Posts Tagged ‘China’

South China Sea: China’s first runway in Spratlys under construction

April 17, 2015

James Hardy, London and Sean O’Connor, Indianapolis. Additional reporting by Michael Cohen, Manila – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

16 April 2015

Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows changes to Fiery Cross Reef observed between February and March 2015. Noteworthy is the beginning of airfield installation in March, and the relocation of some dredging activity out of the harbour. (© CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image / IHS) 1569026

Key Points

  • Satellite imagery shows that China has begun building a runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands
  • The imagery, provided by Airbus Defence and Space, also shows China building islands on Subi Reef that if linked up would provide enough land for another airstrip

China has begun to build its first airstrip in the Spratly Islands, according to IHS Jane’s analysis of Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery taken in March.

The 23 March images show a paved section of runway 503 m by 53 m on the northeastern side of Fiery Cross Reef, which China began to turn into an island in late 2014. Paving and ground preparation of other sections of the runway has also begun further along the island. In addition, workers have paved about 400 m by 20 m of apron.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows runway construction underway at Fiery Cross Reef. (© CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image / IHS) 1569027 Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows runway construction underway at Fiery Cross Reef. (© CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image / IHS) 1569027

Other imagery taken in March also shows China could be building a second airstrip-capable island on Subi Reef.

China’s island building at Fiery Cross Reef has created a landmass that is capable of housing a runway about 3,000 m long. This would be well within the parameters of existing People’s Liberation Army Air Force runways on mainland China, which vary in length from about 2,700 m to 4,000 m at most.

The runway at Woody Island in the Paracel Islands was about 2,300 m before upgrade work started there in 2014; satellite imagery suggests China is also expanding that to be about 3,000 m long.

The 23 March imagery of Fiery Cross Reef also shows further dredging on the new island’s southwestern side, close to the extant platform that China originally built on the reef. The imagery also shows floating cranes consolidating the integrity of new island’s harbour by placing concrete blocks on the interior walls; an exterior sea wall has also been extended, presumably to provide better protection for ships in port.

Airbus imagery taken of Subi Reef – also in the Spratlys – on 6 February and 5 March shows land reclamation on this site too. The 6 February image shows three islands being created. By 5 March, at least nine dredgers are creating larger landmasses on the reef that if joined together could create enough land for another 3,000 m-long airstrip.

While Fiery Cross Reef is to the west of the Spratly Islands archipelago, Subi Reef is on the north side of the island group and is only 25 km from Thitu/Pagasa island, which is occupied by the Philippines and has a civilian population.

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(Reuters) – Recent satellite images published on Thursday show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern in the United States and Asia.IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly said March 23 images fromAirbus Defence and Space showed work on the runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef in theSpratly archipelago, which China contests with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.It said images from earlier in March showed reclamation work onSubu Reef in theSpratlys creating landmasses that, if joined together, could create space for another 3,000-meter airstrip.The report said other images suggested China was working to extend another airstrip to that length in theParacel Islands further north in the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, a vital shipping route through which $5 trillion of trade passes every year.The report comes a day after the U.S. military commander for Asia, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said China, which claims most of the South China Sea, could eventually deploy radar and missile systems on outposts it is building that could be used to enforce an exclusion zone should it move to declare one.

Senator John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, called the Chinese moves “aggressive” and said they showed the need for the Obama administration to act on plans to move more military resources into the economically important Asian region and boost cooperation with Asian countries worried by China.

McCain referred to a U.S. intelligence assessment from February that China’s military modernization was designed to counteract U.S. strength and said Washington had a lot of work ahead to maintain its military advantage in the Asia-Pacific.

“When any nation fills in 600 acres of land and builds runways and most likely is putting in other kinds of military capabilities in what is international waters, it is clearly a threat to where the world’s economy is going, has gone, and will remain for the foreseeable future,” he told a public briefing in Congress.


A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said the scale of China’s land reclamation and construction was fueling concerns within the region that China intends to militarize its outposts and stressed the importance of freedom of navigation.

“The United States has a strong interest in preservation of peace and security in the South China Sea. We do not believe that large-scale land reclamation with the intent to militarize outposts on disputed land features is consistent with the region’s desire for peace and stability.”

The issue was discussed in a meeting in Washington between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Japanese and , Japancounterparts.

Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki told reporters afterwards that China had a duty to address regional concerns, while his Korean counterpart, Cho Tae-yong, stressed the importance of stability in the South China Sea for trading nations like his.

The United States warned last week against militarization of contested territory in Asia, and President Barack Obama accused China of using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations, after Beijing sketched out plans to use the Spratlys for military defense as well as to provide civilian services that would benefit other countries.

IHS Jane’s said images of Fiery Cross Reef showed a paved section of runway 505 meters by 53 meters on the northeastern side of the reef, which China began turning into an island with extensive dredging last year.

IHS Jane’s said its photos showed further dredging work on the southwestern side of the island and floating cranes consolidating a harbor.

Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said satellite photographs from April 11 showed the runway about one-third complete, with a projected total length at 3,110 meters, large enough for heavy military transport planes and fighters.

CSIS said the reclamation work could help China press its territorial claims, many of which are more than 1,000 miles from its shores, by allowing it to sustain long-distance sea and air patrols.

However, its artificial islands were too small and vulnerable, both to weather and wartime targeting, to support major forward deployment of military forces, it said.


At a seminar in Washington on Thursday, China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said it was “natural” that its reclamation work would include military defense facilities.

He said there “should be no illusion that anyone could impose on China a unilateral status quo” or “repeatedly violate China’s sovereignty without consequences.”

In an apparent reference to U.S. air activity, Cui added that the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, to which the United States is not a signatory, did not give anyone the right to “conduct intensive and close-range reconnaissance in other countries’ exclusive economic zone.”

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Ted Botha and Ken Wills)

Includes video:



Satellite images reveal China has already constructed 3km runway on island it has formed in disputed ocean territory 

  • Reveals a massive construction effort on Fiery Cross Reef in Spratly Islands
  • The region is claimed by Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan
  • China could use runway to carry out military operations, experts have said
  • Follows other images of Chinese construction in disputed South China Sea

New satellite images have revealed that China has constructed an airstrip on a stretch of disputed territory in the South China Sea – and could be planning to build another.

They reveal the country’s rapid progress in constructing the runway on the contested Fiery Cross Reef which the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim.

China’s building activity in the Spratly Islands has infuriated neighbouring countries and the United States whose leadership accused the country of bullying others with its ‘military muscle’.

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Images reveal Fiery Cross Reef virtually untouched by man-made structures in March 2014 but by March this year, it had been transformed into an artificial island which could be used for military operations.

They follow equally disturbing photographs released earlier this month showing a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto another artificially-built island on the nearby Mischief Reef.

Construction: Newly released satellite images reveal that China has built a runway (pictured) - which could be used for military operations - in a dispute region in the South China Sea 

Construction: Newly released satellite images reveal that China has built a runway (pictured) – which could be used for military operations – in a dispute region in the South China Sea

Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region

Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region

Territory: The area near the Spratly Islands (pictured) where China is constructing artificial islands is claimed by many other countries in the region

Territory: The area near the Spratly Islands (pictured) where China is constructing artificial islands is claimed by many other countries in the region

Serene: Satellite images from August 2014 (pictured) show Fiery Cross Reef as a virtually untouched and beautiful natural sea-structure

Serene: Satellite images from August 2014 (pictured) show Fiery Cross Reef as a virtually untouched and beautiful natural sea-structure

Controversial: Whereas just seven months later in March this year, dredging ships can clearly be seen around the artificial island which has virtually destroyed the reef 

Controversial: Whereas just seven months later in March this year, dredging ships can clearly be seen around the artificial island which has virtually destroyed the reef

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Hong Kong attracts Silicon Valley start-up in race with China to create technology hub

April 17, 2015

By Alice Woodhouse
South China Morning Post

Aivvy's Isaac Mao shows off the start-up's intelligent music player. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong’s efforts to attract Silicon Valley technology start-ups keen to bring their new technology to internet consumers in the booming China market are finally starting to pay off.

Among recent arrivals is Aivvy Inc, which has chosen Hong Kong as its base to launch its portable music player, seeking to benefit from the city’s stable and mature business environment and to be close to manufacturers in the mainland city of Shenzhen, Hong Kong’s near neighbour and its main rival in the race to attract new firms.

Aivvy co-founder Isaac Mao said it took just less than three months to complete the move to Hong Kong, where the firm has joined the Incu-Tech start-up incubation programme at the government-backed Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP).

“We chose Hong Kong because it’s very close to Shenzhen, and we have the solid business foundation here, we see that and we feel that,” Mao said.

In March, US business entrepreneurship magazine Inc. named Shenzhen as one of the top five world cities for the next wave of start-ups, dubbing it “ground zero for technological serendipity”. Hong Kong didn’t make the list.

On the surface, Hong Kong should be an ideal place for start-ups, with its tech-savvy population, low taxes, strong legal system, key position as a global trade hub and proximity to the booming China market.

The government set up the Cyberport tech incubator as early as 1999, but it struggled to find occupants and has been criticised as benefiting the developer more than the tenants. The HKSTP also faced criticism in its early days as some failed to see the benefit of clustering science and technology firms together and questioned whether Hong Kong was able to innovate

In addition, potential investors have more recently worried over rising costs in Hong Kong, particularly for housing, while an innate conservatism among many Hong Kong investors is a headwind for start-ups seeking funding because of the risks of failure. Many young Hongkongers also face family pressures to join established known companies.

The city has faced stiff competition from Shenzhen, which during three decades of rapid growth became the centre of the world’s tech manufacturing industry and is now the home of a growing number of entrepreneurs making use of its lwo-cost capabilities.

Living costs and office rents still remain cheaper in Shenzhen. One company, drone maker DJI, also abandoned a plan to set up in Hong Kong due to the difficulty of getting work permits for staff when it was still relatively unknown and had only a small registered capital.

But Hong Kong is making efforts. InvestHK, a department of the Hong Kong government responsible for attracting foreign direct investment, has helped Aivvy set up here, with assistance from the HKSTP, which seeks to create a global hub for technology innovation in the city.

Mao, a former employee of chip maker Intel and Harvard researcher, said Hong Kong’s broadband speeds, its skilled workforce with good English-language skills, stable legal system and the 3D printing labs available at Hong Kong Science Park were among the city’s benefits. The company also sees Hong Kong as a bridge between the US, where it expects its largest market to be, and China, where its products will be made.

Aivvy’s wireless music player, which looks like a normal pair of headphones, will give listeners access to 40 million tracks through an unnamed global partner and will adapt to their musical tastes over time.

To skip a song, users simply swipe the side of the earpiece, which logs that they do not enjoy the track. Tapping for approval instructs the player to offer similar tunes.

“Our goal is to start from hardware, it’s smart, it can learn your preference and eventually it becomes your music companion,” Mao said.

Since the wireless headset downloads the music library to its 32GB of storage during a battery charge, the device does not need Internet access at all times. It can provide 40 hours of playback.

Mao said that by downloading the music, the device offers better sound quality than streaming services such as Spotify.

The player debuted at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March. A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign followed that reached the targeted amount in 26 hours and which has so far raised $171,000. Contributors to the funding can buy the Aivvy Q device by pledging US$249. It will retail at US$300, which includes one year of the music service, and is set to ship at the end of October.

Aivvy will support local talent by offering tracks from upcoming artists in each country. If the songs prove popular they will then be offered in different markets. Aivvy retains a software development team in Silicon Valley in addition to its Hong Kong team, which currently covers marketing but which will expand to manage e-commerce and logistics.

Indian company to promote oil and gas drilling in Vietnam

April 17, 2015

VietNamNet Bridge – The Economic Times of India on April 14 reported that Essar Energy Company (India) will start experimental drilling at its oil blocks in the Mumbai High oil field and in Vietnam in September and October.

As energy companies are cutting investment costs as crude oil prices have dropped by 50% since June, Essar plans to promote oil and gas drilling.

Manish Maheshwari, in charge of exploitation and production of oil and gas at Essar Oil, said: “We will be drilling in the offshore rigs of Mumbai and Vietnam at the time of favorable weather this year. Based on the results of initial drilling, we will decide the number of wells.”

The increase in crude oil production can help improve Essar oil reserves at Vadinar refinery, which has a capacity of 20 million tons per year.

In Vietnam, Essar owns 100% stake in Block 114 in 2007 with a production sharing contract with the Government of Vietnam.


Vietnam, China ink border guard cooperation pact

April 17, 2015

A cooperation agreement on establishing a border guard coordination mechanism was signed between Vietnam and China on April 16.

The pact’s memorandum of understanding was inked in January 2013.

The signing took place when Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh met with Chinese Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun during his working trip to Vietnam.

At the function, General Thanh said that the ties between the two armies and police forces have been a pillar of the strengthened relations between Vietnam and China over the last 65 years.

Minister Guo stated that his visit aims to consolidate their two forces’ collaborations.

Both sides discussed the effect of world and regional affairs on each nation and put forth a number of measures to bolster their future cooperation.

Over the past years, Vietnam’s Defence Ministry and China’s Public Security Ministry have efficiently coordinated in managing shared border check points and entry-exit activities, combating crimes, and organising twin-relations establishment.


Beijing’s South China Sea projects ‘highly disruptive’ to local ecosystems

April 17, 2015


Manila recently accused Beijing of damaging some 120 hectares of coral reef systems near the Spratly Islands. DW speaks to analyst David Rosenberg about the ecological impact of China’s activities in the South China Sea.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said on April 13 that “China’s massive reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea.” It also said that the destruction of coral reef systems resulting from Beijing’s land reclamation projects is estimated to lead to economic losses to coastal states valued at $100 million annually.

Recently published satellite images show that China is quickly reclaiming land around a submerged reef within an area the Philippines views as its exclusive economic zone. Reclamation is well advanced on six other reefs in the Spratlys. Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei and triggering territorial disputes.

In a DW interview, David Rosenberg, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University (ANU), talks about the impact the building projects and territorial disputes are having on the ecology and about how the international community should react to China’s ambitions in the region.

David Rosenberg

DW: What environmental impact are China’s land eclamation projects having on the South China Sea?

David Rosenberg: The current Chinese and Taiwanese construction projects in the Spratly Islands are primarily military installations. But they are small in size. Itu Aba, the largest land feature in the Spratly Islands, has less than half a square kilometer in total area. It is occupied by Taiwan which is expanding its port there to accommodate frigates and coast guard cutters, and is also making improvements to its 1,200 meter runway.

In the short term, the environmental impact of all these building projects is highly disruptive to local ecosystems due to sand dredging, coral mining, and cement pouring. The long-term impact is not yet clear.

What economic impact could the destruction of the coral reefs have on the Spratlys?

It is difficult in the short term to attribute any specific economic losses to coral reef destruction. In the long run, however, the costs could be catastrophic. Coral reefs are the foundation of the maritime food chain. They provide the habitat and spawning grounds for numerous fish species, including many of the world’s most valuable and productive stocks of tuna and shrimp.

The “Coral Triangle” formed by the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea, the Sulawesi Sea and adjacent waters is widely recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity. The area also has extraordinary scientific value in learning more about the evolution of life on earth, as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace discovered generations ago in the Malay Archipelago.

What other areas in the South China Sea are being affected by these projects?

These building projects should be seen as part of China’s response to the most frequent source of low-level conflict in the South China Sea: fishing vessels competing for dwindling fish stocks. Given the increasing living standards of growing coastal populations around the South China Sea, there has been a big increase in the demand for fish consumption.

This has led to the over-exploitation of fisheries in the shared waters of the South China Sea. Fish catch rates began to decline in the 1970s with sharper declines registered in the 1980s, as bottom trawlers came into widespread use.

Fisheries depletion is not only evident in declining catch rates, but also in smaller fish sizes, and market movements down the food chain from large, high-value fish such as tuna, grouper, and snapper to smaller and lower-value fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel.

Poaching and fishing in contested waters have become widespread in the region. This may lead to the worst case of irreversible and widespread damage, a collapse of regional fisheries similar to the tragedy of the commons in the North Atlantic cod fisheries in the 1990s.

What can be done to mitigate the environmental impact and ensure that someone bears responsibility for the damage?

The first thing to do is to closely monitor China’s building projects. A second priority is to re-engage China in multilateral efforts for regional environment protection and resource management.

An opportunity was presented in November 2011, when China announced that it would establish a three billion yuan ($476 million) fund for China-ASEAN maritime cooperation on scientific research, environmental protection, freedom of navigation, search and rescue, and combating transnational crimes at sea.

More recently, at the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia, Beijing officially launched the Year of ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation.

China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi said that China and ASEAN nations would carry out cooperation in the areas of marine economy, maritime connectivity, marine science research and environmental protection, safety and security, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges on the sea. Regional diplomats and political leaders should pursue these prospects.

A third option worth doing is to emulate successful examples of equitable and sustainable resource management even in disputed areas such as the Tonkin Gulf Joint Resource Management Zone between China and Vietnam.

The agreements between China and Vietnam in the Beibu or Tonkin Gulf took effect in 2004, have a term of 15 years, and address three key issues.

First, they reaffirm each country’s exclusive rights over fishery resources and fishing activities in its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Second, they establish general principles for reciprocal fishing access in each other’s EEZ.

Third, the agreements create a cooperative management regime for their shared fishery resources. As long as ecosystems do not match political jurisdictions, cooperation is imperative for sustainable fisheries.

‘The current Chinese and Taiwanese construction projects in the Spratly Islands are primarily military installations’

How should the international community react to China’s ambitions in this region?

The major approach recommended here is for South China Sea stakeholders to begin or expand functional cooperation for joint resource management for marine safety, search and rescue operations, scientific research, disaster relief, protection of the marine environment, and other politically feasible areas, even while their sovereignty disputes remain unsettled.

Given the increasing economic growth and inter-dependence within East Asia, it is inevitable that there will be confrontations and conflicts at sea. The South China Sea needs a way to regulate and resolve these conflicts through administrative, legal, and police enforcement means.

For example, it would be useful to establish an “incidents at sea” agreement to provide a hotline or emergency response system to report confrontations and conflicts involving vessel seizures and crew detentions.

Coastal and international stakeholders share many overlapping interests in the South China Sea, for example, in promoting safe navigation through the sea, in standardizing port management, and in jointly managing regional fishery resources. However, on other issues such as military activity in EEZs and territorial claims, they have had conflicting views.

More sustained collective diplomatic and political action will be necessary to transform these mutually exacerbating conflicts into mutually beneficial ones. As Deng Xiaoping said many years ago, the only viable way to deal with intractable sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea is to set them aside and jointly develop its resources.

David Rosenberg is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Middlebury College in Vermont, and editor of


Veteran Chinese Journalist Gao Yu Sentenced to 7 Years — Amnesty International said Goa a Victim of Corruption in Communist Party — “She Embarrassed Xi Regime”

April 17, 2015


Verifies widely held assumptions about X’s distrust of any social organization outside party control

BEIJING — Apr 17, 2015, 3:17 AM ET

Technology Expert Who Helped Develop China’s ‘Great Firewall’ Accused of Corruption

April 17, 2015

Ma Xiaodong detained by prosecutors in Shaanxi province for allegedly taking bribes

By Nectar Gan
South China Morning Post

A former senior official in China’s Ministry of Public Security, who according to state media reports has worked on surveillance and internet censorship technology, has been arrested for suspected corruption.

Ma Xiaodong, the former deputy chief at the ministry’s science and technology information bureau, has been detained for allegedly taking bribes, a statement issued by prosecutors in northern Shaanxi province said.

No other details were given about the allegations.

Ma played a large role in the “Golden Shield Project”, a huge censorship and surveillance initiative set up by the public security ministry in 1998 which began operations in 2003, according to previous media reports.

The project also includes internet censorship, which blocks viewers in China from seeing some websites and filters key words out of browser searches. The system of internet censorship has been dubbed “the Great Firewall”.

The People’s Public Security newspaper published an article in 2010 featuring an interview about the project with Ma, who was then chief engineer at the ministry’s science and technology bureau.

China complains Japanese air, sea surveillance raises safety risks

April 17, 2015


Japan Maritime Self-Defence Forces P-1 submarine-hunting aircraft. Reuters photo

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s Defence Ministry complained on Friday that Japanese surveillance activities threatened the safety of Chinese ships and aircraft, raising the issue after Japan said earlier this week that its jet fighter scrambles had hit levels unseen since the Cold War.

Japan’s air force said the increased number of scrambles were in response to Russian bombers probing its northern skies and Chinese combat aircraft intruding into its southern air space.

China’s Defence Ministry, in a statement faxed to Reuters, said that Chinese air force activities accorded with both international law and norms.

“In recent years, Japanese ships and aircraft have often followed and monitored for lengthy periods and at close distances Chinese ships and aircraft, threatening the safety of the Chinese side,” it said.

“This is the cause of the safety issue in the seas and air between China and Japan,” the ministry added.

“China has a grip on the tracking and surveillance by Japanese ships and aircraft, and takes necessary steps to deal with it,” it said, without elaborating.

Japan says the Chinese fighter incursions are concentrated in the East China Sea, close to uninhabited islets claimed by Japan and China.

Coastguard ships and fighter aircraft from both sides routinely face off around the islands, fuelling fears that an accident could spark a clash.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard)



Philippine President Benigno Aquino Calls Territorial Dispute with China in the South China Sea a “Global Problem”

April 17, 2015


MANILA — Philippine President Benigno Aquino said on Friday the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea was of concern for the world because global trade will be hit by China’s reclamation.

Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the Spratly Islands and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern in the United States and Asia.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said March 23 images from Airbus Defence and Space showed work on the runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, which China contests with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Satellite images released by Jane’s Defense Weekly show that, between Feb. 6 and March 23, China built the first section of a concrete runway on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, which at least three other countries claim. Credit Centre National d’Études Spatiales, via IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly

“We keep asserting the problem in the South China Sea is not a regional problem,” Aquino told journalists. “This is a problem of the whole world because 40 percent of global trade pass through these waters. Global leaders have already expressed their concern on this problem.”

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and denies accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.

On Wednesday, G7 foreign ministers issued a statement on maritime security, expressing concern on unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including “large scale reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions”.

American and Filipino troops will take part in the largest-ever drills in 15 years next week, a key component of America’s rebalance to Asia policy.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)


China Building Aircraft Runway in Disputed Spratly Islands

BEIJING — China is building a concrete runway on an island in the South China Sea’s contested waters that will be capable of handling military aircraft when finished, satellite images released Thursday show.

The first section of the runway appears like a piece of gray ribbon on an image taken last month of Fiery Cross Reef, part of the Spratly Islands, an archipelago claimed by at least three other countries. Adjacent to the runway, work is underway on an apron for taxiing and parking planes.

The runway, which is expected to be about 10,000 feet long — enough to accommodate fighter jets and surveillance aircraft — is a game changer in the competition between the United States and China in the South China Sea, said Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island.

Read the rest:

See larger image of Fiery Cross Reef:


 (Contains links to several related articles)

Hong Kong, Shanghai Defy Asia’s Economic Slump

April 17, 2015


Equities in Hong Kong and Shanghai extend their rally on hopes for new economy-boosting measures from China, but most other Asian markets retreat (AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno)

Hong Kong (AFP) – Equities in Hong Kong and Shanghai extended their rally Friday on hopes for new economy-boosting measures from China, but most other Asian markets retreated following more weak US data and losses on Wall Street.

The dollar lost ground as the chances of a summer US interest rate hike slimmed after disappointing jobs and housing figures, while the euro managed to hold up despite new worries about Greece’s eurozone future.

In the afternoon Shanghai climbed 2.37 percent and Hong Kong added 0.22 percent.

But Tokyo tumbled 1.17 percent, or 232.89 points, to close at 19,652.88, Sydney sank 1.28 percent, or 76.00 points, to 5,871.50 and Seoul added 0.17 percent, or 3.60 points, to 2,143.50.

A string of poor Chinese indicators have fuelled a rally in Shanghai’s benchmark index over the past year and now mainland investors are turning their attention to Hong Kong, buying what they consider cheap assets.

The southward flood of cash saw turnover in Hong Kong hit record highs twice last week as traders make the most of a link-up between the city’s exchange and the bourse in Shanghai.

Wednesday’s news that the Chinese economy grew at its slowest quarterly pace in six years has reinforced expectations that Beijing will announce new easing measures.

The yen advanced against the dollar after US data showed housing starts rose less than expected in March, while initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, increased well above estimates to their highest level in six weeks.

The Dow dipped 0.04 percent, the S&P 500 edged down 0.08 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.06 percent.

The dollar bought 119.00 yen Friday against 119.04 yen in New York but down from 119.33 yen in Tokyo earlier Thursday.

– Euro holds ground –

A speech by Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank’s policy arm, also weighed on the dollar.

“A murky economic picture is not an ideal circumstance for making a major policy decision” on beginning to raise rates, he said, insisting he was presenting his own views and not speaking for the policy board or the Fed.

Bets earlier in the year had been on a rise as early as June as the economy showed signs of strength but those expectations have been all but erased following a recent run of downbeat figures.

The euro stood its ground despite worries over Greece after the International Monetary Fund refused to give it more time to repay its loans, while the country’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was talking to the Orthodox Church about using clerical assets to boost state coffers.

The single currency fetched $1.0760 and 128.09 yen on Friday compared with $1.0761 and 128.10 yen in US trade.

Oil prices were lower in Asia after clocking up six consecutive days of gains on signs that US production may start easing.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery fell 54 cents to $56.17 and Brent crude for May tumbled 53 cents to $63.45.

Gold fetched $1,200.60 against $1,208.60 late Thursday.

In other markets:

— Wellington fell 0.34 percent, or 20.28 points, to 5,861.48.

Fletcher Building slipped 1.65 percent to NZ$8.35 and Spark was down 1.37 percent to NZ$2.89.

— Taipei slipped 0.89 percent, or 85.94 points, to 9,570.93.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. shed 3.06 percent to Tw$142.5 while smartphone maker HTC slipped 2.64 percent to Tw$129.0.


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