Posts Tagged ‘China’

To counter China, India’s Navy expands reach

October 3, 2015


INS Sahyadri

By Josy Joseph
The Hindu

Indian Naval ship enters Vietnam waters on its way to Japan.

Two developments on Friday, several hundred kilometres apart, emphatically captured India’s naval challenges and growing opportunities.

Around the time Navy Chief Admiral R.K Dhowan began his official tour of Australia on Friday, an Indian naval ship entered Vietnam waters on its way to Japan.

In the backdrop of both the developments, hangs the shadow of China’s growing naval assertiveness in the region, and India’s new-found aggression to build partnerships both as a response to China as well as part of its role as a major maritime force of the Indian Ocean.

Navy chief in Australia

Admiral Dhowan will be part of a gathering of over 40 naval chiefs in Australia discussing ways to improve maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation, especially for global cargo.

His visit comes a few days after the navies of India and Australia wrapped up their first bilateral naval exercises focussed on anti-submarine warfare.

An official statement said Admiral Dhowan’s visit “aims to consolidate existing maritime cooperation initiatives as well as explore new avenues.” His visit will coincide with the annual ‘Sea Power Conference’ organised by the Australia Navy, and attended by over 40 chiefs of navies.

Warship’s visit underlines India’s ‘Act East’ policy

As Navy Chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan began his official tour of Australia on Friday, an official statement said India and Australia had several commonalities which served as a foundation for closer cooperation and multifaceted interactions.

The defence cooperation between the two sides has been growing steadily in recent years, with the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2006 and a Framework for Defence Cooperation in November 2014. The 2014 agreement envisages regular ship visits and high-level exchanges.

The Royal Australian Navy is also part of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a maritime cooperation construct pioneered by the Indian Navy in 2008.

Both sides conducted their first bilateral maritime exercise ‘AusIndex-15,’ off India’s east coast a few days ago.

The focus on anti-submarine warfare was interpreted by many observers as a move in the face of growing submarine manoeuvres by China in the Indian Ocean.

On Friday, INS Sahyadri entered the Da Nang port in Vietnam as part of its operational deployment to the South China Sea and the north-west Pacific region.

‘Chinese Lawyers Live in Constant Fear’: Former Chinese Judge Says

October 3, 2015

Zhong Jinhua (R) and a colleague in Shenzhen in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Zhong Jinhua

Zhong Jinhua, a former judge at the Wenzhou Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang who became a lawyer to escape political interference, arrived last month in the United States along with his family.

His arrival on Sept. 4 coincided with a nationwide police operation targeting human rights lawyers across China that has seen hundreds detained and many held in secret locations since the detention of top Beijing rights attorney Wang Yu and her colleagues at the Fengrui law firm on the night of July 9.

Zhong told RFA that the crackdown hasn’t only affected lawyers who take politically sensitive cases, however, but the entire legal profession.

“The majority of lawyers are now living in fear of forced ‘chats’ with authorities, since they have detained between 200 and 300 lawyers,” he said. “Such a thing is unprecedented.”

“Under such circumstances, many voices right across Chinese society have been silenced, as well as human rights defenders,” said Zhong, who originally planned to board a flight to the U.S. on Aug. 11 with his wife and two young children, before being turned back by border guards at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and forced to undergo a strip and body search.

According to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, at least 288 lawyers, law firm staff, human right activists and family members have been detained, questioned by police, forbidden to leave the country, held under residential surveillance, or are simply missing.

While 255 have since been released, the rest remain under some form of surveillance or criminal detention, the group said in a statement on its website on Friday.

According to Zhong, many lawyers are continuing to fight for their rights, and for those of their clients, however.

“It’s really not an easy thing to do, as they could be detained, beaten up, or sent to prison at any time,” he said.

Zhong said he left China because he doesn’t see any let-up in the crackdown.

“This isn’t going to stop in one year or two,” he said.

Government interference

Zhong, who in 2012 threatened publicly to resign from the ruling Chinese Communist Party if it didn’t implement political reforms, said he witnessed continual political and personal interference in cases he presided over during his time as a judge.

“So-called sensitive cases would have to … be passed by a sentencing committee and then again by the party’s politics and legal affairs committee,” Zhong said.

“This was interference by the executive arm of government, and also by vested interests,” he said.

He said that in recent years, the judiciary in China has been used as mostly as a tool to maintain the party’s grip on power.

“This means that there is little oversight, as the police, prosecution and the courts all play along,” Zhong said.

Zhong said he never envisioned leaving China, and is now in the U.S. as a tourist, unsure what to do next.

But friends are warning him not to return, for fear of immediate arrest.

Zhong said the lack of judicial independence had prompted him to leave the bench and become a lawyer, before becoming embroiled in the latest crackdown.

“In China, you can’t really take a stance on anything, because you have to think about your family,” he told RFA.

“There’s always that fear there, particularly since this huge operation against lawyers starting on July 9, when even people who had just tweeted a couple of things were getting hauled in for compulsory chats with the state security police,” he said.

“The state security police came knocking on my door on July 14.”

Reported by Ka Pa and Ho Shan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Shanghai-Hong Kong September Stock Link Trading at 7-Month Low

October 3, 2015

By Annie Lee

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect saw both northbound and southbound trading fall in September to the lowest level since February.

Northbound volume dropped 32 percent to 81.9 billion yuan ($12.9 billion) from 121 billion yuan in August, according to data from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Southbound turnover slumped 50 percent to HK$25.3 billion ($3.3 billion) from HK$51 billion.

The cross-border stock link, which started last November, allows mainland investors to buy Hong Kong stocks and permits more foreign access to the world’s second-largest equity market.

A similar connect between the Shenzhen and Hong Kong bourses may be delayed until 2016 as China is more focused on stabilizing its stock rout, according to 10 of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Vietnam Continues To Say China’s South China Sea Claims Are Illegal

October 3, 2015


All signs point to intense internal debate on leadership and foreign policy.

By Carl Thayer
The Diplomat

On September 15, Vietnam’s political log jam suddenly burst with the simultaneous launch of a website dedicated to preparations for the twelfth national party congress and the release of the draft Political Report and Socio-Economic Plan for 2016-2020.

The Vietnamese public has been given until the end of October to send in comments on the draft policy documents.

Key policy documents are usually released well in advance of a national congress. For example, the draft Political Report and Five-Year Socio-Economic Plan were released nine months before the eleventh national party congress in January 2011. This time only four months remain to complete preparations for the twelfth congress scheduled for January 2016.

Prior to the launch of the website and release of key policy documents, Vietnam’s preparations for the twelfth party congress had been particularly low key. Although leadership selection was discussed at the eleventh plenary meeting of the party Central Committee that met in May no announcements were made.

Observers in Hanoi report that the Central Committee may reconvene in October to resolve the impasse over leadership with a further session planned for November if consensus cannot be reached.

Media reports suggest there are two main contenders for the post of party Secretary General – Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his long-term rival President Truong Tan Sang. Both are southerners. The post of party leader has traditionally gone to a northerner.

If the party Central Committee cannot reach consensus there are two likely possibilities. The first possibility is that both candidates will stand down and retire from politics and the next party leader will be chosen from among the members of the current Politburo who are eligible for election at the congress.

The second possibility could see the incumbent party leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, reappointed on the understanding that he would make way for another leader before his five-year term in office expired. This solution would mirror the decision by the eighth party congress in 1996 to re-appoint Do Muoi as party Secretary General on the understanding he would step down before mid-term. Do Muoi was replaced by Le Kha Phieu in late 1997.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at ASEAN August 4, 2015

When Vietnam enters its political season in advance of a national party congress current events are subject to intense scrutiny by political observers to discern which way the winds are blowing. This year is no exception.

For example, when the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi held a reception to celebrate its National Day (held early on September 29) Vietnam was represented by its Minister for Planning and Investment, Bui Quang Vinh. Vinh is not a member of the Politburo and is expected to retire after the twelfth party congress. There was intense speculation in Hanoi why such a comparatively “low level” official represented the Vietnamese government.

On September 30, the day after the reception, Vietnamese media reported that Ha Huy Hoang, a former employee of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a former journalist with the Vietnam and the World Weekly, had been tried and convicted for spying for China. Hoang was sentenced to six years in jail.

Media reporting on espionage cases involving Vietnamese citizens are exceedingly rare. This led to speculation on the timing of the trial and who authorised media reporting. Speculation only intensified when Tuoi TreVnExpress and other media outlets took down their reports from their websites on the afternoon of publication. Speculation now turned to who ordered that these reports be rescinded and why.

The timing of the espionage trial took place in the midst of continued in-fighting by Vietnam’s political elite as the twelfth party congress approaches. It is clear that one central issue that has yet to be resolved is how Vietnam will manage its relations with China and the United States. For example, the anoydyne draft Politicial Report gave no hint of future policy directions on this vexed question.

It is evident that some elements of Vietnam’s political elite approved media reporting of the espionage trial involving China and a Vietnamese citizen. This development follows on the heels of reports that China has been given permission to open a Consulate General in Da Nang.

The publicity given to the espionage trial, and the decision to rescind news reporting, is a significant sign that how Vietnam manages its relations with China and the United States is a heated topic at the moment. Those who oppose getting too close to the United States highlight the “threat of peaceful evolution” as a national security threat. They point to U.S. pressure on human rights and religious freedom as part of this threat.

The allegations of Chinese espionage fuels allied concerns that China continues to interfere in Vietnam’s internal affairs and may be attempting to influence the outcome of the forthcoming national party congress. Hanoi based observers have told The Diplomat that China has informed selected Vietnamese leaders that it opposes the elevation of Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who is viewed as pro-American.

Vietnamese sources also report that China has let it be known privately that President Xi Jinping may call off his expected visit to Vietnam this month if Hanoi does not mute its criticism of China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea. These same sources believe the visit will go ahead because so much is at stake for China.

Those who want closer ties with the United States stress the economic advantages of membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This group is now countering the argument of the “threat of peaceful evolution” by pointing to Chinese espionage as a major threat to national security.

In other words, the threat of peaceful evolution from the United States is now being counterpoised with the threat of Chinese subversion.

Vietnam’s decision to publicize the espionage trial, coupled with the release of several dissidents in recent months, are straws in the wind of a possible change in Vietnam-United States relations.

President Truong Tan Sang recently stated in a media interview that China’s construction of artificial islands was illegal under international law and endangered maritime security. Sang’s interview was given to the Associated Press in New York while he was attending the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Sang’s remarks were directed at both international and domestic audiences. Sang’s remarks in New York may be viewed as preparing the grounds for deepening relations with the United States. At the same time, his remarks may be viewed as burnishing his national security credentials domestically.

It should be recalled that Sang visited Washington in mid-2013 and met with President Barack Obama in the White House. After their talks the two leaders announced their agreement on a comprehensive partnership.

Vietnamese leaders who advocate deepening ties with the United States need some indication that Vietnam’s actions will be reciprocated to win over their domestic critics. That is why Sang called for an end to all U.S. restrictions on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam in his New York interview. Sang also repeated affirmations he made in Washington two years ago that Vietnam would engage the United States on human rights.

China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, complete with infrastructure to support a Chinese naval and military air presence, is a major driver behind those pushing for a deeper relationship with the United States.

Vietnam is expected to host official visits by President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama in October and November. Given the present leadership in-fighting in Hanoi each of these visits may be viewed as separate auditions for Vietnam’s future orientation.


China’s claim to sovereignty in the South China Sea is not as clear in  international law as China says. See:

China’s Censors Remove Much of Social Media References to Mail Bombings In Liuzhou, Add Rolling Coverage of Oregon College Shootings

October 3, 2015



The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.

Central Propaganda Department: The media must not send reporters to cover the series of explosions that occurred in Liucheng County, Guangxi and surrounding areas without permission, and must not set up special topic [coverage]. If covering the incident, use dispatches from sources such as Xinhua News Agency as the norm.

Cyberspace Administration of China: Regarding the explosions that occurred in Liucheng County, Liuzhou, Guangxi, websites nationwide may only use one picture taken from a long distance. All close-range photographs must be deleted without exception, including Weibo and WeChat. Please deal with this immediately.

X Province Propaganda Department: Regarding the explosions in Liucheng County, Guangxi, republish only authoritative sources such as Xinhua News Agency. Do not independently gather or edit [information]. Do not compile and post information on Weibo or WeChat, do not offer special topic [coverage], do not live broadcast video. Violators must immediately redress this and delete [the offending content], no exceptions. News clients and cell phone WAP websites must also implement these directives. Interactive platforms must not hype, gather, or recommend related information. [Chinese]

Multiple parcel bombs went off in Liucheng, Guangxi yesterday afternoon and today, killing at least seven and injuring 51. No casualties have yet been reported after today’s explosion. The police have identified a suspect in yesterday’s bombings, a local man named Wei Yinyong who apparently hired people to deliver packages that would explode on opening.

Package delivery has been suspended until October 3 in Liuzhou, the prefecture-level city which contains Liucheng. The Wall Street Journal’s Te-ping Chen reports difficulty in reaching locals for comment:

A man answering the phone at a local courier-service company said that they had been temporarily ordered to cease operations and not told when they could resume. He said that police had warned locals not to trust strangers and hung up the phone.

Employees answering at the phone at the Liuzhou post office declined to comment. Phone calls to the local government’s information office rang unanswered. [Source]

The Liuzhou Internet police have acted swiftly to control the social media response to the incident:

Hello, we are the Liuzhou Internet police. You posted a message around 5:10 p.m. today stating, “There were explosions in Liucheng. The local government [building] was blown up. The train station was blown up.” This content contains false information. We are still waiting for the actual situation to be verified. Exaggerated wording can cause mass panic. Please remove the related Weibo post as soon as possible, and follow official sources for updates.

The explosions began the day before National Day and the start of Golden Week, when millions of Chinese flock to trains and tourist spots on vacation.

Meanwhile, some noticed that news of Thursday’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon was highlighted in the Chinese media, in contrast to the news from Liuzhou:

Translation by Josh Rudolph and Anne Henochowicz.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.

Sina, other Chinese sites have rolling news sections on Oregon shootings. Ones on bombings in Guangxi were shut down.

By Nectar Gan
South China Morning Post

The suspect in a series of deadly parcel bomb attacks in Guangxi has been confirmed dead in one of Wednesday’s explosions, Xinhua reported on Friday, citing Liuzhou city police.

Police said Wei Yinyong, 33, made a number of time bombs, delivering them himself or sending them via couriers in Liucheng county.

Read more: Guangxi parcel bomb suspect ‘was angered by government failure to end village fight over family quarry’

Wei Yinyong, 33, made a number of time bombs.The authorities also revised up the death toll from the blasts from seven to 10, with another 51 injured.

Police said Wei launched the attacks in anger over conflicts with villagers who lived near his quarry and some government departments.The damaged Liuzhou City Government Office. Photo: Dickson Lee


Tropical storm bears down on south China’s Hainan island

October 3, 2015


BEIJING (AP) — A strong tropical storm was bearing down Saturday on China’s southern resort island of Hainan at the height of the country’s weeklong National Day holiday.

Tropical Storm Mujigae is expected to strengthen into a typhoon by the time it lands on Hainan around noon Sunday with wind speeds of more than 151 kilometers (94 miles) per hour, according to the national meteorological agency.

Heavy rain is expected for the island as well as neighboring Guangdong province.

As of midday Saturday, the storm was moving northwest at about 22 kph (13 mph). Parts of northern Vietnam were also bracing for heavy rain and high winds before the storm dissipates around Tuesday after arriving on the Chinese mainland.

Sunday marks the midpoint of the National Day holiday, when thousands of Chinese tourists flock to Hainan and other popular vacation destinations.

The Hainan provincial government’s website said fishing boats had been ordered to remain in port, but gave no word on evacuations or other emergency measures.

China’s South China Sea Construction Becomes an Increasing Source of International Tension, Distrust

October 3, 2015


The Philippines Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

By October 02, 2015

The U.S. and its regional allies have become increasingly concerned by Chinese land reclamation programs in the disputed ocean.

As China becomes increasingly assertive, challenging U.S. hegemony in the region, one area of particular concern is a series of new artificial islands that Beijing has built in the South China Sea. Now the Philippines Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has drawn attention to the matter, according to

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea rumble on

There are a number of rival claimants to parts of the South China Sea, including Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Carpio believes that the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China should become an issue in the 2016 national elections because Beijing is working on “a triangle of military bases” in the area.

Carpio is referring to a new base at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in waters off Zambales province, which he said was to be used to protect the Bashi Channel. China wants to maintain access to the channel, through which it sends naval operations between Hainan and Taiwan.

During his speech at the Rotary Club of Manila in Makati City, Carpio told attendees of his belief that China has a “long-term grand design” to reinforce its territorial claims in the region. “They have their nuclear submarines stationed on the island (Hainan),” he said, emphasizing how the base would be used to protect the Bashi Channel.

China planning long-term domination of the region

Carpio later addressed China’s long-range capabilities, with weapons delivered by strategic bombers or missiles. “The range of those missiles is 7,500 kilometers,” Carpio said. “All the US military facilities [in the region] are within the range of those missiles.”

He went on to explain how China was attempting to build a string of command centers for its planned Maritime Silk Road, a hugely ambitious economic initiative which aims to promote trade and cooperation across the old Silk Road route. Carpio pointed out that China has turned Zamora Reef (Subi Reef) into a massive airbase, just 29 kilometers southwest of Philippine-claimed Pagasa Island (Thitus Island) in the Spratlys.

Zamora Reef is now a 150 hectare artificial island with a naval base and airstrip, a fact that does not sit easily with Carpio. “This is in the high seas. China is converting it into a military base, naval base with a 3-kilometer [airstrip]. It can take in any military aircraft,” he said.

Potential new base could threaten Filipino supply routes

In addition Beijing has reclaimed around 560 hectares of the 800 hectare Panganiban Reef. The fear for Carpio is that once China builds a base on Panganiban, it will be able to throttle Filipino supplies to the other Spratly islands that it claims.

Carpio later bemoaned the environmental impact of Chinese land reclamation programs, and the damage to corals that are 30 million years old. “China destroyed them [in just] a year… It is unimaginable,” he said. “Should we allowChina to rob us and deprive us of what international laws guarantee us?” he asked.

China claims almost the entirety of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, a move that the Philippines has contested in a United Nations arbitration court. Beijing has so far refused to participate in the arbitration, and claimed that it will not accept any ruling.

A growing political issue in Asia

According to Carpio, the issue should be part of the Filipino national elections. “Our candidates should [state] their positions on the matter. It is very important because what is at stake is 80 percent of the exclusive economic zone and 100 percent of our continental shelf,” he said.

Members of the ASEAN regional grouping came under pressure from China and its allies not to discuss the issue at the organization’s last summit in Malaysia. The organization prides itself on maintaining consensus, but the South China Sea is such a divisive issue that members struggled to come up with a traditional joint statement.

Alongside the Philippines, Vietnam has been an outspoken critic of China’s actions in the region. Both countries stand to be considerably weakened should China successfully claim the whole of the South China Sea.

The competing territorial claims are overlapping and complicated by the fact that Taiwan stakes a claim separate to that of China. Legally it is not clear whether their claims should be joint or separate.

With China refusing to take part in international adjudication, options are running out. The United States has attempted to exert its influence in the region, but it would be a risky decision to push China too far over an issue in its backyard.



South China Sea: Time For America To Challenge China’s Claims, Enforce International Law

October 2, 2015


Rejecting China’s “Great Wall of Sand,” the U.S. Navy will patrol near man-made islands constructed by Beijing.


OCTOBER 2, 2015

In South China Sea, a Tougher U.S. Stance

The United States is poised to send naval ships and aircraft to the South China Sea in a challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims to its rapidly-built artificial islands, U.S. officials told Foreign Policy.

The move toward a somewhat more muscular stance follows talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington last month, which fell far short of a breakthrough over how territorial disputes should be settled in the strategic South China Sea.

A final decision has not been made. But the Obama administration is heavily leaning toward using a show of military might after Chinese opposition ended diplomatic efforts to halt land reclamation and the construction of military outposts in the waterway. The timing and details of the patrols — which would be designed to uphold principles of freedom of navigation in international waters — are still being worked out, Obama administration and Pentagon officials said.

“It’s not a question of if, but when,” said a Defense Department official.

The move is likely to raise tensions with China. But U.S. officials have concluded that failing to sail and fly close to the man-made outposts would send a mistaken signal that Washington tacitly accepts Beijing’s far-reaching territorial claims.

As the unprecedented scale of Beijing’s reclamation work came to light earlier this year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter asked commanders to draw up possible options to counter China’s actions in the South China Sea, which serves as a vital transit route for global shipping.

Now, the administration is preparing to endorse what the military calls enhanced “freedom of navigation operations,” which would have American ships and aircraft venture within 12 nautical miles of at least some artificial islands built by Beijing.

China argues it has sovereign authority around each of its newly built islands within a 12-mile boundary, a legal argument rejected by neighboring countries as well as by the United States. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea — which Beijing has signed — does not recognize artificially constructed outposts as legitimate islands.

The expanded patrols by the U.S. Navy could mean more close encounters between American and Chinese vessels and aircraft, raising the risk of a potential collision or volatile incident.

Just days before Xi’s trip to Washington, a Chinese fighter jet flew in front of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane east of the Shandong Peninsula in the Yellow Sea. And in August 2014, a Chinese J-11 fighter jet passed within 20 feet of a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft, performing a barrel roll in a maneuver the Pentagon condemned as reckless.


To avoid misunderstandings and possible crises, U.S. and Chinese defense officials have recently worked out protocols for encounters between ships at sea. And last month during Xi’s visit, the two sides announced a memorandum on rules for action when aircraft from the two nations fly in close proximity.

Apart from China’s assertive military stance in the western Pacific, American ships also must contend with swarms of Chinese fishing boats, which Beijing has employed as maritime militia to assert its territorial demands without taking explicit military action.

The U.S. Air Force says one of its RC-135 crews reported “dangerous airmanship” from a Chinese fighter jet on September 15, 2015

The United States and its partners in Southeast Asia have grown increasingly alarmed by China’s massive reclamation effort in the Spratly Islands. In less than two years, China has built outposts on top of seven reefs covering more than 3,000 acres, according to the Pentagon.

Stepped-up U.S. naval patrols would be welcomed by China’s neighbors in the region, which have sought out American diplomatic and military assistance to try to counter Beijing’s actions.

The United States has stressed it does not take a position on rival territorial claims among China and other states in the area. But it has voiced concern over tactics aimed at coercing other countries and attempts to install military bases on disputed reefs or rocks.

Washington believes that a crucial principle is at stake in the dispute over the South China Sea — the international laws and rules that serve as the foundation of the global economy.

“If one country selectively ignores these rules for its own benefit, others will undoubtedly follow, eroding the international legal system and destabilizing regional security and the prosperity of all Pacific states,” Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September.

The admiral, who oversees U.S. forces across the Asia-Pacific region, said he favored sending ships and planes within the 12-mile zone to make clear the Chinese claims to “territorial sea” carried no legal weight. The patrols had been conducted routinely until 2012, before Beijing launched its vast land reclamation work.

His comments drew an angry response from China’s Foreign Ministry, which said Beijing “opposes any country’s attempt to challenge China’s territorial sovereignty and security under the pretext of safeguarding navigation” and urged the United States “to exercise caution in its words and deeds.”

About 30 percent of all maritime trade passes through the South China Sea every year, including about $1.2 trillion worth of goods bound for American ports. And the seabed is a potentially rich source for oil and natural gas.

China has built three airstrips on its outposts in the Spratlys, installed radar and communication gear, and dredged deep ports that could accommodate large warships. U.S. officials say the construction work appears aimed at creating a military network on the man-made islands, which they fear could be used to coerce smaller countries into bowing to Beijing’s territorial ambitions. In such a scenario, China could declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, in the area, as it did two years ago in the East China Sea — where Beijing is at loggerheads with Japan over a group of uninhabited islands.

“All of the equipment and the airstrips that they are currently laying down in the Spratly Islands are all consistent with creating a South China Sea ADIZ,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program.

Under an ADIZ, Beijing could demand all aircraft entering the area provide their flight route and abide by instructions from the Chinese military.

Despite satellite imagery showing long runways and helipads under construction, China’s president said during his visit to the United States last month that his country “does not intend to pursue militarization” of the South China Sea.

Xi reiterated his government’s view that Beijing has had sovereign authority over the South China Sea islands “since ancient times.”

China repeatedly cites a “nine-dashed line” that lays claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, rejecting rival claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other countries. That controversial demarcation line appeared in a map from the Nationalist government that was toppled in the Chinese civil war of the 1940s and is now featured in Chinese passports. But the line is based on what China calls “historical” claims that are not recognized under the law of the sea.

On a range of issues, including the South China Sea and trade disputes, the Obama administration has appealed to Beijing to abide by international law and rules — arguing that China has benefited and prospered under those rules.

But Obama acknowledged before Xi’s visit last month that China often has interpreted Washington’s policy as a bid to prevent its rise.

“As they have matured, what we’ve said to them is, ‘With power comes responsibility, so now you’ve got to step up,’” Obama said. “In some cases, they still feel that when we call them on issues like their behavior in the South China Sea, or on intellectual property theft, that we are trying to contain them.”

Despite a much touted strategic “rebalance” to Asia, attempts by the United States have failed over the last several years to persuade China to adopt a more conciliatory stance in the South China Sea.

In July, China was able to defeat a diplomatic push by the United States at a regional forum of Southeast Asian states that would have called for a halt to land reclamation and any militarization of the area. Washington had held off pursuing patrols near the man-made islands to give diplomats time to broker an agreement, but now there is a sense in the administration and among U.S. allies in the region that it is time to take action to underscore America’s position.

“I think it’s clear that there is not a good set of options for convincing, or even compelling, China not to dredge and build artificial islands in the South China Sea,” said Scott Harold, deputy director at Rand Corp.’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy.

But operating ships and aircraft near the artificial outposts would underline Washington’s stance that it does not recognize China’s legal claims or its aggressive methods of asserting them, Harold said.

“There’s a concern that if you don’t … stand up for your positions, the Chinese will take that as evidence that you are unwilling to defend what you have claimed as your principles,” he said.

It remains unclear if U.S. ships or aircraft would operate near all the man-made islands or only those that were built on top of submerged natural features that were never recognized as islands. A number of the Chinese outposts are built on rocks that jut above the water and could qualify under international law for a 12-mile boundary.

The United States has carried out “freedom of navigation” patrols for decades around the world, contesting what it considers “excessive” maritime claims by allies as well as adversaries.

In the South China Sea, other countries over the years have also dredged up sand and piled it on top of reefs or rocks to buttress their claims. But land reclamation carried out by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines adds up to an area of less than 200 acres, and it occurred over decades — not months.

“China has now reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratly Islands,” concluded a Pentagon report on Pacific maritime security that was issued in August.

China’s push in the South China Sea is mostly a recent phenomenon and has coincided with a concerted investment in its navy, which has dramatically grown in recent years and acquired anti-ship missiles that could undercut American naval power.

But U.S. naval ships also have faced a challenge from Chinese commercial fishing boats, which Beijing has used as a low-tech tactic meant to exploit a gap in maritime law.

Fashioned into a maritime militia, fishing boats have been employed as a sort of picket line, staked hundreds of miles out at sea, providing the Chinese navy with an extra set of eyes and ears in disputed waters far from the mainland.

The fishing boats have played a key role in several incidents in recent years. In 2012, dozens of the civilian craft took part in the standoff over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which is contested by China, the Philippines, and Taiwan. And in 2009, a group of Chinese fishing trawlers also trailed and harassed the USNS Impeccable, an American surveillance ship, for days in the same area.

USNS Impeccable

Effectively serving as maritime militias, the fishing boats have ties to their local governments and the Chinese military, and can be called up and deployed quickly to track and harass foreign ships sailing in international waters.

The militias “derive a lot of power right now from operating below the radar and not being fully understood or appreciated [by foreign governments],” said Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

One of the main challenges, he said, comes from how military ships deal with the fishing boats, which are manned by civilians, but which may be conducting business on behalf of the Chinese military.

A paper recently published by two researchers at the U.S. Naval War College argues that the use of the fishing boats “exploits a seam in the law of naval warfare, which protects coastal fishing vessels from capture or attack unless they are integrated into the enemy’s naval force.”

The maritime militia provides the Chinese navy “with an inexpensive force multiplier, raising operational, legal and political challenges for any opponent,” the paper states.

Photo credit: CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe


China’s claim to sovereignty in the South China Sea is not as clear in  international law as China says. See:



China has converted Fiery Cross Reef into a gigantic Chinese military base with an airport and seaport. This photo is from April 2015. The most recent photos shows the landing strip is complete and painted for use. Satellite photos show China has built at least two other airstrips in the South China Sea near the Philippines.

China dredger Tian Jing Hao, “The Reef Eater”: The Philippines has said China’s huge dredgers are demolishing square miles of coral reefs in the South China Sea for island building. The Philippines, Vietnam and others contest China’s claims of ownership of the several South China Sea reefs, islets and shoals.

Both Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of bullying fishermen in the South China sea on several occasions.

Screen Grab of a China Coast Guard vessel ramming a Vietnamese sip during May, 2014

Vietnamese fishermen swim for their lives after their boat was rammed  and sunk by a Chinese vessel

Chinese maritime patrol officers have been accused of intimidation, bullying and trying to enforce Chinese laws in international waters

A fisherman on a Vietnamese boat shows a hole in the cabin window caused by gunfire in the South China Sea on September 11, 2015, by unknown assailants.  Photo: Dinh Tuyen, Thanh Nien News, Vietnam

China appears to be preparing for a runway on Mischief Reef. Reuters photo

The dredgers at Subi could be seen pumping sediment on to areas bordered by recently built sea walls and widening the channel for ships to enter waters enclosed by the reef.

Subi Reef airstip construction, September 3, 2015.


Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People on September 5, 2012. Neither Secretary Clinton nor Secretary Kerry have made any headway in the South China Sea dispute with China.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry makes a point with Yang Jiechi, July 8, 2015. Reuters photo

Chinese-American Man Pleads Guilty To Stealing Trade Secrets

October 2, 2015


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — A Chinese-American researcher has pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from his U.S. employers, but his attorneys are hoping to limit the time he serves in prison.

The Charlotte Observer reports Xiwen Huang pleaded guilty Friday to one count of stealing trade secrets. Federal prosecutors say the 55-year-old chemical engineer stole proprietary technology and hundreds of pages of documents over the past decade as an employee for both government and civilian companies.

According to court documents, his goal was to help the Chinese government and a company he had opened in North Carolina to do business with China.

Huang, a naturalized U.S. citizen, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His defense team hopes to limit his sentence; they’ve filed documents indicating some of the charges aren’t true.


Information from: The Charlotte Observer,

South China Sea: China calls for US to reduce risk of misunderstandings

October 2, 2015

BEIJING/TOKYO — China hopes the United States can scale back activities that run the risk of misunderstandings, and respect China’s core interests, the Chinese Defence Ministry yesterday cited a senior Chinese naval commander as saying.

The Pacific is an important platform for cooperation, Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command.

Admiral Sun Jianguo

“The prerequisite for win-win cooperation is mutual trust,” Admiral Sun said, according to China’s Defence Ministry. “(We) hope the US side can pay great attention to China’s concerns, earnestly respect our core interests, avoid words and actions that harm bilateral ties, and reduce activities which cause misunderstandings or misjudgments.”

The two officials were meeting in Hawaii on the sidelines of a gathering of Asia-Pacific defence officials.

Each country has blamed the other for dangerous moves over several recent incidents of aircraft and ships from China and the US facing off in the air and waters around the Asian giant. Last year, the Pentagon said a Chinese warplane flew as close as 7 to 10 metres from a US Navy patrol jet and did a barrel roll over the plane.

The U.S. Air Force says one of its RC-135 crews reported “dangerous airmanship” from a Chinese fighter jet on September 15, 2015

The comments came as one of the US Navy’s most advanced aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan, docked in Japan yesterday at the start of a deployment that will strengthen the capability of the US Seventh Fleet in Asia and boost ties between the US and its closest regional ally.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga welcomed the deployment, saying at a press conference yesterday that the “continuous strong presence of the US Navy will contribute to the security of Japan and the maintenance of peace and security of the (Asia-Pacific) region”.

U.S. Navy Admiral Harry B. Harris

Last week, the US announced pacts with China on a military hotline and rules governing airborne encounters, which seek to lessen the chance of an accidental flare-up between the two militaries, despite tension in the South China Sea.

China last month said it was “extremely concerned” about a suggestion by a top US commander that US ships and aircraft should challenge China’s claims in the South China Sea by patrolling close to artificial islands it has built.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7.1 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. Washington has criticised Beijing for pushing ahead with reclamation and militarisation in the disputed area. AGENCIES


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