Posts Tagged ‘China’s territorial claims’

South China Sea: China demands Indonesia drop new name for Natuna waters — “Indonesia complicated and expanded of the dispute.”

September 3, 2017
  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, September 3, 2017 | 03:51 pm

China demands Indonesia drop new name for Natuna watersIndonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stands on deck of Indonesian Navy ship KRI Imam Bonjol after chairing a limited Cabinet meeting in Natuna Islands waters in the province of Riau Islands. (Kompas/.)

China has issued a demand for Indonesia to reverse its decision to rename the South China Sea (SCS) waters that lie within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In July, the Indonesian government named the maritime region in question, which lies north of the Natuna Islands, the “North Natuna Sea.”

Channel News Asia reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent an official note to the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing dated Aug. 25, expressing its opposition to the move.

In the letter, China said Indonesia’s move to change an “internationally accepted name” resulted in the “complication and expansion of the dispute, and affects peace and stability”.

“The China-Indonesian relationship is developing in a healthy and stable way, and the South China Sea dispute is progressing well,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. “Indonesia’s unilateral name-changing actions are not conducive to maintaining this excellent situation.”

China and Indonesia had overlapping maritime claims in the southwest of the South China Sea, Beijing said, adding that renaming the area would not change that fact.

Shortly after renaming of the area, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Indonesia had every rights to make the decision.

“The North Natuna Sea falls within our territory, not within the South China Sea […] We have the right [to rename the waters], the North Natuna Sea is ours,” Susi said.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/09/03/china-demands-indonesia-drop-new-name-for-natuna-waters.html

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Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
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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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US won’t pull back from South China Sea ops: general

August 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Navy ships are sailing close to a contested island in the South China Sea in a show of strength to challenge China’s territorial claims

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – An American general insisted Friday the United States would not pull back from operations in the disputed South China Sea to combat Beijing?s territorial claims despite a series of accidents involving US warships.General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said the American military still had “credibility… all over the world” despite the incidents, which have raised concerns that the US armed forces are overstretched in Asia.

In the latest incident, the USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore early Monday, tearing a huge hole in the vessel?s hull and leaving two sailors dead and eight missing.

It was the fourth accident involving an American warship in the Pacific this year, two of them fatal.

The McCain had been heading to the city-state after conducting a freedom of navigation mission — sailing close to a contested island in the South China Sea in a show of strength to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims.

The US has been carrying out a growing number of such operations in recent years as China increasingly asserts its claims to almost the entire sea, despite partial counter-claims from some Asian neighbours.

“There is no setback to those (freedom of navigation) operations following these incidents,” O’Shaughnessy told reporters during a visit to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

“We stand firm that we are going to sail and fly anywhere where international rules allow. We will continue to do that.”

“Every day, we have operations within the South China Sea and areas surrounding it.”

He added that the latest collision should not eclipse the work of the US military as a whole.

“I don’t think that we should let one incident overshadow the great capability that the United States of America brings across all services,” he said.

Still, the incidents have provided a propaganda windfall to US rivals like China, with the foreign ministry in Beijing voicing concerns American warships posed a “security threat” to civilian vessels in the South China Sea.

Monday’s accident was the second involving an American destroyer in two months after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

A multinational search operation at sea for the missing sailors on the McCain was called off Thursday, with divers now focusing on flooded compartments in the warship.

The remains of a second sailor were recovered from the ship late Thursday and identified as Dustin Louis Doyon, the US Navy said.

Indonesia Re-Names Parts of The South China Sea To Assert Its Sovereignty — The latest act of resistance against China — China calls the act “totally meaningless”

July 14, 2017
Reuters
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Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
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Indonesia has renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China’s territorial ambitions in the maritime region.

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Seen by analysts as an assertion of Indonesian sovereignty, part of the renamed sea is claimed by China under its contentious maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line’, that encompasses most of the resource-rich sea.

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Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno (C) stands in front of a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Several Southeast Asian states dispute China’s territorial claims and are competing with China to exploit the South China Sea’s abundant hydrocarbon and fishing resources. China has raised the ante by deploying military assets on artificial islands constructed on shoals and reefs in disputed parts of the sea.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Unveiling the new official map, the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oegroseno, noted the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

“We want to update the naming of the sea we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea,” he told reporters.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

In Beijing,  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he didn’t know anything about the details of the issue, but said the name South China Sea had broad international recognition and clear geographic limits.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing.

John McCain calls for joint exercises to challenge ‘bully’ China

May 31, 2017
U.S. Sen. John McCain delivers a speech at the invitation of the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. In February, the Republican senator leaped to Australia’s defense after President Donald Trump got into a heated discussion with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over an Obama-era agreement on the resettlement of refugees. AP/Rick Rycroft

MANILA, Philippines — An American senator suggested that United States-led multilateral exercises could be a good way to push back against Beijing’s excessive claims in the disputed South China Sea.

“If the Chinese are able to prevent us from exercising freedom of navigation then I think that has a profound consequences for the entire region,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said in a speech in Sydney.

McCain, chair of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, stressed that China’s vast territorial claims have no basis in international law.

“The challenge is that as China has grown wealthier and stronger, it seems to be acting more and more like a bully,” McCain said.

McCain’s remarks in Australia comes days before delegates from the US and China are scheduled to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue or the 16th Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

The US senator noted that Australia has become entangled in a strategic competition between America and China.

The senator, however, did not directly urge Sydney to take part in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

“I would not try to tell the Australians what they need to do, but there are exercises where a number of nations join together — we call it RIMPAC [Rim of the Pacific Exercise]— that the Australians participate in. They’re broad naval exercises,” McCain said.

Hosted by the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, the RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise.

Countries that participated in maritime exercises last year were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, China, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the US.

McCain added that the joint naval exercises would be an opportunity to exercise freedom of navigation.

“But I also wanna emphasize I understand the importance of trade with China and Australia. I understand the importance of their relationship,” the American senator said.

Washington recently launched its first freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea under the Trump administration.

Irking Beijing, a US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

Mischief or Panganiban Reef, also being claimed by the Philippines, is included in the ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The tribunal considered Mischief Reef as a low-tide elevation, which gives no entitlement to any exclusive maritime zone under international law.

RELATED: Analyst: US South China Sea operation a sign of support to Philippines

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 (The “Project of the Century” is, at heart, an imperial venture.)

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Philippines scrambles to soothe tensions after insult to Obama

September 6, 2016

Reuters

By Roberta Rampton and Manuel Mogato | VIENTIANE

(Note: paragraphs 1, 6 and 19 contain language that may offend some readers)

The Philippines scrambled to defuse a row with the United States on Tuesday and its new president, Rodrigo Duterte, voiced regret for calling President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch”, comments that prompted Washington to call off a bilateral meeting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the National Convention Center for scheduled bilateral meetings with ASEAN leaders on the sidelines of the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and other related summits Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016 in Vientiane, Laos. AP/Bullit Marquez

The tiff between the two allies overshadowed the opening of a summit of East and Southeast Asian nations in Laos.

It also soured Obama’s last swing as president through a region he has tried to make a focus of U.S. foreign policy, a strategy widely seen as a response to China’s economic and military muscle-flexing.

He said in a speech as the summit got under way that his push to make the United States a key player in Asia-Pacific was not some “passing fad”.

However, diplomats say strains with longtime ally the Philippines could compound Washington’s difficulties in forging a united front with Southeast Asian partners on the geostrategic jostle with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Duterte has bristled repeatedly at criticism over his “war on drugs”, which has killed about 2,400 people since he took office two months ago, and on Monday said it would be “rude” for Obama to raise the question of human rights when they met.

Such a conversation, Duterte told reporters, would prompt him to curse at Obama, using a Filipino phrase “putang ina” which can mean “son of a bitch” or “son of a whore”.

After Washington called off Tuesday’s bilateral meeting between Obama and Duterte in response, the Philippines issued two statements expressing regret.

U.S. President Barack Obama walks to honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“President Duterte explained that the press reports that President Obama would ‘lecture’ him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern,” the Philippines government said in one statement.

“He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy,” it added. “He expressed his deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations.”

The White House had earlier said Obama would not pull any punches on his concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines, its treaty ally, when meeting Duterte.

Instead of the Duterte meeting, Obama plans to hold talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, said Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security Council – a meeting where the response to North Korea’s latest missile tests is expected to be on the agenda.

A Philippines official who declined to be named said there would be no formal meeting rescheduled in Laos but a short ‘pull-aside’ conversation between the two presidents was still possible.

MOVES TO SOOTHE TENSIONS

Obama arrived in the city of Vientiane late on Monday for the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Laos, where he wants to begin to address the legacy of U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War.

He announced on Tuesday that Washington would provide an additional $90 million over the next three years to help Laos, heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, clear unexploded ordnance, which has killed or wounded more than 20,000 people.

The unusually open tensions between the United States and the Philippines, its former colony, threaten to overshadow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summits in Laos from Tuesday to Thursday.

The 10-member ASEAN will also meet leaders of other regional powers: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the United States.

Duterte won the presidency in May as he promised to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers.

About 900 people linked to drugs have been killed in police operations since July 1 and a further 1,500 have been classed as “deaths under investigation”, a term human rights activists in the Philippines say is a euphemism for extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has repeatedly poured scorn on critics, usually larding it with curses.

He lambasted the United Nations after it criticized the surge in killings and he turned down a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Laos summit.

In May, he called Pope Francis a “son of a whore”, although he later apologized, and called U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg a “gay son of a whore”.

On Tuesday, Duterte met the leaders of Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

Manila has been aligned with the United States in its dispute with China over the South China Sea, in which Washington blames Beijing for militarizing a vital global trade route and jeopardizing freedom of movement at sea and in the air.

China rejects those accusations and accuses the United States of ratcheting up tensions unnecessarily. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

An arbitration court in The Hague in July invalidated China’s territorial claims after a case was brought by the Philippines, a ruling Beijing refuses to recognize.

Duterte said last month he expected all ASEAN members to support the arbitration court’s ruling, but that the Philippines would not raise the issue in Laos.

(Writing by John Chalmers, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Photo: Chinese H-6 bomber patrols near Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines. Xinhua photo

Southeast Asian leaders likely to “cave in” to China

September 5, 2016

VIENTIANE — Southeast Asian leaders are likely to avoid any official mention at a summit this week of an arbitration ruling that shot down China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to a draft of their final declaration, in a victory for Beijing’s diplomatic clout.

But the draft also expresses strongly stated concern about Beijing’s construction of man-made islands in the South China Sea, which Southeast Asian countries fear could destabilize the region.

The draft, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, is being fine-tuned by officials for the leaders to approve ahead of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that begins Tuesday in the Laotian capital. The final version is to be released Thursday, but most major points including those concerning the South China Sea are expected to remain largely unchanged.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also plans to ask China’s premier at a meeting between ASEAN and other regional leaders whether China is trying to develop another disputed reef, Scarborough Shoal, off his country’s northwestern coast, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

Duterte said last week that the Philippine coast guard has sighted Chinese barges at Scarborough, which he said could presage the transformation of the Chinese-held reef into another man-made island. One of the Chinese vessels had what appeared to be a crane, according to a Philippine official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss classified intelligence.

Lorenzana said surveillance photos taken from boats were blurry so the government deployed a plane on Saturday which spotted 10 Chinese ships, including four coast guard vessels, four others that looked like barges and two vessels that could carry people. One of the vessels had drums and tubes.

“This is very worrisome because it’s ours,” Lorenzana told reporters in Vientiane. “If they succeed in building an island and construct (structures) there, we can’t take it back anymore.”

The Philippine government asked China’s ambassador in Manila about the sighting of the Chinese barges, but the envoy denied any island building was under way, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told the AP.

China sparked widespread alarm when it converted seven reefs in the Spratly Islands into islands that the United States says could be transformed into military bases to reinforce Beijing’s territorial claims and intimidate rival claimant countries.

“We remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area,” the draft of the ASEAN leaders’ statement says. The reclamation and other acts “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

Duterte has taken a more conciliatory stance than his predecessor toward China. But a confirmation of Chinese reclamation activities at Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground where Filipino fishermen have been forced away by Beijing’s coast guard, could impede relations.

U.S. officials have also expressed deep concern over the possibility of China developing Scarborough into an island or starting to erect concrete structures there, which could reinforce Beijing’s control over a swathe of the South China Sea.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have been contesting all or parts of the strategic waterway, an important route for commerce and oil that fuel Asia’s economies.

After China seized Scarborough following a tense 2012 maritime standoff, the Philippines took its territorial dispute with China to international arbitration, a move that was condemned by Beijing, which prefers one-on-one negotiations to prevent the United States and its allies from meddling.

In a landmark ruling in July, the arbitration tribunal invalidated China’s expansive claims, including in areas where Beijing built its islands, and admonished China for blocking Filipino fishermen at Scarborough, where it said both Chinese and Filipinos could fish.

China condemned the ruling as a sham and moved to prevent it from being recognized in ASEAN communiques, something that its close ally, Cambodia, has backed in meetings of the 10-nation bloc, which operates by consensus.

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Peace and Freedom Commentary

In the cauldron that is the South China Sea, China has never been so confident as it is today.

The top 20 economic power in the world are just completing visits to Xi Jinping in China — where events started with a not very nuanced insult to the President of the United States.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders are assembling for a meeting in one of China’s loyal clients, Laos. Together with Cambodia, Laos gives China assurance than no ASEAN consensus can be reached that will say anything that might cause Chinese disapproval. In fact, the word “China” may never even be spoken publicly in the Laotian capital this week — because that’s what China wants.

China already has military installations peppered throughout the South China Sea Sea, and is a position to control all the shipping, air traffic, commerce, natural resources, food, and energy withing the vast domain of the South China Sea.

China’s de facto “ownership” of the South China Sea is a tremendous conquest, without firing a shot, especially since less than 30 days ago the Permanent Court for Arbitration in the Hague handed down a decision that China’s “nine dash line” was without merit and illegal.

But never mind international law — a figment of the imagination of other, lesser nations. Western nations. Everyone in the world world understands Chinese dominion and greatness — never mind if a few human rights get squashed.

The Philippines seems now to have signed up to the Chinese way of thinking. What would have been considered mass murder in the Philippines last April, is now considered anti-drug law enforcement. What may have been a pipe-bomb or two of unknown origin, now has the Filipino people on the cusp of martial law, from Luzon Strait and Baguio to the Sulu Sea.

And without much proof that anyone has seen.

Now ASEAN and the world at large watches as China is about to control the seas from Taiwan to Singapore and beyond, both northward toward Japan and westward past Singapore and into the Indian Ocean.

China could move its grand strategy ahead this week in Vientiane, without so much as a public mention of “China.”

Pretty amazing state of affairs.

But there was a glimmer of light from Hong Kong, where some plucky youngsters will become a part of the Legislative Council and at least keep some discussion of democracy and human rights rights alive in Asia, for as long as China cares to allow them to imagine freedom….

We at Peace and Freedom have catalogued much of the history of recent events and issues around the South China Sea for the past five years. Use these keywords to see more:

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Photo: Chinese H-6 bomber patrols near Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines. Xinhua photo

South China Sea decision a hollow victory for the Philippines

July 15, 2016

BRP Sierra Madre supply delivery boys — Filipino volunteers deliver supplies to marines based on a rusting hulk in the South China Sea (ABC News: Ben Bohane)

By China correspondent Bill Birtles

Rarely does a victorious party in such a major legal dispute welcome a decision with such caution.

But the short three-sentence statement read out by Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay shows how little the country’s international legal win over China will change the situation on the water.

The move by the former Aquino government to attempt to defend the Philippines’ maritime territorial rights in the arena of international law was always going to be a bold gamble.

Three years on, the Arbitration Court’s award has decimated the basis for most of China’s territorial claims, including its historical claims to the “nine-dash line” that engulfs most of the sea.

Even worse for Beijing, the ruling rejects China’s assertions that the artificial islands it has constructed give it the legal basis for exclusive economic zones.


Pro-Beijing protesters shout slogans against the United States supporting an international court ruling of the South China Sea outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Thursday, July 14, 2016. China warned other countries Wednesday against threatening its security in the South China Sea after an international tribunal handed the Philippines a victory by saying Beijing had no legal basis for its expansive claims there. A sign, left, reads “Strongly protest against U.S. intervention in South China Sea Affairs.” AP/Kin Cheung

That, combined with further adverse findings about China breaching the legal rights of the Philippines and causing “severe harm” to the coral reef environment, should be cause for celebration in Manila.

But this is a David-and-Goliath battle, and whatever moral clout the decision gives to the Philippines, it means little for its fishermen trying to make a living near Chinese-occupied reefs.

After the decision, China declared the ruling “null and void”, declared it had carried out more civilian aircraft landings on disputed islands and announced the commissioning of a new guided missile destroyer.

President Xi Jinping declared the ruling would not affect China’s interests in the heavily disputed waters, while nationalistic state media outlets declared the tribunal’s decision “shameless” and “hopelessly one-sided”.

In other words, Beijing is now openly flouting international law and firing up a nationalistic movement at home, ensuring there will be no domestic political softening on its stance.

It appears the Philippines’ new government, under President Rodrigo Duterte, is already resigned to that outcome, knowing neither it nor its ally the United States, can do anything substantial to force China to abide by the tribunal’s decision.

In the lead-up to the decision, the Philippines made overtures suggesting it was open to joint exploration with China in the areas it claims.

It is obvious which country would hold the power in any negotiations.

“The award of the court vindicates those many nations which have called on China to accept a rules-based order in Asia,” ANU’s National Security College analyst Rory Medcalf said.

“And it puts expectations on other countries in the region, such as Australia, to stand up for international law.”

But with China unwilling to bend, the Philippines may be left wondering if it has won the argument but lost the overall contest for control.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-13/south-china-sea-philippines-hollow-victory/7623460

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 (China’s government needs to save face with the Chinese people or admit the long lasting lies)

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South China Sea: World Awaits Court Decision Between China and the Philippines

July 10, 2016

The Associated Press

July 10, 2016

MANILA, Philippines — A landmark ruling on an arbitration case filed by the Philippines that seeks to strike down China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea will be a test for international law and world powers. China, which demands one-on-one talks to resolve the disputes, has boycotted the case and vowed to ignore the verdict, which will be handed down Tuesday by a tribunal in The Hague.

Some questions and answers about the case:

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Q: WHAT’S THE CASE ABOUT?

A: After years of diplomatic negotiations ended nowhere, the Philippines brought its dispute with China to international arbitration in January 2013, despite Beijing’s warnings of a diplomatic and economic backlash.

China wants to negotiate directly with the Philippines and each of the four other claimants in an arrangement that would give it leverage for its sheer size and influence. Beijing has steadfastly opposed bringing the disputes to an international arena, which could provide the U.S. a chance to intervene.

The Philippines asked a tribunal of five arbitrators to declare as invalid China’s vast claims, known as nine-dash lines for the dashes that demarcate virtually all of the South China Sea as Chinese territory, under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Seas, or UNCLOS. China and the Philippines are among more than 160 signatories of the 1982 convention, regarded as the constitution that governs and stipulates the rights of countries in using the world’s oceans.

With China’s sprawling claims, the Philippines stands to lose a huge chunk of off-shore territory, said Antonio Carpio, an associate Supreme Court justice who has made extensive studies on the conflicts. “This Chinese aggression is the gravest external threat to the Philippines since World War II,” he said.

The Philippines also asked the tribunal to classify whether a number of disputed areas are islands, low-tide coral outcrops or submerged banks to determine the stretch of territorial waters they are entitled to under the convention. It also wants China to be declared in violation of the convention for carrying out fishing and construction activities that breached the Philippines’ maritime rights. The convention does not deal with sovereignty questions, which the Philippine government says it did not raise.

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Q: HOW DID IT START?

A: Although the disputes have simmered for decades, they gradually escalated under former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and culminated in 2012 when China took effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff.

U.S. officials brokered an arrangement for Philippine government vessels and larger Chinese maritime surveillance ships to simultaneously withdraw from the tiny shoal, a deal which Aquino said he followed. Chinese ships never left.

Chinese coast guard ships also surrounded another disputed area, the Second Thomas Shoal, which has been guarded by Filipino marines on board a grounded rusty warship. The Chinese coast guard has tried to block Philippine vessels from bringing food, water, medicines and other supplies to the marines, sparking dangerous cat-and-mouse chases at high seas.

The Philippines said it had no other choice but to elevate the dispute to international arbitration.

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Q: WILL THE ARBITRATION CHANGE ANYTHING?

A: Any ruling will be final and legally binding on China and the Philippines. China’s decision to ignore the case and the arbitration tribunal’s lack of enforcement mechanism, however, have blunted the Philippines’ move.

Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who spearheaded the filing of the complaint against China, said that a favorable ruling on any of the 15 issues raised by the Philippines, especially the demand to declare China’s claims invalid under UNCLOS, would be a major blow to Beijing and a moral victory that could be harnessed by the Philippines to its advantage.

The Philippines, Filipino diplomats said, could work with Washington and other countries to demand Chinese compliance in diplomatic forums worldwide, including before the United Nations.

If it doesn’t comply, China risks being seen as a rogue nation at a time it expands its political and economic influence on the world stage.

Carpio painted a dire picture if the tribunal fails to rule on the validity of China’s sprawling claims, saying Beijing would enforce its nine-dash territorial lines as its national boundary. The U.S. military would intensify its patrols to promote freedom of navigation, China would try to push the Americans back and the claimants engage in an arms race.

“The only defense of coastal states will be to acquire warships, warplanes and anti-ship missiles,” Carpio said. “Tensions will increase. It will be a turmoil in the South China Sea.”

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Q: WHY DID CHINA REFUSE TO TAKE PART IN THE CASE?

A: China has argued that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to handle the Philippine case, because it says it involves sovereignty issues, which are outside the tribunal’s legal purview. While masking its case as an effort to clarify maritime rights under the U.N. convention, the Philippines is actually trying to undermine China’s “indisputable sovereignty,” according to Chinese officials.

They ask, for example, how the Philippines can say that China’s claims are excessive without first determining Beijing’s territorial limits.

China also regards the disputes as a purely Asian problem that outsiders like the U.S. have no right to meddle in.

Philippine officials say China refused to join the arbitration knowing that the historical basis it cites for its territorial claims has long ceased to be recognized under modern-day treaties like the UNCLOS.

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Q: WHAT ARE OTHER COUNTRIES SAYING ABOUT IT?

A: Countries have generally taken a position on the arbitration case depending on whether they’re aligned with the U.S. or China.

The diplomatic tug-of-war has put smaller countries and regional blocs in a dilemma, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose four member states are claimants.

A Philippine push for the 10-nation bloc to issue a joint statement calling for China to respect Tuesday’s ruling has stalled with Cambodia and Laos backing the Chinese position. Besides the Philippines and Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have also been wary of China.

The regional group has a bedrock principle of deciding by consensus, meaning just one member state can stall any group effort.

The U.S., Britain and the rest of the EU support the arbitration.

China claims support of some 40-60 nations, including many landlocked African nations and Pacific islands where Beijing has economic clout.

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Associated Press writer Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

Related:

Photo: Filipinos protest against bilateral talks with China on the issues of the South China Sea

 (Will China respect international court’s South China Sea decision?)

In this photo released by the Office of the City Mayor of Davao City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a copy of the book on Chinese President Xi Jinping from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during a courtesy call in Davao City in the southern Philippines, Monday, May 16, 2016. Office of the City Mayor Davao City via AP, file
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China’s Communist Party State Media Talking War Readiness Prior To South China Sea Court Decision

July 5, 2016
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Reuters
World | Tue Jul 5, 2016 1:30am EDT

 China should prepare itself for military confrontation in the South China Sea, an influential Chinese paper said on Tuesday, a week ahead of a decision by an international court on a dispute there between China and the Philippines.

Tensions have been rising ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the argument between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea in the Dutch city of The Hague.

In joint editorials in its Chinese and English editions, the state-run Global Times said the dispute, having already been complicated by U.S. intervention, now faces further escalation due to the threat posed by the tribunal to China’s sovereignty.

“Washington has deployed two carrier battle groups around the South China Sea, and it wants to send a signal by flexing its muscles: As the biggest powerhouse in the region, it awaits China’s obedience,” it said.

China should speed up developing its military deterrence abilities, the paper added.

“Even though China cannot keep up with the U.S. militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the U.S. pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force,” it said.

“China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations.”

The newspaper is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, and while it is widely read in policy-making circles it does not have the same mouthpiece function as its parent and its editorials cannot be viewed as representing government policy.

It is also well-known for its extreme nationalist views.

China, which has been angered by U.S. patrols in the South China Sea, will be holding military drills in the waters there starting from Wednesday.

China’s Defence Ministry said the drills are routine, the official China Daily reported.

Manila has sought to dial down tensions with its powerful neighbor ahead of the decision but resisted pressure to ignore the ruling.

“The reality is that nobody wants a conflict, nobody wants to resolve our conflict in a violent manner, nobody wants war,” Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay, told ANC television on Tuesday.

“It is my understanding that the President would like to maintain stronger, better relationships with everybody, including China, including the United States, including Japan and all,” Yasay said, adding that a “special envoy” was needed to help resolve the dispute.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that the Hague court ruling could prompt Beijing to declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013, or step up the pace of reclamation and construction on its holdings in the disputed region.

What response China takes will “fully depend” on the Philippines, the China Daily added, citing unidentified sources.

“There will be no incident at all if all related parties put aside the arbitration results,” one of the sources told the English-language publication.

“China has never taken a lead in … stirring up regional tension,” another of the sources added.

About $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year though the energy-rich, strategic waters of the South China Sea, where China’s territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila; Editing by Michael Perry and Lincoln Feast)

Related:

PLAN Guided Missile Destroyer Harbin DDG-112 firing her main guns during exercises with Russia in 2014

Chinese coast guard ship in the East China Sea. AFP photo provided by Japan’s coast guard

U.S. Carrier’s Moves Send Message to Russia

June 9, 2016

The USS Harry S. Truman sailed into the Mediterranean Sea recently, as the Kremlin asserts itself in the region

F/A-18 fighter jet takes off at the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Monday. Reuters photo

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June 8, 2016 5:01 p.m. ET

ABOARD THE USS HARRY S. TRUMAN—This 20-story-tall aircraft carrier with a crew of 5,000 made an unplanned diversion from the Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean last week—a quick pivot intended to send a clear message to Russia.

The massive ship serves as a launching point for a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Since November, it has accounted for a little more than half of the total sorties flown over those two countries by the U.S. military.

Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, the highest-ranking officer on the carrier, told visiting reporters this week that moving the “capital ship” of the U.S. Navy from the Gulf through the Suez Canal is a flexing of muscle meant to reassure North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies of the American commitment to maintaining the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean.

“It is a demonstration of capability. That’s for sure,” he said. “There are undoubtedly folks who are watching that and this is just a graphic representation of what we’re capable of.”

The repositioning of the USS Harry S. Truman provides a window into American military strategy at a time when Russia has asserted itself aggressively in the region, using its navy and air force to turn the tide of the five-year Syria conflict in favor of President Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. has shown a willingness to use powerful Navy vessels to make provocative political statements, as it did in 2015 when it sailed a destroyer through the South China Sea at the height of tensions with Beijing over China’s territorial claims there.

A military official in Washington said the Truman’s shift was a signal to Moscow and a demonstration of the Navy’s operational flexibility and reach.

The ship is operating in the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility while conducting airstrikes inside Iraq and Syria—which fall under another combatant command, U.S. Central Command. This demonstrates the U.S. Navy can be agile and adaptive, the official said.

“It provides some needed presence in the Med to check…the Russians,” the official said. “The unpredictability of what we did with Truman kind of makes them think twice.”

Russia has maintained a contingent of about 10 to 15 ships in the Mediterranean for three years because of the conflict in Syria. In March, state media said the country’s sole aircraft carrier would be sent to join those ships by summer.

Russian and U.S. aims in the Syrian war aren’t entirely at odds.

Moscow and its Syrian regime allies, like the U.S.-led coalition, are all battling Islamic State.

The official and Adm. Batchelder said the ship’s position in the Mediterranean could make it a vital asset if the U.S. and its allies were to begin operations against Islamic State in Libya. The U.S. is contemplating operations in the oil-rich North African country.

On the ship’s 4.5-acre flight deck, sailors and airmen busied themselves with launching and landing F-18 class jet fighters. The carrier, one of 10 in the Navy’s fleet, is capable of catapulting an aircraft off the deck every 40 seconds.

The vessel has been a workhorse in operations against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since it joined the effort in November, launching seven-hour close-air-support missions several times a day.

Planes from the carrier conducted 52 strikes in Iraq and Syria from Friday through Tuesday.

The 75-plane fleet assigned to the ship responds to calls from allies on the ground for airstrikes.

Starting in the early morning and lasting well into the night, F/A-18 jet fighters and E-2C Hawkeye surveillance planes take off using a steam-powered catapult to slingshot them off the short runway.

Capt. David Little, commander of the air squadrons, said his fleet has been active recently over Fallujah, where Iraq’s military and allied militia forces have been engaged in an intense battle to uproot Islamic State from one of the first cities it occupied.

Capt. Little declined to identify specific targets, but said the Truman’s airborne fleet has focused its firepower on Islamic State’s ability to wage war and he rattled off a list of the types of facilities the jet fighters have struck based on intelligence provided by partners on the ground.

“Where they store money, the oil refineries they steal the money from, the banks where they store and hide money, the factories where they produce vehicle-borne [improvised explosive devices],” he said.

—Gordon Lubold
in Washington and
Thomas Grove in Moscow
contributed to this article.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at tamer.el-ghobashy@wsj.com