Posts Tagged ‘cyberintrusions’

How Kaspersky’s Software Fell Under Suspicion of Spying on America

January 5, 2018

Officials lack conclusive evidence, but incidents involving the firm’s antivirus products raised alarms

 Image result for Eugene Kaspersky, photos
Kaspersky CEO Warned of Cyber Attacks on 2017 European Elections
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

Eugene Kaspersky was late for his own dinner party.

Eugene Kaspersky at his company’s Moscow headquarters in 2017.Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

At his invitation, guests from the Washington cybersecurity community waited one evening in 2012. Seated at the National Press Club were officials from the White House, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, said people who were there. Guests had started their first course when Mr. Kaspersky arrived, wearing a tuxedo with a drink in hand.

Mr. Kaspersky, chief executive of Russian security-software vendor Kaspersky Lab, proposed a toast to the ranking guest, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, whose country had suffered a cyberattack five years earlier. The assault followed Estonia’s decision to remove a Soviet-era monument from its capital, and U.S. officials suspected Russia was behind it.

“Toomas,” Mr. Kaspersky said. “I am so sorry that we attacked you.”

The comment stopped all conversation until Mr. Ilves broke the silence. “Thank you,” he said, raising his glass. “This is the first time anyone from Russia has ever admitted attacking my country.”

​No one suggested Kaspersky was involved in the Estonian hack, but Mr. Kaspersky’s toast played into a suspicion held by many in the U.S. intelligence community that his company might be wittingly or unwittingly in league with the Russian government—a suspicion that has only intensified since.

The process of evaluating Kaspersky’s role, and taking action against the company, is complicated by the realities of global commerce and the nature of how modern online software works. A top Department of Homeland Security official said in November congressional testimony the U.S. lacks “conclusive evidence” Kaspersky facilitated national-security breaches.

While the U.S. government hasn’t offered conclusive evidence, Wall Street Journal interviews with current and former U.S. government officials reveal what is driving their suspicions.

Some of these officials said they suspect Kaspersky’s antivirus software—the company says it is installed on 400 million computers world-wide—has been used to spy on the U.S. and blunt American espionage. Kaspersky’s suspected involvement in U.S. security breaches raises concerns about the relationship between the company and Russian intelligence, these officials said.

Employees at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, October 2017. Photo: Kirill Kallinikov/Sputnik/Associated Press

DHS, convinced Kaspersky is a threat, has banned its software from government computers. The company sued the U.S. government on Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., saying the ban was arbitrary and capricious, and demanding the prohibition be overturned. DHS referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Kaspersky, in a statement, said: “Unverified opinions of anonymous officials about Kaspersky Lab continue to be shared, and should be taken as nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations against a company whose mission has always been to protect against malware regardless of its source, and which has repeatedly extended an offering to the U.S. government to help alleviate any substantiated concerns. We have never helped and will never help any government with its cyberespionage efforts.”

The company in a court filing said any Russian government engagement in cyberespionage isn’t evidence that a Russia-headquartered company such as Kaspersky is facilitating government-sponsored cyberintrusions, adding: “In fact, more than 85 percent of Kaspersky Lab’s revenue comes from outside of Russia—a powerful economic incentive to avoid any action that would endanger the trusted relationships and integrity that serve as the foundation of its business by conducting inappropriate or unethical activities with any organization or government.”

The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t respond to requests for comment. In October, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t address whether the Russian government stole NSA materials using Kaspersky software but criticized the U.S. software ban as “undermining the competitive positions of Russian companies on the world arena.”

Servers in Russia

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Mr. Kaspersky enrolled at the KGB-sponsored Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications, and Computer Science, finished in 1987 and was commissioned in Soviet military intelligence, he has told reporters. He has acknowledged his company has done work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.

Kaspersky, closely held, says it has unaudited 2016 revenues of $644 million. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said they doubt Kaspersky could have risen to such heights outside of Russia without cooperating with Russian authorities’ aims, a conjecture the company denies.

Kaspersky’s main product is similar to other antivirus software, which scans computers to identify malicious code or infected files. Such software typically requires total access so it can remotely scan documents or emails and send a record of any suspicious and previously unidentified code back to the software company.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

In Kaspersky’s case, some servers are in Russia. When the DHS banned Kaspersky products, it cited “requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to compel assistance from Kaspersky or intercept communications transiting Russian networks.” Kaspersky countered that those laws and tools don’t apply to its products because the firm doesn’t provide communications services.

Concerns about the potential threat posed by Kaspersky software have circulated in U.S. intelligence circles for years. U.S. intelligence issued more than two dozen reports referring to the company or its connections, according to a U.S. defense official, with the Pentagon first mentioning the firm as a potential “threat actor” in 2004.

A Defense Intelligence Agency supply-chain report flagged Kaspersky in 2013, referring to its efforts to sell American firms a protection product for large-scale U.S. industrial companies, the defense official said. A former U.S. official said Kaspersky’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S. industrial and infrastructure market made people uncomfortable.

At a February 2015 conference, Kaspersky exposed what it described as a cyber-snooping network it dubbed the “Equation Group.” In fact, it was an elite classified espionage group within the U.S. National Security Agency, said some of the former U.S. officials. Kaspersky linked it to a virus called Stuxnet that the Journal and other publications have since reported was designed by the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Kaspersky also described other techniques and tactics the U.S. uses to break into foreign computer networks.

Once such techniques are public, they are effectively useless for spying. When NSA officials got word of Kaspersky’s plans to expose its tactics, they pulled the agency’s spying tools from around the world as a preventive measure and reworked how its hackers were functioning, said some of the former U.S. officials. The NSA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

U.S.-Russian relations at the time were deteriorating. President Vladimir Putin had granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum and annexed a swath of Ukraine. Some U.S. officials were convinced Kaspersky was promoting Russian interests and had shared with the Kremlin what it knew about the Equation Group.

“To think that information wasn’t shared with Russian intelligence, or they weren’t supporting Russian intelligence,” said one former U.S. official about Kaspersky, “you’d have to be very nearsighted to not at least think there was something there.”

Mr. Kaspersky at Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow, July 2017. Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Not all U.S. officials believed the worst about Kaspersky, with many citing the high quality of the firm’s cyberthreat research. “There was this innocent until proven guilty attitude,” said another former U.S. official who worked on Russia and national-security matters.

Israeli intelligence shared with U.S. counterparts in 2015 that it had penetrated the networks of Kaspersky, the Journal reported previously. The Israelis discovered Kaspersky software was being used to scan computers not only for viruses but also for classified government information that would be of interest to Russia, said former U.S. officials familiar with the Israeli discovery.

As the NSA investigated the Israeli tip, it homed in on a worker in the agency’s elite hacking unit, then called Tailored Access Operations. The worker had improperly removed classified information about NSA spying operations and installed it on his home computer, said former U.S. officials familiar with the episode. The contractor’s computer ran Kaspersky’s antivirus software, which acted as a digital scout and identified the classified material, these people said.

Assessing damage

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U.S. investigators immediately sought to assess the damage, including whether Kaspersky’s products were installed on other sensitive computers, including personal machines used by government employees and their families. That could include those used by family members of then President Barack Obama, said one of the former officials familiar with the episode.

Officials feared Russian intelligence could have not only turned personal computers into tracking devices, but also used them as staging points to access other machines inside the White House, the official said. Still, the incident didn’t trigger a broader alarm across the U.S. government about whether any federal agency computers were using Kaspersky.

In response to the Journal’s story on the incident earlier this year, Kaspersky conducted an internal investigation, releasing a report in November. The only incident Kaspersky said it found that matched the story’s description occurred in late 2014. By then, it said, it had been investigating Equation Group for six months when its antivirus software detected previously unidentified variants of the malware on a U.S.-based computer and sent a zip file containing the suspicious code to the Moscow-based virus lab for analysis.

Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow.Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/REUTERS

The analysis discovered hacking tools now known to have belonged to the NSA, as well as four documents bearing what appeared to be classification markings, Kaspersky said, without mentioning the NSA or U.S. government by name. Mr. Kaspersky ordered the files deleted from the company’s systems within days and the information wasn’t shared with third parties, the company said.

Kaspersky said it did keep certain malware files from that collection. It said it also detected commercially available malware on the U.S. computer, which could have been used to remove files.

In the summer of 2016, a mysterious online group calling itself the Shadow Brokers posted stolen NSA cyberspying tools. The Shadow Brokers claimed in its postings that some of the tools came from Equation Group.

Again, U.S. officials rushed to determine how the tools were stolen. Among the posted computer code were technical manuals the NSA uses as part of its spying operations. These are akin to guidebooks, showing the agency’s hackers how to penetrate various systems and walking them through the procedures for different missions.

One lead pointed back to Kaspersky products, said current and former U.S. officials. Investigators now believe that those manuals may have been obtained using Kaspersky to scan computers on which they were stored, according to one of the officials.

Kaspersky said it has no information on the content of the classified documents it received in 2014 because they were deleted. It isn’t clear if the manuals the Shadow Brokers posted are the same documents.

Around the time the Shadow Brokers were spilling NSA secrets, emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were showing up on WikiLeaks in what intelligence officials have said publicly they concluded was a Russian-led hacking operation to discredit the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community met in late 2016 to debate responses to the alleged Russian aggression, said some former U.S. officials.

At the State Department, among options considered was taking retaliatory action against Kaspersky, said former officials involved in the deliberations. Daniel Fried, then chief sanctions coordinator at the State Department, told the Journal he recommended to colleagues they look for elements of Russia’s cyberpower the U.S. could target. He told colleagues Kaspersky at least needed to be considered as a potential player in Russia’s moves against the West.

“I asked rhetorically, do you want to testify before some committee about when did you know about this and why didn’t you do anything?” said Mr. Fried, now a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank focusing on international affairs.

The State Department referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Some U.S. officials, including top White House security officials at the time, were concerned any action against Kaspersky could hurt U.S. companies by provoking a Russian response against them. U.S. officials also worried that, to justify harsh penalties, they would have to divulge what they knew about Kaspersky and its possible links to Russian intelligence, said several former officials.

Ultimately, the Obama White House didn’t seriously consider sanctioning Kaspersky, some former U.S. officials said.

Last year, Homeland Security created and led an interagency task force that collected information about the scope of the risk the Kaspersky software posed and began coordinating efforts across the government to minimize the risks.

In the months after President Donald Trump took office, concern about Kaspersky grew. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) put forward an amendment in the annual military-spending bill that would prohibit Kaspersky’s use on government computers.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at a hearing in June. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

During hearings on the matter on Capitol Hill, “I thought the most damning example” came from intelligence-community representatives, she said in an interview. “When each of them got asked would you put Kaspersky on your own personal computer and the answer was no, that’s a pretty strong message that maybe we should be taking a look at this.”

In September, the DHS banned Kaspersky products from government computers, instructing agencies to remove any Kaspersky software and report back on where it was found. The public statement accompanying the ban reads like a declassified version of the intelligence community’s suspicion regarding Kaspersky:

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”

Kaspersky says the DHS ban has had a “severe adverse effect” on its commercial operations in the U.S., with retailers removing its products from shelves and an unprecedented number of product returns.

—Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

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U.S. Cyber Command Leader Fears Terrorists Are Turning Cyber Into a Weapon System to Inflict Harm — NYT Says U.S. Cannot Hire Enough Good Cyber Warriors

April 7, 2016

Admiral Michael Rogers (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

While non-state actors today are not on par with nation states as far as cyber capabilities are concerned, terrorist groups, criminals, hackers and the like could possess destructive capabilities enjoyed by a small circle of nations in the not-so-distant future.

According to Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, non-state groups using cyber as a weapon system to inflict harm is one of the things that keeps him up at night. “The challenge I look for or that concerns me when I look at the future is what happens if the non-state actor – [ISIS] being one example – starts to view cyber as a weapon system? That would really be a troubling development,” he told lawmakers April 5.

Rogers said ISIS, which one of, if not the most adept, non-state terrorist organizations online, uses the Internet to expose its ideology, recruit on a global scale, generate revenue and coordinate activity. However, despite the minimal threat posed by non-state actors in cyberspace compared with formidable nations like Russia or China, Rogers called cyber “the great equalizer.”

“Today what I would tell you is I have not seen groups yet make huge investments in [weaponizing cyber], but I worry that it’s a matter of time because it wouldn’t take long,” he said. “One of the challenges of cyber—and in addition we previously talked today about how it doesn’t recognize boundaries—it doesn’t take billions of dollars of investment, it doesn’t take decades of time, and it doesn’t take a dedicated workforce of tens of thousands of people like you see most nation states deal with.”

Rogers added that destructive cyber capabilities are not beyond the ability of groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda if they made that decision.

DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen has also hit on the disparity cyberspace affords to non-state actors.  “From a standpoint of cybersecurity, right now we’re on the wrong side of the financial spectrum here. We’re losing,” he said at a conference. “The truth is, you can spend a little bit of money and a little bit of time and exploit some our weaknesses, and cause us to have to spend a lot of money, a lot of time.”

Up to this point, non-state and terrorist organizations have only been capable of defacing webpages and distributed denial-of-service attacks. U.S. officials have warned that these groups are continually looking to refine their capabilities.  “You need to prepare because it’s going to come here,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said at a conference recently, regarding “cyber jihad.”  “We’re watching as they actively try to acquire the capability to match their intent.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has already ordered the U.S. Cyber Command to engage ISIS and disrupt its efforts. “I have given Cyber Command in the counter-ISIL fight really its first wartime assignment. And we’re seeing how that works out,” Carter said, using the administration’s preferred acronym for ISIS,  in an appearance at CSIS April 5. “It means interrupting their ability to command and control their forces, interrupting their ability to plot, including against us here, and anywhere else against our friends and allies around the world. Interrupting their finances—their ability to pay people—their ability to dominate the population on whose territories they have tried to establish this nasty ideology.”

While DOD is not viewing this first foray into cyber war as a test case for future cyber war operations against other targets per say, the department is using it to make improvements to its current capabilities. Cyber is one of many capabilities in a larger bag to choose from that did not exist years ago, a DOD spokesperson told Defense Systems. As a planning organization, DOD is always looking to make improvements and apply lessons learned, whether saving money or in an operational context, the spokesman said.

Cyber has also become so important that military brass and members of Congress have talked about raising Cyber Command, now a sub-unified command under the Strategic Command (which is tasked with maintaining the nuclear infrastructure), to a full unified combatant command.

“[W]e should consider changes to cyber’s role in DOD’s Unified Command Plan,” Carter said inprepared remarksat CSIS, citing the cross-domain aspect cyber has on operations.

Carter elaborated on this train of thought as it applies to Cyber Command’s efforts in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, and how it relates to the U.S. Central Command, as well as the European and African commands. “[S]o we’re increasingly finding the problem not just of interregional integration, but of regional functional integration. The lines as clean as we could make them. That’s perfectly reasonable. You’ve got to divide up the pie somehow. But once you’ve done that, you may need to make sure the slices are able to work together and you haven’t artificially created barriers.”

Rogers also hit on this point in his testimony this week, noting that elevating Cyber Command to a combatant command would “allow us to be faster, generate better mission outcomes,” adding that “the department’s processes of budget, prioritization, strategy, policy, are all generally structured to enable direct combatant commander input into those processes. And I believe cyber needs to be part of the direct process.”

Rogers, however, has dismissed the notion for the need to create a new cyber “branch,” vis-à-vis the Air Force growing out of the Army Air Corps following World War II. “You have some advocating, ‘Is cyber so different, so specialized, so unique, so not well understood that it requires a very centralized, focused, unique construct to how we generate capacity and knowledge?’ There are some who make that argument. I am not one of those,” Rogers said at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in January. “Cyber doesn’t exist in a vacuum…Cyber exists in a broader context.”

https://defensesystems.com/articles/2016/04/07/rogers-cyber-warfare-terrorists-isis.aspx

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US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter speaks to Cyber Command troops at the group’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Homeland Security Dept. Struggles to Hire Staff to Combat Cyberattacks

WASHINGTON — At a time of increasing threats of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security is having trouble recruiting much-needed computer experts because it cannot match the pay of the private sector and does not have the same allure as intelligence agencies.

Recent disclosures that Iranian hackers with ties to the government in Tehran had launched a cyberattack against a dam in New York highlighted the need for the department, which is charged with protecting government and private systems from cyberintrusions, to have a staff capable of responding to sophisticated enemies.

“We are competing in a tough marketplace against a private sector that is in a position to offer a lot more money,” Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, told senators at a hearing last month. “We need more cybertalent without a doubt in D.H.S., in the federal government, and we are not where we should be right now, that is without a doubt.”

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Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, at Harvard University last month. “We are competing in a tough marketplace against a private sector that is in a position to offer a lot more money,” he told senators at a hearing last month. CreditSteven Senne/Associated Press

What Xi Jinping Offered in the U.S.: A Slight Shift in Tone — Xi welcomed dialogue on South China Sea, foreign NGOs, cyber issues

September 29, 2015

Xi’s rhetoric on U.S. trip at odds with China’s actions, but could signal more accommodation over time

Some see an unstoppable Chinese juggernaut now perceived as the No. 1 risk to the international economy.

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama at the United Nations in New York on Monday. 
Xi Jinping and Barack Obama at the United Nations in New York on Monday. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

SHANGHAI—On his trip to America, Xi Jinping often seemed caught between two audiences—his skeptical hosts who needed gentle reassurance and the one that mattered most, the crowd back home who admire his firm rule and tough nationalism.

It made for a few awkward moments when he tried to have things both ways.

At the U.N., for instance, he spoke out boldly for women’s rights even though his administration has detained feminists for drawing attention to sexual harassment on public transport. “Shameless,” tweeted Hillary Clinton.

On the South China Sea, Mr. Xi promised not to “militarize” disputed islands. Yet just a few days earlier, new satellite images showed Chinese contractors finishing up work on an airfield on Fiery Cross Reef long enough to land the biggest Chinese military aircraft.

He welcomed foreign NGOs, even as harsh legislation on the way will restrict their activities and put some out of business altogether; he pledged that China will remain open to foreign media organizations, skipping over the fact that censors are blocking their websites.

Given these contortions, analysts saw room for interpretation in Mr. Xi’s commitment to preventing the cybertheft of commercial secrets, the most notable deal to emerge from his summit with President Barack Obama. One big question: Will the civilians in charge of enforcement be able to rein in the powerful players in the People’s Liberation Army, whose digital fingerprints are all over cyberintrusions?

Likewise, the U.S. business community, which had been rapidly souring on China, reserved judgment on the agreement to speed up a bilateral investment treaty that would open China’s closed markets. Success will depend to a large degree on Mr. Xi’s willingness to challenge state monopolies, which he’s shown little desire to do.

Still, progress in these areas will now be held to new standards, even if it’s not guaranteed. Beyond that, Mr. Xi’s rhetoric, however ambiguous, may signal a deeper shift that will only become apparent over time.

Having ruled out the militarization of the artificial islands it has dredged in the South China Sea, China will now take a bigger hit to its regional reputation if it decides to install missiles on them, for instance, or begin air patrols, which many military analysts have been expecting.

Winning the hearts of ordinary Americans, and the trust of politicians, was always going to be a next-to-impossible endeavor for the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao. His immense popularity rests with the Chinese masses whose hearts swell with pride when he flaunts China’s new military hardware and uses it to stand up to America and its allies in Asia.

Still, Mr. Xi has plenty of incentive to reconsider his approach to relations with America that has alienated large sections of the U.S. business community, fueled criticism of China’s human-rights practices, hardened strategic thinking on China in the Pentagon and led to calls in the foreign-policy community to launch a Cold War-style containment strategy against China.

First, the Chinese leadership expects the next U.S. president, whether a Democrat or a Republican, to be tougher to deal with than Mr. Obama, whom they’ve pegged as weak and vacillating.

While there’s no prospect at all that Mr. Xi will countenance U.S. lecturing on human rights, or retreat from his nationalist goals to restore China’s ancient role as the regional hegemon, it’s not impossible that he will dial back the belligerence.

Indeed, some believe that China has been pushing its territorial claims as hard as it can in anticipation of more resistance after the U.S. presidential elections next year.

Second, the Chinese economy is heading into trouble. Mr. Xi talks up China’s ability to hit its 7% growth target this year, but many experts think he’s bluffing. Andrew Tilton, the chief Asia-Pacific economist for Goldman Sachs, believes growth has already fallen below 6% and predicts a “bumpy deceleration that will last a number of years.”

Next year will be particularly rough. Privately, top Chinese officials are talking about closures of loss-making state enterprises and major job losses. Rising unemployment not only threatens consumption, the one bright area of the economy, but could deliver a jolt to the social compact between the country’s rulers and ruled.

Investor confidence in China is fragile, and Mr. Xi knows that unstable relations between the world’s two largest economies will only exacerbate the unease. The panicked reaction in global financial centers to recent turmoil in Chinese stock and currency markets showed that a shuddering slowdown in what had appeared to be an unstoppable Chinese juggernaut is now perceived as the No. 1 risk to the international economy.

Few believe that this turnaround in China’s fortunes will induce anything like a new humility in Mr. Xi, translating into a more cooperative approach to America.

From the vantage point of Beijing, the summit was intended not so much as a reset of relations but as a necessary, and very modest, recalibration. It’s a long way from the partnership that Mr. Obama envisaged at the start of his presidency. But given Mr. Xi’s domestic power plays, it’s the best deal on offer—and the U.S. president has grasped it.

Write to Andrew Browne at andrew.browne@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-xi-jinping-offered-in-the-u-s-a-slight-shift-in-tone-1443503759

Philippines Thanks U.S. Lawmakers for Recognizing “The Biggest Land Grab Since World War II”

June 14, 2013
By Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday welcomed US senator’s condemnation of China’s use of threats and force in the Asia-Pacific.

The DFA, in a press statement, thanked US Senator Robert Menendrez, Senator Benjamin Cardin, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Bob Corker, in filing Senate Resolution 167 that reaffirms Washington’s support for the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the region.

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“We understand that the Resolution has yet to undergo the necessary congressional process before it is passed by the U.S. Senate, nonetheless, we extend our appreciation on the mere fact that some U.S. Senators have deemed it necessary to express their views on a fundamental issue that affects the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” the DFA said.

“The Philippines especially appreciates the reaffirmation of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including through arbitration; its condemnation of the use of threat or use of force; its recognition of the significance of the role of ASEAN and of the code of conduct; and its support for the ongoing and deepening efforts of the U.S. in the region relating to ensuring freedom of navigation, maintenance of peace and stability, and respect for universally recognized principles of international law,” it added.

US Senate Resolution 167, which was filed on Monday, has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

It cited many dangerous incidents involving Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea and the East China Sea.

These include Chinese vessels cutting the seismic survey cables of a Vietnamese oil exploration ship in May 2011; Chinese vessels barricading the entrance to the Scarborough Reef lagoon in April 2012; China issuing an official map that defines its contested “9-dash line” as China’s national border; and, since May 8, 2013, Chinese naval and marine surveillance ships maintaining a regular presence in waters around the Second Thomas Shoal, located approximately 105 nautical miles northwest of Palawan.

It also cited a Department of State spokesperson expressing concern in 2012 over China’s upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City in the West Philippine Sea and the establishment of a new military garrison in the contested area.

The resolution added that in January 2013, a Chinese naval ship allegedly fixed its weapons-targeting radar on Japanese vessels near the Senkaku islands, and on April 23, 2013, 8 Chinese marine surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the Senkaku Islands, further escalating regional tensions.

The senators said Beijing recently took other unilateral steps, including declaring the Senkaku Islands a “core interest”, “improperly drawing” baselines around the Senkaku Islands, and maintaining a military presence around the islands that are under control by Japan.

The resolution is asking the US Senate to condemn “the use of coercion, threats, or force by naval, maritime security, or fishing vessels and military or civilian aircraft in the South China Sea and the East China Sea to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo.”

It urged all parties in the disputed areas to exercise self-restraint to prevent any acts in that would escalate tensions.

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File:Spratly Is since NalGeoMaps.png

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Notes:

Called the Nansha Islands by China, the same Islands are called the Spratly Islands by most of the world, Meiji Reef  is Mischief Reef,  Ren’ai Shoal  is Second Thomas Shoal. The South China Sea is now often called ”West Philippine Sea” by Filipinos– in Vietnam it is often called the “East Sea.”  Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef is often called Panatag Shoal by Filipinos, and what China calls Xisha  is often called the Paracel Islands.

Vietnam often calls the South China Sea the “East Sea”, the Paracel Islands are Hoang Sa, the Spratly Islands are Truong Sa.

What Filipinos call Panganiban Reef is called Mischief Reef by most.

As seen in the article above, Panatag Shoal is  also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines. Many others call this Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef.

Photo: Chinese officers stop and question fishermen in the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and others have had trouble with China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Type 051C (Luzhou class) destroyer Shijiazhuang (116) in the PLA-Navy of China

Japanese and Chinese maritime surveillance ships in a dangerous “shadowing” in the East China Sea

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Photo: China’s Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff, People’s Liberation Army, offered no relief to Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines over what they call Chinese aggression at sea, saying, “Our attitude on East China Sea and South China Sea is that they are in our Chinese sovereignty. We are very clear about that.”  Seen here: General Qi delivers his speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, or IISS Asia Security Summit in Singapore, Sunday, June 2, 2013. — PHOTO: AP

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China’s People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo (R), meets with U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific region, on the sidelines of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore June 2, 2013. Senior Chinese military officials came ready to talk at a major regional security forum over the weekend, surprising delegates with a new sense of openness at a time when Beijing is making strident claims to territory across Asia’s seas.  Photo:  REUTERS/Edgar Su

China And The Biggest Territory Grab Since World War II

June 3, 2013

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that China’s mapping authority, Sinomaps Press, issued a new map of the country showing 80% of the South China Sea as internal Chinese water. 

What’s at issue?  Each year, more than half of the world’s annual merchant tonnage passes through the South China Sea as well as a third of the global trade in crude oil and over half of LNG trade.

By Gordon G. Chang

Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over that body of water does not necessarily mean it will close the South China Sea off to international commerce.  Yet that would be the next step.  Given its extremely broad view of its right to regulate coastal traffic, Beijing will undoubtedly define the concept of “innocent passage” narrowly and require vessels entering that sea to obtain its permission beforehand and similarly require aircraft flying over it to do the same.  The South China Sea, bordered by eight nations, has long been considered international water.

The New York Times noted Asian diplomats have seen the map with the stunning claim.  Its release, the Times article states, was delayed from late 2012 “so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership.”  The map is not yet publicly available.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China in 1947 issued maps with dashes at the edge of the South China Sea.  The ambiguous markings led to the term “cow’s tongue” because of the shape of the area defined by the dashes.  Mao Zedong’s victorious People’s Republic in 1949 adopted as its own Chiang’s expansive South China Sea claims.

Hopeful analysts had long maintained that the dashes—nine or ten of them depending on the map—signified China’s claim to only the islands inside the cow’s tongue.  Those islands are subject to competing claims by other shoreline nations, specifically, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan.  Moreover, there was great optimism when China ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea in June 1996.  That multilateral treaty includes detailed rules on the calculation of territorial waters—generally limiting territorial claims to waters no further than 12 nautical miles from shore—and those rules were inconsistent with Beijing’s general assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea.  Accordingly, analysts naturally thought—hoped, actually—that China had abandoned its expansive 1947-based claim.

Yet Beijing, despite treaty obligations, had long been laying the groundwork to close off the South China Sea to other nations.  For instance, in August 2011 the official Xinhua News Agency issued a report stating China had “three million square kilometers of territorial waters.”  It was impossible for the country to get to that figure without including its claim to most of the 2.6 million square kilometers of the South China Sea.

Moreover, in that same month Xinhua was even clearer when it asserted that the islands in the South China Sea “and surrounding waters” were “part of China’s core interests.”  By using “core interests,” Beijing was signaling it could never compromise China’s sovereignty over either the islands or those waters.

In any event, Beijing’s new map, according to those who have seen it, removes any ambiguity by converting the dashes into a national boundary.  All islands and waters inside the line, therefore, are China’s, at least according to the Chinese.  It is the biggest attempted grab of territory since World War II.

The new map will roil Asian nations, of course.  Last year, Beijing used force to seize Philippine territory, Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.  The United States, despite its treaty obligations to defend the Philippines, let the Chinese take what they wanted.  Nobody in the White House wanted to confront China, and there were voices in the Pentagon saying that China’s aggression served the Philippines right for kicking American forces out of the Clark and Subic bases.  Now, the Chinese are going after Ayungin Shoal, long considered Philippine territory.

The ongoing seizure of pieces of the Philippines is an indirect challenge to America.  Now, however, the issuance of the new map means Beijing has taken on Washington directly.  If there has been any consistent American foreign policy over the course of two centuries, it has been the defense of freedom of navigation.

Why is this important?  The world has prospered because of trade conducted freely over wide seas lanes and air routes.  So China’s claim to the South China Sea, if permitted to stand, will mark the end of the open architecture of the Post-War world.

At the end of this week, President Obama will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Rancho Mirage for two days of intensive talks.  The White House, in announcing the meeting on May 20, said it wanted to “discuss ways to enhance cooperation.”  The administration is hoping to build an enduring partnership with China’s increasingly militant one-party state and is trying to avoid disagreement.

Yet on the Beijing’s sea claims there can be no compromise.  Either the South China Sea is Chinese or it is international water.  The stakes—for China, for the United States, for the international community—are hard to overstate.

Follow me on Twitter @GordonGChang

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By Jane Perlez
The New York Times

SINGAPORE — In remarks directed at China, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Saturday of a “growing threat” of cyberattacks against the United States and called on America and its allies to “establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.”

Speaking to an audience of defense analysts and defense ministers from Asia and Europe at the annual conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Hagel said the United States was “clear-eyed about the challenges in cyber.”

“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” he said in a speech largely devoted to the Obama administration’s defense posture in Asia. At the same time, Mr. Hagel emphasized the need for more talks between the American and Chinese militaries to build trust and reduce the risk of miscalculation at a time of mounting rivalry.

His remarks were immediately challenged by a Chinese general in a question-and-answer session after his speech. A delegate to the conference, Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing, said she was not convinced — and China was not convinced — that the United States wanted a “comprehensive” relationship with China. The new American policy in Asia and the Pacific amounts to containment of China, General Yao said.

Speaking a week before a summit meeting in California between President Obama and China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, Mr. Hagel sought to reassure Washington’s nervous Asian allies, who are concerned about China’s expanding naval activities, that the United States would maintain its presence in the region.

Over all, he said, the United States will keep its “decisive military edge,” an oblique but distinct reference to American military superiority. China announced an 11.2 percent increase in military spending last year, part of its rapid military modernization.

He emphasized that new technologies would entail spending fewer resources in a smarter way, saying that the Navy had launched an experimental drone from an aircraft carrier last month for the first time. It was a feat that ushered in a new era of naval aviation, he said. Unstated, but understood by many in the audience, was the fact that China just last year put into service its first aircraft carrier, an old Ukrainian vessel refitted by the Chinese.

Mr. Hagel also said the United States would deploy a solid-state laser aboard the Ponce, a naval vessel, next year. He said it would provide “an affordable answer” to counter threats like “missiles, swarming small boats and remotely piloted aircraft.”

He said that the first of four littoral combat ships to rotate through Singapore had recently arrived, and that he would visit the ship, the Freedom, on Sunday. The  cyberintrusions is a new class of speedy war vessels that can operate on the ocean and in shallow coastal waters. Each costs $700 million, the Pentagon says.

In a feisty address that opened the conference, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam laid bare the rising regional tensions by repeatedly lamenting the lack of trust between China and its neighbors, and between China and the United States, although he did not mention China by name.

Regional organizations are supposed to take care of such tensions, he said, but what is “still missing is strategic trust in the implementation of these arrangements.”

As evidence of the problems, several diplomats from nations allied with the United States said they were concerned about a new map of the South China Sea that was issued last week by Sinomaps Press, the Chinese mapping authority. Beijing has long claimed the islands and land “features” within a nine-dash line drawn decades ago on maps of the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China is growing more assertive.       

About 80 percent of the South China Sea is inside that line, which was first drawn up by China in 1947 before the Communist takeover. The boundary is not recognized by any other country but has been the basis of China’s territorial claims to islands like the Scarborough Shoal, which it effectively seized from the Philippines last year. 

The new map, according to Asian diplomats who have seen it, takes a further step and redesignates the nine-dash line as a national boundary. Its release was delayed from late last year so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership, according to a senior Asian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.

Wu Shicun, a Chinese official at the conference, denied that the new map showed national boundaries. Instead, he said, it shows new lines around the islands that China calls the Diaoyu, a group in the East China Sea that Japan, which calls them the Senkaku, nationalized in September, leading Beijing to claim them.

At the time, China said the lines around the islands were drawn in accordance with Chinese law. A recent Pentagon report said they did not comport with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr. Wu, who heads the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said Saturday that the new map was needed because there had not been an official map of the South China Sea and the East China Sea drawn for about 20 years.

Related:

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China’s claims have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

China also claims in owns most of the East China Sea — and the oil below.

Related:

Vietnamese fishermen say that China’s rules are not legal.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) shakes hands with Philippines

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) shakes hands with Philippines’ Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during a meeting on the sidelines of an annual security forum in Singapore on June 1, 2013.
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Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing talking about the Ayungin Shoal issue in an informal talk in Camp Aguinaldo. (Photo by ALEXIS ROMERO)
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Above: Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi exchange views on the South China Sea at a news conference in Beijing Sept. 5, 2012. Photo: AP/Feng Li, Pool

Related:

Filipino U.S. Army veterans voice their opinion on the island dispute

China’s People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo (R), meets with U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific region, on the sidelines of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore June 2, 2013. Senior Chinese military officials came ready to talk at a major regional security forum over the weekend, surprising delegates with a new sense of openness at a time when Beijing is making strident claims to territory across Asia’s seas.  Photo:  REUTERS/Edgar Su

Chuck Hagel Meets China’s Tough Woman General Officer: Major General Yao Yunzhu Challenges Hagel To Better Explain US Military’s “Pivot” To Asia

June 2, 2013

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel was challenged by a Chinese general Saturday to better explain the US military‘s Asia pivot, just moments after the Pentagon chief warned Beijing over cyberwarfare.

In a speech at a high-profile security conference in Singapore, Hagel said the US administration has concerns about “the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military”.

The rebuke – coming in China‘s backyard and in front of a Chinese delegation – was countered by questioning of America’s intent in the region, following a reposition of its military strategy.

and agencies

guardian.co.uk,
Saturday 1 June 2013

   

   Major General Yao Yunzhu

Major General Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science, challenged Hagel to better explain America’s military buildup across the region.

“Thank you for mentioning China several times,” she said in the question-and-answer session after Hagel’s speech.

She said the Obama administration’s new focus on the Pacific has been widely interpreted as an “attempt to counter China’s rising influence and to offset the increasing military capabilities of the Chinese PLA. However, China is not convinced.”

In pointed remarks, she asked Hagel how he can assure China that the increased US deployments to the region are part of an effort to build a more positive relationship with Beijing.

“That’s really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relationships,” Hagel responded. “We don’t want miscalculations and misunderstandings and misinterpretations. And the only way you do that is you talk to each other.”

The Pentagon chief said the US welcomed a strong and emerging China that takes on responsibilities for security in the region, adding that the two countries have to be inclusive and direct with each other. “I think we’ve made continued progress,” he said. “And we’ll make more progress.”

The comments come ahead of a meeting next week in California between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It will be their first meeting since Obama’s re-election and Xi’s promotion to Communist Party chief.

Cybersecurity is likely to be a focus of the heads of state meeting, following a spate of hacking attacks on US firms and news organisation that have been blamed on Beijing.

On Friday, it is believed Hagel raised the prospect of forming a cyberworking group in sideline talks with Chinese officials.

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Like most security and defence-related conferences, the annual Shangri-La Dialogue is a heavily male-dominated affair.

At this year’s event, however, one woman is making up for the gender imbalance by dishing out far more pointed comments and sharper questions than the men.

Meet Major-General Yao Yunzhu, 59, of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who has been drawing media attention even though she is not China’s top- ranked representative.

Lieutenant-General Qi Jianguo, the deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, is leading China’s delegation.

File:The Straits Times Logo.svg

But it has been Dr Yao, who has a master’s degree in foreign languages and a doctorate in military science, who has been in the spotlight, with her tough grilling of heavyweight guests like United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng.

Last Friday night, she raised eyebrows and drew murmurs by challenging Mr Dũng, this year’s keynote speaker, to back up his veiled criticisms of China.

Mr Dũng’s 35-minute speech included barbed, if indirect, comments about Chinese assertiveness in the region, particularly with regard to the maritime disputes involving Việt Nam.

“Somewhere in the region, there have emerged preferences for unilateral might, groundless claims, and actions that run counter to international law and stem from imposition and power politics.”

He said.

Dr Yao, speaking in English, asked Mr Dũng to cite “concrete” examples where such behaviour occurred, and to explain which particular international law had been violated.

He side-stepped the question by noting China and Asean should work towards resolving the issues peacefully.

Dr Yao followed up with another confident display yesterday, minutes after Mr Hagel gave his inaugural Asia policy speech in which he publicly accused the Chinese government and its military of being involved in cyber intrusions.

“Thank you for mentioning China several times,” the Chinese Major-General said, to laughter.

Turning serious, she told Mr Hagel firmly that China was not convinced that the new US strategy to “rebalance towards Asia” was not an effort to contain China’s rising influence, and asked how Washington could really assure Beijing when it was moving so many military assets into the region.

“That’s really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relationships,” Mr Hagel responded diplomatically.

It is unclear if Beijing has plans to make Dr Yao, the director of the Centre for China-US Defence Relation Studies, the new face of its public engagement on military issues.

Judging from her “star turn” at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, that might not be a far-fetched idea.

By CHUA CHIN HON

Source: The Straits Times 2/6/2013

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China’s claims have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

Related:

Hagel, in Remarks Directed at China, Speaks of Cyberattack Threat

June 1, 2013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue on Saturday in Singapore.  Photo: Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

By Jane Perlez
The New York Times

SINGAPORE — In remarks directed at China, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Saturday of a “growing threat” of cyberattacks against the United States and called on America and its allies to “establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.”

“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” he said in a speech largely devoted to the Obama administration’s defense posture in Asia.

At the same time, Mr. Hagel stressed the need for more talks between the American and Chinese militaries to build trust and reduce the risk of miscalculation at a time of mounting rivalry.

His remarks were immediately challenged by a Chinese general in a question-and-answer session after his speech. A delegate to the conference, Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing, said she was not convinced — and China was not convinced — that the United States wanted a “comprehensive” relationship with China. The new United States policy in Asia and the Pacific amounts to containment of China, General Yao said.

Mr. Hagel responded that Washington wanted more transparency in military dealings with China. “You have to talk to each other, be direct with each other, be inclusive,” he said.

Speaking a week before a summit meeting in California between President Obama and China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, Mr. Hagel sought to reassure Washington’s nervous Asian allies — who are concerned about China’s expanding naval activities — that the United States would maintain its presence in the region.

Over all, he said, the United States will keep its “decisive military edge,” an oblique but distinct reference to American military superiority. China has announced an 11.2 percent increase in military spending this year, part of its rapid military modernization.

He stressed that new technologies would entail spending fewer resources in a smarter way, saying that the Navy had launched an experimental drone from an aircraft carrier last month for the first time. It was a feat, he said, that ushered in a new era of naval aviation. Unstated — but understood by many in the audience — was the fact that China just last year put into service its first aircraft carrier, an old Ukrainian vessel refitted by the Chinese.

Mr. Hagel also said the United States would deploy a solid-state laser aboard the Ponce, a naval vessel, next year. He said it would provide “an affordable answer” to counter threats like “missiles, swarming small boats and remotely piloted aircraft.”

He said that the first of four littoral combat ships to rotate through Singapore had recently arrived, and that he would visit the ship, the Freedom, on Sunday. The littoral combat ship is a new class of speedy war vessels that can operate on the ocean and in shallow coastal waters. Each costs $700 million, the Pentagon says.

In a feisty address that opened the conference, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam laid bare the rising regional tensions by repeatedly lamenting the lack of trust between China and its neighbors, and between China and the United States, although he did not mention China by name.

Regional organizations are supposed to take care of such tensions, he said, but what is “still missing is strategic trust in the implementation of these arrangements.”

As evidence of the problems, several diplomats from nations allied with the United States said they were concerned about a new map of the South China Sea that was issued this week by Sinomaps Press, the Chinese mapping authority. Beijing has long claimed the islands and land “features” within a nine-dash line drawn decades ago on maps of the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China is growing more assertive.

About 80 percent of the South China Sea is inside that line, which was first drawn up by China in 1947 before the Communist takeover. The boundary is not recognized by any other country but has been the basis of China’s territorial claims to islands like the Scarborough Shoal, which it effectively seized from the Philippines last year.

The new map, according to Asian diplomats who have seen it, takes a further step and redesignates the nine-dash line as a national boundary. Its release was delayed from late last year so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership, according to a senior Asian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Wu Shicun, a Chinese official at the conference, denied that the new map showed national boundaries. Instead, he said, it shows new lines around the Diaoyu islands, a group in the East China Sea that Japan — which calls them the Senkaku — nationalized in September, leading Beijing to claim them for itself.

At the time, China said the lines around the islands were drawn in accordance with Chinese law. A recent Pentagon report said they did not comport with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr. Wu, who heads the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said Saturday that the new map was needed because there had not been an official map of the South China Sea and the East China Sea drawn for about 20 years.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/wor
ld/asia/hagel-reassures-asian-allies.html?_r=0