Posts Tagged ‘ASEAN’

Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson Operating in the South China Sea

February 17, 2018

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON: With a deafening roar, the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.

SHOW OF FORCE An F-18 Hornet fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the carrier strike group takes part in a routine deployment mission in the South China Sea, one hour away from Manila. AFP PHOTO

“US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.”

The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.

Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.

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In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F18 fighter jets roared off the deck, traveling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.

Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the 333-meter-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.

“The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”

Strategic competitor

But the location of the strike group – which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser – is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.

Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea – believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually – and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.

Manila has also protested China’s naming of five features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, a
vast undersea area within the Philippines’ continental shelf where the country holds sovereign rights.

Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China boasts just one carrier.

But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.

Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.

Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.

They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.

“We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.

Alliances shifting

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson – the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea – began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.

The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.

Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam – a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.

Britain said on Tuesday it would sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.
But alliances are shifting.

The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.

But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.

Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.

In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.
Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive.”

Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”

PH won’t recognize renamed features

The Philippines was not consulted by the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) Subcommittee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) in renaming several features within the Philippine Rise as proposed by China, and will not recognize these names, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Thursday.

“The decision of the SCUFN was made without due consultation with the Philippine Government,” Esperon said in a statement.

His statement came days after maritime expert Jay Batongbacal posted on Facebook that Beijing had proposed names before the IHO for several undersea features of the Philippine Rise.

These features include four seamounts and one hill, which are the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province; the Haidonquing Seamount located further east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form central peaks.

According to Esperon, the renaming of Jinghao and Tianbao seamounts were adopted in October 2015 while the renaming of Jujiu seamount was approved in September 2016.

The approval of the proposals in naming underwater features, as a matter of procedure, are decided upon solely by the 12-member SCUFN countries: Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Russia, Esperon explained.

Decisions made by the SCUFN are “deemed as final and non-appealable,” he noted.

“Because of the numerous complaints from many countries regarding its supposed arbitrary and unregulated decision-making process, the SCUFN decided to suspend last year the processing of pending proposals for the naming of undersea features worldwide,” Esperon said.

“Nonetheless our diplomatic posts have been alerted against such future applications in Philippine waters,” Esperon added.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced that President Duterte had ordered the Philippine Navy to “chase away” foreign vessels found within the Philippine Rise.

On June 12 last year, the military’s Northern Luzon Command hoisted a fiberglass Philippine flag within the Philippine Rise, to assert sovereignty over the territory.



China has built seven new military bases in South China Sea, US navy commander says

February 15, 2018

Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in disputed waterway is ‘coordinated, methodical and strategic’, Admiral Harry Harris says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm

South China Morning Post

The commander of the United States Pacific Command on Wednesday warned of China’s growing military might, saying Beijing had unilaterally built seven new military bases in the South China Sea.

“China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarising its man-made bases,” Admiral Harry Harris said in a congressional hearing.

Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the new facilities included “aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements [and] 10,000-foot runways”.

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than a third of all global trade passes.

Harris said he saw Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas as “coordinated, methodical and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order”.

In the East China Sea, Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in an attempt to undermine Tokyo’s administration of the uninhabited islets.

Harris said the US alliance with Japan “has never been stronger” and that Washington’s alliance with South Korea was “ironclad”.

Harris, who is set to become the next US ambassador to Australia, also hailed the Washington-Canberra alliance, saying bilateral military ties were “terrific” and that Australia was “one of the keys to a rules-based international order”.



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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

ASEAN’s role in Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy

February 14, 2018


FEB 14, 2018

From Saturday to Monday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono was on a brief Southeast Asian tour to both Brunei and Singapore. Beyond the bilateral and regional issues Kono touched on during both legs of his visit, it was also a demonstration of the emphasis Japan is placing on Southeast Asia as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations within the broader context of its own Indo-Pacific strategy.

Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Despite the current focus around U.S. President Donald Trump’s articulation of an Indo-Pacific strategy, the concept is not new or unique to the United States. The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy is also not new in the Japanese context, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe being a staunch advocate of it dating back to his previous tenure as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

The most recent articulation of the vision during Abe’s current tenure broadly centers around enhancing connectivity from Asia to Africa to promote greater stability and prosperity across these regions through a variety of means, including improving the security situation in these regions, promoting greater development, and supporting the advancement of rule of law and building capacity in related fields.

Apart from larger states like the U.S. and India, the smaller countries of Southeast Asia in general as well as ASEAN play an important role in the context of Japan’s vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Geopolitically, Southeast Asia is where several aspects of the vision Japan is advancing will be tested — whether standards around infrastructure projects or the advancement of the rule of law in the maritime domain with the South China Sea disputes — all amid the involvement of other major powers, including China and the U.S.

Singapore and Brunei

Singapore and Brunei are also important countries within the context of this strategy in their own right, albeit in different senses. Singapore is a highly capable and active contributor to regional security and prosperity, both on its own as well as in concert with partners like the U.S. and Japan. A case in point is the Japan-Singapore Partnership Program for the 21st Century — a jointly run training program for developing countries.

Brunei is much less active comparatively speaking but is nonetheless strategically significant as a country, whether in terms of its search for economic diversification in the context of ongoing reform, which also saw it become a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Singapore and Japan, or its role as a quiet claimant in the South China Sea.

Both countries are also important within ASEAN, especially in the current context. Singapore holds the annually rotating ASEAN chairmanship for 2018, which puts it at the center of the advancement of several regional initiatives this year. Brunei, meanwhile, has served as the coordinator for ASEAN-Japan relations, which are in their 45th year, with several activities and developments planned around that as well.

So it was no surprise that Kono chose to visit these two countries this month. Of course, part of the focus of the visit was around specific bilateral issues and regional areas of concern like North Korea as well as developments related to the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan dialogue relations this year. But the theme of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy unsurprisingly featured as well. Ahead of the trip, the Foreign Ministry said Kono’s visit was a demonstration of how it was important to cooperate with Brunei and Singapore “in the framework to materialize the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy based on the rule of law, as both these countries attach importance to the maritime order.”

True to that statement, both legs of Kono’s visit saw a focus on elements of that Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. In Brunei, the focus was partly around Japan’s role in helping the country in its quest for economic diversification in the context of reform, which has significance beyond the domestic realm as it has also impacted Brunei’s dealings with China as well. In his consultations with Brunei officials, the Foreign Ministry said Kono did reinforce the importance of Brunei and Southeast Asia within the context of Japan’s broader Indo-Pacific vision.

But the most significant development was Kono’s delivery of remarks on board the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Yamagiri at Muara Commercial Port, which was one of three vessels that had docked there for a goodwill visit.

The South China Sea

During his address there, Kono said Japan was promoting its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy “under the conviction that ensuring that this ocean, which we see before our eyes, is free and open is the cornerstone for peace and prosperity not only for Japan but for the world.” The significance of those remarks was not lost on regional observers considering that Brunei is a claimant, albeit a quiet one, in the context of the South China Sea disputes.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, during his discussions with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, apart from areas for expansion in bilateral cooperation (like air connectivity, innovation and digital technology), there was also discussion about broadening ASEAN-Japan ties under Singapore’s chairmanship this year, as well as enhancing the Japan-Singapore Partnership Program for the 21st Century, which both sides had agreed to advance last year during its 20th anniversary.

In addition, mirroring the maritime focus we had seen in Brunei, Singapore’s foreign ministry also said that Kono had visited the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, including the Port Operations Control Center. The ministry said Kono was briefed on ongoing bilateral maritime cooperation, though no further specifics were provided.

It is still early days in terms of Japan’s rolling out of its Indo-Pacific strategy, particularly in Southeast Asia, where there are mixed feelings in different countries about what the strategy is and how it will play out in terms of broader trends, be it links with ideas like the so-called Quad — grouping Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. — as well as China’s own growing role in the region. But Kono’s visit demonstrated Japan’s recognition of both that ambivalence as well as the significance of the smaller countries of Southeast Asia in this bigger strategy.

Prashanth Parameswaran is senior editor at The Diplomat based in Washington, where he writes mostly on Southeast Asia, Asian security affairs and U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region. © 2018, The Diplomat; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency,

Chinese paper says UK trying to grab attention with South China Sea mission — Hints That UK Is No Longer Relevant — “Faded former world power”

February 14, 2018


In this Oct. 23, 2017, file photo, ship’s officers are presented to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on deck during her visit to HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, in the West India Dock, in London. (AP)

BEIJING: Britain’s Defense Ministry is trying to justify its existence and grab attention with a planned mission by a British warship to the disputed South China Sea next month, a Chinese newspaper said on Wednesday.

A British warship will sail through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in remarks published on Tuesday during a visit to Australia..
British officials first flagged the voyage six months ago and the journey is likely to stoke tensions with China, who claim control of most of the area and have built military facilities on land features in the sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the energy-rich sea through which billions of dollars in trade pass each year.
The widely read state-run tabloid the Global Times said Williamson needed to state clearly the purpose of the mission..
“If not provocation, the Royal Navy should behave modestly when passing through the South China Sea,” it said in editorials published in its English and Chinese-language editions.
“By acting tough against China, Britain’s Ministry of Defense is trying to validate its existence and grab attention,” it said.
The paper wondered whether the Royal Navy could actually complete the trip, considering budget cuts and problems with a new aircraft carrier that has a leak.
“As the Royal Navy has been hit by news such as a leaky aircraft carrier and the UK government has a tight budget, it appears a difficult mission for the Royal Navy to come all this way to provoke China,” it wrote.
China has repeatedly accused countries outside the region — generally a reference to the United States and Japan — of trying to provoke trouble in the South China Sea while China and its neighbors are trying to resolve the matter through diplomacy.
Speaking of Britain’s plan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it hoped “relevant sides don’t try to create trouble out of nothing.”
Britain, which will be leaving the European Union next year, has looked to China as one of the countries it wants to sign a free trade deal with once it leaves the bloc. British Prime Minister Theresa May ended a largely successful trip to China earlier this month.

The U.S. Returns to ‘Great Power Competition,’ With a Dangerous New Edge

February 13, 2018

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USS Carl Vinson U.S. aircraft carrier pulls into port at Guam. (Photo: U.S. Navy / Flickr)

The Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy is being touted as a sea change in U.S. foreign policy — a shift from the “war on terrorism” to “great power competition,” a line that would not be out of place in the years leading up to World War I.

But is the shift really a major course change, or a re-statement of policies followed by the last four administrations?

The U.S. has never taken its eyes off its big competitors.

It was President Bill Clinton who moved NATO eastwards, abrogating a 1991 agreement with the Russians not to recruit former members of the Warsaw Pact that is at the root of current tensions with Moscow. And, while the U.S. and NATO point to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as a sign of a “revanchist” Moscow, it was NATO that set the precedent of altering borders when it dismembered Serbia to create Kosovo after the 1999 Yugoslav war.

It was President George W. Bush who designated China a “strategic competitor,” and who tried to lure India into an anti-Chinese alliance by allowing New Delhi to violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Letting India purchase uranium on the international market — it was barred from doing so by refusing to sign the NPT — helped ignite the dangerous nuclear arms race with Pakistan in South Asia.

And it was President Barack Obama who further chilled relations with the Russians by tacitly backing the 2014 coup in the Ukraine, and whose “Asia pivot” has led to tensions between Washington and Beijing.

So is jettisoning “terrorism” as the enemy in favor of “great powers” just old wine, new bottle? Not quite. For one thing the new emphasis has a decidedly more dangerous edge to it.

1914 vs. Today

In speaking at Johns Hopkins, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned, “If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day” — a remark aimed directly at Russia.

NATO ally Britain went even further. Chief of the United Kingdom General Staff, Nick Carter, told the Defense and Security Forum that “our generation has become used to wars of choice since the end of the Cold War,” but “we may not have a choice about conflict with Russia.” He added, “The parallels with 1914 are stark.”

Certainly the verbiage about Russia and China is alarming. Russia is routinely described as “aggressive,” “revisionist,” and “expansionist.” In a recent attack on China, U.S. Defense Secretary Rex Tillerson described China’s trade with Latin America as “imperial,” an ironic choice of words given Washington’s more overtly imperial history in the region.

But there are differences between now and the run up to the First World War. In 1914, there were several powerful and evenly matched empires at odds. That is not the case today.

While Moscow is certainly capable of destroying the world with its nuclear weapons, Russia today bears little resemblance to 1914 Russia — or, for that matter, the Soviet Union.

The U.S. and its NATO allies currently spend more than 12 times what Russia does on its armaments, and even that vastly underestimates Washington’s actual military outlay. A great deal of U.S. spending is not counted as “military,” including nuclear weapons, currently being modernized to the tune of $1.5 trillion.

The balance between China and the U.S. is more even, but the U.S. still outspends China almost three to one. Fact in Washington’s major regional allies — Japan, Australia, and South Korea — and that figure is almost four to one. In nuclear weapons, the ratio is vastly greater: 26 to 1 in favor of the U.S. Add NATO and the ratios are 28 to 1.

This isn’t to say that the military forces of Russia and China are irrelevant. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war helped turn the tide against the anti-Assad coalition put together by the United States. But its economy is smaller than Italy’s, and its “aggression” is arguably a response to NATO establishing a presence on Moscow’s doorstep.

Meanwhile, China has two military goals: to secure its sea-borne energy supplies by building up its navy, and to establish a buffer zone in the East and South China seas to keep potential enemies at arm’s length. To that end it has constructed smaller, more agile ships, and missiles capable of keeping U.S. aircraft carriers out of range, a strategy called “area denial.” It has also modernized its military, cutting back on land-based forces and investing in air and sea assets. However, it spends less of its GDP on its military than does the U.S.: 1.9 percent as opposed to 3.3 percent as of 2016.

Beijing has been heavy-handed in establishing “area denial,” alienating many of its neighbors — Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan — by claiming most of the South China Sea and building bases in the Paracel and Spratly islands.

But China has been invaded several times, starting with the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1856, when Britain forced the Chinese to lift their ban on importing the drug. Japan invaded in 1895 and 1937. If the Chinese are touchy about their coastline, one can hardly blame them.

China is, however, the United States’ major competitor and the second largest economy in the world. It has replaced the U.S. as Latin America’s largest trading partner and successfully outflanked Washington’s attempts to throttle its economic influence. When the U.S. asked its key allies to boycott China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, with the exception of Japan, they ignored Washington.

However, commercial success is hardly “imperial.”

Is this a new Cold War, when the U.S. attempted to surround and isolate the Soviet Union? There are parallels, but the Cold War was an ideological battle between two systems, socialism and capitalism. The fight today is over market access and economic domination. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Latin America about China and Russia, it wasn’t about “Communist subversion,” but trade.

Behind the Shift

There are other players behind this shift.

For one, the big arms manufacturers — Lockheed Martian, Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics — have lots of cash to hand out come election time. “Great power competition” will be expensive, with lots of big-ticket items: aircraft carriers, submarines, surface ships, and an expanded air force.

This is not to say that the U.S. has altered its foreign policy focus because of arms company lobbies, but they do have a seat at the table. And given that those companies have spread their operations to all 50 states, local political representatives and governors have a stake in keeping — and expanding — those often high paying jobs.

Nor are the Republicans going to get much opposition on increased defense spending from the Democrats, many of whom are as hawkish as their colleagues across the aisle. That’s true even though higher defense spending — coupled with the recent tax cut bill — will rule out funding many of the programs the Democrats hold dear. Of course, for the Republicans that dilemma is a major side benefit: cut taxes, increase defense spending, then dismantle social services, Social Security, and Medicare in order to service the deficit.

And many of the Democrats are ahead of the curve when it comes to demonizing the Russians. The Russian bug-a-boo has allowed the party to shift the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Moscow’s manipulation of the election, thus avoiding having to examine its own lackluster campaign and unimaginative political program.

There are other actors pushing this new emphasis as well, including the Bush administration’s neoconservatives who launched the Iraq War. Their new target is Iran, even though inflating Iran to the level of a “great power” is laughable. Iran’s military budget is $12.3 billion. Saudi Arabia alone spends $63.7 billion on defense, slightly less than Russia, which has five times the population and eight times the land area. In a clash between Iran and the U.S. and its local allies, the disparity in military strength would be closer to 60 to 1.

However, in terms of disasters, even Iraq would pale before a war with Iran.

The most dangerous place in the world right now is the Korean Peninsula, where the Trump administration appears to be casting around for some kind of military demonstration that will not ignite a nuclear war. But how would China react to an attack that might put hostile troops on its southern border?

Piling onto Moscow may have consequences as well. Andrei Kostin, head of one of Russia’s largest banks, VTB, told the Financial Times that adding more sanctions against Russia “would be like declaring war.”

The problem with designating “great powers” as your adversaries is that they might just take your word for it and respond accordingly.

Philippines, China to hold 2nd talk on South China Sea in Manila on Feb. 13

February 12, 2018
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 03:48 PM February 12, 2018

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 Subi Reef is now a giant Chinese Miliatry base

The Philippines and China will meet on Tuesday for the second bilateral consultative meeting in Manila to discuss the longstanding maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Malacañang said on Monday.

“Now, contentious issues concerning the South China Seas are discussed in what is known as a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea; and the second meeting of this Philippine-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila tomorrow, February 13, 2018,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

The BCM, established on October 2016, was meant “to discuss issues of concern to either side, and cooperation in the South China Sea, and identify mutually acceptable approaches towards addressing this issue,” Roque said.

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“So we are not being soft on China, there are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned,” he also said.

The BCM, he said, is being conducted at the level of a DFA Undersecretary and a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister; and would be held once every 6 months.

“We were busy last December, and hence, it was postponed for this month of February,” Roque said.

The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, while the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, according to Roque.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

The Philippine government has received criticisms it was being “too soft” in dealing with China’s continued militarization in the South China Sea. But Roque has denied this.

READ: Palace denies PH is ‘too soft’ on sea row with China

Recent aerial photos obtained by Inquirer showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

READ: EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

The first consultative meeting between Manila and Beijing was held in June 2017 in China.        /kg

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

Philippines: Anti-China protest in Manila against China’s militarisation of islands in the South China Sea — President Duterte says he has “realigned” himself with China’s “ideological flow”

February 11, 2018

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Protesters have rallied outside the Chinese consulate in the Philippines capital, Manila, against China’s militarisation of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Saturday’s demonstration came after local newspapers published images on Monday that showed China had transformed at least seven reefs into artificial fortresses, complete with naval and air facilities, including runways and helipads, declared by a UN arbitration court to belong to Manila.

Activists on Saturday said such collaboration with China may encourage Beijing to expand its reclamation activities.

“This is our president who does not have the consciousness to fight for our own land. It is very easy for him to give our rights to the Chinese,” Mae Paner, an activist, told Al Jazeera.

Images taken in 2017 and published in a local newspaper showed Chinese structures

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told a news conference late on Friday that he has no intention of going into war over territorial feuds, but will order the navy to fire if other countries extract resources from waters within his country’s exclusive economic zone.

“But just the same, we cannot fight America, just like China. I’ll just keep quiet,” Duterte said. “But if you get something there from the economic zone, I will order the navy to fire.”

Duterte‘s office also said on Monday that Filipino officials “know about the work” of China in seven disputed reefs, and the country relies “on the principle of good faith” that Beijing “will not reclaim new artificial islands”.

In July 2016, The Hague arbitration court ruled “there was no legal basis” for China to claim rights across large swaths of the South China Sea.

The case was filed by Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, after the Philippines found out that China had started stationing naval facilities in the resource-rich area.

Images taken in 2017 and published in a local newspaper showed Chinese structures

During his visit to China months after becoming president, Duterte declared he has “realigned” himself with China’s “ideological flow”.

In exchange, China promised Duterte there will be no further expansion in other reefs, and committed to pouring billions of dollars in loans and investments into the country.

“In the long run, it will be very damaging. It needs to stop, it needs to be reversed otherwise we may be losing access to these waters, to these reefs, because China is already controlling the huge part of the disputed area,” Renato Reyes, protest organiser in Manila, told Al Jazeera.

Paolo Aquino, an opposition senator, also raised concerns over the latest development and called on the Duterte administration to tell the public “what it gave up to China”.

“While their warships are in our seas, we continue to give in to their whims and, all the while, we are kept in the dark as to our government’s dealings with China,” he said in a statement to Al Jazeera.

China claims the entire South China Sea, saying the Chinese people have been active there for more than 2,000 years.

Aside from the Philippines and China, neighbouring countries Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea.


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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

ASEAN’s Growing Unease With China In The South China Sea —

February 11, 2018

Asean needs to resolve complex and pressing issues before nations can agree on rules to help ease maritime disputes in the South China Sea, writes Collin Koh

By Collin Koh
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am

The chairman’s press statement at the latest Asean foreign ministers retreat held in Singapore could hardly be more timely where it concerns disputes in the South China Sea.

Paragraph 11 of the four-page document dedicates substantial attention to the disputes. Its wording in part borrows much of the standard phrases from past documents and is largely conciliatory in tone, including ministers embracing “practical measures” aimed at building confidence to help ease disputes.

Yet, at the same time, the statement flagged the bloc’s collective unease over ongoing developments in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

It noted the “concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.

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China has now built at least seven South China Sea military fortifications.

The proposed solution it suggested would not come as any surprise to observers of Asean and matters relating to the South China Sea.

The ministers duly “reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation”.

It went on to say that all sides should “pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].”

Without a doubt, the key initiative aimed at managing, if not resolving, these disputes is the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, for which a framework was adopted last August.

 Asean foreign ministers pose for a photograph at their retreat in Singapore on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo

Amid the bonhomie between Asean and China, reducing tensions evident before a UN panel ruled on the legitimacy of China’s claims to the waters in July 2016, the underlying problems still remain up for deeper discussion between Beijing and the 10-member regional bloc.

Now that the “honeymoon” is over following the adoption of the code of conduct framework, the real work begins to iron out the details. Through this latest statement, Asean foreign ministers sought to work towards “an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline”.

This timeline is, however, tenuous at best.

In recent years, a number of South China Sea observers have pointed out that it is by no means certain that a code of conduct will eventually materialise. That is a pessimistic scenario for sure, but let us assume that the code will eventually be promulgated, perhaps not without some potholes encountered in the arduous journey of formal negotiations.

The issue is how exactly how effective it will be.

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China’s military infrastructure on its South China Sea bases is elaborate

Expediting the negotiations can be motivated in a few ways – either because all parties truly commit to the code out of goodwill, or because some tumultuous events arise unexpectedly in the South China Sea, compelling the parties in a knee-jerk reaction to produce a code, more for consumption by the international community, notwithstanding how suboptimal the document may be.

The latter “reactive” scenario is a plausible one.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Talks about the code started only after a major incident happened in the Mischief Reef back in the 1990s, despite the fact that prior to the event there had been disturbing actions undertaken by the claimants and that Asean and China did not conclude that a code was in fact necessary. But as reactive it may be, ultimately having a code serves the interest of both Asean and China. For the regional bloc, the code could be held up as a shining example of the continued relevance of Asean in the regional security architecture. Beijing would also want the code to justify its rejection of external interference in South China Sea disputes.

All parties converge essentially on one common objective, which is to demonstrate to the international community that they could, on their own accord, manage, if not settle, South China Sea disputes. However, there is no way to exclude parties outside the region from operating in the South China Sea, given that this semi-enclosed maritime domain serves some of the most critical arteries for global economic well-being. Ensuring good order in the waters of the South China Sea is not just the responsibility of surrounding governments, but the international community writ large.

Given this reality, it becomes questionable whether the code could be effective if signatories to any document decide not to desist from responding to actions undertaken by those non-signatory parties outside the region.

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It is difficult to envisage that the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations would cease because of the code, or that other players such as Australia, India and Japan would not engage in their usual naval outreaches to the region, engaging their Southeast Asian partners in bolstering maritime security ties. In such a context, any of the South China Sea claimants could choose to undertake measures in the name of “self defence”, including further sprucing up existing infrastructure, even if no additional land reclamation is carried out.

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China’s miitary bases near the Philippines

All such activities could be arbitrarily deemed “provocative” by any of the parties and other stakeholders in the South China Sea. Such a problem could be anticipated in deeper discussions on the code. The devil lies in the definition of militarisation, besides other pertinent issues related to whether the code should be binding (legally or otherwise), the geographical scope of coverage and also the prospect of opening the code for participation by other countries, which is likely to encounter significant differences between the negotiating parties.

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Given the commitment to the process, all parties should aim to take as long as required to iron out differences over these issues, as well as anticipated problems related to compliance, verification and enforcement, to produce a truly effective code to every party’s satisfaction. Failing that, if for political expediency the code is rushed for promulgation, a suboptimal document will be all that remains, further undermining the common objective of demonstrating the ability of Asean and China to effectively manage maritime disputes.

Swee Lean Collin Koh is a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore


See also:

How South China Sea is fast turning into Beijing’s military outpost



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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

U.S. Urges End To South China Sea Militarization

February 10, 2018
By: – Reporter / @FMangosingINQ
 / 01:46 PM February 10, 2018

RUNWAY ON ZAMORA REEF Stepping up its militarization of the South China Sea, Beijing has built a 3.1-kilometer runway on Zamora Reef in the Spratly archipelago. Similar runways have also been constructed on two other artificial islands.

The US Embassy in Manila is calling on China and all other claimants of the South China Sea to “refrain” from construction and reclamation activities, as well as the militarization of the disputed waterway.

“We call on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from taking any steps towards the construction of new facilities, militarization of disputed features, and further land reclamation in the South China Sea, and to commit to resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants, particularly given the ongoing efforts by Asean and China to negotiate a code of conduct,” US Embassy Manila press attaché Molly Koscina told the Inquirer in a text message on Saturday.

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Subi Reef from another angle showing the vast Chinese defense infrastructure

Koscina was asked for comment on the photos released by the Inquirer last February 5, showing the remarkable progress of China’s construction of air and naval bases on seven of its artificial islands claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has downplayed the sea dispute since he assumed the presidency in 2016, reiterated that the Philippines will continue to pursue its friendly ties with the regional superpower because it cannot go to war with China.

“We are neutral. We will continue to talk with China. This is not the time to be fighting over South China Sea because it will only lead to a war,” he said in a press conference on Friday in Davao City.

Duterte also chose to set aside the 2016 ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s massive claims in the South China Sea.

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Chinese bases near the Philippines

China and the 10-member Asean states are working on the code of conduct for the vital waterway, which is mostly claimed by China but also claimed by the Philippines and other Asean countries.

The embassy said the US will continue to uphold international law, and urged the regional claimants to hold a dialogue on the hotly contested waterway.

“We remain firm in our commitment to uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under international law with regard to freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea,” Koscina said.

“We continue to urge all claimants, including China, to peacefully manageand resolve disputes in accordance with international law,” she added.            /kga

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

Beijing Counters US Patrols in South China Sea, Deploys Advanced Fighter Jets

February 9, 2018

This is the first time the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has made public the deployment of its Su-35s, introduced to China in late 2016, state-run People’s Daily reported.

PTI — Updated:February 8, 2018, 11:53 PM IST

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Beijing Counters US Patrols in South China Sea, Deploys Advanced Fighter Jets File photo a Sukhoi Su-35 fighter aircraft. (Reuters)

Beijing: China has deployed the newly-acquired Russian made Su-35 fighter jets in its combat mission over the disputed South China Sea to challenge recurring US aerial and naval patrols asserting freedom of navigation and over-flight in region.

The Chinese air force recently sent its Su-35 fighter jets to take part in a joint combat patrol over the South China Sea, the Chinese air force said in a statement.

Th US military is periodically sending warships and air force jets to assert freedom of flights and navigation over the South China Sea as China claims most of it.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area.

This is the first time the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has made public the deployment of its Su-35s, introduced to China in late 2016, state-run People’s Daily reported.

The air force did not reveal when the patrol took place. The release said the multirole fighter jet’s participation in combat exercises will help strengthen the air force’s long-range operational capability.

The air force will continue pushing forward training to improve combat capabilities, it said.

Officials from Russia’s state technology corporation Rostec said earlier that Russia and China signed a contract that was estimated to be worth USD two billion for 24 Su-35s.

The Su-35 is a multirole fighter aircraft that can attack targets on the ground and the sea. The fighter aircraft can significantly improve the combat capability of the air force overseas.

“The appearance of advanced PLA fighter jets, capable of attacking surface combat vessels in this region is sort of a reaction to the provocation by the US,” Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told state run Global Times.

Although the air force did not reveal where the jets are deployed, if they land on a South China Sea island that could act as a significant deterrent to any outside forces trying to disturb the regional stability, he said.


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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.