Posts Tagged ‘Aucoin’

U.S. destroyer almost foundered after collision, bodies found

June 18, 2017
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Personnel are seen on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald which has been damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
By Tim Kelly and Linda Sieg | YOKOSUKA, JAPAN

The bodies of missing sailors were found in flooded compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, which came close to sinking after a collision with a container ship off Japan tore a gash under the warship’s waterline, the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet commander said on Sunday.

An earlier Navy statement had said the bodies of several sailors were found in the berthing compartments inside the guided missile destroyer but U.S. Seventh fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin declined to say how many.

The search at sea has been called off, he told a news conference at Yokosuka naval base.

Aucoin said the USS Fitzgerald could have foundered, or even sunk, but for the crew’s desperate efforts to save the ship.

“The damage was significant. There was a big gash under the water,” Aucoin said.

“A significant portion of the crew was sleeping” when the destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship, destroying the commander’s cabin, he said.

The Fitzgerald is salvageable, he said, but repairs will likely take months. “Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back,” Aucoin said.

Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the U.S. ship could have been at fault but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision. Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard.

NOTIFYING FAMILIES

Japanese media said all seven of the sailors who had been reported missing were found dead.

The U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement earlier on Sunday: “Divers were able to access the space and found a number of bodies.” They were transferred to a U.S. naval hospital for identification, it said.

“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time,” it said.

The Fitzgerald collided with the merchant vessel more than three times its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday.

Three people were medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said.

The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises.

Seventh Fleet

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is seen at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 18, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

The USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said. The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room, he said.

There were 285 crew onboard, the spokesman said.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

‘PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE’

It was unclear how the collision happened. “Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed,” a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.

Japanese authorities were looking into the possibility of “endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence”, Japanese media reported, but it was not clear whether that might apply to either or both of the vessels.

The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT Friday), while the Japanese Coast Guard said it was 1:30 a.m. local time.

Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ACX Crystal, said in a statement on Saturday it would “cooperate fully” with the Coast Guard’s investigation of the incident.

At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton U.S. warship. It was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

None of the 20 crew members aboard the container ship, all Filipino, were injured, and the ship was not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said. The ship arrived at Tokyo Bay later on Saturday.

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Linda Sieg; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Paul Tait)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-navy-asia-idUSKBN199020

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South China Sea: U.S. Navy Will Continue To Patrol Seas, Skies Despite Chinese

February 22, 2016

The Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia – The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said Monday that he is wary of the situation in the South China Sea being painted as a battle between the United States and China, but added the presence of a Chinese missile system on a disputed island will not stop the US military from flying over the region.

US Navy Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin’s comments come a week after it was revealed that Beijing had deployed surface-to-air missiles on an island in the fiercely contested region. The US said the presence of missiles provided increasing evidence of militarization of the area by China.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. REUTERS/Tim Kelly/Files

China subsequently accused the US of militarizing the region, saying patrols by US Navy vessels and military aircraft had escalated tensions and raised concerns about stability in the area.

Last month, a US warship deliberately sailed near one of the Beijing-controlled islands in the Paracel chain in a so-called freedom of navigation exercise. China, Taiwan, and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels.

Aucoin, whose Japan-based fleet covers a region from India to the international dateline in the Pacific Ocean, said the US is not making such maneuvers to single out any country, and wants all nations that are reclaiming land to stop.

“I wish it wasn’t portrayed as US versus China,’’ Aucoin told reporters in Sydney, one of his stops on a visit to Australia to meet with defense officials. “This shouldn’t seem provocative. What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions.’’

Last week, US and Taiwanese officials confirmed commercial satellite images showed anti-aircraft missiles had been placed on Woody Island in the Paracel chain. China has not denied the appearance of the missiles, but says it is entitled to defend its territory.

Aucoin said the missiles had provided a “destabilizing effect’’ across the region, and urged China to be transparent about its intentions. Asked whether the presence of the missile system would affect US preparedness to fly over the area, Aucoin said no.

“We will fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows, including those areas,’’ he said.

Aucoin also expressed concerns about North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

“They should immediately abandon their nuclear weapons,’’ Aucoin said.

“We want them to do this in a comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible way, to stop their nuclear programs and abide by their commitments, their obligations, to stabilize that area of the world.’’
Read more at http://www.mb.com.ph/us-flights-to-continue-despite-missiles-in-south-china-sea-7th-fleet-chief/#daLPofKRzXckoeDi.99

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A oil rig of Vietsovpetro at Bach Ho oil field off the coast of Vung Tau, Vietnam. Vietnam has lost over 2,000 oil jobs since the price of oil declined dramatically.  Photo: VNA
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 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

 (Contains links to many related articles)

 

US urges more nations challenge to China’s claims in South China Sea

February 22, 2016

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Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin talks to journalists during a media roundtable aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Jan 8, 2016.

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Australia and other countries should follow the US lead and conduct “freedom-of-navigation” naval operations within 12 nautical miles of contested islands in the South China Sea, a senior US naval officer was reported as saying on Monday (Feb 22).

Vice-Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, is in Australia for high-level talks with defence leaders and has discussed growing concerns over Beijing’s military expansion in the disputed region, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) in global trade passes every year and which is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Beijing has been angered by air and sea patrols the United States has conducted near islands China claims. Those have included one by two B-52 strategic bombers in November and by a US Navy destroyer that sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels group last month.

Aucoin told reporters it would be “valuable” if Australia and others sent warships to conduct similar operations within 12 nautical miles of disputed territories.

“What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions,” Aucoin said, according to the ABC. “It’s up to those countries, but I think it’s in our best interests to make sure that those sea lines remain open, I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Tensions between China and its neighbours have risen further since Taiwanese and US officials said last week Beijing had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracels archipelago it controls.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week urged claimants to refrain from island-building and militarisation in the South China Sea.

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 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

 (Contains links to many related articles)

 

Crisis? China signals no South China Sea backdown as foreign minister goes to U.S. — “The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute”

February 22, 2016

World | Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:27 am EST

 
A ship of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near Chinese oil rig Haiyang Shi You 981 in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014.
REUTERS/NGUYEN MINH

China’s South China Sea military deployments are no different from U.S. deployments on Hawaii, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday, striking a combative tone ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States this week.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on February 17, 2016

The United States last week accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied.

Asked whether the South China Sea, and the missiles, would come up when Wang is in the United States to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington should not use the issue of military facilities on the islands as a “pretext to make a fuss”.

A unit of the People’s Liberation Army with their HQ-9 missile system. A unit like this one has been seen on Woody Island.

“The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

China hopes the U.S. abides by its promises not to take sides in the dispute and stop “hyping up” the issue and tensions, especially over China’s “limited” military positions there, she said.

“China’s deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii,” Hua added.

U.S. ships and aircraft carrying out frequent, close-in patrols and surveillance in recent years is what has increased regional tensions, she said.

“It’s this that is the biggest cause of the militarization of the South China Sea. We hope that the United States does not confuse right and wrong on this issue or practice double standards.”

AUSTRALIA OPERATIONS URGED

On Monday, a senior U.S. naval officer was reported as saying Australia and other countries should follow the U.S. lead and conduct “freedom-of-navigation” naval operations within 12 nautical miles (18 kilometers) of contested islands in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Beijing has rattled nerves with construction and reclamation activities on the islands it occupies, though it says these moves are mostly for civilian purposes.

The state-owned China Southern Power Grid Company will set up a power grid management station in what China calls Sansha City, located on Woody Island in the Paracels, which will be able to access microgrids in 16 other islands, according to China’s top regulator of state-owned assets.

In the long term, the station will be able to remotely manage power for many islands there, the statement added, without specifying which islands it was referring to.

Wang is scheduled to be in the U.S. from Tuesday until Thursday.

Hua said the minister is also expected to discuss North Korea, and she repeated China’s opposition to the possible U.S. deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system following North Korea’s recent rocket launch.

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

 (Contains links to many related articles)

 

 

U.S. Admiral: South China Sea Worries Not a U.S. vs China Matter

February 22, 2016

By By KRISTEN GELINEAU

SYDNEY (AP) — The commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said Monday that he is wary of the situation in the South China Sea being painted as a battle between the United States and China, but added the presence of a Chinese missile system on a disputed island will not stop the U.S. military from flying over the region.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin’s comments come a week after it was revealed that Beijing had deployed surface-to-air missiles on an island in the fiercely contested region. The U.S. said the presence of missiles provided increasing evidence of militarization of the area by China.

China subsequently accused the U.S. of militarizing the region, saying patrols by U.S. Navy vessels and military aircraft had escalated tensions and raised concerns about stability in the area.

Last month, a U.S. warship deliberately sailed near one of the Beijing-controlled islands in the Paracel chain in a so-called freedom of navigation exercise. China, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels.

Aucoin, whose Japan-based fleet covers a region from India to the international dateline in the Pacific Ocean, said the U.S. is not making such maneuvers to single out any country, and wants all nations that are reclaiming land to stop.

“I wish it wasn’t portrayed as U.S. versus China,” Aucoin told reporters in Sydney, one of his stops on a visit to Australia to meet with defense officials. “This shouldn’t seem provocative. What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions.”

Last week, U.S. and Taiwanese officials confirmed commercial satellite images showed anti-aircraft missiles had been placed on Woody Island in the Paracel chain. China has not denied the appearance of the missiles, but says it is entitled to defend its territory.

Aucoin said the missiles had provided a “destabilizing effect” across the region, and urged China to be transparent about its intentions. Asked whether the presence of the missile system would affect U.S. preparedness to fly over the area, Aucoin said no.

“We will fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows, including those areas,” he said.

Aucoin also expressed concerns about North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

“They should immediately abandon their nuclear weapons,” Aucoin said. “We want them to do this in a comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible way, to stop their nuclear programs and abide by their commitments, their obligations, to stabilize that area of the world.”

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 (Includes links to more related)

South China Sea: US admiral Joseph Aucoin urges Australia to launch ‘freedom of navigation’ operation

February 22, 2016

One of the most powerful figures in the United States military has called on Australia to follow America’s lead by launching “freedom of navigation” naval operations within 12 nautical miles of contested islands in the South China Sea.

The Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin, is visiting Australia for high-level talks with defence leaders, with whom he has discussed growing concerns with Beijing’s military expansion in the region.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Admiral Aucoin said it would be in the region’s “best interests” if Australia and other nations sent warships within 12 nautical miles of disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Before and after: South China Sea

Since October 2015, the US has conducted two freedom of navigation operations in the disputed territory, the most recent involving the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, which came within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in January.

“We haven’t changed what we’re doing, we’re pretty much doing what we’ve done for decades and decades; ensuring that these sea lines of communication remain open,” Admiral Aucoin said.

“And so we’ve done it, but I really wish it wasn’t portrayed as US versus China.

“Really what we’re trying to ensure here is that we’re exercising our rights and freedoms under the law of the sea.

“This shouldn’t seem provocative.

“What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions.”

Satellite image from ImageSat which show a Chinese missile set-up on the South China Sea's Woody Island

Admiral Aucoin agreed it would be “valuable” for Australia and other nations to conduct operations similar to the US.

“It’s up to those countries, but I think it’s in our best interests to make sure that those sea lines remain open, I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Last week Labor’s defence spokesman Stephen Conroy also called for the Royal Australian Navy to test Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea by going within 12 nautical miles of contested islands.

Vietnam, China, Malaysia have eyes on the prize

Explore the conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea

Rich in resources and traversed by a quarter of global shipping, the South China Sea is the stage for several territorial disputes that threaten to escalate tensions in the region.

At the heart of these disputes are a series of barren islands in two groups – the Spratly Islands, off the coast of the Philippines, and the Paracel Islands, off the coasts of Vietnam and China.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-22/aus-should-challenge-claims-in-south-china-sea-says-admiral/7189598

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 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

 (Contains links to many related articles)

 

U.S. Concerned by Non-Navy Chinese Boats in South China Sea

February 16, 2016

By  

Bloomberg

China’s increased reliance on non-naval ships to assert its claims in the South China Sea is complicating U.S. efforts to avoid a clash in the disputed waters, according to 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin.

While the U.S. and Chinese navies are working more closely under an agreed code for unplanned encounters at sea, the deployment of coast guard and other non-naval vessels in the area is “a concern of mine,” Aucoin told reporters on Monday in Singapore. He plans to take the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the 7th Fleet, to China later in the summer.

“We have all types of senior level engagements with the Chinese PLAN, that we meet pretty routinely,” Aucoin said, referring to China’s navy. He said he had a “greater fear” about other actors, “whether it’s coast guard or what we refer to as white shipping or cabbage ships, not sure about their professionalism.”

 
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin

Aucoin made his comments hours before a two-day summit in California between President Barack Obama and leaders from Southeast Asian nations, as the U.S. seeks to build a unified approach to China’s growing military clout. Southeast Asian countries generally welcome China’s investment and economic muscle, even as some have expressed concern about its expanding naval reach.

“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means,” Obama said in his welcoming address at the  estate in California on Monday.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with fellow claimants including Vietnam and the Philippines in a body of water that annually hosts $5 trillion in shipping. In the past two years, China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres in the Spratly archipelago east of the Philippines and is building military facilities there.

New Construction

China is also building on features in the Paracel islands to the north east of the Spratlys, according to images posted on The Diplomat website last week. They showed dredging and filling at two new sites in the Chinese-held island chain. China has made greater use of fishing and maritime surveillance boats to warn off other vessels in the area, blurring the lines between its navy and coast guard.

Last month the U.S. sent a warship into waters contested by China, Vietnam and Taiwan to challenge the “excessive” maritime claims of all three. It was the second time in less than six months the U.S. has challenged China with a freedom-of-navigation voyage. During the first operation by the USS Lassen, where it passed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly island chain, it was shadowed and warned by Chinese boats including non-naval vessels.

‘Being Controlled’

“During the Lassen one it was apparent that they were being controlled, that they weren’t operating independently, and that is something that is in our calculus now,” Aucoin said of the Chinese boats. “How do we approach that when it is not gray hull versus another gray hull, it’s other types of ships. I think we’ll see more of that in the future.”

Navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli said in January that China had no plans to militarize the South China Sea. Still, the country would “never be defenseless,” Wu said. The degree of defensive facilities depends on how much China is under threat, he said.

The U.S.’s 7th Fleet has patrolled Asia’s waters since World War II. Its coverage area extends from Japan to India.

Aucoin said there were no formal talks to bring coast guards under the code for unplanned encounters at sea. “I know I am asking our coast guard to become more involved, to help us with these types of operations because it’s not simply gray hulls anymore,” he said. “I think having a code of conduct that would cover them would be a good thing.”

China has nearly finished a giant coast guard ship and will probably deploy it armed with machine guns and shells in the South China Sea, the Global Times reported in January, dubbing the vessel “The Beast.” China Coast Guard vessel 3901, with a 12,000-ton displacement, will carry 76 millimeter rapid fire guns, two auxiliary guns and two anti-aircraft machine guns, the paper reported.

China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

China’s so-called white-hulled fleet previously involved ships armed at most with water canon and sirens. The ship now under construction is larger than some of the U.S. naval vessels that patrol the area.

It will be the second of China’s mega-cutters, which are the largest coast guard vessels in the world, according to the Global Times. A similar boat entered service last year in the East China Sea, where China is separately involved in a territorial dispute with Japan.

The country also said in January it had successfully completed test flights of civilian aircraft to a new airfield on Fiery Cross Reef, drawing protests from countries including Vietnam. Aucoin said flying fighter aircraft out of the area would have a destabilizing effect and could prompt a U.S. response.

“They do have an operational airfield but I don’t know when they will start flying fighter-type aircraft out of there,” Aucoin said. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, and that includes flying over that airspace.”

He called for greater transparency from China on its intentions generally in the South China Sea. “I think that would relieve some of the angst that we are now seeing, that we are unsure where they are taking this,” Aucoin said. “What has made China powerful, great, is being able to operate through these waters. We just want them to respect those rights so that we can all continue to prosper.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-15/u-s-concerned-by-china-using-non-navy-boats-in-south-china-sea

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 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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Part of China’s fishing fleet

Anti-China protest in the Philippines

US wants to maintain influence in South China Sea

February 15, 2016
Ensign Jeremy Brooks communicates as the conning officer aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) during a signaling exercise with the Royal Malaysian Navy patrol vessel KD Pahang (172) in the South China Sea. File/US Navy/Paul Kelly

MANILA, Philippines – With the symbolic handshakes and unity photo-op, US President Barack Obama’s high-profile summit with Southeast Asian leaders in California today and tomorrow aims to step up pressure against China’s increasingly worrisome behavior in disputed waters.

Forging a common front and encouraging bolder rhetoric against Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, however, will be a challenge among the diverse collection of VIP guests, who did not criticize China by name in past joint summit statements as the disputes flared on and off in recent years.

“We want to make very clear that the United States is going to be at the table and a part of setting the agenda in the Asia-Pacific in the decades to come,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters last week.

The first day of the summit is scheduled to focus on economic issues and trade, including discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which includes four of the ASEAN members: Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.

ASEAN includes governments aligned either with Washington or Beijing. Only four of its 10 member states are locked in the disputes with China and Taiwan, leading to sometimes conflicting views on handling the long-simmering rifts.

The regional bloc decides by consensus, meaning just one member can effectively shoot down any statement detrimental to China.

In recent years, summit statements have expressed concern over the escalating conflicts and called for freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed territories, but they have rarely gone to specifics.

“I think it will be hard for the US to convince the 10 ASEAN states to adopt any language on the South China Sea disputes that go beyond what ASEAN statements have said in the past,” said Malcolm Cook of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Cue from US

The challenge at the summit may be to get all ASEAN countries to agree on a strong statement on the issue. Analysts say China has put pressure on countries such as Cambodia and Laos not to sign on.

Pressure from Obama, and a message that the US would continue to engage with the group, may counteract that.

“If the ASEAN leaders feel that the United States is investing in ASEAN … that would encourage even the weakest, the most susceptible ASEAN states to sign on with their brothers to make these statements,” said Ernest Bower, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“No one in Southeast Asia wants the Chinese to run roughshod over their smaller neighbors.”

With Obama in his last year in office, certain ASEAN member states would probably not concede on any security or economic issue that might antagonize China, an economic lifeline to them, Cook said.

A Southeast Asian diplomat said government envoys in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, where the ASEAN secretariat is located, have been negotiating the text of a possible joint statement to be issued by Obama and his Southeast Asian counterparts at the end of the two-day summit, which opened at the sprawling Sunnylands estate, a resort in California.

There have been initial differences among the governments on the wording of the statement, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss details of the negotiations with reporters.

Meanwhile, a senior US naval officer said yesterday any move by China to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea would be destabilizing and would not deter US flights over the area.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, also urged Beijing to be more open over its intentions in the area, saying it would relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing.”

“We are unsure where they are taking us,” Aucoin said during a briefing with journalists in Singapore.

Chinese and regional security analysts expect Beijing to start using its new runways in the disputed Spratlys archipelago for military operations in the next few months.

Related:

 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

Chinese vessel sank fishing boat in Vietnamese waters: authorities

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U.S. admiral warns against Chinese fighter flights from South China Sea runways

February 15, 2016

By Rujun Shen

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Any move by China to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea would be destabilizing and would not deter U.S. flights over the area, a senior U.S. naval officer said on Monday.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, also urged Beijing to be more open over its intentions in the South China Sea, saying it would relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing”.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin

“We are unsure where they are taking us,” Aucoin said of China’s recent moves during briefing with journalists in Singapore.

“So we are going to sail, fly, operate throughout these waters….like we have been doing for so long,” he said.

That, he added, included “flying over that airspace.”

Chinese and regional security analysts expect Beijing to start using its new runways in the disputed Spratlys archipelago for military operations in the next few months.

It last month tested for the first time the 3,000-metre runway built on a reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef by landing several civilian airliners from Hainan island.

Aucoin said he could not give an estimate when he expected Chinese military jets to start operating in the Spratlys.

“It’s a destabilizing uncertainty,” he said when asked about the impact of possible Chinese jet fighter patrols. He said it would raise questions about the intentions.

China claims much of the South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

International concern is growing over tensions in the waterway, which carries an estimated $5 trillion in trade every year, including oil used by northeast Asian nations.

Since last October, two U.S. warships have sailed close to Chinese claimed features in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagoes in so-called freedom-of-navigation operations that Beijing has warned are provocative.

Chinese officials complained last December that a U.S. B-52 bomber flew close to one of Beijing’s artificial islands.

Other U.S. surveillance and transport planes routinely fly throughout the South China Sea.

Chinese warships and civilian vessels routinely flank U.S. naval ships in the area, but Aucoin said engagement between the two navies would continue, saying the relationship was “positive”.

“(The) International Law of the Sea has helped (China) for so many years. We just want them to respect those rights so that we can all continue to prosper,” he said.

(Reporting by Rujun Shen in Singapore; writing by Greg Torode in Hong Kong; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Related:

 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

Chinese vessel sank fishing boat in Vietnamese waters: authorities

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