSIS senior adviser and Southeast Asia program deputy director Murray Hiebert said, “The big question is if it is at all possible to do it. They (Asean and China) have been working on it for years,” adding that Asean would be better off focusing on other concerns.

“I think to put all the emphasis on the code of conduct is spinning their wheels. We took a long time to negotiate the declaration of conduct and then it took 10 years to put in some non-binding principles. So I’m not sure that’s the most effective way to negotiate to get what Asean wants out of China,” he explained.

However, Bower said that if China would be willing to add legally binding language in and relate it with the arbitral ruling, a code of conduct “would be a very good thing for China and for Southeast Asia.”

He pointed out, “I think China really has an opportunity right now to grab some moral high ground and actually make legal commitments to its neighbors in the code of conduct. So it’s a good opportunity to try and raise the standard for a strong, legally binding code of conduct.”

Amy Searight, CSIS senior adviser and Southeast Asia program director, said that while the code of conduct will not affect territorial rights in the South China Sea “if it’s binding and if it really has the right provisions in it, it could be marginally helpful for Asean.”

Bower pointed out: “Things we’re watching for are: would China declare an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) over the South China Sea? Will the Chinese go further in militarizing the islands?  If Asean can get some commitments on those things in the code of conduct to not do that, that would be bountifully significant or maybe worth looking at.”

The two-day CSIS international conference held on March 1 and 2 brought together 40 academics, think tank experts and government officials around Southeast Asia to discuss the future after 40 years of US-Asean relations.

CSIS is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization providing strategic insights and policy solutions that help guide US decision-makers. RAM

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 (Includes commentary by former President of Columbia Gaviria)

Police reports showed 10 alleged drug personalities were shot to death in Metro Manila and two more in Bulacan – all by unidentified men on motorcycles – in what appeared to be targeted hits. STAR/Joven Cagande

 (President Trump says U.S. will respect “One China” policy.)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.


South China Sea: China tells the U.S. to “keep out”

November 29, 2016

By Panos Mourdoukoutas


China has told America to stay away from its “own” South China Sea again.

This time around, the message came from Hainan-based National Institute of South China Sea Studies.

The Beijing-backed think tank reports that the American navy and air forces carried out more than 700 surveillance patrols in the South China Sea region during 2015. Officials at the institute warned that Beijing is prepared to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea if Washington continues its military presence in the region.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea have been adding to investor anxiety over the fate of Asian markets following the sharp rise in US long term interest rates.

Fund 1-Month Performance 3-Month Performance
ishares MSCI China (NYSE:FXI) -1.33% +0.43%
iShares MSCI Philippines (NYSE:EPHE) -9.06 -16.22
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSE:EEM) -5.75 -4.11
Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE:VNM) -6.67 -11.70

Source: 11/25/2016

Disputes in the South China Sea started as a regional tug of war between China and several neighbors, but they quickly flared into a showdown of economic and military muscle between Beijing and Washington, with each side eager to write its own navigation rules for the world’s biggest trade sea route. 

Two years ago, Beijing raised tensions with the construction of artificial islands in the sea. Washington countered in two ways – by escalating its naval presence around those islands, making the statement that thoseare international waters; and by advancing its missile capabilities in South Korea.

Then came an international arbitration ruling last July, which found that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea.

That was a big victory for both the US and Philippines, its close ally, which had filed the arbitration case.

Nonetheless, Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte decided to side with China on the dispute, and seek a “divorce” from the US – thinking, apparently, that his country is better off appeasing rather than confronting China.

That was certainly a big diplomatic victory for Beijing. And it has ‘upped the game’ for China, increasing the chances of an “accident” that could destabilize the world’s fastest growing economic region.

Investors should keep a wary eye.



U.S. President Elect Donald Trump meeting with japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower, November 17, 2016.

Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

A Chinese fishing boat catches fires during an inspection by the South Korean coastguard in September. File photo: AP


Chinese fishing fleet

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.


South China Sea: China at Scarborough Shoal is one of the biggest challenges for Philippine national security and sovereignty

September 11, 2016

Last July, the Arbitration Tribunal in the Hague ruled that the waters around Scarborough Shoal lay within the Economic Exclusive Zone of the Philippines and that Filipino fishermen possessed traditional fishing rights at the Shoal.

China has chosen to reject the decision and continues to keep Filipino fishermen out of the area. A think tank, the CSSI, recently reported: “ We’re seeing bullying, harassment and ramming of vessels from countries whose coast guard and fishing vessels are much smaller, often to assert sovereignty throughout the South China Sea. In the meantime, while Filipino fishermen are being prevented from fishing, Chinese fishermen have been actively fishing in Scarborough Shoal. Recently, even large purse seiner fishing boats have been spotted in the area.

While it has become a common sight to see hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels in the area, it has also become noticeable that China has increased the number of its combat vessels patrolling the Scarborough Shoal. From the usual two to three vessels, it has now increased to more than a dozen combat vessels.

Recently, China sent seven coast guard vessels and over 200 hundred fishing vessels to the waters around Senkaku Island in the East China Sea – an area claimed by Japan. This incursion drew protest and a strong reaction from Japan. Is China planning to do the same thing in the Scarborough Shoal?

Building a Scarborough base

For the Philippines, reclaiming traditional fishing rights in the Scarborough Shoal area is the immediate concern. However, the more critical and far reaching potential danger to Philippine security is the much talked about plan of China to convert Scarborough Shoal into an artificial island and build a military based on an area only 150 nautical miles west of Luzon.

From all indications, it is apparent that China is definitely planning to build another artificial island 150 miles west of the Philippines. It would seem that as far as China is concerned, the only question is determining the proper time.

A recent report in the Hong Kong based  South China Morning Post stated that China was just waiting for the completion of the G20 Summit meeting in Beijing before it will start dredging the Scarborough Shoal preparatory to building an artificial island.

There have been speculations that Beijing might begin reclamation work right before the November elections in the United States. The transition from one administration to another might provide an opportunity for Beijing to take aggressive actions without any immediate reprisal from a lame duck administration.

Another Chinese policy paper circulating among Beijing’s foreign policy think tanks proposes that any reclamation effort should wait until after the 2017 People’s Congress or after Xi Jinping has consolidated all the powers.

Why is reclaiming Scarborough Shoal so important to China’s strategy in the South China Sea? A look at any regional map will easily provide the answer.

Controlling and militarizing the Scarborough Shoal will give China virtual control over the South China Sea. This will, in turn, tilt the balance of power in East Asia in favour of China. Eventually, this could lead to China attaining its goal of being the supreme power in the Asia Pacific region.

An air and naval facility in the Scarborough Shoal, together with the seven islands and bases in the Spratly area, will give China effective control over air and maritime access to the waters of the South China Sea. For example, a strategic triangle could be established by China by linking reefs and artificial islands from the Paracel Islands to the west and the Spratlys to the south and to Scarborough to the east. That would allow it to enforce an Air Defense Identification Zone over the whole area and require all commercial and military aircraft to seek permission from China before being allowed to fly over the South China Sea.

A base in Scarborough would also give China full radar coverage over most of Luzon including Subic and Clark. It would also give China the capability to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone or the West Philippine Sea.

There is one big difference between the disputes in Spratly and Scarborough. The disputed reefs and shoals in the Spratlys are the subject of multiple rival claims from China and other Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The Scarborough Shoal pits the Philippines directly against China.

Is Scarborough a Red Line?

It seems that China fully intends, sooner or later, to build an artificial island in Scarborough even at the risk of a military confrontation with the United States. It is also possible that China is testing whether the USA is really willing to risk conflict over Scarborough. After all, the American government has never really publicly stated that it would be prepared to militarily confront China if it builds an artificial island.

A geopolitical scholar has theorized that the United States will not take any step unless the Philippines takes the initiative to first confront China with whatever forces it can muster. Only then can the United States step in to aid an ally.

The Scarborough Shoal will continue to be one of the biggest challenges for Philippine national  security and sovereignty.


 (Contains links to related articles)

 (Contains links to many previous articles on the Philippines and the South China Sea)

   (From July 12, 2016)

Above Chinese chart shows China’s “Nine Dash Line.” China says it owns all ocean territory north of the Nine Dash Line. There is no international legal precedent for this claim.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.

The chart below shows in stark terms the vast ocean area China is claiming. China says it can stop shipping or air traffic in this zone any time it wants and has talked about establishing an Air Defense identification Zone (ADIZ) here.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.


Rocket Launchers: Vietnam’s Bold South China Sea Move

August 16, 2016

Harry J. Kazianis
August 16, 2016

It was inevitable, but nations in the South China Sea that have overlapping claims with the People’s Republic of China are now beginning to push back–and this time we are not talking about Lawfare or my beloved Shamefare, but are now finally enhancing their own military capabilities.

Last week, Reuters reported that Vietnam “has discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with new mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China’s runways and military installations across the vital trade route,” citing unnamed western officials.

The report goes on to note that Hanoi shipped the weapons from the Vietnamese mainland to five bases in the disputed Spratly Islands “in recent months.” It also explains that “the launchers have been hidden from aerial surveillance and they have yet to be armed, but could be made operational with rocket artillery rounds within two or three days,” according to multiple sources in the story.

The weapons in question that Vietnam chose to deploy also make a big statement. Interestingly enough, they are not some second-tier platform from 20 years ago, but the EXTRA rocket artillery system made in Israel — a great platform for attacking invading soldiers landing on island beaches.

A reaction to Chinese aggression

So what to make of all of this? My response is quite simple: What took Hanoi so long considering the stakes and China’s own aggressive actions in South China Sea?

While there is certainly plenty of blame to go around and none of the claimants in the South China Sea struggle are innocent of creating unnecessary mischief, Beijing has clearly been the aggressor in recent years.

Its declaration of a cow-tounged nine-dash-line (really ten, but who’s counting?) and historical claim of everything in between those lines, comprising almost all of the South China Sea, has driven tensions to new heights as Beijing has sought to enforce its claims.

From harassing rival claimants’ fishing fleets, utilizing its “maritime militia” to ensure its dominance on the high seas, placing oil rigs on multiple occasions over several years in disputed waters near Vietnam and building massive new islands that are clearly militarized, there is only one nation that seeks to overturn the status-quo.

Even a major defeat in the Hague has not slowed China’s push towards regional dominance — now including what I like to call “bomber selfies.”

Hanoi has the Tools to Push Back

Of all the nations in the South China Sea that are in the best position to push back against Beijing’s bullying tendencies, clearly Vietnam has the most ability and capability — and some unique diplomatic options.

Hanoi has purchased some of the world’s most advanced conventional submarines from Moscow in recent years, also acquiring advanced fighter aircraft from the Russians as well. Vietnam, while still outmanned and surely outgunned in a firefight with Beijing, has been purchasing platforms that would at least give China some pause, with some arguing Hanoi could even be putting together a crude anti-access/area-denial capability (A2/AD), right out of China’s military playbook.

But beyond military and economic levers, both nations — well, at least on paper, anyway — are fellow Communist countries, and ‘party to party’ talks still occur. Hanoi and Beijing have the ability to discuss the South China Sea challenge discreetly, away from the media, with top leaders in this format able to exchange views in a more candid nature.

Vietnam could leverage such connections, working with their colleagues in China to seek possible compromises — or at least voice their displeasure without creating a diplomatic incident.

A Budding Arms Race in South China Sea?:

But there is danger here that any first or second year political science student would recognize almost instantly — the infamous security dilemma that could spiral into a classic arms race.

While Vietnam’s move is merely a reaction to China’s much, much larger militarization of its own South China Sea islands, Beijing will very likely use this action by Vietnam to respond — and possibly even increase its military lead over rival claims substantially.

Indeed, in recent days, it has been shown that China now has large, military grade, reinforced hangars on its new islands in the South China Sea, capable of housing any plane in the Chinese arsenal. Beijing could simply decide to base some of its most lethal air assets permanently here. And don’t forget, China has said time and time again that its decision to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, would be based on what Beijing felt was the overall security picture in the area.

Does this move by Vietnam make such a step more likely? We might just find out soon enough, but not until early to mid September.

Harry J. Kazianis is Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at The Center for the National Interest and Senior Editor for The National Interest Magazine. You can follow him on twitter: @grecianformula.

This first appeared in AsiaTimes.

Image: Creative Commons.



Foreign officials and military analysts believe the launchers form part of Vietnam’s state-of-art EXTRA rocket artillery system recently acquired from Israel.

EXTRA – Extended Range Artillery Rockets

A precise, cost-effective, tactical-range artillery rocket


• Long range: Allows ground force commanders to influence the
  battlefield at 20-150 km range
• High accuracy: 10 m CEP
• Depth capability: effective against a wide range of high payoff
   targets across the tactical battlefield (Command &
   Communication Centers, logistic installations,
   transportation infrastructures and more)
• Flexibility: Easy transfer of firepower between sectors

Extended Range Artillery


EXTRA rounds are highly accurate up to a range of 150 km (93 miles), with different 150 kg (330 lb) warheads that can carry high explosives or bomblets to attack multiple targets simultaneously. Operated with targeting drones, they could strike both ships and land targets.

That puts China’s 3,000-metre runways and installations on Subi, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef within range of many of Vietnam’s tightly clustered holdings on 21 islands and reefs.

While Vietnam has larger and longer range Russian coastal defense missiles, the EXTRA is considered highly mobile and effective against amphibious landings. It uses compact radars, so does not require a large operational footprint – also suitable for deployment on islets and reefs.

“When Vietnam acquired the EXTRA system, it was always thought that it would be deployed on the Spratlys…it is the perfect weapon for that,” said Siemon Wezeman, a senior arms researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

There is no sign the launchers have been recently test fired or moved.

China took its first Spratlys possessions after a sea battle against Vietnam’s then weak navy in 1988. After the battle, Vietnam said 64 soldiers with little protection were killed as they tried to protect a flag on South Johnson reef – an incident still acutely felt in Hanoi.

In recent years, Vietnam has significantly improved its naval capabilities as part of a broader military modernization, including buying six advanced Kilo submarines from Russia.

Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam’s military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the deployment showed the seriousness of Vietnam’s determination to militarily deter China as far as possible.

“China’s runways and military installations in the Spratlys are a direct challenge to Vietnam, particularly in their southern waters and skies, and they are showing they are prepared to respond to that threat,” he said. “China is unlikely to see this as purely defensive, and it could mark a new stage of militarization of the Spratlys.”

Trevor Hollingsbee, a former naval intelligence analyst with the British defense ministry, said he believed the deployment also had a political factor, partly undermining the fear created by the prospect of large Chinese bases deep in maritime Southeast Asia.

“It introduces a potential vulnerability where they was none before – it is a sudden new complication in an arena that China was dominating,” he said.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michael Martina in Beijing and Martin Petty in Hanoi.; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


South China Sea: China Wants To Limit Discussion, U.S. Wants Transparency, Philippines, Indonesia State Positions

August 16, 2016
FILE – In this Aug. 8, 2016 file photo, a Chinese military band plays as the guided missile destroyer USS Benfold arrives in port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province in the first visit by an American warship to the country since Beijing responded angrily to an arbitration panel’s ruling that its expansive South China Sea maritime claims had no basis in law. A senior Chinese diplomat made clear Monday, Aug. 15, that Beijing wants next month’s meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 major economies to avoid political issues such as its territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea. AP/Borg Wong, File

BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential gas and oil reserves:


Editor’s note: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.


Chinese diplomat discourages discussion of South China Sea at G-20 Summit

A senior Chinese diplomat made clear Monday that Beijing wants next month’s meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 major economies to avoid political issues such as its territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea.

Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baoding said China wants to avoid sensitive diplomatic issues at the Sept. 4-5 summit that it is hosting in the eastern resort city Hangzhou.

The consensus among members is to “focus on economic development and not be distracted by other parties,” Li said when asked about territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“The Hangzhou summit must focus on economic issues,” Li said. “This is what people want to talk about most at the summit.”

Li gave similar responses to questions about China’s opposition to South Korea’s deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

A desire to avoid a showdown at the G-20 summit was seen by some as moderating China’s response to the July 12 ruling by an international arbitration panel in The Hague, Netherlands, that invalidated China’s maritime claims to virtually the entire South China Sea.

However, speculation has also risen that China might make even more assertive moves after the meeting, including possibly launching reclamation projects in new areas or declaring an air defense identification zone over the crucial waterbody.


Duterte says he’s taking a softer approach in dispute with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he is adopting a softer approach in resolving the long-simmering disputes with China in the South China Sea. “We’re not in a hurry to wage war, we’re in a hurry to talk.”

Duterte’s special envoy to China, former President Fidel Ramos, returned to Manila on Friday after meeting with Chinese intermediaries in Hong Kong to pave the way for possible talks in Beijing.

Ramos told reporters that China welcomed him to visit Beijing for discussions in the wake of last month’s international arbitration panel’s ruling in favor of the Philippines over China’s South China Sea maritime claims.

The arbitration case was brought by Duterte’s predecessor, and Duterte has been lukewarm in his support for the action.

Ramos said in a statement that he met in Hong Kong with the Chinese legislature’s foreign affairs chief, Fu Ying, and a leading government-backed scholar on the dispute, and agreed on the need to reduce tensions through talks.

Ramos “expressed the Philippine government’s desire to hold formal discussions with the Chinese government on issues of mutual concern and interest at the appropriate time to explore pathways to peace and cooperation,” the statement said.

However, Ramos told reporters at a brief news conference that the ruling had not been directly discussed and gave no indication of when the Beijing talks might be held and suggested another negotiator might take his place.


Japan, Philippine diplomats urge restraint from China

The top diplomats from Japan and the Philippines urged China on Thursday to avoid intimidating actions and follow the rule of law in disputed waters.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida made the call after meeting in southern Davao city, where they discussed their countries’ territorial rifts with China, including Tokyo’s help in providing patrol vessels to the Philippines, and enhancing strategic ties. Kishida later met Duterte.

“Maritime order based on the rule of law is indispensable for regional stability and prosperity,” Kishida told reporters, adding that the international community should strive to ensure that long-seething conflicts are resolved peacefully.

“This is the not kind of action that is mandated by international law and if anyone, including China, has any particular claim that it asserts over any particular territory, it must bring this within the concept of a peaceful resolution,” Yasay said.

The Philippines challenged the validity of China’s claims and aggressive actions in the South China Sea after Chinese government ships took control of disputed Scarborough Shoal following a tense standoff in 2012.


US says more military transparency needed

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Tuesday the response from Beijing and others to the arbitration panel’s ruling had brought no surprises, but much more military transparency is needed to reduce tensions in the region.

Adm. Scott Swift also criticized China-Russia joint naval exercises planned next month in the South China Sea, saying the choice of location was not conducive to “increasing the stability within the region.” He also said any decision by China to declare an air defense identification zone over the strategic water body would be “very destabilizing from a military perspective.”

Swift was visiting the northern Chinese port of Qingdao as part of efforts to build trust and understanding between the two navies, now locked in a protracted competition for primacy in East Asia, where the U.S. has traditionally been the dominant military power.

Swift cited two examples where a lack of Chinese military transparency was problematic: The still unexplained cancellation by China of a visit by the aircraft carrier USS Stennis earlier this year, and the reason for the construction of new hardened aircraft hangers on China’s man-made islands.

“That increases the angst and uncertainty, that lack of transparency, and that is generally destabilizing as opposed to a stabilizing action,” Swift said.



Are Japan and China Edging Closer To War?

August 7, 2016

Sun Aug 7, 2016 3:54pm BST

Japan has filed a protest to Beijing after the discovery that China installed radar equipment in a gas exploration platform close to disputed waters in the East China Sea, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Japan fears that the radar, a type commonly found on patrol ships and not necessary for gas field development, could be a sign that China intends to use gas exploration platforms in the disputed waters as military stations, Japanese media said.

Also on Sunday, a record number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships entered areas of waters just outside what Japan considers its territorial waters around a group of contested East China Sea islets, further stoking tensions.

The entry of 13 Chinese government vessels into “contiguous waters”, which countries can police for customs and immigration violations, took place despite Japan’s repeated protests over recent, smaller-scale entries.

According to the spokesman, Japan discovered the radar in late June and issued a protest on Friday through its embassy in China, urging Beijing to explain the purpose.

Japan has been calling on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea, accusing it of unilateral development despite a 2008 agreement to maintain cooperation on resources development in the area, where no official border between them has been drawn.

The latest protests adds to bilateral tensions between the two Asian neighbours over territorial claims and comes less than a month after an arbitration court in The Hague invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

Ties between China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, have been plagued by the row over the islets controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing, a legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression and regional rivalry.

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Perry)


  (Contains links to several other related articles)