Posts Tagged ‘Brunei’

South China Sea: Why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

August 11, 2017

The South China Sea has long been a source of territorial disputes between several Asian countries. DW takes a look at who owns what, and why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

Südchinesisches Meer Spratly-Inseln (Reuters/E. de Castro)

Who is claiming territory?

China, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to the South China Sea – one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Powerhouse China has the biggest claim by far. It has demarcated an extensive area of the sea with a so-called “nine-dash line” that first appeared on Chinese maps in the late 1940s. The Paracel and Spratly Island chains, as well as dozens of rocky outcrops and reefs, fall within this area. These bits of land are highly contested, mainly because they are believed to be surrounded by large oil and gas deposits.

The Spratly Islands, for example, are claimed in full by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and in part by Malaysia and the Philippines. The Paracel chain is claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

Graphic showing Chinese claims and disputed islands in the South China Sea

These competing claimants argue that China’s self-crafted line is unlawful because it appears to extend far beyond the limits set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which gives states an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline. Although other nations can pass through, states have sole rights over all natural resources in their EEZ. They only have full sovereignty in territorial waters 12 nautical miles from their coastline.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan have carried out significant construction on the islands they claim. In recent years, China has also sought to bolster its territorial control by building on the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. Satellite images from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show that Beijing has taken significant steps to militarize the islands, equipping them with runways, ports, radar facilities, anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems.

US destroyer in the South China Sea

The United States has challenged China’s territorial claims by sailing close to disputed islands

Why is the sea important?

An escalation in the conflict over territory in the South China Sea could have global consequences, given that more than $5 trillion (4.25 trillion euros) in traded goods and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide passes through its waters each year.

The sea covers about 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 square miles) and is a main route connecting Pacific and Indian Ocean ports.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, about 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the South China Sea via the Malacca Strait. Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, as well as nearly 60 percent of energy supplies for Japan and Taiwan follow the same route.

The waters are also lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for densely populated Southeast Asia. And its floor is also believed to contain massive, mostly untapped reserves of oil and natural gas.

Graphic showing oil and gas in the South China Sea

The role of China and the US

If China secures more territorial control in the region, it could potentially disrupt shipments to other countries, as well as secure huge oil and gas reserves, thus easing its reliance on the narrow Strait of Malacca for its energy needs.

It could also potentially deny access to foreign military forces, such as the United States. The US has maintained that the South China Sea is international water, and that sovereignty in the area should be determined by the UNCLOS.

Washington has been critical of China’s island constructions, and from time to time sends military ships and planes near disputed areas as part of so-called “freedom of navigation” operations. These actions are seen as attempts to reassure allies in the region, such as the Philippines, and to ensure access to key shipping and air routes remain open.China's Liaoning aircraft carrier (imago/Xinhua)

http://www.dw.com/en/south-china-sea-what-you-need-to-know/a-40054470

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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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 chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: US destroyer in Mischief Reef not objectionable

August 11, 2017
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The US destroyer recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian Senyk, file

MANILA, Philippines — The latest freedom of navigation operation of the United States near Mischief Reef in the South China Sea is not a cause of concern for the Philippines, a Malacañang official said Friday.

USS John S. McCain recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed displease with the operation and said that they will bring up the issue with the US side.

“The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security,” the ministry said in a statement.

On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the Philippines does not find the US operation objectionable.

“We’re not the spokesman for the Chinese. On the other hand, in the words of [Defense] Secretary Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding presumed innocent passage of sea craft and that there is, in other words, freedom of navigation,” Abella said in a televised press briefing.

Last May, the US launched its first freedom of navigation operation in the disputed the South China Sea, traveling near Mischief Reef.

READ: Challenging China, US launches first South China Sea operation under Trump | Beijing protests US Navy patrol through South China Sea

USS Dewey also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands, urging Beijing to seek an explanation with the US over the incident.

Mischief or Panganiban Reef, also being claimed by the Philippines, is included in the ruling of an international arbitration court based in the The Hague, Netherlands.

The United Nation-backed tribunal considered Mischief Reef as a low-tide elevation, which gives no entitlement to any exclusive maritime zone under international law.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/11/1727916/philippines-us-destroyer-mischief-reef-not-objectionable

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U.S. destroyer challenges China’s claims in South China Sea

August 10, 2017

Reuters

August 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

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

USS John McCain

It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” or “fonop” conducted during Trump’s presidency. Neither China’s defense ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China’s cooperation to rein in North Korea.

Tensions have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions which angered Pyongyang who threatened to teach the United States a “severe lesson”.

Trump in turn responded by warning North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it further threatened the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to North Korea on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang that it should stop any actions that would lead to the “end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Related:

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
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MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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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 chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Did ASEAN Make Life Tougher For China?

August 8, 2017

Commentary

 / 05:20 AM August 08, 2017
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At last. Departing from a string of weak statements that glossed over or altogether avoided any mention of China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, the joint communiqué issued on Sunday by the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila was notable for addressing not only China’s seizure and reclamation of islands in the disputed waters but also the militarization of the area.

“We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the statement read in part.

Further: “We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”

For a while, it had looked like the 10-member regional bloc would once again succumb to pressure from China — through Cambodia, its closest ally in the group — to finesse its statement and avoid language that could be seen as chiding Beijing. Although five Asean member-nations — Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines — have claims on waters and islets in the South China Sea, almost all of which China claims as its own on the basis of a nine-dash map that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has declared as without legal basis, reaching consensus on stronger language and a united front has been a contentious process.

The Philippines, which is this year’s Asean chair and which had won an important legal victory over China with the arbitral ruling, itself chose to avoid reference to China’s island reclamation or to the ruling itself in the Asean Chairman’s Statement released last April, on the back of President Duterte’s conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

This time, the bloc failed to release its joint communiqué on Saturday evening as scheduled, reportedly deadlocked on essentially the same issue.

Vietnam, which has had clashes with China over fishing and exploitation rights in its own claimed waters, was reported to have wanted tougher wording to directly address the elephant in the room, but Cambodia stood squarely against it. (In July 2012, with Cambodia as chair, the meeting of foreign ministers was marked by conflict and failed to produce a joint communiqué.)

The impasse threatened to produce another oblique statement intended to somehow placate all parties — even China, which is strictly not a party in the grouping, but whose economic and military might figures heavily in the region’s calculations.

But Vietnam’s position appeared to have prevailed. In an 11 o’clock turnaround, the foreign ministers finally hammered out a communiqué that, for a change, unmistakably called Beijing out for its island-grabbing, and the rapid transformation of these islands into military outposts.

China has built seven islands so far in the disputed waters; three of these are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars, according to a Reuters report.

The ministerial meeting also announced the adoption of a negotiating framework that would advance a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement that has largely been ignored, especially by China.

Now Beijing appears to have rediscovered interest in the code, pushing for talks on an outline for its implementation—though far short of what Vietnam wants, which is to make the document legally binding on all claimant-nations, including China.

Observers fear it’s a ploy for something else: to simply buy China more time to solidify its grip on this vital area. Asean might want to wise up to its giant neighbor’s long game.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106191/turnaround-in-asean#ixzz4pB18EscY
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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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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 chose to ignore international law.

Asean diplomats express grave concern on North Korean nuclear and weapons programs

August 5, 2017

By  – @inquirerdotnet

 / 04:11 PM August 05, 2017
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Asean foreign ministers link hands “The Asean Way” at the opening ceremony of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 in Metro Manila. They are (from left) Malaysia’s Anifah Aman, Myanmar’s U Kyaw Tin, Thailand’s Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam’s Pham Binh Minh, Philippines’ Alan Peter Cayetano, Singapore’s Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei’s Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia’s Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi, Laos’ Saleumxay Kommasith and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

The ongoing escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula is “seriously” threatening peace, security and stability in the region and the world,” the Asean Foreign Ministers said on Saturday.

READ: Southeast Asian diplomats open talks in Manila

The top diplomats who met at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), issued in a statement their “grave concerns” over the heightening tensions in the Korean Peninsula, citing the recent testing by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)  and previous ballistic missile launches and two nuclear tests in 2016.

The foreign ministers “strongly” urged the DPRK to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

They also “strongly” called on the DPRK, as a participant of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), to positively contribute to realize the ARF vision to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace.

The ARF, an annual security conference, will be held in Manila on Monday.

“We reiterate our support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, call for the exercise of self-restraint, and underscore the importance of creating conditions conducive for dialogue to de-escalate tensions,” the foreign ministers said.

They also expressed support initiatives to improve inter-Korean relations toward establishing permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula.

“ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in contributing to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” they said. JPV

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/159344/asean-diplomats-express-grave-concern-nokors-nuke-program#ixzz4orsvgvXV
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In Manila this week, ASEAN faces difficult balance between US and China

August 5, 2017
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Workers install a giant lantern with the logo of ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in preparation for the Aug. 2-8, 2017 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its dialogue partners at the Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — As the foreign ministers of Southeast Asian Nations meet in Manila, the regional bloc sees the need to strengthen itself as an institution while facing a tough balancing act between the US and China.

The meetings in Manila are expected to demonstrate the difficult position ASEAN countries found themselves in as they try to align their interests with or against those of the Americans and Chinese, whose foreign ministers will also be in Manila for a security forum.

Without engagement with the two economic powers, ASEAN, an amalgamation of democracies, monorchies, and dictatorships, would have difficulty achieving what it wants.

“I would say because I think ASEAN countries realize that they cannot prosper without engaging these great powers outside ASEAN,” said Philips Vermonte, an expert of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

For ASEAN to better do this, it should start to change some principles it has followed in the past years and begin to strengthen its institutions, especially its secretariat.

According to Vermonte, ASEAN member countries should contribute more to finance the region’s activities.

He said that each country provides a measly $2 million to the ASEAN Secretariat, making the bloc more susceptible to outside interference.

“This is something that needs to be fixed. If they don’t do that, we will rely on external powers in financing our activities, and that opens the way for great powers to interfere,” Vermonte said at a media forum in a posh hotel in Manila attended by dozens of regional journalists.

ASEAN to blame?

The bloc, which started as a crop of mostly authoritarian states, also needs a strong leadership, something that it has not recently seen, according to the Indonesian expert.

To address this leadership vacuum, Vermonte proposed the strengthening of ASEAN and its institutions.

“What we need to have is a strong institutionalization of ASEAN because we can’t rely on certain leaders,” he said.

Michael Vatikiotis, the Asia regional director of the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, said the weakness of ASEAN as an institution is what makes handling the “gargantuan” power struggle between the US and China all the more difficult.

ASEAN should come up with a set of guidelines and a code of conduct its member-countries could use as they negotiate with outside countries especially China, he said.

“Why is the code of conduct is being negotiated with China? Why can’t member states negotiate their own code of conduct and tell China that if you want to cooperate with us here’s our code of conduct?” Vatikiotis said, adding that the bloc is partly to blame for the complicated security problem it is now facing.

He said that a bolstered ASEAN could also help member-countries manage their security problems.

There should also be a review of the ASEAN’s principle of non-interference, which, Vatikiotis said, has been its weakness.

“There is no point in having these mechanisms and institutions for managing tensions and security of member states are too shy about involving themselves in one another’s affairs,” he said.

Another expert advised that the group hasten its community-building to add more political, economic and diplomatic muscle.

“We need to make our community more successful so we have more political weight and more diplomatic weight. We certainly need more economic weight,” said Termsak Chalermpalanupap, a research fellow at the ASEAN Studies Centre of the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Termsak said that its policies should not supplant the national policies of the member-states even if ASEAN as an institution was reinforced.

United States or China?

Some ASEAN countries may choose to be pro-US or pro-China, or they may also opt to benefit from a relationship with the two great powers. Others, meanwhile, “may want to be doing a hedging, making money from China but seeking security protection from the US. Some governments may want to be neutral just like Indonesia,” Termsak said.

This is especially the case as the US and China offer ASEAN countries different benefits in their bilateral relationship with Washington and Beijing.

Vermonte, the Jakarta-based expert, said while Southeast Asian countries acknowledge that the US is on an economic decline, it should also recognize that it is still the most powerful country with the largest military.

“On the other hand, China will be the most powerful, (economic) superpower, but in terms of military China is still lagging behind the United States,” he added.

In the end, internal factors, more than external ones, are what will spell the success or failure of the regional group founded half a century ago.

Termsak has one piece of advice for the 10 member-states as they plunge into meetings and forums this week in the Philippines, one of the bloc’s original founding members.

“One important thing that we have to consider is when governments come together at ASEAN, what are our choices? The most obvious choice is to be pro-ASEAN,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/05/1725426/manila-week-asean-faces-difficult-balance-between-us-and-china

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Southeast Asian Diplomats Open Talks in Manila

August 5, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The Latest on annual meetings of Southeast Asian foreign ministers and their counterparts from the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

Southeast Asia’s top diplomats have opened their annual meeting at a convention and theater complex by Manila Bay without the usual security overkill. Motorists were allowed through as joggers, cyclists and tennis players sweated under a cloudy sky.

Public traffic was only stopped when the foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, arrived mid-morning Saturday.

According to metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has shown disdain for security lockdowns that inconvenience the public. Still, police deployed more than 13,000 officers in the capital and declared no-fly and no-sail zones around the venue.

Topping the agenda are North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile tests, an attempt to temper South China Sea disputes and unease over a siege by pro-Islamic State group militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which has dragged on for more than two months.

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South China Sea, North Korea tensions at security forum — Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism

August 5, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP / by Ayee Macaraig, Martin Abbugao | The gathering of ASEAN foreign ministers is expected to see a fiery few days of diplomacy, with the top diplomats from China, the United States, Russia and North Korea set to join their ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific counterparts for security talks

MANILA (AFP) – Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, as a tense regional security forum began Saturday with North Korea also under fire over its nuclear programme.Ahead of the launch of the annual gathering of foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam made a bold play against China with a raft of suggested changes to a planned joint communique.

It set the stage for what was expected to be a fiery few days of diplomacy in the Philippine capital, with the top diplomats from China, the United States, Russia and North Korea set to join their ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific counterparts for security talks from Sunday.

The meetings will take place as the United Nations Security Council votes this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea to punish the isolated regime for its missile and nuclear tests.

The United States said it would also seek to build united pressure on the North at the Manila event — known as the ASEAN Regional Forum — and Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Pyongyang would receive a strong message.

But on the South China Sea dispute — one of Asia’s other top powder keg issues — there was far less consensus with Vietnam resisting efforts by the Philippines to placate Beijing, diplomats told AFP.

Vietnam on Friday night sought to insert tough language against China in an ASEAN statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday.

According to a copy of a draft obtained by AFP, Vietnam lobbied for ASEAN to express serious concern over “construction” in the sea, in reference to China’s explosion of artificial island building in the disputed waters in recent years.

Vietnam also wanted ASEAN to insist in the statement that a planned code of conduct for the sea with China be “legally binding”, which Beijing opposes.

– Tense talks –

The lobbying occurred when the ASEAN foreign ministers held unscheduled and informal talks late on Friday night.

“The discussions were really hard. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea. Cambodia and Philippines are not keen to reflect that,” one diplomat involved in the talks told AFP.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.

Alongside Vietnam, the Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Beijing’s expansionism.

But under President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

China has in recent years also successfully lobbied other ASEAN nations, particularly Cambodia and Laos, to support its diplomatic manoeuvring in the dispute.

At the ASEAN opening ceremony on Saturday morning, Cayetano confirmed there had been strong debates on Friday.

“You have to excuse my voice as my colleagues, we kept each other up until almost midnight last night. In the true ASEAN way we were able to passionately argue our national interest,” Cayetano said.

Various diplomats said that Vietnam was likely to lose its battle to insert the strong language against China, with the Philippines as host of the talks wielding greater influence.

ASEAN is set to this weekend endorse a framework for a code of conduct with China, which is meant to pave the way for more concrete action.

But security analysts point out that the framework comes 15 years after negotiations on the issue first began, and China has used that time to cement its claims with the artificial islands.

Another pressing issue in Manila will be the growing terrorism threat in the region.

The event is taking place as Philippine security forces battle Islamic State-aligned gunmen who have sine May been occupying parts of Marawi, the nation’s main Muslim city about 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south of Manila.

by Ayee Macaraig, Martin Abbugao
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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 chose to ignore international law.

Asean goes soft on China

August 2, 2017
In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible. File

MANILA, Philippines –  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is seen to take a softer stand on China’s aggressive moves in disputed waters and to highlight instead the conclusion of negotiations on a framework of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

The latest talks on the COC were held on May 18 in Guiyang, China.

In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible.

ASEAN and China are set to endorse a framework for a COC that will regulate the future behavior of the parties concerned during the meeting in Manila this week. The framework will be endorsed for eventual crafting of a COC.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the framework, completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the leaders of ASEAN and China, contains elements which the parties have agreed to.

But the draft does not call for a legally binding COC, as some ASEAN countries had wanted.

Pending conclusion of a substantive COC, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) in its entirety,” the draft communiqué said.

“Taking note of concerns expressed by some ministers over recent developments in the area, we reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, pursuing mutually agreed practical maritime areas of cooperation, and avoiding unilateral actions in disputed features that may further complicate the situation in keeping with the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the draft statement said.

The draft communiqué did not mention the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines.

‘Philippines should seek enforcement of arbitral award’

But Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines should seek enforcement of the arbitration ruling against China on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio said this after warning that a joint venture with China on the disputed islands would violate the Constitution.

Carpio said the Duterte administration should instead push for its territorial rights stemming from the government’s victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

He raised suggestions as the country is set to host next week the ASEAN foreign ministers for the framework of the COC for claimants in the maritime row.

Among the options for the government, according to Carpio, is to initiate an agreement among all ASEAN members with territorial claims in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that could overlap among countries as ruled by the PCA.

He also suggested that the Philippines enter into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia on overlapping EEZ on the extended continental shelf claim in the Spratlys.

Carpio explained such agreements would implement part of the arbitral ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ.

“Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them leaving, only the territorial disputes,” the magistrate said in an interview.

He explained that such declarations would also isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratly islands.

The SC justice said another option would be to file before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf an extended continental shelf (ECS) claim beyond the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon.

Carpio believes that the UN body would likely award the ECS claim to the Philippines since China would not participate in the process and oppose it. This would be similar to the Philippines’ ECS claim in Benham Rise, which was unopposed.

“If China opposes our ECS claim, China would have a dilemma on what ground to invoke,” he stressed, adding that China cannot invoke its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea as the CLCS is bound by the PCA ruling under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Carpio reiterated that the Philippines can file a new case before the UNCLOS tribunal if China starts reclamation activities in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as this would destroy the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

Carpio earlier criticized the policy of the Duterte administration on the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea for “setting aside” the PCA award won by the legal team, of which he was part.

He said the policy is “without discernible direction coherence of vision” and “relies more on improvisation than on long-term strategy.”

But the SC justice clarified the blame does not fall on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), because it is Duterte who is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.

DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar earlier said the PCA ruling might not be mentioned in the framework to be approved by the ASEAN foreign ministers.

The official said the framework would be “generic” and would only outline the nature of the code of conduct for parties in the dispute.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/03/1724206/asean-goes-soft-china

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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 chose to ignore international law.