Posts Tagged ‘China’s military’

China training to strike US targets in the Pacific including Guam, Pentagon claims

August 17, 2018

Training runs by H-6K bombers are likely intended to demonstrate China’s ability to strike US and allied forces and military bases including Guam, report claims

South China Morning Post

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PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 7:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 7:40am

Chinese bombers are likely training for strikes against US and allied targets in the Pacific, according to a new Pentagon report that also details how Beijing is transforming its ground forces to “fight and win.”

The annual report to Congress, released Thursday, highlights China’s growing military, economic and diplomatic clout and how Beijing is leveraging this to rapidly build its international footprint and establish regional dominance.

In the case of China’s air power, the report states that Chinese bombers are developing capabilities to hit targets as far from China as possible.

“Over the last three years, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the document states, noting how China is pushing its operations out into the Pacific.

In August 2017, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait in the southwest of the Japanese islands, and then for the first time turned north to fly east of Okinawa, where 47,000 US troops are based.

The PLA may demonstrate the “capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam,” the report says.

China is engaged in a decades-long build-up and modernisation of its once-backward armed forces, and military leaders have set a goal of fielding a world-class military by 2050.

President Xi Jinping last year ordered the PLA to step up efforts, saying China needed a military ready to “fight and win” wars.

The call has alarmed China’s neighbours, several of whom are embroiled in tense border disputes with the superpower.

According to the Pentagon, the PLA in April 2017 undertook a massive transformation of operational and tactical units as part of its structural reforms.

With nearly a million troops, the PLA is the largest standing ground force in the world.

“The purpose of these reforms is to create a more mobile, modular, lethal ground force capable of being the core of joint operations and able to meet Xi Jinping’s directive to ‘fight and win wars,’” the report notes.

China’s military budget for 2017 was about US$190 billion, according to the report, far behind the Pentagon’s annual budget of about US$700 billion.

When the Pentagon released its annual report last year, Beijing dismissed it as “irresponsible” in predicting that China would expand its global military presence by building overseas bases in countries like Pakistan.

This year’s report reiterates that China will seek to establish new bases in countries such as Pakistan.

Key to this expanding footprint is China’s “belt and road” initiative that seeks to bolster ties with other nations through lending and infrastructure deals.

The document also shines a light on China’s ongoing military preparations for a “contingency” in the Taiwan Strait.

Officially, China advocates for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but it has never repudiated the use of military force, the document notes.

“The PLA also is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force, while simultaneously deterring, delaying, or denying any third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf,” it states.

“Should the United States intervene, China would try to delay effective intervention and seek victory in a high-intensity, limited war of short duration.”

To the ire of regional neighbours, China has built a series of islets and ocean features into military facilities in the South China Sea.

Beijing has now stopped substantial land reclamation.

“However, it continued to build infrastructure at three outposts,” the report says.



Pentagon says China military ‘likely training for strikes’ on U.S. targets

August 17, 2018

China’s military has expanded its bomber operations in recent years while “likely training for strikes” against the United States and its allies, a Pentagon report released on Thursday said.

Image result for B-6K strategic bomber aircraft of the Chinese Air Force is seen before the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

A B-6K strategic bomber aircraft of the Chinese Air Force is seen before the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

The assessment, which comes at a time of heightened U.S.-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, with defense spending that the Pentagon estimates exceeded $190 billion in 2017.

“Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets,” the report said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
In January the Pentagon put countering Beijing, along with Russia, at the center of a new national defense strategy.

The report comes as China and the United States plan to hold trade talks, offering hope they might resolve an escalating tariff conflict that threatens to degenerate into an all-out trade war.

The report said that while the PLA had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was seeking to send by carrying out the flights “beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities.”

The Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

This year China’s air force landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region.

While Washington and Beijing maintain a military-to-military relationship aimed at containing tensions, this has been tested in recent months, notably in May when the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise.

In June, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis became the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014.

The Pentagon report said that despite a projected slowdown in economic growth, China’s official defense budget would be more than $240 billion by 2028.

The Pentagon report also said China’s space program was progressing rapidly.

“The PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarization of space,” it said.

This month, President Donald Trump’s administration announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020.

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One of the arguments in favor of developing such a force is that American rivals like China appear increasingly ready to strike U.S. space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Brown



China appeals to military veterans not to protest, respect law

July 31, 2018

A senior Chinese officer appealed to military veterans on Tuesday not to take complaints about their treatment to the streets and to “rationally” lodge appeals for redress.

At the annual meeting of parliament in March, China set up a Ministry of Veterans Affairs as part of a broader government reshuffle, aiming to better look after former soldiers whose complaints about poor treatment have flared into scattered protests in recent years.

In February 2017, Chinese military veterans staged two days of demonstrations in central Beijing, demanding unpaid retirement benefits in a new wave of protests highlighting the difficulty in managing demobilized troops.

There were also protests in the eastern province of Jiangsu in June.

Speaking at a news briefing ahead of Wednesday’s Army Day, which marks the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, Vice Minister of Veterans Affairs Fang Yongxiang said their door to accepting petitions about problems was always open.

“We also hope that everyone can rationally and moderately report problems, to ensure an even better resolution and prevent radical words and resolutely stop and prevent them from being used and coerced by people with ulterior motives,” Fang said.

“We oppose the use of extreme methods to petition or the carrying out of mass petitions,” he added, referring to protests. “I hope that every veteran respects the law.”

As the ministry gets properly up and running they will make more efforts to protect veterans’ rights and ensure they get the respect they deserve, said Fang, who is also a senior military officer.

Since being set up, the ministry has received almost 20,000 complaints lodged via its petitioning system, Veterans Minister Sun Shaocheng said at the briefing, without giving details.

The government has promised that veterans will be given preference when it comes to seeking jobs, an issue that has become more pressing since President Xi Jinping announced in 2015 the People’s Liberation Army would cut troop levels by 300,000.

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Protest outside a major Chinese military building in Beijing.  (THOMAS PETER / REUTERS) — October, 2016

Grievances over military pensions and perceived poor treatment of veterans have been a long-running issue, and have at times led to organized protests.

More than 1,000 veterans also demonstrated outside Defence Ministry headquarters in Beijing in 2016, and reports of protests in parts of the country surface every few months.

Demobilized soldiers who protested have included some who fought against Vietnam in 1979 – China’s last major foreign military engagement – and complained about problems with their pensions.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christian Schmollinger



Philippines denies inaction on South China Sea

July 17, 2018
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‘We file protests but we do it quietly’

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said it has been asserting the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea after a nationwide poll suggested that four out of five Filipinos reject the government’s perceived inaction on the issue.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly declared that he would not give up the country’s territory.

“The government of President Duterte is not guilty of inaction,” Roque told radio station dzRH.

( – July 16, 2018 – 4:04pm

“Whenever China does something that violates our sovereignty, we file protests but we do it quietly,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has said in the past the the Philippines has filed “50-100” protests with China, a claim that administration critics like Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon doubt.

Roque stressed that the president would not quarrel with China over the dispute because it would not benefit ties between Manila and Beijing.

“He (Duterte) believes we can set aside temporarily the things that cannot be resolved immediately. We can pursue those that can be pursued like the economy,” he added.

A Social Weather Stations survey conducted from June 27 to 30 found 81 percent of Filipinos believing that the government should not “leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence” in Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.

RELATED: Philippines now ‘willing victim’ in South China Sea dispute, Del Rosario laments

Eight out of ten Filipinos believe it is right for the government to strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, SWS said.

About seven out of ten or 74 percent of respondents think it is right for the government to bring the issue to international organizations while 73 percent back “direct, bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China.”

Meanwhile, 68 percent of Filipinos believe the government should ask other countries to mediate the issue.

Roque said all Filipinos, not just 81 percent of them, should oppose inaction on the maritime dispute.

“It should be 100 percent because there is no government inaction…Five out of five Filipinos should protest inaction because it is not true that President Duterte is not doing anything,” the presidential spokesman said.

RELATED: Chinese took Filipino fishers’ catch as ‘barter exchange,’ Duterte explains

“We are just not making noise but we have an immediate action if we think China is violating our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he added.

Roque said Duterte, who has been accused of being too soft on China, is continuously fighting for the interests of the Philippines.

Critics have accused Duterte of abandoning the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea in exchange for military and economic assistance from China

Duterte has denied this and has given assurance that he would discuss the South China Sea row with Chinese officials within his term. The president has also admitted that the Philippines would be courting “trouble” if it insists on its maritime claims, a claim that critics say paint war as the country’s only option.  — Alexis Romero

RELATED: With mere words, Duterte can lose to China rights Philippines won in arbitral ruling




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Philippines can Still Recover Sovereignty, Dignity, Resources in the South China Sea

July 16, 2018
Commentary: Time to recover from failure to use the South China Sea ruling as leverage
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By Dindo Manhit ( – July 16, 2018 – 3:26pm

During the second anniversary of our nation’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, the Stratbase ADR Institute gathered international experts, key stakeholders from the academe, government, and the private sector to discuss the consequences of the policy of appeasement that the administration had taken, in addition to the threats against and opportunities within the international rules-based order.

Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said that “compliance with or defiance of international rules has no correlation to state size.” He noted that China’s defiance has heightened international concerns about the security of maritime domain.

The Philippine victory at the Arbitral Tribunal is concrete proof that small nations like the Philippines can make our voices heard in a rules-based regime.

He said that as far as China was concerned international law matters only when it serves their interest.

The current administration has failed to use the landmark ruling that invalidated China’s “historic claims” on the South China Sea as a leverage to claim what is ours and fully explore and use the abundant resources in the West Philippine Sea.

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Instead, amid friendlier relations, China continued its military build-up in the South China Sea. They continue to destroy our marine resources, dictate the rules of the sea and bully our poor fishermen who are just making a livelihood in the Scarborough Shoal.

Dr. Go Ito of Meiji University asserted that the Philippines can better enforce the award by engaging like-minded partners like the United States and Japan to support the 2016 decision. He also noted that issues related to environmental protection in the South China Sea and maritime areas can also be raised to counter China.

What Filipinos want

In its effort to appease China and generate much-needed capital to finance its ambitious infrastructure program, the Duterte administration has adopted “silent diplomacy,” which prevents it from protesting the belligerent behavior of China in the South China Sea.

This is against the wishes of the majority of Filipinos, who clamor for a different approach. They want the Duterte administration to protect its territorial integrity and defend its claims in the West Philippine Sea. The results of a recent Pulse Asia survey showed that 73 percent of Filipinos want the current administration to assert our rights and protect our territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

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On the other hand, 36 percent of the Filipinos want our government to file a diplomatic protest against China amidst the reports of its continued militarization of the South China Sea. In addition, 22 percent believed that there is a need to strengthen military alliance with other countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia.The national survey by the Social Weather Stations likewise confirms these findings with four out five Filipinos or 81 percent saying that it is not right to do nothing about China’s intrusion in claimed territories.

The Filipinos are now taking their stand to protect our territorial integrity. Moreover, they want our government to do what it should do—use diplomatic protests as an expression of our dissatisfaction on various cases.

While the president reiterates that we need China to boost trade, tourism and infrastructural development, a small percentage of Filipinos believe that friendlier relations will promote stability in the South China Sea.

The surveys affirm a strong patriotism among Filipinos, that they want to protest against all unlawful and coercive practices of other states.

The Philippines is for the Filipinos to enjoy, benefit and explore. We should never allow others states to enhance its political and economic power at our expense.

We must protest what is unlawful, coercive and contrary to the correct principles that govern relations between states. Our people deserves a government that is willing to fight for their citizens’ future and not a government that is helpless and weak.

We must defend what is ours now before it is too late.


Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

South China Sea: Albert del Rosario, Justice Antonio Carpio do not ‘fully comprehend the nature of arbitration,’ Philippine Government says

July 12, 2018

Does Philippine sovereignty matter? Is it meaningless?

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and other individuals do not ‘fully comprehend the nature of arbitration’

FRIENDSHIP FORWARD. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo following a bilateral meeting at the Boao State Guesthouse on April 10, 2018. Malacañang file photo

FRIENDSHIP FORWARD. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo following a bilateral meeting at the Boao State Guesthouse on April 10, 2018. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines under the Duterte administration continues to defend its rights over the West Philippine Sea even as he said there is no need to enforce the landmark ruling won by the country against China.

“I’m not sure what they mean by enforcing an arbitral decision because an arbitral decision is binding on parties thereto,” said Roque on Thursday, July 12, the 2nd anniversary of the historic Hague ruling.

DIPLOMATIC PROTEST. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario urge the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China's bombers in the South China Sea. File photos by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario

Asked by Rappler if he means there is no need for enforcement, Roque said in a message: “Who will enforce? It’s self-executory as it’s binding on parties thereto.”

“We continue to assert our sovereignty and sovereign rights, but we have decided to move on on issues that are non-controversial,” he said in a press conference.

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He questioned the call of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario for the Duterte administration to enforce the ruling.

“I don’t know what makes him an authority to give that view…. It clearly underscores the fact that some individuals, including the former secretary of foreign affairs, [do] not fully comprehend the nature of arbitration,” said Roque. (READ: How to enforce Hague ruling? PH lead counsel explains)

It was under Del Rosario’s watch as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief when the Philippines took China to court.

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Roque, asked why he thinks Del Rosario does not understand the nature of arbitration, said: “Because he’s calling for enforcement when clearly arbitration is binding…. Whether or not China will acknowledge it, China is bound by it because that is the nature of arbitration.”

However, China’s refusal to acknowledge the ruling, coupled with the Philippines’ decision to shelve it for later, has made the ruling ineffective in changing the situation on the ground.

Despite the ruling, China continues its military buildup in the West Philippine Sea and harassment of Filipino fishermen in areas declared by the decision as common fishing grounds. –


Philippines should support freedom of navigation in South China Sea to protect own rights

July 12, 2018
In March, the French Navy announced that Floréal-class surveillance frigate Vendémiaire conducted a patrol in the South China Sea to assert French presence in the region.

French Navy, File
Audrey Morallo ( – July 12, 2018 – 6:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should encourage freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the South China Sea as these could strengthen the enforcement of the historic arbitral ruling, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said on Thursday.

Carpio explained that the operations enforced the core legal effect of the 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal.

“In effect, these operations enforce the core legal ramifications arising from the Award- that there are high seas in the South China Sea, and aroud these high seas are the exclusive economic zones belonging to the adjacent coastal states, including the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said in a forum organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute in Makati City.

READ: US to continue operations in South China Sea despite China’s dissent — Pentagon chief

The acting chief justice said that China would not be able to transform the South China Sea into its mare nostrum with these operations.

Carpio said that immediately after the release of the ruling naval powers such as the US, the UK, Australia, France, Canada, India and Japan conducted their naval and aerial operations in the region.

The tribunal in the Hague invalidated in 2016 China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea, which was based on its so-called nine-dash line.

The ruling was released several weeks into Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, and after initial uncertainty he eventually chose to back burn it to court Chinese money and investments into the country.

He has since tried to forge warmer ties with China, a stark contrast to the frosty relations between Manila and Beijing under former President Benigno Aquino III, whose government filed the case.

“Thus, effectively the president has placed in deep freeze any enforcement of the (arbitral) award by the Philippines,” Carpio said.

According to Carpio, it is the responsibility of Duterte as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure that the military was conducting regular naval and aerial patrols in the country’s exclusive economic zones.

He said that the 1987 Constitution mandated the military to be the protector of the State and was mandated to secure its sovereignty and the integrity of its territory.

He also urged the Philippines to campaign among Southeast Asian nations and the US to make the building on the Scarborough Shoal their red line in the dispute.

He said that the US should treat this as a trigger for it to invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which requires the countries to come to the aid of each other if it is attacked.

“I have always said that defending Philippine maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea is an intergenerational struggle,” Carpio said.

READ: France, UK sail warships in South China Sea


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Two Years On, South China Sea Ruling Remains a Battleground for the Rules-Based Order

July 12, 2018
China’s attempt to use military might to overturn the legal rights given to the other countries threatens international peace and security.

A PLA Navy fleet takes part in a review in the South China Sea on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images.

A PLA Navy fleet takes part in a review in the South China Sea on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images.

On 12 July 2016, an independent arbitral tribunal established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling on China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea. China’s response at the time was to dismiss the ruling as ‘nothing more than a piece of waste paper’.

Interestingly, in the two years since then it has, in some small ways, complied with it. However, it is also clear that China’s behaviour in the South China Sea has not fundamentally changed. It is, in effect, using military force to try to extort concessions from its neighbours. That poses a threat to international peace and security.

The arbitral tribunal was asked by the Philippines to rule on 15 points, of which two were particularly significant. The first was that China’s claims to ‘historic rights’ within the entirety of the U-shaped, ‘9-dash line’ that it draws on maps of the South China Sea are mostly incompatible with the internationally-agreed UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS is clear: entitlements in the sea have to be within areas measured from land.

Secondly, the tribunal ruled that none of the Spratly Islands, nor an isolated reef known as Scarborough Shoal, are capable of supporting human habitation in their natural state. This means that none are entitled to an exclusive economic zone around them. The implication of these two rulings is that the vast majority of the resources in the southern part of the South China Sea belong to the coastal states: the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Nonetheless China is continuing to pressure those countries to give away their rights to the oil, gas and fish. Under the name of ‘joint development’ China is continuing to demand a share of those countries’ resources even though the tribunal clearly ruled those demands illegitimate. In May 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said publicly that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had personally threatened him with war if the Philippines attempted to tap the large gas reserves in an area of the sea known as the Reed Bank.

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The Philippines’ existing gas fields are expected to begin running out within five years, whereupon the country will face an electricity shortage. China’s military threats will have major consequences for the government in Manila. The most likely result is that the Philippines will have to build more coal-fired power stations to fill the gap.

Vietnam is in a similar position. In June 2017 and in March this year it was forced to suspend offshore oil development because of threats of military force from China. Vietnam’s oil output fell by 12% between 2014 and 2017 because Beijing’s intimidation is preventing it from developing new fields to replace those that are being depleted. This has reduced the government’s income with knock-on impacts on social and development spending.

Despite all this pressure, it is significant that none of the southeast Asian claimants have succumbed to Chinese pressure for ‘joint development’. They are continuing to assert the rights accorded to them in UNCLOS. 

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UNCLOS is a cornerstone of international peace and security. It was negotiated over nine years and agreed, in 1982, by almost every country in the United Nations. (The United States government signed it but the US Senate has not yet ratified it.) UNCLOS provides a neutral mechanism to allocate the world’s maritime resources but what we are seeing in the South China Sea is an effort by China to overturn it. In effect, China is deploying military might to overturn the legal rights given to the other countries.

If this is allowed to succeed, UNCLOS will be weakened everywhere, not just in the South China Sea. If countries can treat international treaties as simply ‘pieces of waste paper’ then no agreement is safe: international order begins to break down.

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It is imperative, therefore, that all the other signatories of UNCLOS defend it from predatory behaviour. This means speaking up for the rights and obligations contained within its text – defending legitimate claims from those have been clearly ruled incompatible with international law. Small states need to be protected from the predatory behaviour of large states. The alternative is the slow collapse of international peace and security.


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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China quietly testing warfare assets in South China Sea

July 6, 2018
This Oct. 31, 2017 satellite image shows China’s installations on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea.

CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
( – July 6, 2018 – 12:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — China has been quietly testing its electronic warfare capabilities on its bases in the South China Sea, according to reports.

American television network CNBC reported that this is the first known use of such equipment since Beijing deployed electronic jamming equipment in the Spratly Islands.

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An electronic warfare unit of the Sanya Training Base of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted simulated offense-and-defense training, in a bid to comprehensively improve troops’ capability of setting up complex electromagnetic environment. ( Zhang Qiang, Zhang Yelong and Wu Yonghua)

The CNBC report was based on sources who have seen US intelligence reports.

Beijing’s electronic warfare assets in the Spratly Islands have the capability to confuse or disable communications and radar systems.

This move comes amid China’s installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs.

China’s coastal defense systems and electronic warfare equipment in the South China Sea further strengthen the country’s military portfolio in the region, the report said.

Beijing, on the other hand, have been insisting that it is not militarizing the disputed South China Sea.

“China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands. That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier said.

Aside from the Spratly Islands, China also has 20 outposts in the Paracel Islands, including Woody Island, its largest military headquarters in the area.

Beijing has built an airstrip, helipads and 20 hangars that can accommodate combat aircraft, J-10 and J-11 fighter jets, HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island.

The Chinese Air Force’s deployment of a nuclear-enabled bomber on Woody Island raised alarms as the bombers could reach almost the entire South China Sea.

The US Department of State withdrew its invitation to China in the biannual Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest multinational naval drills.

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J-10 fighter jet

China, meanwhile, accused the US of “hyping” the South China Sea issue and pointed out that US military presence in the region exceeds the total military strength of Beijing.

“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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Chinese bomber


Djibouti launches ‘Africa’s biggest free trade zone’

July 5, 2018

Djibouti on Thursday launched the first phase of Africa’s biggest free-trade zone, seeking to capitalise on its strategic position on one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

At a ceremony in the capital, President Ismael Omar Guelleh hailed the scheme as the culmination of infrastructure projects “boosting Djibouti’s place in international trade and commerce”.

© AFP | Djibouti is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, at the intersection of major international shipping lines connecting Asia, Africa and Europe

The Horn of Africa nation, located at the mouth of the Red Sea and south of the Suez Canal, in 2017 unveiled three new ports and a railway linking it to landlocked Ethiopia, as part of its bid to become a global trade and logistics hub.

Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, hailed the free-trade zone as a “victory for East Africa”, in comments echoed at the ceremony by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, was also there.

The zone, which is connected to Djibouti’s main ports, aims at diversifying the economy, creating new jobs and luring foreign investment through tax-free incentives and full logistical support.

The pilot phase launched Thursday comprises a 240-hectare (593-acre) site.

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On its scheduled completion 10 years from now, the $3.5-billion initiative will span 4,800 hectares — the largest free-trade zone on the continent.

The project hopes to see foreign companies setting up manufacturing plants within the zone, adding value to products instead of merely importing and exporting raw materials.

“The volume of goods travelling to East Africa keeps increasing. Every time a product arrives in the continent without being transformed it is a missed opportunity for Africa,” said Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Ports and Free Zones Authority.

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– Chinese debt –

A row of Djiboutian and Chinese flags fluttered side-by-side above the freshly painted bright yellow walls surrounding the expansive project — a symbol of the tiny country’s close ties to the Asian giant whose loans have funded its lightning-fast infrastructure growth.

Djibouti — which is also the site of China’s only overseas military base — is a critical part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” global infrastructure initiative along what has been dubbed the “Maritime Silk Road”.

The key policy initiative has seen Beijing loan developing countries across Asia and Africa huge amounts of money to develop their infrastructure and ease trade.

However last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its debt, raising concerns over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.

The International Monetary Fund has sounded the alarm over an increase of Djibouti’s public debt from 50 percent of GDP in 2014 to 85 percent in 2017.

The US-based China Africa Research Initiative estimates Djiboutian debt to China stands at some $1.3 billion.

In an interview with AFP, the ports chief Hadi brushed off concerns over Djibouti’s financial obligations, expressing confidence in the profitability of its ports and the new railway linking its capital with Addis Ababa, which began operating in January.

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“We are not at all concerned about our debt rate. It is not taxpayers who will repay this debt, it is those who use the services: the ships, traders,” he said.

Authorities like to say that without its ports, the arid, sun-blasted nation would not exist, and that the aggressive infrastructure drive is the only hope to grow Djibouti and lift its citizens out of poverty.

Guelleh said that in its pilot phase, the free trade zone is expected to boost GDP by 11 percent. An initial group of 21 companies moving into the zone were named Thursday.

The zone will be managed by Djibouti as a majority shareholder with three Chinese companies: the China Merchants Group, Dalian Port Authority and big data company IZP.