Posts Tagged ‘code of conduct’

Asean and China committed to code of conduct for South China Sea disputes

February 18, 2018

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Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at the 54th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

SINGAPORE – China and Asean are committed to completing code of conduct guidelines to handle disputes in the South China Sea, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Saturday (Feb 17).

Dr Ng told a maritime security roundtable at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that one aspect of China’s interest in the island chains in the South China Sea is they present potential encirclement against it.

The approach of Asean member states to these issues has been a “pragmatic one”, said Dr Ng, noting that the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which Asean and China signed in 2002, took more than five years.

“This frames our expectations for the (code of conduct),” he said.

“In the meantime, the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting has worked hard to produce consensus on practical measures that prevent mishaps and miscalculations, or if there are,to de-escalate issues.”

He noted that there have been at least 38 reported small-scale incidents between claimant states’ ship since 2013, many of which involved fishing vessels that were eventually resolved peacefully.

Dr Ng said the Republic was glad to see that foreign affairs agencies had operationalised their hotline to respond to maritime emergencies, and that defence agencies in the region had also launched a similar direct communications infrastructure.

Dr Ng said Singapore is also pleased that the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) had been expanded to all ADMM-Plus countries in November last year (2017).

ADMM-Plus includes the 10 Asean states as well as eight other countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Singapore, the Asean Chair this year (2018), hopes to develop guidelines for encounters between regional military aircraft, he said, adding that multilateral undertakings, such as the Asean-China Maritime Exercise 2018, can “enhance practical cooperation and build confidence”.

Noting that an estimated one-third of all global shipping passes through the South China Sea, Dr Ng said: “All countries have recognised the critical need for peace and stability in these waters.”

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Chinese paper says UK trying to grab attention with South China Sea mission — Hints That UK Is No Longer Relevant — “Faded former world power”

February 14, 2018


In this Oct. 23, 2017, file photo, ship’s officers are presented to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on deck during her visit to HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, in the West India Dock, in London. (AP)

BEIJING: Britain’s Defense Ministry is trying to justify its existence and grab attention with a planned mission by a British warship to the disputed South China Sea next month, a Chinese newspaper said on Wednesday.

A British warship will sail through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in remarks published on Tuesday during a visit to Australia..
British officials first flagged the voyage six months ago and the journey is likely to stoke tensions with China, who claim control of most of the area and have built military facilities on land features in the sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the energy-rich sea through which billions of dollars in trade pass each year.
The widely read state-run tabloid the Global Times said Williamson needed to state clearly the purpose of the mission..
“If not provocation, the Royal Navy should behave modestly when passing through the South China Sea,” it said in editorials published in its English and Chinese-language editions.
“By acting tough against China, Britain’s Ministry of Defense is trying to validate its existence and grab attention,” it said.
The paper wondered whether the Royal Navy could actually complete the trip, considering budget cuts and problems with a new aircraft carrier that has a leak.
“As the Royal Navy has been hit by news such as a leaky aircraft carrier and the UK government has a tight budget, it appears a difficult mission for the Royal Navy to come all this way to provoke China,” it wrote.
China has repeatedly accused countries outside the region — generally a reference to the United States and Japan — of trying to provoke trouble in the South China Sea while China and its neighbors are trying to resolve the matter through diplomacy.
Speaking of Britain’s plan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it hoped “relevant sides don’t try to create trouble out of nothing.”
Britain, which will be leaving the European Union next year, has looked to China as one of the countries it wants to sign a free trade deal with once it leaves the bloc. British Prime Minister Theresa May ended a largely successful trip to China earlier this month.

Philippines objects to China’s naming of undersea features — “Good Deals” from China are never what they seem…

February 14, 2018

Above, a Philippine Coast Guard ship sails along Benham Rise, off the east coast of the main island of Luzon. (Department of Agriculture-Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division via AFP)
MANILA: The Philippine government rejects Chinese names given to some undersea features in a vast offshore region where the Philippines has undisputed sovereign rights, the presidential spokesman said Wednesday in a new tiff despite the Asian neighbors’ mended ties.
The Philippines has already raised its concern to China over its naming of the undersea features in Benham Rise and may officially notify the international hydrographic body that lists such records, spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
China proposed the names for the features in 2015 and 2017, he said.
Benham Rise lies on the other side of the Philippine archipelago from the South China Sea, where Manila, Beijing and four other governments have been locked in territorial disputes.
Critics have questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration allowed a group from China to undertake scientific research in the waters given Manila’s long-simmering territorial conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.
China has defied and refuses to comply with an international arbitration ruling that invalidated its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea on historical grounds.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Roque said in a statement, using the name given by the Duterte administration to Benham Rise.
Duterte ordered an end last week to all foreign scientific research missions in Benham Rise after officials said the Philippines’ undisputed sovereign rights in the potentially oil- and gas-endowed body of water off its northeastern coast came under question.
The president followed up with a warning that he will order the navy to fire if other countries extract resources from within his country’s exclusive economic zone, a 200-nautical mile stretch of sea where a coastal state has internationally recognized exclusive rights to exploit resources under a 1982 UN treaty.
Foreign ships can pass but cannot fish or extract oil and gas from the under the seabed.
There were no immediate comments from Chinese Embassy officials.
Chinese and Philippine officials met Tuesday in Manila and discussed proposed joint projects in the South China Sea. They said China and Southeast Asian nations would begin negotiations early next month on a “code of conduct” aimed at reducing the risks of armed confrontations in the contested territories.


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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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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.

ASEAN’s Growing Unease With China In The South China Sea —

February 11, 2018

Asean needs to resolve complex and pressing issues before nations can agree on rules to help ease maritime disputes in the South China Sea, writes Collin Koh

By Collin Koh
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am

The chairman’s press statement at the latest Asean foreign ministers retreat held in Singapore could hardly be more timely where it concerns disputes in the South China Sea.

Paragraph 11 of the four-page document dedicates substantial attention to the disputes. Its wording in part borrows much of the standard phrases from past documents and is largely conciliatory in tone, including ministers embracing “practical measures” aimed at building confidence to help ease disputes.

Yet, at the same time, the statement flagged the bloc’s collective unease over ongoing developments in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

It noted the “concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.

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China has now built at least seven South China Sea military fortifications.

The proposed solution it suggested would not come as any surprise to observers of Asean and matters relating to the South China Sea.

The ministers duly “reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation”.

It went on to say that all sides should “pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].”

Without a doubt, the key initiative aimed at managing, if not resolving, these disputes is the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, for which a framework was adopted last August.

 Asean foreign ministers pose for a photograph at their retreat in Singapore on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo

Amid the bonhomie between Asean and China, reducing tensions evident before a UN panel ruled on the legitimacy of China’s claims to the waters in July 2016, the underlying problems still remain up for deeper discussion between Beijing and the 10-member regional bloc.

Now that the “honeymoon” is over following the adoption of the code of conduct framework, the real work begins to iron out the details. Through this latest statement, Asean foreign ministers sought to work towards “an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline”.

This timeline is, however, tenuous at best.

In recent years, a number of South China Sea observers have pointed out that it is by no means certain that a code of conduct will eventually materialise. That is a pessimistic scenario for sure, but let us assume that the code will eventually be promulgated, perhaps not without some potholes encountered in the arduous journey of formal negotiations.

The issue is how exactly how effective it will be.

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China’s military infrastructure on its South China Sea bases is elaborate

Expediting the negotiations can be motivated in a few ways – either because all parties truly commit to the code out of goodwill, or because some tumultuous events arise unexpectedly in the South China Sea, compelling the parties in a knee-jerk reaction to produce a code, more for consumption by the international community, notwithstanding how suboptimal the document may be.

The latter “reactive” scenario is a plausible one.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Talks about the code started only after a major incident happened in the Mischief Reef back in the 1990s, despite the fact that prior to the event there had been disturbing actions undertaken by the claimants and that Asean and China did not conclude that a code was in fact necessary. But as reactive it may be, ultimately having a code serves the interest of both Asean and China. For the regional bloc, the code could be held up as a shining example of the continued relevance of Asean in the regional security architecture. Beijing would also want the code to justify its rejection of external interference in South China Sea disputes.

All parties converge essentially on one common objective, which is to demonstrate to the international community that they could, on their own accord, manage, if not settle, South China Sea disputes. However, there is no way to exclude parties outside the region from operating in the South China Sea, given that this semi-enclosed maritime domain serves some of the most critical arteries for global economic well-being. Ensuring good order in the waters of the South China Sea is not just the responsibility of surrounding governments, but the international community writ large.

Given this reality, it becomes questionable whether the code could be effective if signatories to any document decide not to desist from responding to actions undertaken by those non-signatory parties outside the region.

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It is difficult to envisage that the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations would cease because of the code, or that other players such as Australia, India and Japan would not engage in their usual naval outreaches to the region, engaging their Southeast Asian partners in bolstering maritime security ties. In such a context, any of the South China Sea claimants could choose to undertake measures in the name of “self defence”, including further sprucing up existing infrastructure, even if no additional land reclamation is carried out.

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China’s miitary bases near the Philippines

All such activities could be arbitrarily deemed “provocative” by any of the parties and other stakeholders in the South China Sea. Such a problem could be anticipated in deeper discussions on the code. The devil lies in the definition of militarisation, besides other pertinent issues related to whether the code should be binding (legally or otherwise), the geographical scope of coverage and also the prospect of opening the code for participation by other countries, which is likely to encounter significant differences between the negotiating parties.

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Given the commitment to the process, all parties should aim to take as long as required to iron out differences over these issues, as well as anticipated problems related to compliance, verification and enforcement, to produce a truly effective code to every party’s satisfaction. Failing that, if for political expediency the code is rushed for promulgation, a suboptimal document will be all that remains, further undermining the common objective of demonstrating the ability of Asean and China to effectively manage maritime disputes.

Swee Lean Collin Koh is a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore


See also:

How South China Sea is fast turning into Beijing’s military outpost



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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.

India, ASEAN call for binding code of conduct in South China Sea — After China built up seven sea locations — “Chinese lake” — International law ignored; So how would a “binding code” work?

January 27, 2018
This handout photo taken on Jan. 25, 2018 and released by the Indian Press Information Bureau shows India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (center) posing in a group photograph with the ASEAN Heads of State/Governments during the The ASEAN – India Commemorative Summit, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host 10 Southeast Asian leaders as guests of honour at India’s Republic Day celebrations as New Delhi seeks to blunt China’s influence in the region. AFP/Handout

NEW DELHI – India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have called for the completion of a binding code of conduct for parties in the South China Sea in the face of China’s aggressive expansion in the region.

In a joint statement issued after their commemorative summit here, India and ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region and peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

“In this regard, we support the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and look forward to an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC),” the joint statement dubbed as Delhi Declaration read.

India and ASEAN vowed to work together on common regional and international security issues and “ensure an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture.” The South Asian country and the regional bloc also renewed their commitment to strengthen maritime cooperation through mechanisms like the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum.

China claims historic rights over about 90 percent of the South China Sea, where about $5-trillion worth of goods pass through every year. The expansive claim is being disputed by Taiwan and ASEAN members Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

In 2002, ASEAN and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to highlight their aim to resolve disputes peacefully and to maintain stability in the region. However, a binding code of conduct for claimants has not been completed. A framework for the code of conduct was crafted last year.

To assert its maritime claims, China built artificial islands in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, areas off the western province of Palawan that are also being claimed by the Philippines.

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A Chinese bomber flies over Scarborough Shoal last year

In 2013, the Philippines questioned China’s maritime claim before an international arbitral court, calling it “excessive” and “exaggerated. A Hague-based arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines three years later, saying China’s historic claims in the South China Sea has no legal basis. But China refused to recognize the landmark decision, dismissing it as “a mere piece of paper.”

President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to temporarily set aside the ruling to improve the Philippines’ relationship with China. But he promised to bring up the issue before Chinese leaders within his term.

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India, which is seeking stronger ties with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, is also involved in a border dispute with China over an area in the Himalayas.

ASEAN, India vow to combat terrorism

In the same statement, ASEAN and India reiterated their commitment to combat terrorism and to disrupt the activities of terrorists by preventing their cross border movement and their misuse of Internet including social media.

They also vowed to strengthen cooperation against terrorism financing and recruitment efforts, support the targeting of terror sanctuaries, and share intelligence information.

“There can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever,” the joint statement said.

India and ASEAN also agreed to boost their economic cooperation through the full use and effective implementation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, which removed tariffs for about 4,000 products and reduce the duties for more than 3,000 others.

They also called for the swift conclusion of a “modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP is a proposed free trade deal among ASEAN members, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Launched in 2012, the proposed agreement seeks to cover trade in goods and services, economic and technical cooperation, investments, competition policy, intellectual property rights, and dispute settlement among other aspects. ASEAN and its trading partners aim to complete the RCEP negotiations this year.

India and ASEAN likewise promised to cooperate for conservation and sustainable use of marine resources in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and address threats to these resources including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

RELATED: ASEAN goes soft on China as sea code talks start l ASEAN, China to start talks on South China Sea code


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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.

After 50 Years — Is Asean Still Needed?

December 27, 2017

Unless member states can put their common causes above their narrow internal political interests, global powers such as China, India and the US will continue to run roughshod over their agenda


Does the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) still matter after half a century? Against the backdrop of global and regional politics, with security and economic architecture oscillating unpredictably in search of a new equilibrium, this question takes on greater importance today than it did when the organisation was founded in 1967 at the height of the cold war.

In the next decade, Asean’s destiny depends on how adroitly it positions its norms, values, and purpose in an increasingly uncertain world, where an Asia dominated by China cannot be foreclosed.

Chinese-controlled North Island, part of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

The South China Sea test

In particular, the South China Sea disputes are a severe test of Asean’s unity, purpose and resolve. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims over the strategic waterway where an estimated US$5 trillion in global trade passes through annually. It is also home to rich fishing grounds and an indeterminate wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources in the deep seabed.

China insists on bilateral deals with other nations, leveraging on its size and clout. This can complicate sovereignty disputes given the web of overlapping territorial claims. The importance of a multilateral agreement cannot be understated, and whether Asean member states can think and act collectively is an ongoing challenge.

Asean turns 50? Wake me when it’s over

Earlier this year, a framework agreement between China and Asean on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea marked a significant step forward in cooling tensions in the region, where the test of wills and military gamesmanship have often threatened to boil over.

To be clear, the COC will not resolve the long-standing disputes over the South China Sea. But it will provide an agreed, rules-based framework for disputants to engage each other and prevent differences from spiralling into overt conflict.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak attends the 19th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit. Photo: Reuters

Negotiations for the COC are likely to commence in 2018, and Singapore – Asean chair for 2018 – will seek to ride on the momentum to nudge member states and China towards a good start and steady progress.

Regardless, Asean’s relationship with China and the United States should not be defined narrowly by the South China Sea. Instead, claimant states and the US must not lose sight of the larger picture and the greater benefit that comes from substantive cooperation on multiple fronts. To do so, Asean has to catalyse collective and purposeful engagement on the South China Sea by all stakeholders.

Resolution, if even possible, will take decades, but it is crucial that the territorial disputes do not get in the way of regional progress and development as well as peace and stability.

Asean and China have moved on – didn’t Vietnam get the memo?

Trust – and confidence – building are critical in seeking common ground on the South China Sea. The COC is fundamentally about confidence building. This can facilitate exploring bold modes of cooperation in the disputed waters. Rather than a high stakes, winner-takes-all approach, claimant states can engage in path-breaking resource sharing and collective responsibility in keeping the waterway open and safe.

Given the apparent competing interests and objectives, it will be a delicate balancing act. But there is no alternative to China and the US engaging purposefully with Asean and with each other. This can also give renewed impetus to “Asean centrality” – the notion that Asean’s focus stays fixed on Southeast Asian affairs, particularly with respect to security matters.

However, Asean centrality is increasingly moulded by external players. In the years ahead, how resilient and robust Asean’s norms, values, and purpose are will determine whether Asean remains relevant and effective as the regional organisation for Southeast Asia.

Economic Integration

During Asean’s 40th anniversary in 2007, amid growing concerns of organisational atrophy and irrelevance, the Asean Charter came into being. This constitutional document was intended to herald greater achievements such as the “Asean Community”, which comprises the economic, political-security, and socio-cultural communities.

Over the past decade, however, Asean’s community building has been patchy at best, often taking a back seat in the face of member-states’ domestic priorities. Even the touted establishment of the Asean Economic Community in 2015, a major milestone in the regional economic integration blueprint, failed to mask the reality that economic integration remains an aspiration. Probably the only clear success thus far has been the reduction of tariffs among member countries – about 99 per cent of tariff lines have been reduced to zero.

Filipino activists clash with riot police during a protest rally in Manila, Philippines, during the Asean Summit. Photo: EPA

Asean needs to urgently unleash its economic potential so that it is in control of its economic destiny, and not reliant on China’s growth and America’s largesse. In 2014, Asean was the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world. Asean’s combined gross domestic product is likely to reach US$8.1 trillion in 2030, up from the current US$2.6 trillion. This will make Asean the fourth-largest economy in the world.

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Asean and its member states have to keep their eyes on the prize; peace and stability as prerequisites for sustained growth, development and prosperity. This means enhancing Asean’s relevance in regional geopolitics and capitalising on the growing middle-class economy of the Asia-Pacific.

Asean will have to raise the level of practical cooperation between the region and major powers, including China, the US, Japan and India, all of which are Asean’s dialogue partners. Economic cooperation can help foster deeper ties and develop cross-cutting stakes in Southeast Asia. Asean and its stakeholders must not lose sight of that, even as economic nationalism rears its ugly head globally.

Existential irrelevance

In 1967, the forward-looking leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand recognised that there was much to be gained from the limited pooling of their countries’ sovereignties through Asean. The alliance has since grown from five to 10 member states with the inclusion of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

In his memoirs, Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who was a strong proponent of Asean, had presciently put forth that Asean’s unspoken objective “was to gain strength through solidarity ahead of the power vacuum that would come with an impending British and later a possible US withdrawal”. The geopolitical realities and challenges have evolved and are evolving two generations on. Even if there is no US withdrawal, a new China-dominant security and economic order is already in the making and challenging the status quo that Asean has become complacently accustomed to.

President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte at an Asean Summit dinner in Manila, Philippines. Photo: AP

China’s status, power and rise is accompanied by a more assertive and ambitious foreign policy under President Xi Jinping, made abundantly clear at October’s 19th Communist Party National Congress. US President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy posture inevitably casts grave doubts on American resolve and commitment to the region’s security and interests, which for long has been taken for granted in Southeast Asia.

As anti-US feeling grows in Cambodia, China cashes in

This apparent waxing and waning of Chinese and American power respectively puts Asean in uncharted territory. How it negotiates the US-China power politics will determine whether Asean is central or peripheral in its own backyard.

Despite past successes, an irrelevant Asean is not a foregone conclusion. Singapore’s Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam had said at Asean’s founding that, “if Asean does not hang together, they shall be hung separately”. To be nimble, relevant, and effective, Asean member states must resist individual and collective navel-gazing, and instead recommit to regional solidarity through being a visionary and cohesive bloc.


Eugene K B Tan is associate professor of law at the School of Law, Singapore Management University

Summary of News About China’s Rise in the South China Sea

November 21, 2017
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A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.



Leaders of Southeast Asian countries and China have agreed to launch talks on a “code of conduct” aimed at controlling disputes in the South China Sea, a step they described as a milestone, but which some experts said was unlikely to bring concrete results.

The agreement reached during a two-day summit last week in the Philippines comes more than 15 years after the adoption of a preliminary Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which has yet to be fully implemented.

A separate statement issued after a meeting between leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that the approval in August of a framework for the code of conduct was “an important milestone,” and that both sides anticipated an early conclusion of the agreement.

What form that agreement will take is still undetermined. China opposes international arbitration over its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, and doesn’t want to see a future code of conduct given legal weight. Southeast Asian diplomats said even ASEAN is not unanimous in seeking a binding set of rules.

Gregory Poling, a South China Sea expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said China was well aware that the agreement would be unlikely to result in a framework for managing sensitive issues such as fisheries depletion, oil and gas development and coast guard cooperation.

“It took 15 years to negotiate a one-page outline that just restated the exact same thing they’re going to do with DOC,” he said, referring to the 2002 declaration.

China, Taiwan and four ASEAN member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — have overlapping claims in the waterway, which straddles busy international sea lanes and potentially has vast undersea deposits of oil and gas.

The U.S. is not a claimant but has declared it has a national interest in ensuring that the disputes are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and that freedom of navigation and overflight are guaranteed. China has opposed what it calls U.S. meddling in an Asian dispute.



Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper said authorities had ordered a halt to land reclamation work intended to expand the airport at the southern Chinese resort city of Sanya.

The paper said the project to build an artificial island next to the Sanya coral reef national nature was ordered to stop by the State Oceanic Administration, after complaints that it had not passed an environmental impact assessment.

The paper said the environmental group Friends of Nature has warned that the project threatens the sea floor ecosystem, particularly coral reefs in the area.

Boasting long stretches of beach looking out onto the South China Sea, Sanya has been heavily developed over the past two decades as a tropical vacation destination for Chinese and foreign tourists. The new airport on the 26-square-kilometer (10-square-mile) artificial island would be able to handle 60 million passengers per year.

China has been accused of causing serious damage to the natural environment in the South China Sea, especially ocean fisheries, through its construction of artificial islands atop coral reefs in the disputed Spratly island group.

The U.S. and others have accused Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its claims. China says the seven man-made islands in the Spratlys, which are equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade.



China is preparing to launch a new manned submersible to explore resources in the South China Sea.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the Shenhai Yongshi, or “deep sea warrior,” has passed all performance and safety tests, including a dive of 4,500 meters (about 15,000 feet) last month.

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Shenhai Yongshi

“Shenhai Yongshi will be used in the South China Sea and help explore the biological and mineral resources in the deep sea,” the official Global Times newspaper quoted Chen Xiangmao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, as saying.

Eight years in development, the submersible will join China’s currently operating deep sea exploration vessel, the Jialong, which has conducted dives in the deepest part of the world’s oceans, the Mariana Trench.

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Along with key shipping lanes used to transport some $5 trillion in goods annually, the South China Sea contains rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil and gas.

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China and Vietnam have previously clashed over resource exploration in the South China Sea, and China’s parking of an oil rig off Vietnam’s central coast in 2014 sparked confrontations at sea and deadly anti-China riots within the country.


Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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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.

South China Sea: Philippine President calls For a Legally Binding Agreement

November 16, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center on November 14, 2017. Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will push for a legally binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, Malacañang said yesterday as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed the adoption of a framework that would pave the way for negotiations on a “substantive and effective” COC with China.

ASEAN and China have agreed to start talks on the COC. Encouraged by the “positive momentum,” the chairman’s statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila said the leaders of the regional bloc look forward to the start of negotiations at the 20th ASEAN-China Summit and the subsequent convening of the 23rd ASEAN-China Joint Working Group Meeting on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Vietnam in early 2018.

The framework that was agreed upon in August seeks to advance the DOC, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

The chairman’s statement was released as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Manila after the ASEAN events and official visit in the country.

In the statement, the leaders took note of the improving relations between ASEAN and China, reaffirming their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence among parties.

The leaders also welcomed the successful testing of the hotline between the ministries of foreign affairs of China and the 10 ASEAN countries or MFA-to-MFA Hotline to Manage Maritime Emergencies in the South China Sea and “looked forward to the operationalization of the Joint Statement on the Observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea.”

“In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation,” the statement said.

ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the leaders said.

The leaders stressed the need to adhere to the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They welcomed positive developments in maritime cooperation among ASEAN member-states, including through continued constructive dialogues on issues of common interest and concern, marine scientific research, maritime domain awareness and marine environment and protection.

During the meetings in Manila this week, leaders of the ASEAN, European Union and the United States committed to ensure maritime security, the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight, non-militarization in the South China Sea and other lawful uses of the sea.

Binding COC

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque gave assurance that Duterte and other ASEAN leaders want to work on a legally binding COC.

Roque said Duterte tried to negotiate with all the ASEAN member-nations to work for a code that would govern the behavior of countries at sea.

“I think the consultations on the (COC) was rather substantial because the different countries contemplated a (COC) that would in fact be legally binding,” Roque said.

“Otherwise, if it’s merely aspirational, then it will not promote the kind of peace and stability that they are hoping for. But anyway, we are only about to commence the process of negotiating a (COC). So we will see,” he added.

Roque said it was clear from Duterte’s statement that he wants the COC to be agreed upon by all parties to ensure peace and stability in the region.

“I think this was clear from the language also of the framework agreement that they previously entered into… which signaled the commencement of the talks for the (COC),” Roque said.

“I think that was a priority of the President because unless it becomes legally binding, we would not achieve the kind of predictability that all the countries want in order to achieve peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Asked what was substantially achieved during the ASEAN summit, Roque said it became clear that there was a consensus among all claimant countries and among Southeast Asian countries to ease the tension over the South China Sea.

“I think the fact that parties have now adopted the calm positions has led to stability in the region and has led to a tremendous reduction in tension as far as claimant countries are concerned,” Roque said.

Roque said Duterte is also open to bilateral talks as far as resolving the conflict is concerned and has said “time and again that he does not see any utility in talking to third parties who are not parties to the conflict.”

Roque said he does not think that the United Nations arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims would “figure” in the drafting of the COC.

“As I said, the arbitral ruling is binding on China and the Philippines only,” he said.

“Well, even from my limited engagement in treaty drafting, I don’t see how it can figure actually. Considering that the (COC) is going to be applicable to all claimant countries and to all countries in Southeast Asia including China,” he said.

Bilateral solution: No use of threat or force

While negotiations for a code will commence, Roque said Duterte would also continue dealing with China bilaterally with regard to the South China Sea issue.

“And yes, I can confirm the report that the President has articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute. However, China… also stated that they have very good bilateral relations with all the claimant countries,” he said.

Following Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit in Manila last Wednesday, Manila and Beijing agreed not to resort to the threat or use of force in the South China Sea.

Instead, the two sides said the dealings should be based on friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

As this developed, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the Philippine Coast Guard will continue to take the lead role in conducting patrols in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham) Rise.

Esperon was one of the officials who met with PCG officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia yesterday morning, during the visit of Kentaro Sonoura, special advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security of Japan, at the PCG headquarters.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, on the other hand, would take charge of developing and conserving the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.

‘Fantastic team’

All ASEAN delegates had left the country as of noon yesterday, the ASEAN Security Task Force (ASTF) said.

ASTF commander Director Napoleon Taas said the Chinese leader was the last delegate to the ASEAN Summit to leave the country.
“…we have successfully secured the country’s hosting of the 31st Summit and the 50th anniversary of ASEAN,” Taas said in a statement.

Taas and Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy said the government led by Duterte received all praises for the successful hosting of the ASEAN events, including security arrangements.

“US President Trump described his experience as fantastic. The Singaporean (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) calls it a tough act to follow. (Duterte) refers to all of us as his ‘Fantastic Team,’” Taas noted.
Taas, however, said credit should be given to the thousands of personnel who contributed their best to ensure the success of the events.
“To the greatest security team that I had the privilege to lead, this is indeed a proud day for the nation. A day made possible by the nameless, selfless and dedicated men and women of the ASTF 2017,” Taas said.
Cuy said the country’s hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit was a success, without even a single untoward incident recorded.

Cuy said a total of 60,000 troops were deployed and mobilized to provide security and safety to the world leaders, delegates and the general public during the summit.  
Cuy said the preparations for the summit were not a walk in the park but the Multi-Agency Coordination Committee was able to deliver what was expected through hard work with the numerous drills, simulation exercises, critiquing activities and rehearsals.

–  With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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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.

South China Sea: ASEAN Goes Soft on China

November 16, 2017
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang talks during the 20th ASEAN China Summit in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Linus Escandor/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship, declined to mention China’s expansive island-building activities in the South China Sea in its chairman statement.

In its chairman statement released after the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, the ASEAN merely mentioned “non-militarization” and “self-restraint” among claimant states.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, gestures to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as they prepare for their bilateral meeting following a welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace grounds in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Li is on an official visit to the country. AP/Bullit Marquez

“In this regard, we further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states,” the statement read.

This echoed the joint communique issued during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila last August, where the ministers said they “took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

READ: ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

The 10-member regional bloc welcomed its improving relations with China following the adoption of the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea last August.

The ASEAN is looking forward to the start of the negotiations on the COC, which was announced at the ASEAN-China Summit in Manila.

The chairman statement stressed the need to adhere to a peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The statement, however, did not mention the arbitral ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal based in the Hague, Netherlands.

RELATED: With no reference to arbitral ruling, ASEAN to pursue sea code

In July 2016, the international tribunal issued a landmark award in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The tribunal also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS by constructing artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The regional bloc, meanwhile, reaffirmed its commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“We reaffirmed our commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties,” the statement read.

The ASEAN-China joint working group meeting on the implementation of the DOC is set to convene in Viet Nam early next year.

In a separate chairman statement of the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, the concerned parties “welcomed the positive developments in the South China Sea.”

The ASEAN and China reiterated their commitment to the implementation of the DOC. Implementation will include confidence-building measures and practical maritime cooperation.

FULL TEXT: Chairman’s statement for the 31st ASEAN Summit





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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.

China, Philippines agree to avoid force in South China Sea dispute

November 16, 2017


President Rodrigo Duterte attends a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at Malacanañ Palace in Manila. (Reuters)

BEIJING/MANILA: China and the Philippines have agreed to avoid force to resolve their differences over the South China Sea, according to a joint statement issued on Thursday by China at the end of a visit to Manila by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands. China claims most of the waterway and has been aggressively building and militarizing artificial islands.
The joint statement, carried by China’s official Xinhua news agency, said China and the Philippines reaffirmed the importance of peace in the South China Sea and of freedom of navigation and overflight.
There should be no violence or threats of violence and the dispute should be resolved via talks between the “relevant sovereign countries,” it added.
“Both sides believe that the maritime dispute is not the full sum of the China-Philippines relationship,” the statement said.
In a separate statement summing up discussions at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Duterte took note of the “improving relations between ASEAN and China” in the South China Sea.
“In view of this positive momentum, we looked forward to the announcement of the start of substantive negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) with China” he said, hopefully in early 2018 in Vietnam, where the two sides will meet at the earliest.
ASEAN and China have been discussing a set of rules on how to behave in the disputed waters to avoid accidents and raising tension.
Duterte said the two sides also had successfully tested the hotline among foreign ministries on how to manage maritime emergencies.
“In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions, and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation,” he said.