Posts Tagged ‘Brunei’

China engages in Australia’s largest maritime drill for first time

September 9, 2018

China is participating for the first time in Australia’s largest maritime exercise as more than 3,000 personnel from 27 countries engage in joint training off the strategic northern port of Darwin.

Exercise Kakadu is hosting 23 ships and submarines from across the Indo-Pacific region, enabling them to establish familiarity which helps to prevent conflict on the high seas and to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Commander Anita Sellick of the Australian frigate HMAS Newcastle said two Royal Australian Navy sailors were accepted onto China’s naval frigate Huangshan during the drill.

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China guided missile destroyer Huangshan

“Two of our Australian navy sailors are across actually, right now in the Chinese ship. So they’ve both been able to integrate within each other’s navy and learn a little bit of what life is like for them today in Exercise Kakadu,” Sellick told Reuters on Saturday.

Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, told reporters in Darwin in a televised interview on Friday that there were mutual benefits in building understanding and trust during the exercise.

The joint military practice, which will continue until Sept. 15, is supported by the Royal Australian Air Force and involves 21 aircraft.

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Royal Australian Navy sailors stand with officers from the Chinese Navy aboard the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Newcastle during Australia’s largest maritime exercise ‘Exercise Kakadu’ being conducted off the coast of Darwin in northern Australia, September 8, 2018. Picture taken September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jill Gralow

Darwin, on the doorstep of Asia, is Australia’s most strategically important city and has been home to a contingent of U.S. Marines since 2011 making it the logical place for the exercise.

Integrating the People’s Liberation Army Navy into the biennial training with American, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian forces for the first time has given China an opportunity to improve its working relationship with those countries, which has been tense at times.

In April, three Australian warships had a challenging encounter with China as they passed through the South China Sea. Then in May, the United States disinvited China from joint naval exercises off Hawaii in response to what it called China’s militarization of disputed areas of the South China Sea, an allegation Beijing rejects.

The participating countries in Exercise Kakadu are: China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Tonga, United Arab Emirates, U.S., Australia, and Vietnam.

(Reporting by Alison Bevege; editing by Grant McCool)


South China Sea: ASEAN actions not cause for celebration — “War clouds could be closer, not further away…”

August 7, 2018

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed on a so-called single  working text to continue negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea.

“I am pleased to announce yet another milestone in the COC process,” said Vivian Balakrishnan on Thursday, Singapore’s foreign minister, who is hosting the meeting of regional leaders.

They have also agreed on the “key modalities” for future rounds of negotiations, he said in opening remarks at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting, one of several related meetings held alongside the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore this week.

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Balakrishnan said that the single draft negotiating text will be the basis for future COC negotiations and a living document, which means it will be continually edited and updated as needed. He added that ASEAN and China settled on the negotiating text in June when both sides held talks in Changsha in China’s Hunan province

Both sides hailed the development and said that COC negotiations will accelerate.

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Premature celebration

However, any celebrations that this is a major breakthrough should be carefully examined. ASEAN members have been trying to persuade China for several years to agree to a COC, which merely sets force non-enforceable rules on how each party should conduct itself in the South China Sea.

Related: Russia’s High Risk Global Oil Strategy

As far back as July 2012, China said it was open to launching negotiators over the COC. However, the same year China seized and took possession of Scarborough Shoal, which clearly lies within the Philippines’ (an ASEAN member) UN-mandated 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Since 2012, China has mostly waffled at agreeing to a COC, as it continued to develop installations on reefs and islets in the South China Sea, including putting in place military assets, in an obvious attempt to militarize and control the area. The South China Sea includes shipping lanes that send vital crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other goods to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

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The fact that China, the master at delaying tactics, has agreed to a working text on a COC after several years of artificial island building is disingenuous at best. Moreover, a formal and completed COC is still likely many years away, allowing China even more time to continue its building in the area.

China’s South China Sea actions has also set Beijing and Washington on a potential collision course as the US navy continues to send what it calls “freedom of navigation voyages” near China’s disputed claims. Angst over China’s moves have also caused the US, Japan, India and Australia to work together to find ways to challenge Beijing’s South China Sea assertions. However, at the end of the day, occasional naval voyages pale in comparison to actual infrastructure and military assets already in place.

Going forward, it appears that China will remain unchecked in its claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, referred to as its nine-dash line, at the dismay of rival claimants in the body of water: Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

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Pushing back

Despite diplomatic efforts by ASEAN over Beijing’s South China Sea buildup, several ASEAN members seem to be taking a different approach by strengthening their coastguards as a way to maintain a presence in the region without risking direct military engagement.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said in a report published on Wednesday that in an effort to stop maritime encounters, with China or each other, escalating into military conflicts, countries with claims to the disputed waterway have been transferring security forces from their navies to their coastguards. “The coastguards have become important strategic cushions between navies in ASEAN,” it said.

The primary reason for nations increasing their coastal forces has been “China’s aggressive maritime strategy,” including the construction of military outposts and distant fishing activities in other countries’ exclusive economic zones, the report said.

Related: A Price Spike Looms For Natural Gas

The use of civilian and coast guard maritime vessels however is already used to great effect by China. Often instead of sending its regular navy, officially called the People’s Liberation Army Navy, China sends its maritime defense vessels or coast guard to do its bidding.

Of the 45 major incidents reported in the South China Sea between 2010 and 2016, 32 involved at least one China Coast Guard or other Chinese maritime law enforcement vessel, the ASPI report added.

Concurrently, China is continually building up its so-called Blue Ocean navy. Peter Jennings, the ASPI director, and a former head of strategy for the Australian Defense Department, said in mid_July that China’s navy could challenge the supremacy of the U.S. Navy in the region within a year.

Oil and gas lurks in background

Oil and gas reserves set the backdrop for this ongoing and potentially explosive geopolitical quagmire. One Chinese estimate places potential oil resources in the South China Sea as high as 213 billion barrels, though many Western analysts have repeatedly claimed that this estimate seems extremely high. A conservative 1993/1994 US Geological Survey (USGS) report estimated the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea at 28 billion barrels – yet, this estimate, for its part, seems particularly low.

Moreover, the 1993/1994 USGS estimate states that natural gas is actually more abundant in the area than oil. According to the USGS, about 60 percent-70 percent of the area’s hydrocarbon resources are gas while the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea is estimated at 266 trillion cubic feet (tcf).

State-owned oil major China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), responsible for most of China’s offshore oil and gas production, claims that the area holds around 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 tcf of gas in undiscovered areas, although the figures have not been confirmed by independent studies.

By Tim Daiss for



  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

(Why give away what you own?)


Above: China’s seven military bases near the Philippines in the South China Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.


Philippines’ South China Sea Exploration Plan With China Draws Scrutiny — China’s Propaganda Machine Touts Deals With Asean, Nations China Wants To Exploit

August 5, 2018

The Philippines and China are finalizing an exploration deal in a disputed area of the South China Sea, where 60 percent of the proceeds would go to Manila and the rest to Beijing despite warnings the development could diminish Manila’s claim to the region.

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The deal was announced by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier this week, before he traveled to Singapore to attend a regional ministerial meeting where China was also present.

While full details of the proposed deal were not disclosed, Cayetano said officials from both sides and independent experts on international law were drafting a framework for the agreement. The draft deal is likely to be ready this month or in September.

He did not say where the proposed exploration site is, but President Rodrigo Duterte had hinted that an area in the Reed Bank could be open for exploration.

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Filipinos should ask the Vietnamese how the oil sharing with China is going….

Initial seismic surveys have indicated that Reed Bank, also called Recto Bank, could be rich in natural deposits. While it is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which was affirmed by an arbitration court in 2016, China has continued to contest its ownership.

Gary Alejano, a former Marine captain who serves as an opposition member of the House of Representatives, said the arbitration ruling specifically puts the area under Philippine control.

“We do not co-own the West Philippine Sea with China,” he said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea. “Why would our government want to share resources that we alone legally own?”

“Just because the Philippines will presumably take a larger share given the 60-40 scheme being proposed, does not guarantee that we are going to be on the winning end,” said Alejano, who has been following developments in the sea region.

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“This is ultimately an issue of sovereignty, especially on the question of which law will apply: Is it the Philippine law, Chinese law, or international law? We also have to make sure that the joint exploration would not in any way diminish the arbitration ruling which largely favored the Philippines,” he said.

Meanwhile, security analyst Rommel Banlaoi said the reported agreement was a breakthrough that could propel exploration forward even as Manila should continue to assert its rights in the sea.

“We should not compromise with China, and let them know that we are not giving our rights in that area,” Banlaoi said. “Otherwise, our arrangement with China would fall under suspicion.”

Alejano said it was not a guarantee that Beijing would stick to the agreement, as it has shown in past actions in the region.

China had thumbed down the ruling, even as governments around the world welcomed it as a step toward ensuring peace in the vital sea lane. The South China Sea is considered a powder keg in a region where varying claimants have had armed confrontations.

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Chinese bomber over Philippine territory. Coercion?

A sham policy?

The Spratlys, an island chain in the sea, are claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

It is considered a flashpoint in the region, and while the claimants have agreed to desist from any actions that would complicate the matter, China has been expanding and militarizing islands it occupies.

Alejano argued that the Philippine-China exploration deal would have implications to the other claimants and may be used by Beijing as a premise that it could enter into bilateral agreements with other countries.

“The Duterte administration should realize that the decision whether to pursue a joint exploration or not would define our relationship with China and our relationship with our neighboring countries as well,” Alejano said.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros branded the Philippines-China deal as “preposterous and dangerous.”

“It reverses our historic victory at The Hague and signs away Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea,” she said in a statement.

“We have sovereign rights to access offshore oil and gas field, including the Reed Bank, within our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. We don’t share ownership of the West Philippine Sea with China,” Hontiveros said.

She also questioned Duterte’s independent foreign policy which was turning out as a sham policy meant to benefit China.

Duterte has adopted a pro-China policy since he took power in June 2016.

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In Singapore, where ASEAN foreign ministers were attending their annual ministerial meeting, the 10-nation bloc announced it had reached a milestone in talks with China to establish a code of conduct in the sea region.

Negotiations for the code started in March, and the first draft was completed in June in China, Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan said. He declined to divulge details, citing the sensitivity of the issue, but did say that while negotiations were completed, the code would not necessarily bring an end to territorial disputes.

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A draft of the ministerial statement seen by BenarNews said foreign ministers would express their concerns to China’s continued reclamation in the region. It said China’s move has eroded trust and confidence and could undermine security and stability.

The group also emphasized the importance of “non-militarization and self-restraint” in the conduct of activities in the disputed region, so as not to escalate tensions.

The draft is subject to negotiations and could be refined by the time the ministerial meeting ends on Saturday.

Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.



  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

(Why give away what you own?)


Above: China’s seven military bases near the Philippines in the South China Sea


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. China occupies the South China Sea illegally. Asean seems ready to agree to China’s “de facto ownership” — even though it violates rule of law.

Asean and regional foreign ministers meet — South China Sea, denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, trade among expected topics

July 30, 2018

SINGAPORE — Foreign Ministers from the 10 Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) states and their regional partners will gather in Singapore from Monday (July 30) for six days of talks on key international developments and how to make the region more resilient and innovative.

In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will chair the 51st Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, as well as subsequent meetings involving Asean’s various dialogue partners and the Asean Regional Forum.

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The Asean Foreign Ministers will take stock of progress in regional cooperation and chart the way forward towards implementing the Asean Leaders Vision for a Resilient and Innovative Asean, said MFA.

“They will also discuss how to further strengthen Asean Centrality and unity, review Asean’s external relations, and exchange views on regional and international issues.”

Asean’s separate meetings with its dialogue partners  – Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the United States – will focus on both ongoing and future cooperation while larger meetings involving some or all of these countries will also discuss “key regional and international developments and the evolving regional architecture”, MFA added.

Singapore is chairing Asean this year, and has indicated that under its chairmanship, the grouping will focus on the themes of “resilience” and “innovation”.

Asean watchers told TODAY that high on the agenda of this week’s meetings will be a code of conduct in the South China Sea, denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, trade tensions between the United States and China and the Rohingya issue in Myanmar.

“The elephants in the room are the same and the question is whether they (Asean member states) will go rogue or stay docile,” said Mr Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large, in reference to the code of conduct in the South China Sea between negotiated by China and Asean and the issue of Beijing’s militarisation of islands it has reclaimed in the strategic waterway.

He noted that the Asean meetings will be taking place amidst a looming trade war between US and China, with both sides slapping tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s imports, as well questions over the US concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific, geopolitical competition in the Indian Ocean and how China sees the East Asia Summit.

Whether discussions at the various Asean meetings will be contentious or smooth would depend on whether participating delegations take a constructive approach to the talks, Mr Ong told TODAY.

“In my opinion, no one in the room is prepared to take the hard decision to move a step ahead of the others in the room,” he added.

“The main reason is that a big and unpredictable game is being played by those men in charge in the major countries which influence global and regional geopolitics,” said Mr Ong, who is Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and a former Asean secretary-general.

“Asean cannot do much in these circumstances. It will be wonderful if Asean does not go under water.”

Besides being Asean chair, Singapore is currently the coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations, a role it has undertaken for three years and which it will hand over to the Philippines after this week’s meetings.

China’s claims in the South China Sea are contested by four Asean members – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as Taiwan.

The territorial dispute has divided Asean in the past, most notably in 2012 when the grouping failed to issue a joint communique for the first time in its history.

Tensions have eased somewhat in recent months. China and Asean agreed in August last year to adopt a negotiating framework for the code of conduct, a move they hailed as progress but seen by some critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

Some Asean countries have said they want the code to be legally binding, while other negotiating parties do not.

Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in June that talks on the code are progressing, but the issue is a complex one and will need the countries involved to accommodate one another’s interests.

Dr Tang Siew Mun, head of the Asean Studies Centre at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, noted that with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making his Asean debut at the Asean Regional Forum, all eyes will be on what he says on the South China Sea issue.

“Will he do a “Clinton” to put the South China Sea issue at the forefront of Washington’s regional engagement? What meat would he put on the barebones Indo-Pacific proposal?” added Dr Tang.

“In light of the brewing trade war with the US, China will be ready to respond forcefully to any perceived US interference in regional affairs.”

The Donald Trump administration has touted its Indo-Pacific strategy as one that upholds the rights of countries and the rule of law, and promotes prosperity, but many have questioned what the policy actually entails.

Dr Tang noted that it would also be the first Asean meeting attended by Malaysia’s new foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah and it is interesting to see what new perspectives Malaysia brings to the discussion on the South China Sea issue.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that Malaysia does not want “too many warships” in the South China Sea as they can “create tensions”, hinting that the country could take a more muscular approach on the issue than the previous government.

Malaysia-China ties have come under the spotlight after Putrajaya said it would review mega bilateral projects such as the RM81 billion (S$27.44 billion) East Coast Rail Link.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will visit Malaysia for talks before attending the Asean meetings in Singapore.

MFA said in a separate statement yesterday that Mr Saifuddin will make an introductory visit to Singapore from Monday and Tuesday and will call on President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean during his visit.

Mr Saifuddin will also meet and be hosted to lunch by Dr Balakrishnan.

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte praises friendly ties with China; China ramps up “we own the sea” propaganda

July 24, 2018

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Philippine protesters depict President Duterte as Hitler the day of his State of the Nation Address, July 23, 2018. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 23, pledged that he would not relinquish the nation’s 2016 arbitration victory against China, with regard to the unresolved disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

In his third State of the Nation Address, Duterte guaranteed that the Philippines, while it seeks to maintain friendly ties with China, would get back the Manila-claimed islands in the South China Sea that are being seized and currently occupied by Beijing.

Philippinen, Manila: Präsident Rodrigo Duterte hält eine Ansprache (Getty Images/AFP/N. Celis)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address, July 23, 2018

“Our re-energized relations with China has also led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between our nations on the war against transnational crimes,” Duterte said.

“Our improved relations  with the China, however, does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea. This is why we engage China to this bilateral and multilateral platform such as the Asean-China and the Philippines-China bilateral consulation mechanism,” he added.

China has laid claim to nearly 90 percent of the disputed South China Sea, despite competing claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines’ petition against China, stating that Beijing’s sweeping maritime claim has no legal basis.

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

See also:

Thousands hold SONA 2018 protests around the Philippines


China seems to be on a South China Sea Propaganda swing:

Political agenda drives ‘China threat’ at sea (Global Time – China)


South China Sea disputes must be resolved through arbitration that seeks mutual benefit (Ignores the 2016 Arbitration by the International Court)

South China Morning Post

China Ramps Up Military Exercises in the South China Sea — Introduces new weapons

June 15, 2018

China’s navy carried out drills in the South China Sea to simulate fending off an aerial attack, state media said on Friday, as China and the United States trade barbs over who is responsible for heightened tensions in the disputed waterways.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern during a visit to Beijing on Thursday over China’s efforts to militarise the seas.

His remarks came after a flurry of US activity in the region, including reports last week that US Air Force B-52 bombers had flown near disputed islands.

China’s navy carried out a simulated missile attack in an unspecified area of the South China Sea using three target drones making flyovers of a ship formation, the official army newspaper said.

The drills were part of efforts by an also unspecified training base to prepare for real-life combat against aerial targets after China’s leadership said some training failed to prepare troops effectively, the paper said.

The United States and China have frequently sparred over who is militarising the South China Sea, with Beijing blaming tensions on actions such as the “freedom of navigation” operations carried out by the US Navy.

Washington says such operations are necessary to counter China’s efforts to limit nautical movement in the strategic waterway.

A US Navy destroyer sailed through waters claimed by China in May just days after the United States uninvited China from a major US-hosted naval drill.

Critics have said these operations have little impact on Chinese behaviour and are largely symbolic.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and its use of South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims in the South China Sea.



China Adds Advanced Missiles to South China Sea Islands

This photo shows an aerial shot of part of mischief reef in the disputed Spratly islands

This photo shows an aerial shot of part of the undeveloped islands in the disputed Spratly islands / Getty Images


China’s military has stepped up militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea by deploying advanced missile systems on the Spratly islands, according to the Pentagon.

Defense officials disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that the militarization has raised alarm bells about China’s creeping takeover of the strategic waterway used for some $5 trillion annually in international trade.

The officials previewed Defense Department concerns detailed in the forthcoming China military power report. The annual report to Congress is expected to be made public in the near future.

“China is continuing its gradual deployment of military equipment to its Spratly Islands outposts in the disputed South China Sea,” said one senior official.

“These deployments involve the delivery of military jamming equipment as well as advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems to the outposts.”

The most worrisome weapons are missiles.

“The missile systems are the most capable land-based weapons systems deployed by China in the South China Sea,” the official said.

The missiles have been identified as YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles that give the Chinese military the ability to hit ships within 340 miles—enough to target U.S. warships that frequently transit the waters in conducting freedom of navigation operations.

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The Pentagon has stepped up Navy warship passages near the disputed islands as part of a policy of asserting international freedom of navigation.

During the most recent operation May 27, two Navy missile ships, the cruiser USS Antietam, and the destroyer USS Higgins, Chinese navy vessels unsuccessfully attempted for force the ships out of the area.

Missile emplacements were first identified several years ago on the Spratlys by the Defense Intelligence Agency. At the time, the missiles assessed as very short-range coastal anti-ship missiles with ranges of a few miles.

The DIA, however, reported internally that the missile emplacements were built on the same infrastructure as could be used for longer-range anti-ship missiles, an indication China eventually planned to swap out the short-range systems and replace them with the more lethal weapons.

That appears to have happened with the recent deployment of the YJ-12Bs.

The air defense missiles were identified by the Pentagon as either HQ-9A or HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles with ranges of up to 184 miles.

The HQ-9s are capable of shooting down aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles.

U.S. military forces recently flew two pairs of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers near the contested South China Sea in a show of force.

Two B-52s were dispatched from the Navy support base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and flew close to the South China Sea on June 5.

Two days earlier, another set of B-52s, this time from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, flew to the Indian Ocean but did not pass over the sea.

On Wednesday, another two B-52s flew from Guam to the East China Sea, passing close to Japan’s Senkaku Islands north of Taiwan. China is claiming the uninhabited Senkakus as its territory.

The defense official said the missiles remain in place on the Spratlys.

Fox News reported recently that China appeared to remove air defense missiles from Woody Island, part of another set of disputed islands, the Paracels, in the northern part of the sea.

The South China Morning Post, however, reported this week that the missiles were back.

China is claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea based on vague historical map claims. The islands are claimed by several other nations, including Philippines and Vietnam.

The international Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines and against China’s expansive claims to own most of the South China Sea in July 2016. China has refused to observe the court’s ruling and continues to claim sovereignty of the sea.

China is building up military bases on a trio of Spratly islands located close to the Philippines, a U.S. ally in the region.

Fox News reported, based on satellite images May 9, that two batteries of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles appeared from photographs to have been removed from Woody Island.

The senior official said the Pentagon is preparing to respond to Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea and elsewhere with a series of actions, the official said.

In addition to the missile emplacements, China angered the Pentagon by firing lasers at U.S. military cargo aircraft flying near the Chinese military base on the Horn of Africa at Djibouti.

The laser illumination injured the eyes of air crew members on two flights.

China also has been linked to cyber attacks, most recently a cyber intrusion against a Navy contractor engaged in cutting edge weapons research, including a new submarine-launched cruise missile.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis first outlined the Pentagon’s concerns about Chinese militarization of the islands during a June 2 speech at a defense conference in Singapore.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” he stated.

To press the issue, Mattis noted that the militarization directly contradicted promises made by current Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping in 2015 that China had no plans to militarize the islands.

In response to the weapons deployments, Mattis said the initial response was to disinvite the People’s Liberation Army Navy from the upcoming Rim of the Pacific international naval exercises involving forces from more than 40 militaries.

“China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principals and the purposes of the RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest Naval exercise, an exercise in which transparency and cooperation are hallmarks,” Mattis said.

Mattis announced in Singapore he plans to travel to Beijing soon as part of efforts to expand the dialogue with China.

The new Pacific Command chief, Adm. Philip Davidson, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written statement in April that the electronic weapons deployed on the disputed Spratlys include a variety of radar and electronic attack capabilities on Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef.

“These facilities significantly expand the real-time domain awareness, [intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance], and jamming capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea, presenting a substantial challenge to U.S. military operations in this region,” Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers to questions.

The Chinese military bases on the seven islands include hangars, barracks, underground fuel and water storage facilities, and bunkers for “offense and defensive kinetic and non-kinetic systems,” he said.

With the weapons systems on the islands, Davidson issued this stark warning: “The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the missiles in the Spratlys could have been stored on Woody Island and moved south

“To deter China in the South China Sea it is necessary for the U.S. to base long range offensive ballistic and cruise missiles in that region,” Fisher said.

“If they cannot be based in the Philippines, we need to have them on ships, or quickly develop our own intermediate-range ballistic missiles to base on Guam.”

Fisher said Chinese Communist Party leaders “must be made to understand that any use of weapons from its South China Sea islands will result in the immediate destruction of its illegal island bases.”

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell said if the missile deployments on the Spratlys are confirmed it would represent a significant increase in the military threat to the region.

“The PRC’s ultimate objective is to drive the U.S. military out of Asia and replace it with a PLA that is able to force the restoration of what Beijing believes is their sovereign territory—the entirety of the Nine Dash Line in the South China Sea,” Fanell said.

The failure of the Obama administration to confront China has limited U.S. options, Fanell said.

“However, the use of force should not be discounted,” he said. “As we’ve seen with this administration’s use of ‘maximum pressure’ against North Korea, the same approach can yield results against the Chinese Communist Party.”

India stresses free navigation, ‘rules-based order’ for Asian seas

June 1, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on Friday the importance of ensuring the freedom of navigation in Asian waters for free trade, days after pledging to help develop a strategic port in Indonesia.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore on Friday. REUTERS/Edgar Su

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore on Friday. REUTERS/Edgar Su   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Modi is visiting three countries in Southeast Asia this week as part of an “Act East” policy of strengthening relations in the region amid concern over China’s rising maritime influence, in particular in the disputed South China Sea.

“We also reiterated our principal stance, as far as maritime security is concerned, our commitment to a rules-based order,” Modi said through an interpreter after holding talks with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

“We also agreed on having an open, fair and transparent maritime trade commitment in this area,” Modi said.

On Wednesday, Modi met Indonesian President Joko Widodo and pledged to develop infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang, on the northern tip of Sumatra island at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

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Modi stopped in Kuala Lumpur briefly on Thursday to meet newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before arriving in Singapore, where he will deliver the keynote address at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue security forum.

Modi’s talks in Singapore included an agreement for greater engagement between their navies including exercises.

“Both prime ministers further agreed to India’s proposal for continuous and institutionalized naval engagements in their shared maritime space, including the establishment of maritime exercises with like-minded regional partners,” the Singapore Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Modi this year invited the leaders of all 10 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to India Republic Day parade in New Delhi, the biggest such gathering of foreign leaders at the event.

There has been growing unease about China’s activity in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in full, and which Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam claim in part.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would push back against what it sees as China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea despite China’s condemnation of a voyage through the region on the weekend by two U.S. Navy ships.

Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel

China irked, scolds US after officials withdraw invite to naval drill

May 24, 2018

China’s Defence Ministry expressed regret on Thursday after the United States withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and cooperation.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise and held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

RIMPAC enabled the armed forces of the world’s two largest economies to directly engage with each other. It was viewed by both countries as a way to ease tensions and reduce the risk of miscalculation should they meet under less friendly circumstances.

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed in large part by Beijing.

In a brief statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the United States had “ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called ‘militarization’ of the South China Sea”, using it as an excuse to uninvite China.

“This decision by the United States is not constructive. Closing the door to communication at any time is not conducive toward promoting mutual trust and communication between the Chinese and U.S. militaries,” it added.

China’s island-building program in the South China Sea has sparked concern around the region and in Washington about Chinese intentions.

China says it has every right to build what it calls necessary defensive facilities on its own territory.

‘Irresponsible Remarks’

Over the weekend China’s air force landed bombers on islands in the sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

The ministry reiterated that its building of defense facilities was to protect the country’s sovereignty and legitimate rights, and had nothing to do with militarization.

“The United States has no right to make irresponsible remarks about this,” it added.

“Being invited or not cannot change China’s will to play a role in protecting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and cannot shake China’s firm determination to defend its sovereignty and security interests”.

It is in both countries interests to develop healthy military ties, and China hopes the United States keeps the broader picture in mind, abandon its “zero sum” mentality and appropriately handle disputes, the ministry said.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence in the region.r

A satellite image shows the deployment of several new weapons systems to China’s base in the South China Sea. Reuters

In an editorial on its website, widely-read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said there was no way China could trade in its interests in the South China Sea for access to the exercise.

“If the U.S. military increases its activities in the South China Sea, then our side will need to further strengthen its military deployments there,” it wrote.

Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, “Cold War” terms.

Speaking at a separate briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China has sovereign rights in the South China Sea and it is not realistic for the United States to use this kind of action to try to coerce Beijing.

The United States has dispatched warships to disputed areas of the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s extensive sovereignty claims in the territory, which is subject to various claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.





White House threatens Beijing with ‘consequences’ for ‘militarising South China Sea’

May 4, 2018

Beijing has evaded questions about whether it has installed the missiles on islands over the last 30 days, but the White House is adamant about ‘near-term and long-term consequences’

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2018, 4:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2018, 4:44am

The White House said on Thursday it was prepared to take measures against China’s stationing of military equipment on islands in the South China Sea, as Beijing evaded questions on whether it had installed new missiles on outposts also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

“We’re well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

US network CNBC reported on Wednesday that the Chinese military installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on the islands over the last 30 days, citing sources close to US intelligence.

If the information is verified, it could provoke renewed tensions between countries bordering the strategically vital maritime region.

At a regular briefing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment.

“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defence facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” she said. “Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry.”

The South China Sea issue has been brewing for years, with China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam making competing claims in waters with vital global shipping routes and what are believed to be significant oil and natural gas deposits.

In addition to land-reclamation efforts on reefs it controls and building civilian facilities there, China also has air bases, radar and communications systems, naval facilities and defensive weaponry in place including landing strips able to accommodate military planes.

 HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles are seen in this May 3 photograph. Photo: handout

The new Chinese missiles were reportedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, according to CNBC.

They are all in the Spratly archipelago located in waters south of mainland China between Vietnam and the Philippines.

Beijing’s territorial claims, based on its own historical records, have also pitted it against the United States.

While Washington takes no position on the sovereignty claims, it has raised concerns that Beijing is “militarising” the South China Sea, leading to Thursday’s warning of “consequences”.

The US Navy itself frequently sends warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the area.

 YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles are seen on May 3. Photo: handout

“China has to realise that they’ve benefited from the free navigation of the sea, and the US Navy has been the guarantor of that,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

“We will continue to do our operations.”

China’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has previously stressed that the islands were “part of Chinese territory” and that it was up to China alone to decide what it does there.



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



Philippines eyes joint exploration deal with China in South China Sea within months

April 9, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines is looking to seal a pact with China within a few months to jointly explore for oil and gas in a part of the busy South China Sea waterway claimed by both countries, a Philippine official said on Monday.

In February, the two countries agreed to set up a special panel to work out how to jointly explore for offshore oil and gas in areas both sides claim, without needing to address the touchy issue of sovereignty.

“We’re trying to see if we can achieve an agreement, hopefully within the next couple of months,” Jose Santiago Santa Romana, Philippine ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, told a news conference held on China’s island province of Hainan.

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Chinese coast guard vessels are frequently seen near the Philippines

There is political willingness to land a deal, but both parties could take as much time as needed to ensure the goals are met, Santa Romana said at the event, aired live on Facebook, adding that the Philippines aimed to boost its energy security.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, a key trade route with areas believed to hold large quantities of oil and natural gas. Parts of it are subject to competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, besides the Philippines.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday flew to China for the Boao Forum for Asia, and will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

Last month, the Philippines identified two areas in the South China Sea where joint exploration for oil and gas may be undertaken with China.

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China’s military bases near the Philippines

But any potential deals between Manila and Beijing should be agreed with a company and not the Chinese government, the presidential spokesman said.

The idea of joint development dates from 1986, but disputes and the sovereignty issue have kept it from materializing.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that portions of the contested areas were part of the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, and Manila had sovereign rights to resources there. China refuses to recognize the ruling.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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