Posts Tagged ‘China’

China waging a quiet three-front war against US: expert

April 23, 2014


A Chinese vessel patrols near the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea. (Photo/Xinhua)

China is waging three-front political warfare against the United States as part of a “Three Warfares” strategy to drive the US out of the Asia-Pacific region, according to US defense analyst Bill Gertz in an article for the Washington Times on Mar. 26.

Citing a defense contractor report published for Pentagon thinktank the Office of Net Assessment, Gertz said Beijing’s “Three Warfares” consists of psychological, media and legal operations. “They represent an asymmetric ‘military technology’ that is a surrogate for conflict involving nuclear and conventional weapons.”

The unclassified 566-page report warned that the US government and military currently lacks effective tools to fight a political war with China, while suggesting greater efforts to understand the threat and adopt steps to counter it.

Gertz said that the People’s Liberation Army has already adopted the “Three Warfares” in various disputes against the United States, which have included dangerous encounters between US and Chinese warships, the crisis over the 2001 mid-air collision between a US EP-3E surveillance plane and a Chinese jet, and China’s growing aggressiveness in various maritime disputes in the South and East China seas.

“The Three Warfares is a dynamic three dimensional war-fighting process that constitutes war by other means,” said Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper, who directed the study. “It is China’s weapon of choice in the South China Sea.”

Psychological warfare, according to the report, includes diplomatic pressure, rumors, false narratives, and harassment to “express displeasure, assert hegemony, and convey threats.” As for media warfare, its goal is to weaken an enemy’s will to fight, alter its awareness, and assist psychological and legal warfare goals. Meanwhile, legal warfare helps the PLA to exploit laws to achieve political or commercial objectives.


From The Washington Free Beacon

The unclassified 566-page report warns that the U.S. government and the military lack effective tools for countering the non-kinetic warfare methods, and notes that U.S. military academies do not teach future military leaders about the Chinese use of unconventional warfare. It urges greater efforts to understand the threat and adopt steps to counter it.

Seven other China specialists, including former Reagan Pentagon policymaker Michael Pillsbury, contributed to the study. A copy of the assessment was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Disclosure of the report is unusual as most studies produced for the Office of Net Assessment are withheld from public release.

The May 2013 report was written before the dangerous near collision in the South China Sea last December between the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens and a Chinese naval vessel. Senior defense officials said the incident could have led to a larger military “miscalculation” between the two nations.

Chinese state media falsely blamed the United States for the incident and falsely asserted that it had declared a no-sail zone prior to the Dec. 5 encounter. The zone was imposed after that date.

According to the final Pentagon report, China’s use of Three Warfares is based on the notion that the modern information age has rendered nuclear weapons unusable and conventional conflict too problematic for achieving political goals. China’s goals are to acquire resources, influence, and territory and to project national will.

“China’s Three Warfares [are] designed to counter U.S. power projection,” the report says. “The United States is one of four key audiences targeted by the campaign, as part of China’s broader military strategy of ‘anti-access/area denial’ in the South China Sea.”

The Pentagon regards China’s high-technology arms, such as anti-satellite missiles and cyber warfare capabilities, as arms designed to prevent the U.S. military from entering the region or operating freely there.

The study concludes that in the decade ahead China will employ unconventional warfare techniques on issues ranging from the Senkaku Islands dispute in northeast Asia to the disputed Paracels in the South China Sea.

For the United States, the Three Warfares seek to curtail U.S. power projection in Asia that is needed to support allies, such as Japan and South Korea, and to assure freedom of navigation by attempting to set terms for allowing U.S. access to the region.

The use of psychological, media, and legal attacks by China is part of an effort to raise “doubts about the legitimacy of the U.S. presence.”

The use of the techniques threatens to limit U.S. power projection in the region through influence operations that “diminish or rupture U.S. ties with the South China Sea littoral states and deter governments from providing forward basing facilities or other support,” the report says.

Another goal of the Chinese is to limit U.S. surveillance operations through harassment of aircraft and ships and to try and restrict routine U.S. Navy deployments.

China is also using the Three Warfares to facilitate its military expansion and global reach, and to secure sea-lanes needed to transport vitally needed oil from the Middle East.

The Pentagon study urged the development of effective countermeasures to Beijing’s psychological, legal, and media warfare efforts.

They include forceful legal action to challenge China’s so-called “lawfare” initiatives, high profile statements of U.S. security support for states in the region, and expanded support for regional political forums.

Militarily, the United States should continue reconnaissance missions by U.S. ships and aircraft and protect them with force protection weapons to deter harassment or attack. Clear rules of engagement should be developed to prevent a recurrence of the 2001 EP-3E incident.

Increased naval exercises and more “freedom of navigation” exercises also should be held within China’s exclusive economic zones in the region to counter Beijing’s claims in disputed waters.

The report also calls for bolstering “public diplomacy” campaigns in Asia, using targeted investment and development in the region, and expanding military talks and exchanges.

The Pentagon defines psychological warfare as efforts to influence or disrupt an enemy’s decision-making capabilities, to create doubts, foment anti-leadership sentiments, and deceive opponents.

Psychological warfare includes diplomatic pressure, rumors, false narratives, and harassment to “express displeasure, assert hegemony, and convey threats,” the report said.

For example, China’s economy has been used to threaten the United States with the sale of its large U.S. debt holdings, and state-controlled Chinese businesses have pressured U.S. businesses in China. Boycotts, restrictions on critical exports, such as rare earth minerals, and threats to use predatory trade practices are other Chinese soft warfare means.

For media warfare, also known as public opinion warfare, the Chinese use constant activities to influence perceptions and attitudes.

“It leverages all instruments that inform and influence public opinion including films, television programs, books, the internet, and the global media network (particularly Xinhua and CCTV) and is undertaken nationally by the [People’s Liberation Army], locally by the People’s Armed Police, and is directed against domestic populations in target countries,” the report said.

Hollywood has also been influenced by threats from the Chinese government, which threatens to block market access in an effort to pressure movie studios to avoid themes Beijing opposes.

Also, China’s state-controlled television network CCTV maintains a full time White House reporter who regularly joins the rotating media pool, a position that could permit influencing U.S. media on China through pool reports.

The goal of media warfare is to weaken an enemy’s will to fight, alter its awareness, and assist psychological and legal warfare goals.

Legal warfare exploits laws to achieve political or commercial objectives.

China has used lawfare to bolster its territorial claims. An example was the designation of the South China Sea village of Sansha, on the disputed Paracel Islands, as part of Hainan Prefecture. The legal measure sought to extend China’s control far into the South China Sea. Vietnam, Philippines, and other states have claimed the islands.

Tools used in lawfare include domestic laws, international legislation, judicial law, legal pronouncements, and law enforcement. They are often used in combination.

The report warns that the three types of unconventional warfare addressed individually are “manageable” problems, but taken together they challenge traditional U.S. concepts of war.

“Our war colleges and military research traditions emphasize kinetic exchange, the positioning and destruction of assets, and metrics that measure success by kill ratios and infrastructure destruction,” the report said. “By adopting the Three Warfares as an offensive weapon, the Chinese have side-stepped the coda of American military science.”

The use of these warfare techniques allows China to achieve strategic objectives using a new military technology that has not been considered in the past by the West.

To solve the problem, the report recommends setting up a White House office to coordinate countermeasures to the Three Warfares.

“If the Three Warfares is not a ‘game changer,’ it certainly has the capacity to modify the game in substantial ways,” the report said.

MH370 search: ‘Object of interest’ found on Western Australian coast

April 23, 2014


An international team is to investigate the disappearance of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

An international team is to investigate the disappearance of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

By Ed Payne and Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) — Australian officials say an “object of interest” in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has been found, but Malaysian authorities said it was too early to tell if it is a real lead.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan described the object as appearing to be sheet metal with rivets and said it was recovered on the coast of Western Australia.

“It’s sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs,” he said. “We take all leads seriously.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transport minister, said that his country has not received any photos from Australia and that so far, all of the objects found in the search have not been related to the missing plane.

Even the Australians expressed caution.

“The more we look at it, the less excited we get,” Dolan said.

The object was picked up near Augusta, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Perth, a source with the Australian Defence Force told CNN.

The source also described the object as having rivets on one side with what appears to be a fiberglass coating.

When asked about the shape and scale of the object, the source described it as “kind of rectangular,” but torn and misshapen.

The source said it was too difficult to estimate the size because they had only seen one photo with no clear scale.

The object of interest is in the custody of a police agency in Western Australia. Authorities there wouldn’t comment further because it’s part of a federal investigation.

Underwater search nearly done

A high-tech underwater drone was completing its 10th mission Wednesday, without finding any sign of the Boeing 777 jetliner.

The Bluefin-21 has scanned about 80% of the intended territory.

With 20% of the search area left to be explored by the drone, the search strategy remains the same, Hishammuddin said Wednesday.

“We will continue with the search operation until we fully cover the search area,” he said.

Stormy weather postponed the air search for a second day Wednesday. The ships plying the waters off the coast of Australia kept their vigil.

And despite the search efforts for MH370 repeatedly coming up empty during these 47 days, there’s no suggestion the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean is anywhere close to ending.

Quite to the contrary, according to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“We are not going to abandon … the families of the 239 people who were on that plane by lightly surrendering while there is reasonable hope of finding something,” he said Wednesday. “We may well rethink the search, but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery.”

The investigation into Flight 370 is the responsibility of Malaysia. But in early April, Australia accepted an invitation from Malaysia to lead the search for the missing aircraft and participate in the investigation as an accredited representative.

What comes next?

Malaysian and Australian authorities are already mapping out a long-term strategy for the search, which could go on for months or years, if the two-year search for Air France Flight 447 is any guide.

Guidelines drafted by Malaysia raise the possibility of a significantly wider search area should the current underwater search fail to turn up evidence of the plane. The document discusses how best to deploy resources, including new underwater search assets.

If the underwater search comes up empty, it could ground the air search as well, CNN aviation analyst Miles O’Brien said.

“If it doesn’t pan out, then all the equations that have been put in the mix to determine where debris might be by hindcasting the ocean currents, all of that is for naught,” he said.

The next logical step after the underwater search is to “rethink all of the information we have at hand,” ocean search specialist Rob McCallum told CNN.

An expanded search area might include the last 370 miles of the plane’s flight path, perhaps 15 miles on either side, he said.

He also said it would make sense to turn to deep-towed sonar, which provides less resolution than the Bluefin-21 but about 10 times the range.

What happens if data recorders are found

Investigators would love to find the flight data recorders from Flight 370, a potential treasure trove of information into what happened to the jetliner and the 239 passengers and crew on board.

If found, the “black boxes” probably would go to the Australian Transport Safety Board’s accident investigation lab.

But the investigation is officially Malaysian, so that country’s officials would decide where the boxes would go.

Australia is just one of a handful of countries that have the capability and technical know-how to decipher what’s inside a black box.

The Malaysian Cabinet approved the appointment of an international investigation team to look into the disappearance of Flight 370, Hishammuddin said.

The names of the members will be announced next week, he added. He also said the team will not be looking at the criminal aspects of the investigation, which remain under the Royal Malaysian Police.

“The main purpose is to evaluate and determine the cause of the accident,” Hishammuddin said.

Malaysia has completed a preliminary report on the incident, as required by the International Civil Aviation Organization, but has not released it publicly, he said.

Inside a black box investigation lab

Getting the data

Sometimes, getting the data is simple.

“A lot of our work is with undamaged recorders, and it’s very easy to download them much as you would a USB memory stick,” said Neil Campbell, an Australian transport safety investigator with more than two decades of experience.

But the process becomes much more technical if the recorders are damaged.

In the case of water damage, possible after weeks at the bottom of the ocean, Campbell will rinse the board very carefully, then use a water displacement liquid, before drying out the circuit board in an oven. That process can take a couple of days.

After that, it’s a process of downloading the raw data and decoding the information, or in the case of the voice recorder, listening to what was said.

It may be the only way the families of those on board the March 8 flight — that set off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur destined for Beijing — may get answers to the questions they’ve been asking.

“There’s a satisfaction in working out what happened with the accident and the conclusions, and the closure that that brings,” Campbell said.

The latest in the search

Australia: What’s next

Sad, angry relatives in agonizing limbo

CNN’s David Molko contributed to this report.


Pieces of sheet metal have washed ashore in Western Australia near the designated search area in Indian Ocean

By Jonathan Pearlman,Sydney

Authorities are investigating “interesting” metallic objects which washed ashore in Australia to determine if they are from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Police in Western Australia secured the material, which apparently included sheet metal with rivets on one side and a fibreglass coating.

Authorities said the objects came ashore about six miles from the town of Augusta, hundreds of miles south-east from where the plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.

“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is examining the photographs of the material to determine whether further physical analysis is required and if there is any relevance to the search of missing flight MH370,” the search authority said.

“The ATSB has also provided the photographs to the Malaysian investigation team.”

However, Martin Dolan, from the ATSB, indicated the objects were unlikely to be from the missing plane.

“It’s sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs,” he told CNN.

“The more we look at it, the less excited we get.”

The objects were found by a local resident and handed to police, who retained possession but sent photographs to authorities.

“The seized material will remain in our possession until the ATSB provide further direction,” said Samuel Dinnison, a police spokesman.

The discovery comes amid dwindling hopes for the underwater search for the Boeing 777.

Australia’s government said it may be time to “rethink” the search and to deploy additional deep sea equipment but insisted the mounting cost will not be a concern. An unmanned submarine has covered more than 80 per cent of the targeted search area in the Indian Ocean but failed to find evidence of wreckage.

Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, dismissed speculation that the plane may have landed and insisted that the search was being conducted in the “probable impact zone”.

Authorities believe the plane, carrying 239 people, crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, west of Australia, after departing from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8.

“We haven’t finished the search, we haven’t found anything yet in the area that we’re searching, but the point I make is that Australia will not rest until we have done everything we humanly can to get to the bottom of this mystery,” Mr Abbott said.

“Our expert advice is that the aircraft went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean where they have identified a probable impact zone which is about 700 kilometres (435 miles) long, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) wide.”

Mr Abbott said the underwater search was focused on an area spanning about 154 square miles. The area was based on the detection of four sets of signals believed to have been emitted by the plane’s black box locator beacon.

“We may well rethink the search but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery,” he said.

An air and sea search involving ten military aircraft and twelve ships was due to cover 14,652 square miles, about 530 miles north-west of Perth. However, the air search was suspended for a second day due to a tropical cyclone and three aircraft which had departed were recalled.

As the unmanned Bluefin-21 submarine completed a tenth mission, David Johnston, Australia’s defence minister, said authorities may soon deploy more powerful sonar equipment that can search deeper into the ocean.

“The next phase, I think, is that we step up with potentially a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar to do deeper water,” he said.

Mr Johnston said Australia was discussing the next phase of the search with Malaysia, China and the United States but costs would not be an issue. Analysts have estimated the costs of the search – the most expensive in aviation history – have already exceeded $US100 million.

“There will be some issues of costs into the future but this is not about costs,” Mr Johnston said.

“We want to find this aircraft. We want to say to our friends in Malaysia and China this is not about cost, we are concerned to be seen to be helping them in a most tragic circumstance.”


Pacific Nations Agree To “Code of Conduct” — “An important step forward to reduce tension on the sea”

April 23, 2014

By and
The New York times

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A naval code of conduct approved by more than 20 nations around the Pacific, including China, Japan and the United States, could reduce the risk of accidental encounters spiraling into conflict, experts said. But Beijing’s firm rejection Wednesday of President Obama’s comments about islands claimed by both China and Japan underscored the maritime tensions that continue to trouble Asia.

The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea was endorsed Tuesday by naval officials from the United States, China and Japan and other states at a symposium in the northeastern Chinese port city of Qingdao, China’s state-run Xinhua news service reported.

The agreement comes at a time of growing concern about territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors. China claims islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Several countries, including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Mr. Obama, who arrived in Japan on Wednesday to begin an Asia trip that will also include South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, told a Japanese newspaper that the disputed islands fall under the United States-Japanese mutual defense treaty. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” he said in a written response to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said Wednesday that China was “firmly opposed to treating the U.S.-Japan security treaty as applying to the Diaoyu Islands.”

“The United States should respect the facts, in a responsible manner abide by its commitment not to choose sides over a territorial sovereignty issue, be cautious on words and deeds and earnestly play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region,” Mr. Qin said during a regularly scheduled news conference.

Encounters between military vessels in the region have triggered concerns about the risk of escalation.

Last year, a Chinese Navy vessel cut within about 100 yards of the Cowpens, an American cruiser that had been monitoring China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the South China Sea.

Chinese and Japanese vessels in the East China Sea have also had several potentially dangerous encounters in recent years. In 2013, Japan said Chinese warships used radar that helps to target weapons on a Japanese military vessel and a helicopter near the disputed islands. In an interview on Tuesday, the same day the rules were approved, Adm. Wu Shengli, the commander in chief of the Chinese Navy, said the tensions with Japan remained serious and the risk of incidents at sea could not be excluded.

“Nothing can be excluded,” Admiral Wu said in the interview with Phoenix Television, a satellite service based in Hong Kong. “That’s what we often call accidental discharge when cleaning a gun. The gun is an objective fact, but what we need to study is how to avoid accidental discharge when cleaning a gun.”

Military analysts say the lack of formal “rules of the road” for encounters between vessels of major navies in the Pacific increases the risk that an incident at sea could escalate sharply, possibly causing loss of life and triggering diplomatic crises. A code on interactions between warships could help reduce unintended conflict. In the United States Navy, codes of conduct are reviewed by watch officers on ships, including on the bridge and the combat information center, as part of shipboard training to help avoid incidents at sea.

“Over all I think it’s a very positive development, but it remains to be seen how effectively it will be implemented,” Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said of the code of conduct approved  Tuesday.

The rules would help countries “effectively manage and control maritime crises, reduce misjudgments, and avoid incidents of mutual interference and collisions when on the high seas,” Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the Chinese Navy, told The Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese military.

“I’m an optimist, I think it’s significant,” said M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies international security and territorial disputes in Asia. “It appears to specify in some detail standard operating procedures for ships and airplanes when they come into close contact with each other. Even though it’s not legally binding, if the navies and air forces — navies in particular — choose to abide by it, it will still have achieved the intended effect of reducing risks, misperceptions, inadvertent escalation, etc.”

The Western Pacific Naval Symposium had discussed a code on sea encounters for more than a decade. China had objected to previous versions over concerns about foreign military vessels in its exclusive economic zone, waters within 200 nautical miles from a nation’s coast.

The code endorsed Tuesday is nonbinding and is a less substantial protocol than earlier bilateral agreements on incidents at sea, said Sam Bateman, a research fellow at the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong and a retired Royal Australian Navy commodore.

Mr. Bateman said that he had not seen the final version of the code but that previous drafts were “not much more than sort of a set of principles for exchanging messages and keeping clear of each other,” Mr. Bateman said.

Naval chiefs in Qingdao praised the agreement. Admiral Wu called the new rules a “document of milestone significance,” The Liberation Army Daily reported.

Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, said the code was “an important step forward to reduce tension on the sea in the region,” the state-run China Daily reported.

Obama Arrives in Japan On A Mission to Reassure Asian Allies

April 23, 2014


U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (C), her husband Edwin Schlossberg (3rd R) and other officials upon his arrival at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo April 23, 2014. REUTERS-Toru Hanai

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (C), her husband Edwin Schlossberg (3rd R) and other officials upon his arrival at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo April 23, 2014.
REUTERS/Toru Hanai

(CNN) — Looking to turn a few degrees in his long-awaited “pivot to Asia,” President Barack Obama embarks on Tuesday on a four-country tour of the region in the hopes of convincing Pacific allies the United States remains focused on them.

But like Obama’s last attempts to renew diplomatic and economic attention on Asia, this trip comes amid distractions: unrest in Ukraine, recent transportation disasters at two of his stops, and wary lawmakers back home who aren’t on board with Obama’s plan to expand trade.

The trip itself — with stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines — is a rain-check from last October, when the White House nixed a visit to Asia at the last minute amid the government shutdown.

The cancellation only prompted more questions about the administration’s capacity for a foreign policy realignment that sought to counterbalance China’s growing influence in Asia.

 U.S. President Barack Obama steps out from Air Force One as he arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo April 23, 2014. REUTERS-Toru Hanai

U.S. President Barack Obama steps out from Air Force One as he arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo April 23, 2014.
REUTERS/Toru Hanai

That repositioning first came about during Obama’s first term, when the President and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a point of referencing a “pivot” toward relations in the Asia Pacific — and implicitly, away from traditional foreign policy hotspots in the Middle East and Europe.

But in the intervening years, heightened diplomacy with Iran, and more recently unrest in Ukraine, have grabbed far more headlines than the United States’ increased efforts in Asia. And a vow to allocate more military resources in the region coincided with a plan to reduce Pentagon spending substantially.

“The region does, I think, feel like there’s a bit of distraction here in the United States,” said Victor Cha, a former director of Asian affairs in the George W. Bush White House who is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“In polite company, people won’t say it, but behind closed doors, I think they’ll openly ask where the pivot is — they don’t know where it is — or the rebalance in the second term,” Cha said at a briefing with reporters last week. “Strong messaging on the U.S. commitment to the region I think is an important way to try to compensate or try to fill that gap.”

Administration officials say U.S. alliances in Asia have remained strong despite several years of flashpoints in other parts of the world. And they bristle at the notion the White House and its diplomats can focus only on one region at a time.

“There are often questions raised about whether or not we get distracted with Ukraine or the Middle East, and this trip is yet one more example that we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Evan Medeiros, Obama’s senior director for Asian affairs. “There are huge parts of the government — I’m part of them — that are devoted to advancing U.S. interests in the Asia Pacific.”

While there aren’t any major announcements expected on this week’s trip, Obama officials hope the visits will yield progress toward showing America’s commitment to each country, and the region as a whole.

In Japan, the President will look to further progress on a trade deal, though Democrats on Capitol Hill have proven wary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, at least until November’s midterm elections.

And in the Philippines, a new military cooperation agreement is being negotiated that could boost U.S. troop presence in a region where China has pushed for greater control.

Elsewhere, Obama’s schedule is dotted with social and cultural events to highlight the region’s dynamic growth — including an innovation center in Kuala Lumpur and a science exhibit in Tokyo.

“I think we go to the region at a time when our allies in the region are very much appreciative of and committed to our alliance relationships,” said National Security Adviser Susan Rice during a briefing Friday. “These alliances are only strengthening in the context of a more uncertain security environment.”

Fueling that uncertainty is the situation in Ukraine, where pro-Russian forces effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula and have moved into the eastern part of the country.

The White House has announced several rounds of sanctions against Russian officials and businesses, but Obama has been explicit that any military intervention is out of the question for the United States.

That’s a cause for concern among some Asian allies — including Japan — who have their own territorial disputes with China, though some experts say that worry is overblown since security pacts in place would compel more robust U.S. response in a conflict between Asian nations.

“The notion that Japanese or Taiwan or American allies in the region are nervous about the U.S. reaction to the Ukraine and that means something for them I think is fundamentally false,” said Jeffrey Bader, who until 2011 served as senior director for East Asian Affairs on the National Security Council.

“The U.S. has a mutual security treaty with Japan for over 50 years which is NATO-like in its firmness,” said Bader, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Obama’s trip also comes as two of his stops contend with major transportation disasters. Both the sinking of a ferry full of high schoolers in South Korea and the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 have occupied those countries’ leaders in recent weeks.

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said Monday it was likely Obama would express his support for the ferry victims’ families during his visit to Seoul. Last week, Obama said the tragedy was “heartbreaking.”

In the case of Malaysia, officials’ response to the crash has drawn wide criticism, though not from the White House — and that’s expected to remain the case through next week.

“This trip has a very positive, affirmative agenda and that’s how we are looking at it — as an opportunity to solidify and modernize our alliances and partnerships,” Susan Rice said Friday.

Migrants attempting to cross from China to Vietnam by sea — fleeing religious and political persecution

April 23, 2014


By James Hookway and Nguyen Pham Muoi
The Wall Street Journal

HANOI—Vietnamese security forces intercepted 21 illegal migrants attempting to cross from China by sea just hours after a clash with another group of migrants left seven people dead, state media reported on Sunday.

The reports have put new focus on how some Chinese migrants appear to view Southeast Asia as a conduit to a new life overseas.

Five Chinese nationals and two Vietnamese border guards died in the initial confrontation on Friday. The guards had detained 16 people and were preparing to return them to Chinese authorities when several of the migrants seized firearms from the Vietnamese security forces and began firing, according to Vietnamese state media. Some of the migrants died after leaping from the multistory building where they were being held, the reports said.

The second group of 21 migrants was intercepted at sea after Vietnamese border guards were tipped off by Chinese authorities, state-controlled VTC News reported. Vietnamese foreign ministry officials didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. China’s foreign ministry confirmed the earlier, violent incident on its microblogging account.

It is unclear who comprised either group of migrants or where they were intending to travel. Some of the women involved in the earlier fracas wore scarves across their faces in a manner reminiscent of the Uighur ethnic group from the Xinjiang region in western China.

Growing numbers of Uighurs have tried to escape China through Vietnam and Laos in recent years because of what human-rights organizations describe as religious and political persecution.

Thai authorities last month detained several groups of migrants, the largest of which consisted of 220 people, many of whom said they were from Turkey and had entered the country illegally. Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, speak a Turkic language. Thai authorities said they believed that the groups were aiming to make their way to another country.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, responding to reports that Chinese diplomats had identified dozens of the migrants as being Uighurs, urged Thailand not to send them back to China.

“Past cases have shown that Uighurs returned to China are always at risk of persecution,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director.

Conflicts between China’s Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese population have escalated in Xinjiang in recent years. The region borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of former Soviet-controlled Central Asia. Ethnic Uighurs complain that their religion and culture are being suppressed by an influx of Han migrants, while Beijing accuses separatists in Xinjiang of using terrorist tactics to further their cause.

Interethnic riots in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009 left around 200 people dead and drew global attention to the resentment many Uighurs feel toward Chinese rule. China responded by trying to channel economic growth to the area by opening up more trade links with Central Asia. Some Uighurs, though, complained that the benefits of the program were concentrated in the hands of state-owned enterprises and ethnic-Han entrepreneurs who have migrated to the region.

A mass stabbing at a train station in Kunming, southwest China, killed 33 people in early March. Chinese state media said at least 10 assailants were involved in the attack, the deadliest ever attributed to Xinjiang separatists outside their home territory.

The Chinese authorities’ subsequent crackdown has further raised tensions in Xinjiang.

Write to James Hookway at and Nguyen Pham Muoi at

South China Sea: Philippines Insists on Multilateral, Not Bilateral, Talks with China — And Awaits Decision from International Arbitration

April 23, 2014






Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has said it is banking on multilateral and not bilateral talks to resolve its territorial disputes with China.

The statement came as Chinese and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) senior officials met in Thailand to tackle the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“We have always maintained that the resolution to the South China Sea cannot be just bilateral because you have a number of neighboring countries disputing waters within South China—in the South China Sea, and therefore, the resolution should be multilateral,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Tuesday.

While Lacierda did not comment on the meeting, he said “it is with China to act on the Declaration of the Code of Conduct.”

“We certainly would hope that the Code of Conduct would move forward in order to lay clearly the base or rules on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea,” he said.

The spokesperson said the government’s position has not changed, especially after it filed a case against China before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

“What we wish to emphasize is that we have always abided by a rules-based regime in coming up with a resolution to the South China Sea,” he added.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the back-to-back senior officers’ meeting concluded with the parties agreeing to push forward the China-Asean Maritime Cooperation Partnership. The meeting reportedly tackled the scope of maritime cooperation with the officials reaffirming “the importance of the Asean-China relations as a pillar of regional peace and stability.”

The statement further said that the parties are “committed to achieving better, closer and resilient Asean-China Strategic Partnership through building trust, confidence and mutual respect.”

The report did not say if the territorial disputes between China and Asean member states were discussed.


PH must be ‘truly independent’ to stand up to China—Bayan 

Bilateral talks with China becoming impossible – DFA

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This undated handout photo taken by the Philippine Navy and released April 11, 2012, by the Department of Foreign Affairs shows Chinese surveillance ships off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, accused China’s Coast Guard of firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen last month to drive them away from Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. AFP FILE PHOTO

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The Philippines’ case against China in the United Nations arbitral tribunal would be the country’s contribution to international maritime jurisprudence, setting an example of legal remedies that smaller nations could seek instead of submitting to lopsided negotiations with bigger countries, according to the Philippine ambassador to the United States.

Speaking at a gathering of businessmen in Makati City on Friday, Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. asserted the Philippines’ right to seek international arbitration in the face of Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

“This arbitration case would be a model or an example for other smaller states in a similar situation to consider the dispute settlement mechanism under the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) as a way of resolving disputes in a peaceful manner,” Cuisia said.


First of its kind

“The arbitration case itself is the Philippines’ contribution to further strengthening Unclos… As the Philippine arbitration case against China is the first of its kind, the proceedings and its subsequent outcome would serve to enrich international legal maritime jurisprudence, especially over disputes concerning the interpretation and application of Unclos,” he said.

Invoking the convention, the Philippine government sought arbitration in January 2013 to nullify China’s claim over almost 90 percent of the South China Sea, and to halt Chinese incursions into the country’s economic exclusion zone.

Setting precedent

The Philippines filed on March 30 its 4,000-page memorial, a pleading that details the merits of its case against China, angering China, which issued strongly worded statements condemning the action.

China has refused to take part in the proceedings.

Beijing has long been opposed to international litigation, insisting on bilateral negotiations that it again pressed on the Philippines last week, saying the arbitration bid “seriously damaged” relations between the two sides.

Cuisia made an indirect response to this in his remarks, saying: “It is my view that by taking the legal route, the Philippines is setting an international precedent whereby states have other viable options to resolving maritime cases other than in an asymmetrical negotiation, where the big and militarily strong nation would dominate the smaller nation at the negotiating table.”

He said the legal action was a win-win solution to the dispute, serving to set straight China’s maritime entitlements, clarify the Philippines’ rights to fishing, resources and law enforcement in the West Philippine Sea, and, for the international community, “assure peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”

To the last drop of blood

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Philippines would pursue peaceful means to resolve the dispute but that it would defend its territories “to the last [drop of] blood.”

“Up to the last [drop of] blood. I think that must be our position. That we are ready to die up to the last blood,” Binay said on Thursday in a statement released after meeting the nine Marines who had just returned from a five-month extended watch on Ayungin Shoal, the boundary of the Philippines’ territory in the Spratly archipelago.


Second Thomas Shoal, also called Ayungin Shoal, in the South China Sea (Photo by Xinhua)

“But as much as possible, we will always resort to peaceful means,” he said.

Binay, a Marine reservist, met with six of the nine Marines who ended their tour of duty on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre on March 29.

The Philippines resupplied and rotated the garrison despite harassment by Chinese Coast Guard ships.


China: PH tarnishing Beijing’s international image

Palace ready for China backlash

Chinese ships fire water cannon at PH fishers

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China views the South China Sea and East China Sea as vital areas with “must have” resources. And China also wants to control the maritime domain to protect the free movement of what it needs from the sea — even in a crisis or war.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.


The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

McCain: Obama Doesn’t Appreciate ‘American Leadership’ Role

April 23, 2014

By Wanda Carruthers

As Russian troops continue to mass along Ukraine’s border, President Barack Obama hesitates in stepping up assistance for the embattled country because he doesn’t appreciate America’s leadership in the world, Sen. John McCain said.

President Obama “does not appreciate, in my view, the importance of American leadership. That we are an exceptional nation,” the Arizona Republican told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday.

Leadership does not mean that Americans “fight every war,” McCain said. It does mean “peace through strength” to assist “people who were struggling for freedom.”

Arizona Republican John McCain on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday

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McCain said it is time for the United States to act to stave off further aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He indicated there were a number of options available to assist Ukraine, short of sending in American troops.

“There are some sanctions that we can impose, which would give the Europeans a choice. If we sanction some of their financial institutions, they might have to decide whether they’re going to do business with Russia or do business with us. There’s a lot of things we can do,” he said.

In addition, McCain suggested providing Ukrainians with the defensive weapons they have been “begging for,” assisting them with integration into the European Union, and helping them secure loans from the International Monetary Fund.

The problems in Ukraine are spilling over into nearby countries, including Moldova and the Baltic states, McCain said. He said he just returned from a trip there and described the atmosphere as one of uncertainty.

“I’m not using the word afraid. But I will use the word extremely nervous about what Putin’s going to do. And, more than that, what we’re going to do,” he said.

Obama Reaffirms that U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty Applies To East China Sea Islands in Dispute With China

April 23, 2014



Associated Press

TOKYO —President Barack Obama confirmed Wednesday that America’s mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan.

“The policy of the United States is clear,” he said in a written response to questions published in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at the start of a four-country Asia tour.

“The Senkaku islands are administered by Japan” and therefore fall under the U.S.-Japan treaty, he wrote. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”

His statement seems aimed at reassuring Japan that the U.S. would come to its defense if China were to seize the islands, known as the Diayou in China. Russia’s annexation of Crimea has sparked concern about America’s political will to protect Asian allies, notably in Japan and the Philippines.

Obama said the United States is deepening its ties with China, but “our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.”

He told the Yomiuri that the U.S. will continue to take steps to reduce the impact of its military presence in Okinawa, but added “it’s important to remember that the U.S. Marine Corps presence on Okinawa is absolutely critical to our mutual security. It plays a key role in the defense of Japan.”


The disputed islands. Japan calls them the Senkakus. China calls them the Diaoyus.

This is the center of the ocean area in dispute between China and Japan.

Is China slowly taking ownership of the South China Sea? Another Crimea?

April 23, 2014


A Filipino protester holds placards with slogans during a rally outside the Chinese consulate at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The group is demanding an end to China’s alleged incursions in the South China Sea and to press the Chinese government to respect the arbitral process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

By Jay L. Batongbacal
The Daily Star

Tensions between China and the Philippines spiked in March when a small civilian boat was confronted by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel about 160 kilometers from the Philippine coast.

The boat was trying to bring soldiers, food and water to a grounded Philippine Navy ship on Second Thomas Shoal, which serves as the Philippines’ last line of defense against further Chinese incursions into its waters in the South China Sea.

The incident took place just two days before the Philippines submitted its Memorial in a case filed before an arbitral tribunal established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Documented by journalists on board the small boat, the incident further proves that China has established an undeclared and paramilitary blockade against Philippine ships in the South China Sea. In 2012, China effectively took over the Scarborough Shoal, located well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. This Second Thomas Shoal incident is the latest flare in the ongoing contest for portions of the South China Sea. It marks China’s increasingly provocative movements against its maritime neighbors.

China’s adventurism in the South China Sea is a product of its impressive economic growth and aspirations to be a major maritime power. Its economy relies greatly upon maritime trade, and the South China Sea contains vital sea lanes needed to transport everything from fuel and raw materials to manufactured goods. Its coastal regions also host hundreds of Chinese fishing communities. The Chinese leadership must prove to these communities that the benefits of its economic growth are not funneled exclusively to coastal metropolises such as Shanghai. To protect its massive trade interests and demanding fishing population, China is investing heavily in military and civilian maritime assets to enhance its capability to project its naval might, as well as its fishing fleets.

While such provocative acts may be seen as rational from the perspective of an aspiring maritime power (its moves are basically patterned after the U.S. sea-power doctrine), China also claims almost the entire South China Sea as its exclusive waters. It no longer hides its intention to dominate this strategic region. In December, a Chinese documentary titled “Journey to the South China Sea,” released by the state-run CCTV-4, revealed that since 2007, China’s maritime law-enforcement agencies have confronted its neighbors’ ships in dangerous games of chicken, reminiscent of naval rivalries during the Cold War.

China claims the vast South China Sea waters on the basis of a creative reinterpretation of its history, which denies the long existence and equally legitimate rights and interests of its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors. Chinese records notwithstanding, the sea has historically been an international maritime commons, while the energy and fishery resources in adjacent portions of the South China Sea comprise the historical and natural heritage of states such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. These countries also have exclusive rights to such portions, recognized in the modern international law agreed upon by all states (including China) and expressed in instruments such as the UNCLOS.

From the Philippines’ perspective, China began to deny it its long-standing access to the sea. In 2010 and 2011, China protested and interfered with offshore petroleum exploration just 50-100 miles from the Philippines’ coast. In 2012, the actual taking of Scarborough Shoal in response to a Philippine attempt to arrest Chinese fishermen for harvesting coral and endangered species demonstrated that China fully intended to deprive the country of its western EEZ and continental shelf. It did not help that Chinese media circulated hawkish proposals of “small wars” against its neighbors to retake the South China Sea by force.

With its back against the wall, the Philippines could do little but seek the support of its long-time ally, the United States, to dissuade China’s increasingly assertive and dangerous maritime incursions. It also took a huge risk by unilaterally launching international arbitration against China. It did so in the hope that international law afforded a more equitable venue for the protection of its maritime rights and interests.

China has steadfastly refused to participate in the arbitration, and it remains to be seen if the Philippine gambit will succeed. A decision could have a major impact on the future of the contested maritime region, a strategic nexus of global trade routes and a vital gateway between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

While the present dispute is between the Philippines and China, the outcome may decide whether the South China Sea will remain part of the global commons or not. With precious little with which to challenge its giant neighbor, the Philippines can only hope that fortune truly favors the bold.

Jay L. Batongbacal is the director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines. This commentary originally appeared at The Mark News (

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2014, on page 7.

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South China Sea: Renato Reyes says “The best way to stand up against China or any foreign aggressor is for the Philippines to be truly independent.”

April 23, 2014


Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea (Photo by Xinhua)

Leftist leader Renato Reyes holds protest rally held in front of Chinese Embassy

By Barbara Mae Dacanay, Bureau Chief, Gulf News

Manila: The Philippines is now caught between two contending forces, China and the United States, because of the South China Sea territorial dispute, a leftist leader said during a protest rally held in front of the Chinese Embassy in Makati City.

“We are holding this rally to clarify that the Philippines should be careful. We have allowed our country to be in the middle of two contending threats [China and the US] — because of the overlapping claims in the South China Sea,” Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bayan, told Gulf News on Tuesday.

“First, we are against China, which does not recognise the sovereignty of the Philippines and its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea — the West Philippine Sea,” Reyes said, adding, “The best way to stand up against China or any foreign aggressor is for the Philippines to be truly independent, engage in a programme of national industrialisation, and to build its own economic capacity and security.”

Although Bayan is leftist, it has espoused an issue that is “not about ideology but about Philippine sovereignty,” explained Reyes.

He criticised China’s takeover of several shoals near the country’s western seaboard — the Mischief Shoal near Palawan in 1995 and the Scarborough Shoal near northern Luzon in 2012.

China has been trying to evict a Philippine Navy contingent deployed in a rusty ship that ran aground near the Second Thomas Shoal, which has served as an outpost of the Philippine government — to protect the eight-island chain claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly Archipelago off the South China Sea.

As a result, the Philippine government is pressured to forge an enhanced defence agreement with the US ahead of the visit of US President Barack Obama, said Reyes.

“The proposed agreement would benefit the US government. It would also take away the country’s sovereignty with the agreement’s proposed basing of US troops inside Philippine facilities,” said Reyes.

The Philippine Senate rejected in 1990 a US-proposed extension of the now defunct US-Philippine Military Bases Agreement (MBA), the basis of US presence in the Philippines which ended in 1991.

It resulted in the dismantling of the former US Subic Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales  and the US Clark Air Base in Angeles, Pampanga. They were two of US’s largest overseas war facilities.

Citing Bayan’s choice on the difficult issue being faced by the Philippines today, Reyes said, “My group supports the government’s move to elevate the case against China before the United Nations.”

“Bayan condemns China’s militarisation of the South China Sea,” Reyes added.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea based on their historical rights.

Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim some parts of the Spratly Archipelago based on the United Convention on the law of the Sea that grants countries 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones starting from their shores.


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