Posts Tagged ‘ASEAN’

Philippines: North Korean delegation visits Manila ahead of regional security meeting — ASEAN Joining China and North Korea?

July 26, 2017

Reuters

July 26, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – North Korea’s vice foreign minister met with his Philippine counterpart on Wednesday ahead of a regional security meeting in Manila, where Pyongyang is expected to face pressure to halt its intermediate-range missile tests.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Choi led a delegation for a one-day visit to discuss preparations for the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting on Aug 7, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said. The Philippines is the chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations this year.

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North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Choi in Beijing, China in June of 2016. Kyodo Photo

“The purpose of the visit is to discuss Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong participating at next week’s meeting,” he said, adding the talks were mainly focused on logistics after Philippine officials gave the North Koreans a tour of meeting venues.

The North Korean visit was not publicized until afterwards.

Two diplomats from the foreign ministry said the North Koreans were worried ASEAN may issue a strongly-worded statement about the situation on the Korean peninsula to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its planned missile tests.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday they have seen increased North Korean activity at a site in the western city of Kusong that could be preparations for another missile test within days.

Pyongyang said it tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, following numerous other missile tests since February.

“This is the not the first time North Korea sent its top diplomats to appeal to ASEAN and to the Philippines as chair this year to go slow on them,” a diplomat familiar with the visit told Reuters.

Pyongyang sent diplomats early this year to Manila to appeal to the ASEAN chairman not to embarrass North Korea during the regional meeting, which foreign ministers of Japan, Russia, China, South Korea and the United States are due to attend. It also sent a letter to ASEAN’s secretary-general asking for help.

A North Korean diplomat also met with the Philippine ambassador in Beijing to make a similar appeal and invite Cayetano to Pyongyang.

“They wanted me to go there straight from China,” he told a news conference. “As of now, there’s no plan. We really have to consult with ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and the United States.

“It’s a concerted effort on the Korean peninsula,” he said, referring to efforts to de-escalate tensions, which ASEAN foreign ministers voiced concerns about in a statement at the ASEAN leaders’ summit in April.

“Our stand has not changed,” he added.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.  AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

South China Sea: China Is Here To Stay, Opens Cinema, Other Entertainment Venues

July 25, 2017

BEIJING — China has opened its southernmost cinema on a disputed island in the South China Sea, state media said, part on an on-going effort to build up civilian infrastructure and assert Beijing’s sovereignty.

The cinema is on Woody Island in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, and is equipped with the most advanced projection equipment, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

“The opening of the cinema is part of a plan by local cultural authorities to establish community services on islands under Sansha’s jurisdiction,” Xinhua said.

Woody Island is the seat of what China calls Sansha city that is its administrative center for the South China Sea.

China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with Vietnam.

Though China calls it a city, Sansha’s permanent population is no more than a few thousand, and many of the disputed islets and reefs in the sea are uninhabited.

That has not stopped China’s ambitious plans for the islands there, including building airfields and allowing Chinese tourists to access the area via cruise ships.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade a year.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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http://www.amusingplanet.com/2015/10/sansha-city-that-includes-almost-entire.html

Hypocrisy in the South China Sea — According to China’s rationalized perspective, the former Western colonies have been stealing its fish, oil and gas for a long time

July 23, 2017

Nationalism-fueled rationalizations are running rampant in the disputed region

BY 

There is a big difference between reasoning and rationalization. Reasoning is the use of facts and logic to derive a conclusion regarding a given issue. Rationalization is the use of reasoning to justify a preconceived conclusion. Many countries have rationalized their positions regarding their claims and actions in the South China Sea. Indeed there are no “innocents” — only degrees of rationalization.

For its policies and actions in the South China Sea, China has been accused of being aggressive; bullying other claimants; violating the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as well as international law and norms; militarizing the features it occupies; threatening freedom of navigation; damaging the environment and causing ASEAN disunity.

But China argues that what it calls the Nansha (the Spratlys) and their “adjacent waters” have been under its sovereignty since “time immemorial.” According to China’s rationalized perspective, the former Western colonies have been stealing its fish and oil and gas in collaboration with outside Western companies and powers.

Moreover, to China, other claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have committed similar transgressions. Indeed, in the 1970s and ’80s while the United States, Japan and Australia remained silent, they occupied features there that China considered its sovereign territory. They then altered the features by adding to them, built structures, ports and airstrips, and allowed access for their militaries. In China’s view they appropriated the largest and most useful features under spurious claims leaving only the dregs and submerged features.

In China’s rationalization of its more recent actions, it suffered by previously being relatively non-aggressive. When China tried to “catch up” by building on some of the only remaining unoccupied and low-tide features, the other claimants accused it of not exercising “self-restraint” and thus violating the 2002 DOC. But to China, other claimants have also violated the DOC’s self-restraint provision by continuing their reclamation and construction activities after the signing of the agreement. More significant to China, the Philippines — by filing a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague — violated what China considers the most important DOC provision of all — the commitment “to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.”

It is a violation of precedent-setting international arbitration rulings to undertake unilateral activities in disputed areas that change the nature of the area. When China does so or tries to prevent others from doing so it is called a “bully” by the smaller countries. But the reality is that this pejorative term is often used by less powerful countries to engender sympathy in their interactions with the more powerful ones — including with the U.S. For example, the U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) that use some of the world’s most lethal surface warships to publicly violate the national laws of less powerful countries are perceived by some as “bullying.”

China has rejected an international arbitration panel’s ruling adverse to its interests. The U.S. and Australia have criticized it for doing so. But the U.S. rejected the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when it ruled for Nicaragua against it. Also, Australia withdrew from ICJ jurisdiction rather than arbitrate boundary issues with East Timor. So what “international rules and norms” apply and who is and who is not in compliance with them are rationalized by many countries.

The U.S. accuses China of “militarizing” the South China Sea but fails to define the term. Critics of China’s actions like Vietnam and the Philippines reclaimed features and “militarized” them years ago — albeit on a lesser scale. Moreover, the Philippines used a naval vessel in a standoff with China at Scarborough Shoal — a clear threat of use of force and thus a violation of the U.N. Charter, UNCLOS and the DOC. More recently, the U.S. has maintained a studied silence regarding Taiwan’s decision to send more troops and possibly anti-aircraft missiles to Itu Aba.

But it is the U.S. itself that has perpetrated one of the most egregious examples of hypocrisy by increasingly militarizing the region with its forward deployed troops, assets and patrols as part of the “rebalance” of its defense forces — all the while condemning China’s militarization of the features it occupies.

The rival claimants have also echoed U.S. accusations that China is threatening commercial freedom of navigation. But the U.S. has over time deftly conflated freedom of commercial navigation with freedom of navigation for its warships and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) vessels and aircraft. In so doing it makes frequent reference to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which it has not ratified but claims to be implementing. Yet the U.S. is trying to pick and choose which provisions it will abide by and interpret them to its benefit. The U.S. rationalizes that it is abiding by its interpretation of this convention and others are not.

Vietnam supported the January 2016 USS Curtis Wilbur FONOP near Triton Island in the Paracels by proclaiming that it “respects the right of innocent passage through its territorial seas conducted in accordance with the relevant rules of the international community.” But Vietnam has both a territorial sea baseline and a prior notification regime for entry of warships into its territorial sea that have been the targets of U.S. FONOPs.

India also supports the U.S. position. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “countries must “respect and ensure freedom of navigation. …” But India has also been the target of U.S. FONOPs challenging its ban on military activities and maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without its permission. Malaysia and U.S. ally Thailand have similarly restrictive regimes for their EEZs. Indeed, Malaysia’s regime has been challenged by U.S. FONOPs. But it supports U.S. military probes in other countries’ waters by allowing U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes to refuel on its territory. All have presumably rationalized their seemingly contradictory behavior.

The Philippines accused China of wanton environmental damage in the Spratlys and the arbitration panel found it guilty as charged. But China is certainly not the first or only claimant to damage the environment of these atolls or to allow their military to use them. All claimants, including the Philippines, have undertaken “reclamation” and construction on features they now occupy that must have damaged coral reefs and the ecosystem they support.

Moreover, the Philippine government was relatively silent for years in the face of destructive “muro-ami” fishing in the Spratlys by Filipino boats and crews. Again these contradictions are rationalized by arguing that China’s transgressions were much more expansive.

In April 2016, Singapore criticized China for “meddling” in ASEAN’s internal affairs. Indeed, China has attempted with some success to garner support from Brunei, Cambodia and Laos for its position that the South China Sea disputes should be negotiated by the countries directly concerned. However, the U.S., by strongly supporting the Philippines and Vietnam’s positions against China, has contributed to ASEAN disunity on this critical issue as well. Singapore’s rationalization of this dichotomy is presumably in its “national interest.”

And so it goes.

The point is that we should realize that much of what we hear and read about countries’ claims and actions in the South China Sea is nationalism-fueled rationalization — not objective reasoning based on logical analysis of all the relevant facts.

Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China. A longer version of this piece first appeared in the IPP Review.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/07/21/commentary/world-commentary/hypocrisy-south-china-sea/#.WXS56IjyuUk

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

 

Vietnam’s balancing act in the South China Sea

July 21, 2017
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 / 05:14 AM July 20, 2017

A year after The Hague ruling, commentators have flooded the geopolitical arena. One former Vietnamese government official and expert on the South China Sea issue has called on all the claimant countries in the territorial and maritime dispute to treat the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines last year as a “valuable precedent” in following the rule of law in the contested sea.

The landmark ruling of July 12, 2016 found that China had no historical rights over the disputed parts of the South China Sea and invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the area. I recall that the ruling, which was overwhelmingly favorable to the Philippines, was immediately dismissed as “a farce” by China, which did not participate in the case. But with regard to this issue, claimant countries should continue to implement a more robust, practical and specific legal initiative. This is the only way Asean can counter China’s coercive tactics, for instance mistreating the Vietnamese.

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Vietnam has been adamant against China; a balancing act against the emerging power in the Asia-Pacific. Curiously though, why is Hanoi not hailing Beijing to The Hague? Why is Hanoi content to just sit and watch, and cheer the Philippines as it waged a proxy word-war against China on America’s behalf? Why does Hanoi refuse to throw their hat in the ring with us? And more curiously still, why did Hanoi make a 180-degree turn in late 2014 when Vietnam’s national cyber security agency discovered that many Vietnamese-American bloggers in Saigon or HCM City were using the anti-China protests there to topple the Vietnamese government? Thereafter, why did Hanoi send its top cadres to Beijing to mend fences after they discovered US plots to destabilize and depose Hanoi? Those Vietnamese-American bloggers are more like the Fil-American operatives working for the CIA, just like in our country.

Meanwhile, since Hanoi acknowledges the arbitral tribunal ruling, why are Vietnamese fishing vessels still encroaching on our fishing waters, aided by their strong klieg lights which are prohibited under our maritime laws? Before Chiara Zambrano of ABS-CBN left for Marawi, she reported on how Vietnamese fishing vessels were frequently spotted not far from “Kalboro.”

Further, I can only hope that the AFP will recommend to the President to thoroughly study and publicize the ruling’s content as a valuable precedent, a lesson in following the rule of law. I have always believed that that the ruling was not merely intended to define the winner between the Philippines and China. It was not intended to undermine China’s prestige and honor in the regional and international community. Rather, it protects the truth, the right to maintain and promote the effectiveness of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

RICARDO E. CATINDIG, Meycauayan, Bulacan ricky_catindig26@outlook.com

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http://opinion.inquirer.net/105689/vietnams-balancing-act-south-china-sea

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/105689/vietnams-balancing-act-south-china-sea#ixzz4nUSqJQw3
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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature
China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

 

South China Sea: Philippines Arbitration Victory Invalidated China’s Nine-Dash Line Claim in International Law — “Not intended to undermine China’s prestige and honor in the regional and international community. But rather, it protects the truth.”

July 19, 2017
By:  – Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
 / 07:33 AM July 17, 2017

A former Vietnamese government official and expert on the South China Sea issue has called on all the claimant countries in the territorial and maritime dispute to treat the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines last year as a “valuable precedent” in following the rule of law in the contested sea.

“[Claimant countries] should continue to implement a more robust, practical and specific legal battlefront. To do this, it is necessary to thoroughly study and publicize the ruling’s content as a valuable precedent, a lesson in following the rule of law,” Dr. Tran Cong Truc, former chief of Vietnam’s national border committee, said in an e-mail interview.

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Dr. Tran Cong Truc

In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the United Nations arbitral tribunal said China had no historical rights over the disputed parts of the South China Sea and invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the sea.

The Philippines, using a mechanism provided for under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), lodged the case against China following the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff.

The ruling, which came down overwhelmingly favorable to the Philippines, was immediately dismissed as “a farce” by China, which did not participate in the case.

Tran said the ruling was not merely intended to define the winner between the Philippines and China.

“It is not intended to undermine China’s prestige and honor in the regional and international community. But rather, it protects the truth, the right to maintain and promote the effectiveness of Unclos,” Tran said./rg

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/158832/south-china-sea-expert-treat-ruling-valuable-precedent#ixzz4nID5DSEy
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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

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Singapore Offers Cargo Plane, Drones to Help Philippines Fight Against Those Radicalised by Islamic State — To keep Islamist terror cells from entrenching themselves in the southern Philippines

July 19, 2017

SINGAPORE — Singapore has offered a military transport airplane, drone surveillance aircraft and use of combat training facilities to support the Philippines’ fight against the rising threat of Islamist militancy, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The offer stemmed from talks in Manila earlier this week between Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Philippines counterpart Delfin Lorenzana.

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Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

Surrounded by Muslim majority countries and with a Muslim minority of its own, Singapore is worried by the small but dangerous number of people in the region who have been radicalised by Islamic State.

Ministers describe the terror threat against the wealthy city-state as the highest in recent years and alarm was heightened in May when a militant group linked to Islamic State seized Marawi City on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

Security forces are still battling to regain control of the town and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte this week asked Congress to extend martial law until the end of the year on Mindanao, the only Muslim majority island in the largely Catholic Philippines.

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During the past two months Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched joint maritime and air patrols over their shared boundaries in the Sulu Sea, to guard against the movement of militants between Borneo Island and Mindanao.

Supporting the regional effort, Singapore’s Defence Ministry said that it had offered a C-130 transport plane to deliver humanitarian supplies, drone surveillance aircraft, and use of training facilities for the Philippines military.

“While the AFP is confident that Marawi will be secured from terrorists soon, further concerted efforts are required to ensure that other terrorist cells do not entrench themselves in the southern Philippines, as this would cause instability to the rest of ASEAN,” the ministry said in a statement.

Fearful that Islamic State could build a base in Southeast Asia, governments in the region announced last month that they plan share intelligence, using spy planes and drones to stem the movement of militants across their porous borders.

South China Sea: A Year Later, China Shows No Regard for Arbitration Ruling, International Law

July 18, 2017
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A Chinese H-6K bomber keeps watch over Scarborough Shoal (China calls Huangyan) in the Philippines. PLA photo from Xinhua

About one year ago a five-judge tribunal based at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague announced its decision in a case filed by the Philippines in 2013 against China over their disputed claims in the South China Sea.

It came after a stand-off between the two countries over the Scarborough Shoal the previous year; China ultimately seized the shoal from Manila’s control and maintains a presence there to this day.

The case brought before the tribunal concerned maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea, among other issues. It did not seek to adjudicate the territorial sovereignty of features, given that this was outside the purview of the tribunal.

The ruling should have become a major reaffirmation of the principle that, in the South China Sea, might could not make right. Instead, one year on, little has changed and the tribunal’s award sits as a mere piece of paper.The court unanimously ruled in favour of the Philippines on nearly all points. China had refused to participate in the proceedings and treated them as invalid.

The reasons for this are complex. Partly, this outcome involves a tragedy of timing. Just days before the award was released, the pro-American and internationalist government of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was replaced by the government of current leader President Rodrigo Duterte.

Instead of enthusiastically pursuing justice backed by the full weight of international law, he effectively began a 180 degree turn in Manila’s relations with Beijing.

The Philippines also took over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, exercising considerable sway over its agenda and making it less useful than usual on the South China Sea. (Not that ASEAN ever was a trailblazer on the issue before Duterte.)

China, in the meantime, reciprocated the overture. While many Western analysts, including yours truly, had anticipated Beijing would react with rage initially and eventually balk at the reputational costs of explicitly flouting an international verdict, this never came to pass.

Beijing, perhaps acting as many great powers have in the past, kept calm and carried on its activities in the South China Sea, continuing to press its claims to “traditional fishing grounds” and its nine-dash line as far south as Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

In the end, what was supposed to be the most significant international legal verdict on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea largely fizzled away.

The ruling, however, has not been forgotten. The United States continues to throw its support behind it, albeit sparingly. Most recently, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told attendees of the Shangri-La Dialogue that the United States called on “all claimants to use this as a starting point to peacefully manage their disputes in the South China Sea.”

But, as an extra-regional power, the United States’ ability to goad the South China Sea claimant states (and ASEAN) into full-throated support for the decision remains distant.

ASEAN and China have kept up the appearance of progress on their disputes by coming to an agreement on a toothless non-binding draft “framework” for a long-awaited code of conduct in the disputed waters.

The document, which was not released publicly, is likely to serve as China’s way of showing it is doing just fine managing its disputes without either the United States’ intervention or that of any international court.

The good news is that while the salience of the ruling over the past year has been disappointing, it will remain a fact of history that in 2016, China was found to have been in violation of several of its commitments as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The bad news is that even if regional states and the Philippines experience a change of heart and decide to pursue what is legally theirs according to the court, Beijing will have already extended its presence across the South China Sea, with its seven artificial islands in the Spratly group and growing coastguard and naval presence.

In the end Beijing was fortunate to largely avoid the fallout of the ruling, but even if the 500-page document transitions into obscurity, it will remain a fact of life in the South China Sea.

Future governments – both in the region and outside it – will be able to reference it without end as a reminder of Beijing’s status as a rule-breaker.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post and is republished here with kind permission.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/a-year-later-the-south-china-sea-award-stands-as-evidence-of-chinas-rule-breaking-behavior/

 (Contains links to several more related articles)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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No automatic alt text available.
The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature
China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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Related:
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

Image may contain: sky, ocean, cloud, twilight, outdoor, water and nature

Philippines, ASEAN states warned vs investment deals with China — 65 percent-plus Sri Lanka’s total GDP goes to debt repair thanks to China — Will Duterte and his cronies reassess the relationship with China?

July 13, 2017

In a lecture last week with 15 journalists from various Southeast Asian media outfits, including The STAR, India’s Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries chairman Hardeep Singh Puri said that while ASEAN countries must take advantage of China’s aggressive investment policy especially on infrastructure, they must also see to it that their respective governments have the means to pay for the loans and that the projects are viable.  AP/Louis Lanzano

NEW DELHI – Member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially the Philippines, should be cautious when entering into massive investment deals with China as they may end up paying more than what they bargained for, a scholar and former United Nations ambassador from India has warned.

In a lecture last week with 15 journalists from various Southeast Asian media outfits, including The STAR, India’s Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries chairman Hardeep Singh Puri said that while ASEAN countries must take advantage of China’s aggressive investment policy especially on infrastructure, they must also see to it that their respective governments have the means to pay for the loans and that the projects are viable.

“I think the countries of ASEAN, each of them, whether small or large, have lots of resilience. But be careful about these schemes which bring lots of easy money,” Puri said.

“It has to be (a) viable project. You have to be able to pay it back. If it will lead to debts and equity then drop it,” he added.

Puri, a leading scholar and diplomat of India and a former president of the UN Security Council, cited the case of Sri Lanka’s investment deals with China for the ambitious construction of a deep seaport and international airport in the remote Hambantota and Mattala regions, respectively.

Puri said the Sri Lankan government embarked on the investment deals with China only to find out later that the projects were not viable, as there were no accompanying developmental projects in the remote areas in order for Hambantota Seaport and the Mattala International Airport to attract vessels and cargo, as well as tourists.

Mattala International Airport is now considered the world’s emptiest airport, Puri said, but its operation and maintenance continue to eat up a significant portion of government revenues.

Last October, the Sri Lankan government announced it was entering into a debt-for-equity swap deal with two private Chinese firms in order for them to shoulder a large portion of Sri Lanka’s over $8-billion debt with the Chinese government.

Under the agreement, the Chinese firms will own majority shares in the two projects and will take over their operations. The Hambantota seaport is strategically located by the Indian Ocean.

“Sri Lanka’s total GDP, about 65 percent-plus of that today is going to debt repair. Sri Lanka has got an annual debt of about $8 billion-$10 billion. If you have a small economy and about 70 percent goes into debt, you cannot run that country efficiently,” Puri said.

The Duterte administration, according to Puri, should ensure that a similar case will not happen to the Philippines amid some $24-billion worth of loans and investments that the government secured from China last year, during President Duterte’s first state visit there, $15 billion of which involve company-to-company deals.

A majority of the secured investments were for infrastructure such as ports, provincial railways, power plants and roads and bridges.

“Let me tell you, in this game, there is no philanthropy or altruism… In Sri Lanka, the debt is converted to equity…The problem is if debt becomes equity, you are into selling your country,” Puri said.

Asked whether China’s aggressive investment policy not only in the Philippines but also in other ASEAN countries has something to do with a supposed attempt to silence them on the issue of the territorial dispute over South China Sea, Puri said: “I would not hazard a guess. When a country embarks on a policy like that, it has its own motivations.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/07/13/1719127/philippines-asean-states-warned-vs-investment-deals-china

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 (Enslavement Project?)

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China is the nation gaining the most, so China should step up to pay for a greater share of the planned railway network, the Thai transport minister said less than a month agao

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

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 (The “Project of the Century” is, at heart, an imperial venture.)

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Vietnam and India emphasize shared interests in the South China Sea

July 11, 2017

By Helen Clark

Vietnam’s recent request to India to play a more prominent role in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea did not come as a total surprise. It’s not the first time Vietnam has asked a nation with no direct interest in the area for backing – it made a similar call to South Korea a few months ago. While not much appears to have come of that request (unsurprisingly, given the nature of Vietnam and South Korea’s relationship – big on business and investment and low on strategy), India is a different proposition entirely.

Vietnam and India already cooperate across multiple areas from technology to education and boast not just a relatively long history of diplomatic ties (45 years), but cultural ties going back hundreds of years to the Cham Empire. During a visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, Vietnam named India a comprehensive strategic partner, elevating it to the highest echelon of cooperation.

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Vietnamese deputy prime minister Pham Binh Minh

At last week’s Delhi Dialogue (an annual meeting ASEAN members and India), Vietnam’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said: ‘India and Vietnam share political and economic interests. As the future unfolds we have reason to be optimistic. ASEAN will benefit from India’s experience of resolving maritime issues in a peaceful manner.’ Minh also spoke of Vietnam’s hopes that India ‘will continue to partner our efforts for strategic security and freedom of navigation in South China Sea on the basis of international law and legal conventions’. India is a fan, like Vietnam, of the rules-based order (even when an arbitration ruling goes against it), particularly in the South China Sea where the two nations have various overlapping interests.

A few days after Minh spoke, Vietnam granted the Indian Oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension to explore a Vietnamese oil block in an area of the South China Sea contested by China and Vietnam. The oil company first signed a contract to explore Block-128 back in 2006. In 2012, it exited the area briefly in what the firm said was a commercial decision, but what many in Vietnam believed was also linked to Chinese pressure.

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In 2012 the head of the Indian Navy DK Joshi said that the navy would protect ONGC in the South China Sea. While many in India are circumspect on the benefits of maritime activity so far from home, Joshi’s assessment that the rapid modernisation of the Chinese navy is a cause for concern for India is more widely shared.

The Non-Alignment 2.0 book, put together by Indian foreign policy experts, states that partnerships in East Asia, ‘may help delay, if not deter, the projection of Chinese naval power in the Indian Ocean’ – in other words, keep China busy and constrained in East Asia, and it may not have the time or inclination to move west to the Indian Ocean.

The high-level comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Vietnam is equally important for Vietnam which shares the same worries about increasing Chinese power. It regards naval activity by larger nations like India and the US in the area as a useful deterrent against China.

It welcomes all concrete and rhetorical commitments to freedom of navigation in the ‘East Sea’, as it terms it, that could help dissuade China from any potential aggression, expansion or another episode like China’s 2014 violation of Vietnam’s EEZ. While China has continued to expand its presence, maritime cooperation and supplies from major states such as India (which increased its existing $US100 million line of defence credit to $US500 million last year), the US and Japan helps Vietnam to at least maintain its position.

And yet, while Chinese media regards Indo-Vietnamese cooperation with suspicion and arms sales to Vietnam of the Indian Akash missile or the potential sale of the Russian-Indian BrahMos with outright hostility, Vietnam’s main aim is to keep the peace.

What much reporting on this issue often overlooks is the fact that both Vietnam and China take pains to not be at loggerheads and to agree where possible. They have guidelines on how to settle agreements and a joint standing committee to overseas relations more generally. They meet to discuss the South China Sea, even as they openly disagree. For Vietnam there is a second reason, too – activists often accuse Hanoi of weakness on China. These criticisms that can reach a wider audience, as even those who are less politically engaged seethe at perceived Chinese aggression.

While the South China Sea is not directly in India’s interests, containing a rising China now seems to be in order to prevent what Ram Madhav, senior leader of India’s BJP, recently termed a ’21st century version of neo-colonialism’.

For Vietnam, more friends is always the better option.

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/vietnam-and-india-s-shared-interests-south-china-sea

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INS Vikramaditya is part of the exercise with Japan and the U.S.

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Thailand Knows What a Blood Soaked Anti-Drug Policy Means — Unlike the Philippines, Bangkok Now Treats Drug Abusers and the Addicted With Compassion, Not Anger

July 9, 2017
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By DJ Yap – Reporter / @deejayapINQ
Philippine Daily Inquirer /
07:30 AM July 08, 2017
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President Duterte’s bloody drug war may not be a suitable template for Thailand, as the country’s strategy is not to fight drugs with anger but compassion, according to the Thai secretary general of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).After the failure of Thailand’s own violent crackdown on illegal drugs in the early 2000s, Aipa Secretary General Isra Sunthornvut said his country would now rather focus on rehabilitating drug addicts.

“What works in the Philippines might not work in Thailand and what works in Thailand might not work in the Philippines,” he told a media briefing early Thursday evening at the close of the meeting of Asean lawmakers in Manila.

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Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sunthornvut added, however, that Thailand and the Philippines could still learn from each other’s experiences.

“It’s a watch-and-learn and we’ll see how it goes, as long as we’re serious in this fight, as long as there are examples for us to adapt to,” he said.

Aipa’s fact-finding committee, composed of parliamentarians from Asean’s 10 member economies, had a meeting in Manila hosted by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other Philippine lawmakers to discuss regional cooperation to combat the drug menace.

Each country gave a report on its campaign against illegal drugs, as concerns were raised over drug trafficking activities in Southeast Asia. The Philippines boasted a substantial drop in the narcotics trade and the crime rate since the start of the drug war.

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Philippine drug war. Credit: Alecs Ongcal

Mr. Duterte has waged an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs since his assumption to office last year, leaving thousands of suspected users or pushers dead in police operations and vigilante-style killings and triggering accusations of widespread human rights abuses.

But Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, said there was no discussion of human rights violations during the Aipa meet.

“I don’t see any reasons why we should connect the issue of human rights to the campaign of the Duterte administration in the war against drugs,” Barbers said at the same briefing.

Sunthornvut acknowledged that his country had gone through a similar phase as the Philippines, launching an all-out offensive against drug dealers and users.

“There was a time when [the campaign] was to stand and yell at the drug users. And then they changed that to ‘let’s have compassion, let’s understand them,’” he said.

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King Rama the Ninth

“But it’s always been alongside the policies and ideas like King Rama the Ninth when he said, ‘You can’t fight drugs with anger, you have to be compassionate because it’s your fellow countrymen, so try to find ways to help understand,’” Sunthornvut said.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/911976/thailand-wont-copy-ph-style-on-drug-war#ixzz4mMGFhx9R
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Photos also from TIME:

‘I Am Seeing My Countrymen Die’

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 (The Philippines seems to be siding with China, Russia and Iran)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kine also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

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 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

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“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

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Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

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Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

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Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP