Posts Tagged ‘China’s military’

Photos show Beijing’s militarisation of South China Sea — China’s island fortresses

February 6, 2018

By Tom Phillips
The Guardian

China accused of building ‘island fortresses’ as Philippine newspaper obtains aerial images

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Beijing has been accused of building “island fortresses” in the South China Seaafter a newspaper in the Philippines obtained aerial photographs offering what experts called the most detailed glimpse yet of China’s militarisation of the waterway.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer said the surveillance photographs – passed to its reporters by an unnamed source – were mostly taken between June and December last year and showed Chinese construction activities across the disputed Spratly archipelago between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the region.

The Inquirer said the images showed an “unrestrained” building campaign designed to project Chinese power across the resource-rich shipping route through which trillions of dollars of global trade flows each year.

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 Installations on Johnson South Reef. Photograph: Inquirer.net/Philippine Daily Inquirer

Some photographs show cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.

Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs such as Fiery Cross, Subi, Mischief, McKennan, Johnson South, Gaven and Cuarteron.

The Inquirer described the reefs as “island fortresses”. Bonnie Glaser, an expert in Asia-Pacific security issues from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the images “the most complete, detailed batch of aerial pics available” of China’s military outposts in the South China Sea.

EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea http://www.inquirer.net/specials/exclusive-china-militarization-south-china-sea . This is the most complete, detailed batch of aerial pics available of China’s SCS military outposts.

However, both Beijing and Manila sought to play down the significance of the images.

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What is the South China Sea dispute?

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Ties between the two Asian countries have warmed since Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, took power in 2016 and set about forging a lucrative new alliance with China during a four-day state visit to Beijing.

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 Images from the Philippine Daily Inquirer showing Mischief Reef. Photograph: Inquirer.net/Philippine Daily Inquirer

Responding to questions about the photographs, the presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, told reporters: “[The region has] long been militarised. And the question is, what can we do?”

He reportedly added: “What do you want us to do? We cannot declare war.”

Opposition figures hit back, accusing Duterte’s administration of betraying their “sacred core duty” to defend their country’s territory.

Experts interviewed by China’s Communist party press also shrugged off the photographs, suggesting they showed mostly civilian installations.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/02/southchinasea-zip/giv-3902R1RZM3jdqmCh

“Civilian facility construction is the major focus of the South China Sea islands building and the portion of defence deployment is relatively small,” Chen Xiangmiao, from the state-run National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

Another Chinese expert, Zhuang Guotu, accused foreign journalists of “hyping” Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea, but added: “China has the right to build whatever it needs within its territory.” Zhuang claimed China’s military deployment was not for military expansion, but about defending its security and interests.

In December a report claimed China had created military facilities about four times the size of Buckingham Palace on contested South China Sea islands.

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Pinterest — Fiery Cross Reef. Photograph: Inquirer.net/Philippine Daily Inquirer

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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China: Displays of military might and talk of ‘not fearing death’ are becoming more frequent but that doesn’t mean a war is on the horizon

January 19, 2018

BY WANG XIANGWEI

South China Morning Post

Is China going to war any time soon?

That is the question on the minds of more and more people outside China over the past few months.

The People’s Liberation Army, the world’s biggest armed forces, over the past year or so, has featured prominently in the mainland Chinese newspapers, television reports, and other publications, with increasing regularity, highlighting their military drills and latest weaponry. The country’s most modern fighters and bombers, and warships have also made regular long-range exercises close to the sensitive areas such as the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.

Why a stronger Xi Jinping is taking a gentler approach in China’s foreign affairs

President Xi Jinping, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the PLA’s highest command, has made frequent inspections of army, navy and air force units, each time placing great emphasis on urging the rank and file to strengthen training and improve its war-winning capability.

On an icy morning of January 3, Xi, dressed in military fatigues, presided over a grand display of military strength at the country’s first mobilisation meeting for the whole armed forces.

Grand displays have been a feature of China’s military over the past year. Photo: Xinhua

More than 7,000 armed officers and soldiers were present, along with about 300 tanks and other armaments, to hear Xi’s calls for real combat training and firmly grasping the might to win wars, Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, the live broadcast was beamed to 4,000 other venues of army, navy, and air forces units throughout the country.

As Xi also called for a fighting spirt that fears neither hardship nor death, this gave many overseas media a haunting headline that “Xi tells army not to fear death ….”

In fact, the phrase of “fearing neither hardship nor death” has been the PLA’s motto throughout its 90-year history.

Still, the PLA’s rising public profile and Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness have stirred up nationalistic feelings at home and raised concerns abroad about China’s intentions.

China’s grand military display signals Xi is here to stay

There are several reasons behind the increasing display of military might even though the prospects of war are very remote.

First of all, as reverse thinking has proved to be one effective tool to read tea leaves of China’s developments, Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness could literally mean that PLA is sorely lacking combat readiness.

President Xi Jinping has told his soldiers ’not to fear death’. Photo: Xinhua via AP

Indeed, China may boast the world’s largest armed forces and have achieved significant breakthroughs in weaponry and military technology, but most of its officers and soldiers have had little experience in real combat. The last war China fought was its military conflict with Vietnam in 1979. Although China claimed the final victory, its armed forces suffered heavy losses at the hands of battle-hardened Vietnamese soldiers.

China’s aircraft carrier impresses, but PLA corruption is a bigger battle

Secondly, before Xi was set to overhaul the PLA five years ago, China’s armed forces were corrupt to the core under the reins of his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

As a rule, officers would have to bribe their superiors to get promotions as there were reportedly price tags for every military rank from the lower level to the top generals, which had demoralised the entire armed forces and rendered them free of any fighting spirit required for a solider or an officer.

General Fang Fenghui, right, is accused of giving bribes to obtain his rank. Photo: AP

Over the past five years, Xi’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign has brought down seven full generals including Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two former deputy CMC chairmen who were effectively in charge of PLA in the 10 years until their retirement in 2012.

On Tuesday, China confirmed the arrest of the seventh general, Fang Fenghui, who was the chief of staff until August last year. One of his alleged crimes was giving bribes, indicating that he bought his way to the key position in the armed forces.

At least 13,000 military officers involved in corruption had been punished over the past five years, The PLA Daily reported in October.

China’s paramilitary troops train in freezing temperatures, but are they ready for battle? Photo: Reuters

Thirdly, as Xi completely overhauled the military, he has tried to bolster his standing in the armed forces through display of military strength and campaigns to instil the rank and file’s personal allegiance to himself as the commander in chief. Songs have been written to encourage military personnel to become “Chairman Xi’s good soldiers”, evoking the memories of the era of Mao Zedong’s ironclad command of the armed forces.

China’s military is stronger than ever, but is it strong enough?

Broadly speaking, as Xi has declared China has entered a new era and has made no bones about the country taking centre-stage as a new world power, it needs to create an elite combat force to protect not only the homeland but its growing interests abroad.

Meanwhile, Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness, along with the frequent display of military strength, have also come at a time when US President Donald Trump has voiced threats to use military means to take out North Korea’s nuclear facilities. The other hotspots, such as the tensions over the South China Sea and border disputes with India, and the need to signal Beijing’s resolute opposition to the perceived pro-independence movement in Taiwan, should also provide the backdrop. 

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2128062/china-beats-its-war-drum-who-should-hear-its-call

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Chinese interests at risk as Gulf crisis expands into the Horn of Africa

January 13, 2018

Beijing strategically placed its first overseas military base in Djibouti, an area vital for Chinese exports, but rising regional tensions make it a tough place to do business

BY JAMES M. DORSEY

South China Morning Post
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The six-month-old Gulf crisis has expanded to the Horn of Africa, potentially fuelling simmering regional conflicts that could place massive Chinese investment at risk in a part of the world that is home to the People’s Republic’s first overseas military base.

Anxieties about the stand-off in the Horn – a region pockmarked by foreign military bases that straddles key Indian Ocean trade routes and 4,000km of coastline – deepened last month when Sudan granted Turkey the right to rebuild a decaying port city and construct a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels on its Red Sea coast.

Much of Djibouti’s unique character comes from its position at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East. Photo: Handout

The Horn, at the intersection of key maritime passages which include Bab-el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden, is vital for the flow of oil as well as Chinese exports. But nations such as Somalia and South Sudan are wracked by political violence, and Yemen, where a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran rages, is nearby. Nevertheless, Beijing understands the region’s geopolitical importance and has made it the focal point of its initial foreign military operations.

China initially joined an international anti-piracy naval force and more recently established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, a country that already hosts US, French, Saudi and Japanese military facilities.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, right, gives a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at Khartoum International Airport. Photo: AFP

The US$650 million Sudanese-Turkish agreement, which enables Turkey to have a military presence in the Red Sea to help fight terrorism, threatens to exacerbate confrontations and suck China into a myriad of interrelated disputes. Competition for influence between Gulf states stretches beyond the Horn and East Africa into the Sahel as well as Central and West Africa. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, toured six West African nations last month to shore up support for his country in its dispute with other Gulf states.

Africa is not only a Gulf battlefield but also a theatre for the fierce rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslims primarily fought on the continent in countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and Mauritania.

The Sudanese-Turkish agreement suggested the rivalry may come to play an increasingly influential role in the Horn’s geopolitics. Both Saudi Arabia and UAE worry about Turkish military expansion because of its close relations with Iran and support for Qatar. Turkey has a military base in the Gulf state and intends to expand its presence to 3,000 troops in coming months. Turkey also has a training facility in Somalia and is discussing the establishment of a base in Djibouti.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, right, welcomes Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan at Khartoum Airport, Sudan. Photo: Reuters

Hinting at a link between Saudi Arabia and the Turkish presence in Sudan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to the African nation last month, the first by a Turkish head of state, that the ancient port of Suakin would boost tourism and serve as a transit point for pilgrims travelling to the kingdom’s holy city of Mecca.

What’s behind the crackdown in Saudi Arabia – and where will it lead?

Saudi Arabia and UAE, which has bases in Berbera in the breakaway republic of Somaliland and in Eritrea, fear the agreement will allow Turkey, with whom they have strained relations because of differences over Qatar, Iran and Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, to station troops close to Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have accused Qatar of funding the development of Suakin. Adding to the air of suspicion is the fact Turkey believes UAE supported a failed coup to topple Erdogan in July 2016.

The agreement is even more stinging because relations between Saudi Arabia and Sudan had significantly improved after the African country broke off relations with Iran in early 2016, an early Saudi victory in its battle with the Islamic republic for influence in Africa.

A Houthi fighter inspects a detention centre after it was hit by alleged Saudi-led air strikes in Sana’a, Yemen. Photo: AFP

Sudan has since contributed 6,000 troops as well as fighters from the Janjaweed tribal militia to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Under US President Donald Trump’s administration, Washington eased economic sanctions on Sudan in October at Saudi Arabia’s request.

Saudi Arabia this month agreed to re-establish banking ties with Sudan despite criticism of the Sudanese-Turkish agreement in the government-steered Saudi press and on social media. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has insisted his country would keep its troops in Yemen irrespective of the agreement.

Concern about the agreement is not limited to Qatar’s detractors in the Gulf. Egypt suspects the agreement will fuel a border conflict with Sudan over the region of Halayeeb. Sudan recently accused Egypt of deploying troops to the Sudanese side of the border and sending warplanes to overfly the coastal area.

If Trump and Saudi Arabia tinker with Iran as it teeters towards revolution…

Sudan last week closed its border with Eritrea amid reports Egypt, with the backing of UAE, had sent troops to Eritrea. Earlier, Sudan complained to the United Nations that a maritime demarcation agreement reached in 2016 by Egypt and Saudi Arabia infringed on what it claimed to be Sudanese waters off Halayeeb.

Egypt is further worried mounting tensions will complicate already sharp differences with Sudan as well as Ethiopia over a massive dam Ethiopia is building. Egypt believes the dam will reduce its vital share of Nile River waters that are the country’s lifeline. Negotiations over the dam are at an impasse, with Sudan appearing to favour Ethiopia in the dispute.

“Sudanese President Omar Bashir is playing with fire in exchange for dollars. Sudan is violating the rules of history and geography and is conspiring against Egypt under the shadow of Turkish madness, Iranian conspiracy, an Ethiopian scheme to starve Egypt of water, and Qatar’s financing of efforts to undermine Egypt,” charged Emad Adeeb in a column entitled “Omar Bashir’s political suicide”.

The Gulf crisis, even without Turkey in the fray, has placed fragile peace arrangements in the Horn at risk.

Men fish in front of a container terminal in Djibouti. China recently established its first overseas military base in the country. Photo: Handout

Qatar, in response to Eritrea and Djibouti’s decision to downgrade relations with the Gulf state when the conflict erupted last June, withdrew its peacekeeping contingent of 400 troops from the Red Sea island of Doumeira. Eritrea immediately seized the island that is also claimed by Djibouti in a move that could ultimately spark an armed conflict that may draw in Ethiopia.

While reaping the benefits of heightened interest, the Horn risks violent conflict in what has become a high-stakes chess game for both Middle Eastern and African adversaries. It is a game China inevitably will have to play a hand in, despite the risk of also being sucked into the region’s expanding battles.

“Post-Arab Spring … activism may unsurprisingly contribute to the militarisation of the Horn of Africa and, even more dangerously, alter the existing balance of power in this conflict-ridden region,” warned Patrick Ferras, director of the Horn of Africa Observatory.

China’s military base in Djibouti, wittingly or unwittingly, positions the People’s Republic for what has become inevitable. 

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2128064/gulf-crisis-expands-horn-africa-and-china-sits-eye-storm

Taiwan calls China’s new aviation routes in Taiwan Strait irresponsible

January 8, 2018

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s government has called China’s recent unilateral expansion of civil aviation routes in the Taiwan Strait an irresponsible act that threatens regional security, in the latest row between Beijing and the self-ruled island.

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FILE PHOTO: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher

China opened several disputed air routes last week, including a northbound M503 route in the Taiwan Strait, without informing Taiwan, contravening what the democratic government in Taipei said is a 2015 deal to first discuss such flight paths.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, after meeting with ministry heads to assess the situation on Sunday, said the move ”not only seriously affects aviation safety, but also damages the current situation in the Taiwan strait.

“This kind of unilateral changing of the situation, this practice that harms regional stability, is not something that will be viewed favorably by the international community,” Tsai said in a statement.

Tsai, who also said during her meeting with officials that China’s increased military activities in the region were threatening stability, called on Beijing to give priority to restore technical discussions on the flight paths.

Beijing’s move comes as China has pressed ahead with a military modernization program that includes building aircraft carriers and stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores, and stepped up what it calls “island encirclement patrols” near Taiwan.

Last Thursday, China’s civil aviation authority said in a statement announcing the new routes that planes “will strictly follow the announced flight path”.

“In recent years, the scheduled flights for the strait’s west coast airspace have quickly increased, and the delays are becoming more critical. Using the northbound M503 and related routes will effectively ease the currently existing air route’s traffic pressure,” it said.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, and broke off official communication with the Taiwan government after Tsai’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won power in 2016.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence though, she has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China and is committed to ensuring peace.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh and Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry

Taiwan president warns China against military aggression

December 29, 2017

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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher Reuters

By Fabian Hamacher

TAOYUAN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday China’s military ambitions are becoming more apparent and tension between Taiwan and the mainland must not be resolved through military force.

Tsai has faced increasing hostility from China since she won election early last year, with China stepping up military drills around Taiwan.

China suspects Tsai, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wants to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province and sacred Chinese territory.

“China’s military activities don’t only impact the situation in the Taiwan Strait, but also in all of East Asia … This is not a problem being faced alone by Taiwan,” Tsai told reporters.

“All countries in this region who want to see peace and stability, have a consensus … and China can’t ignore this, that cross strait issues absolutely can’t be resolved through military force but through peaceful means,” Tsai said during a news conference on a stage flanked by two models of fighter jets.

Tsai, however, said her island would not be passive in the face of a more hawkish China.

“Over the past year, the morale of our military is steadily improving, support for our military is also continuously increasing. This is the most gratifying thing since I’ve become president. I hereby solemnly announce that our annual defence budget will grow steadily within a reasonable range.”

Taiwan’s defence ministry warned in a white paper this week that China’s military threat was growing by the day, with the Chinese air force carrying out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan over the past year or so.

Beijing says the drills are routine and that Taiwan had better get used to them.

“We live in a fast changing geopolitical environment; China’s ambition in military expansion in the region is becoming more apparent, as evident by the People’s Liberation Army’s frequent aerial and naval activities,” Tsai said.

China has warned Taiwan against “using weapons to refuse reunification” and China’s state media has prominently featured pictures of Chinese jets flying close to the island.

Tsai has stressed she wants peace across the Taiwan Strait, but has pledged to defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

Taiwan is well equipped with mostly U.S.-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell more advanced equipment.

Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Beijing. Taiwan’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is about when it criticises Taipei.

(Fixes dateline to Taoyuan not Taipei)

(Additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Ben Blanchard, Robert Birsel)

China Tells Taiwan To Get Used To Chinese Military Harassment — Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen Says China military causing regional instability

December 28, 2017

BY  and Reuters
Newsweek
December 27, 2017

Taiwan will gradually get used to Chinese air force drills around the island, Beijing said on Wednesday, as Taiwan accused the mainland of posing a threat to its national security.

On Tuesday, Taipei said that frequent and increased Chinese military drills pose an “enormous threat” to Taiwan’s security, in an annual defence review, according to the South China Morning Post.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out 16 drills near the self-governed island in the past year, said Taiwan’s defence ministry in a white paper this week. China’s military threat was growing by the day, it adde

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This photo taken on January 2, 2017 shows Chinese J-15 fighter jets on the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the South China Sea. Taiwan ‘Will Get Use’ to Military Encriclement Drills, says China, after 16 were carried out in 2017.GETTY

When asked about the continuing drills and the footage released by the air force, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) stated that it and the defense ministry had repeatedly said the exercises were routine.

“Everyone will slowly get used it,” TAO spokesman An Fengshan told a news briefing, without elaborating.

China considers Taiwan to be a rebellious province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. Taiwan is well armed, mostly with U.S. hardware, but has been seeking to purchase more high-tech equipment from Washington to defend itself from China.

Beijing suspects that Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, who leads the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, wants to maintain full-fledged independence for the island at all costs. Tsai says she wants to preserve peace with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

Chinese state media has given broad coverage to “island encirclement” exercises near Taiwan this month, including showing pictures of Chinese bomber aircraft with what they said was Taiwan’s highest peak, Yushan, visible in the background.

Proudly democratic, Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by the mainland and its government has accused Beijing of not understanding democracy when it criticises Taipei.

http://www.newsweek.com/china-military-drills-threat-taiwan-get-used-them-759888

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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen Says China military causing regional instability

TAIPEI (REUTERS) – China’s frequent military activity is causing regional instability, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday (Dec 28), adding that the island’s forces have been keeping a close eye on what they are up to.

Ms Tsai, speaking to senior military officers in Taipei, said the island wanted peace but could “not have a single day without combat preparedness”.

“In this period of time, the frequent military activities of mainland China in East Asia have already affected safety and stability in the region to a certain extent,” Ms Tsai said.

“Our country has always been a contributor to safety and stability in the region, this is why the national army has to keep an eye on movements of the Chinese military and take appropriate actions when needed to guarantee the safety of the country and region.”

China considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a wayward province under Chinese control.

China has taken an increasingly hostile stance towards Taiwan since Ms Tsai, from the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won presidential elections last year.

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 Chinese H-6 bombers near Taiwan

Beijing suspects her of pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China. Ms Tsai says she wants peace with the mainland, but that she will defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

China’s air force has carried out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan in the past year or so, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in a white paper this week. China’s military threat was growing by the day, it warned.

Beijing has repeatedly said its drills, which have also taken place in the disputed South China Sea and the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea), are routine and not aimed at any third party.

China has warned Taiwan against “using weapons to refuse reunification” and its state media has given high profile to images of Chinese jets flying close to the island.

Tension rose this month when a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that China would invade Taiwan if any US warships made port visits there.

Taiwan is well equipped with mostly US-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell more advanced equipment.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, to China’s distaste.

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China, and Taiwan’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is about when it criticises Taipei.

Chinese military aircraft carry out multiple drills around Taiwan

December 20, 2017
© AFP/File | Relations between Taipei and Beijing have rapidly deteriorated since the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen last year
TAIPEI (AFP) – Chinese jets conducted drills near Taiwan’s airspace on Wednesday for the sixth time this month, as relations between the two rivals worsen.China poses the biggest military risk to self-governed Taiwan, as Beijing sees it as part of its territory to be reunified at some point — by force, if necessary.

The two sides split after a civil war in 1949. Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy, it has never declared independence.

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FILE photo

The latest drills come just days after China’s warplanes flew to the Sea of Japan, prompting South Korea and Japan to scramble jets.

Taiwan’s defence ministry announced Wednesday that Beijing had sent several planes including fighter jets through the Bashi Channel south of the island to the Pacific, and back.

“China’s long-distance (drills) have become more frequent,” it said, but urged Taiwanese people not to worry.

It added that it would dispatch its own aircraft and ships to monitor drills “according to protocol”.

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have rapidly deteriorated since the inauguration last year of President Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to acknowledge both sides are part of “one China”.

Beijing has cut all official communication with Taipei and stepped up pressure on Tsai’s government, including staging a string of naval and air drills near Taiwan since last year.

Local media reports estimate Chinese warplanes have conducted drills around Taiwan at least 20 times this year, compared with a total of eight times last year.

In August, a Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) during a drill, prompting Taiwan to urge restraint.

Image result for Taiwan's air defence identification zone, picture

The ADIZ stretches beyond Taiwan’s airspace and is used to give early warning of possible incursions.

Five Chinese warplanes entered South Korea’s ADIZ during Monday’s drill, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

China’s air force said it was the first time its aircraft had flown through the Tsushima Strait that lies between South Korea and Japan.

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China Scolds Australia Over Its Fears of Foreign Influence

December 6, 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou last year. Mr. Turnbull proposed laws this week aimed at curbing foreign influence in Australian politics. Credit Pool photo by Wang Zhao

SYDNEY, Australia — The Chinese Embassy in Australia accused Australian officials on Wednesday of “making irresponsible remarks” and damaging “mutual trust,” a day after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled a series of proposed laws to curb foreign influence in Australian politics.

The new legislation, modeled on American laws that ban foreign campaign donations and require registration of foreign agents, had been widely expected after a drumbeat of stories in the Australian news media about the perceived threat of Chinese interference.

It was not the legislation that the Chinese statement directly condemned, but rather the media accounts that prompted it, as well as the public debate around the issue. Both have zeroed in on China as a threat, accusing the country of trying to exert influence through political donations and pressure applied to Chinese students at Australian universities.

“We categorically reject those allegations,” the embassy said in its statement, adding: “China has no intention to interfere in Australia’s internal affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations. We urge the Australian side to look at China and China-Australia relations in an objective, fair and rational manner.”

The statement pointed to strong discontent from China’s leaders in Beijing, and it amounted to a warning for Australian politicians against continuing to portray China as an enemy. But experts said the statement might only heighten concerns about China’s influence and damage its already tarnished image in Australia.

“Over all there is a sense of overreach by China, and the way this statement is worded will compound that,” said Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University. “This statement will be seen as unhelpful and provocative in some circles in Australia.”

China has long treated Australia as a laboratory for soft power experiments, flexing its economic muscle, sending students to study at its universities and creating organizations with close ties to the Communist Party.

Australia’s loose and opaque campaign finance laws have made the country especially vulnerable to outside influence. Earlier this year, Australia’s intelligence chief identified two prominent businessmen of Chinese descent, who have donated millions of dollars across the political spectrum in recent years, as possible agents for the Chinese government.

Since then, Australia has been engaged in an intensifying discussion about whether to accept or resist China’s dominance in the region. The debate has sharpened recently amid accusations that Senator Sam Dastyari of the opposition Labor Party hewed to Chinese foreign policy on some issues after accepting money from Chinese-born political donors.

The proposed new foreign influence laws are one clear result of such concerns. But it is unclear to what extent China is concerned about the laws themselves.

One provision would require people working on behalf of another country to register with the Australian government, as is mandated in the United States. Among the other proposals, there are plans to create an offense known as unlawful interference in Australia’s political system, which would include behaviors — as yet unspecified — that harm the national interest.

Some people who are especially concerned about Chinese interference in Australia have welcomed the proposals as much-needed counterweights.

“This is an exciting development indeed, although it should have happened earlier,” said Feng Chongyi, a Chinese-born professor at the University of Technology Sydney who has often criticized China’s suppression of dissent.

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Senator Sam Dastyari speaking in Parliament last month. The senator, of the opposition Labor Party, has been accused of hewing to Chinese foreign policy on some issues after accepting money from Chinese-born political donors. CreditMick Tsikas/European Pressphoto Agency

China may see the laws as inevitable, he said.

If that is the case, some experts argue, the embassy’s statement Wednesday may in fact be an effort to pressure the Australian news media, and to influence how the media is perceived by the Chinese Australian community.

The embassy statement focused intensely on media accounts of “so-called Chinese influence and infiltration,” arguing that they were “made up out of thin air” and reflected “a typical anti-China hysteria.”

It also argued that Australia’s discussion about China’s role has “unscrupulously vilified the Chinese students as well as the Chinese community in Australia with racial prejudice, which in turn has tarnished Australia’s reputation as a multicultural society.”

John Fitzgerald, a professor at Swinburne University who spent five years representing the Ford Foundation in China, said the Chinese government seemed to be trying to portray itself as the defender of Chinese Australians against the Australian news media.

“The embassy itself is stirring up concerns within the Chinese Australian community that have no foundation,” Mr. Fitzgerald said, adding: “The media is not attacking the Chinese Australian community. The media is being very specific about Communist Party interference in this country.”

So far, Australian officials have chosen not to escalate the argument. Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, said in a statement Wednesday evening that the Australian government “enjoys a respectful and constructive relationship with China.”

Mr. Medcalf said the statement from the Chinese Embassy had one line that could be helpful: “China has no intention to interfere in Australia’s internal affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations.”

“That is a statement China will be held to,” he said. “Let’s hope China is serious.”

China is flying bombers and spy planes near Japan and telling Japan to ‘not make a fuss’ about it — Tokyo needs to “get used to it.”

November 22, 2017

Business Insider

By Ben Brimelow

Chinese H H-6K bomber

On Saturday, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Tu-154MD electronic-intelligence aircraft flew between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako — an area known as the Miyako Strait. The following day, four Xian H-6K long-range bombers and one Shaanxi Y-8 electronic-warfare aircraft also flew through the strait.

The H-6K bombers can carry a payload of up to 12 tons and can be armed with either seven YJ-12 supersonic antiship missiles or CJ-10A (KD-20) land-attack cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

Japanese fighter jets were scrambled on both days, but they reported no violations of Japanese airspace.

The flights are just the latest PLAAF flights through the Miyako Strait.

in July, Chinese H-6Ks flew through the area, angering both the Taiwanese and Japanese governments. Though no violation of airspace was recorded in that incident, the Japanese government sent formal protests to China, which responded in a statement that Japan should “not make a fuss about nothing,” and that Tokyo needs to “get used to it.”

In August, the PLAAF flew six H-6Ks near Kansai’s Kii Peninsula, close to the Japanese mainland, for the first time, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.

Screen Shot 2017 11 21 at 3.04.00 PMA map showing routes of the PLAAF aircraft that flew over the Miyako Strait. Japanese Ministry of Defense

China’s Defense Ministry made an assertive statement after the mission, saying “no matter what obstructions are encountered, the Chinese Air Force will carry on as before; no matter who flies with us, the Chinese Air Force will fly often!”

China and Japan also dispute control of a group of Japan-administered islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by China. Taiwan also claims the islands, calling them Tiaoyutai.

China escalated tensions in 2013 when it declared the islands part of its “air defense identification zone,” which would give it control over all the airspace in the region.

Japan has been increasingly worried about violations of its airspace by Chinese aircraft. Last year, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force created a new air wing to be based at the Naha Air Base in Okinawa. Japan also doubled the number of fighter jets used in intercept missions from two to four.

Japan Air Force F-15Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters Angelique Perez/USAF

Despite the tension, Japan’s Defense Ministry reported an overall decrease in jet scramblings from the first half of this fiscal year, when there were 287, compared to the same time period in 2016, when there were 407.

However, Japan’s Defense Ministry has reported an increase in “unusual” flights, like the drill near the Kii Peninsula, and other flights with bombers and intelligence-gathering and electronic-warfare aircraft.

In October, Chinese bombers reportedly practiced bombing runs meant to target Guam, which, like Okinawa, hosts important US military installations.

The incidents indicate that China has greater ambitions in the Pacific — and with Beijing modernizing its military at a fast pace, many nations are increasingly concerned.

From rail and airports to its first overseas naval base, China zeroes in on tiny Djibouti

November 21, 2017

President of African nation will visit China this week

By Kinling Lo
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 3:00pm

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh will arrive in China on Wednesday for a three-day state visit that is expected to further boost ties with the African nation.

Situated in the Horn of Africa – adjacent to one of the world’s busiest shipping routes – Djibouti has a population of less than one million and is home to China’s first overseas military base.

With access to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean beyond, the area is a gateway into Northeast Africa and the Red Sea region.

 Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh arrives in China on Wednesday for a three-day state visit. Photo: AFP

According to United Nations trade data, Djibouti’s exports to China – including leather, salt and cement – totalled just US$7,500 in 2009. That compares to China’s exports to Djibouti, such as vehicles and electronic equipment, which reached US$20.7 million that year. But the relationship between the two nations goes far beyond trade.

People’s Liberation Army naval base

China is the seventh country to set up a military base in Djibouti, a relatively stable nation with proximity to restive areas in Africa and the Middle East.

But Beijing has played down military use of the base, claiming it will be used for “logistics purposes”.

It said the base would enable China to better support its peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in waters off nearby Somalia and Yemen, in particular.

Other countries with military bases in the former French colony include the United States, Japan and France, and these bases provide the country’s biggest source of income and employment.

China agreed to pay US$100 million per year for its base in Djibouti, while the US pays US$63 million.

 PLA personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti in August. Photo: AFP

Natural gas

Last week, China’s POLY-GCL Petroleum Group signed a memorandum of understanding to invest US$4 billion in a natural gas project at Damerjog. The preliminary agreement will be finalised in six months, with work to begin on the project soon afterwards. It includes a natural gas pipeline, a liquefaction plant and an export terminal.

The gas pipeline will transport 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Ethiopia to Djibouti, while the liquefaction plant has a target capacity of 10 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas.

Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway

The 750km railway linking Djibouti and Ethiopia is the first fully electrified cross-border railway line in Africa.

China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC) financed 70 per cent of the US$490 million project. Under the deal, Chinese staff will run the project for the first five years, after which Ethiopians will take over.

Launched in October last year, it took four years to build and connects the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti – through which 90 per cent of Ethiopia’s goods are traded. Commercial operations are due to begin this month.

Airports

Two new airports in Djibouti were to be built by CCECC at a combined cost of nearly US$600 million under contracts signed in 2015. But the projects are expected to be put out for tender again, according to a Bloomberg report last month. It is unclear why the projects will go through another tendering process, but the report quoted a local official as saying that the Chinese company “will have no exclusivity”, although it can apparently bid for the contracts again.

Hassan Gouled Aptidon International Airport will be 25km from the capital and was due to open in 2018. With capacity for 1.5 million passengers per year, the airport is to have runways big enough for commercial jets including the Airbus A380.

The other airport, Ahmed Dini Ahmed International Airport, located in the north of the country, will have capacity for 767,400 passengers annually.

 The Port of Doraleh in the capital, Djibouti City. China’s exports to the African nation reached US$20.7 million in 2009. Photo: Felix Wong

Free-trade zone

In January, Djibouti started construction of a free-trade zone with Chinese funding. The 48 sq km free-trade zone is being built by Dalian Port. The zone will be operated by the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority in a joint venture with China Merchants Holdings.

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http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2120713/rail-and-airports-its-first-overseas-naval-base-china

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