Posts Tagged ‘East China Sea’

Japan’s Military Seeks Funds to Boost Missile Ranges, Speed in Record Budget

August 31, 2017

TOKYO — Japan’s defense ministry on Thursday sought $160 million in a record budget request to develop swift, longer-range missiles to extend its military punch in East Asia, countering growing Chinese strength and an increasing North Korean threat.

If approved, the proposal for a rise of 2.5 percent in defense spending to 5.26 trillion yen ($48 billion) for the year starting April 1, will be the sixth straight annual increase as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bolsters the military.

The funds will pay for ballistic missile defense upgrades, six F-35 stealth fighters, four V-22 Osprey tilt rotor troop carriers, besides orders for new naval vessels, including a submarine and two compact warships.

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Japan will further update its ballistic missile defense ships like JDS Myōkō (DDG175) (Pictured)

Around $90 million of the requested missile development funds of $160 million will go on studying hypersonic missiles to quickly penetrate enemy defenses.

The rest will pay for research on extending missile range, technology that could potentially be used to help develop strike weapons.

“The research and development is for island defense,” a Ministry of Defence official told a briefing, referring to the southwestern Okinawa island chain skirting the East China Sea, where Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China.

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Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera

The funding for missile development, though relatively small, could nonetheless spark controversy, since Japan’s war-renouncing constitution imposes restrictions on strike weapons for the military.

Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) argue that Japan needs weapons able to strike North Korean missile sites, so as to deter attacks by Pyongyang.

The longest range missiles in Japan’s arsenal, which includes anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions, have ranges of less than 300 kilometers.

A group of LDP lawmakers that recommended Japan acquire strike weapons was led by Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera before he took up his post in August.

But such a proposed shift in military strategy would face stiff political opposition from critics in Japan who say Abe’s hawkish policies have gone too far, hurting his already soggy popularity.

“Striking enemy bases after an attack to stop subsequent launches would seem like a natural thing to do, but that would be difficult for people in Japan to accept under the current constitution,” an LDP lawmaker said, asking not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The proposed defense budget will face scrutiny by Ministry of Finance officials who may seek to rein in military outlays as they juggle demands for higher spending on health and welfare for Japan’s ageing population.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


South China Sea: U.S. vows to challenge excessive sea claims

August 14, 2017
Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe. AP/Gregory Bull, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe.

In a recent press briefing in Washington, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, on a daily basis under a comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP).

She explained that the operations, conducted in accordance with international law, are meant to demonstrate that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”

“It’s true in the South China Sea; it’s true in other places around the world as well,” Nauert said.

A US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea.

The USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Slamming the FONOP, the Chinese armed forces immediately sent naval ships to identify and verify the US warship and warned it to leave.

The United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague had awarded the Philippines “sovereign rights” over Panganiban Reef off Palawan, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The court ruling last year also invalidated China’s entire “nine-dash-line” claims over nearly all of the South China Sea. Beijing has ignored the ruling despite having ratified UNCLOS.

“We have a comprehensive freedom of navigation operations program, under which the US forces challenge excessive maritime claims around the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. All nations —that is guaranteed to the United States and to other nations, as well,” Nauert added.

The FONOP, she said, is not about any one country and is not about making a political statement.

Last year, the US conducted these challenging excessive maritime claims in 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners.

“The United States does these operations – the freedom of navigation operations – all around the world, many times of year,” Nauert said. “But this is nothing new. We’ve done it before; we’ll continue to do that.”

The US acknowledged on Thursday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under “tremendous” pressure on the South China Sea issues during the meetings in Manila last week but the regional bloc still “held on to its principles,” defeating attempts to drop “militarization,” “self-restraint” and “land reclamation” from the joint communiqué at the end of the milestone gathering.


 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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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 chose to ignore international law.

Tokyo does not own the Sea of Japan, China’s air force chief says

August 11, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s air force chief defended military maneuvers in the Sea of Japan, saying the waters did not belong to Tokyo, after a Japanese defense review warned of increasing Chinese military activity there.

Japan worries that China’s probing of its air defenses is part of a push to extend its military influence in the East China Sea and western Pacific, where Japan controls an island chain stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) south toward Taiwan.

In an annual defense white paper released on Tuesday, Japan said the number of its jet scrambles against Chinese aircraft hit a record in the year to March 2017.

It warned that Chinese naval and air force activities in the Sea of Japan could pick up pace.

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People’s Liberation Army Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian

“The Sea of Japan is not Japan’s sea,” People’s Liberation Army Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian said on Thursday, in response to a question at a military event in the northeastern city of Changchun.

“We must carry out drills at sea. China’s air force cannot simply guard on land and not go out,” Ma said in a report broadcast by Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, which was posted to the air force’s official microblog late the same day.

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“But (activities) in the Sea of Japan are still not that many. What they have said is a bit of an exaggeration.”

Tokyo’s ties with Beijing have long been plagued by a territorial dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited East China Sea islets and the legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression.

The Sea of Japan separates Japan from the Korean peninsula. China said in July that its navy had the right to pass though a strait linking it with the Pacific Ocean, after one of its warships entered the area.

Increasing activity by China’s rapidly modernizing military has boosted tension in East Asia since the start of the year, as North Korea persists with ballistic missile and nuclear bomb tests that have stoked fears in Japan, the United States and elsewhere.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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China and Japan also have an island dispute in the East China Sea over the ownership of Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese)

Australia, Japan, U.S. call for South China Sea code to be legally binding

August 7, 2017


AUGUST 7, 2017 / 4:29 AM

MANILA (Reuters) – Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged Southeast Asian nations and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draft will be legally binding.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China should establish a set of rules that were “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement following a meeting in Manila.

They also urged China and the Philippines to abide by last year’s international arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

US, Australia, Japan Want Coercive Acts at Sea to Be Stopped

August 7, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The U.S., Australian and Japanese foreign ministers have called for a halt on land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea and compliance with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s vast claims to the disputed waters.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan’s new top diplomat, Taro Kono, also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts Monday to rapidly negotiate a legally binding maritime code with China aimed at preventing an escalation of conflicts in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

Their remarks, which are aimed at taming aggression in the disputed sea, are considerably stronger than a joint statement of concern issued by their counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc whose economies depend heavily on China.

Recent Developments Surrounding the South China Sea

August 7, 2017

BEIJING — 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.



China’s foreign minister said talks on a long-sought code of conduct in the South China Sea that were first mooted in 2002 may finally start this year if “outside parties” don’t cause a major disruption.

Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers approved a negotiating framework for a code of conduct during a meeting at the weekend in the Philippines. The idea is to draw up an outline of the rules and responsibilities for the countries to prevent clashes from erupting in the contested waters. However, the initial roadmap doesn’t say whether the code of conduct will be legally binding or enforceable.

China had long been perceived as delaying negotiations with ASEAN so it can undertake and complete construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea without being restricted by any maritime code.

Wang said the start of talks may be announced by the heads of state of China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual summit in the Philippines in November if Beijing’s conditions are met. He said those conditions include a “stable situation” in the South China Sea and non-interference by “outside parties,” an apparent reference to the United States. Beijing frequently accuses the U.S. of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said countries locked in the sea disputes should “stop improving or expanding or militarizing any of their outposts.”

Wang’s mention of the vague conditions can allow China to delay or halt the planned talks for any reason. Differing expectations between Beijing and ASEAN of what the code of conduct should look like also likely mean the negotiations will be anything but straightforward.



ASEAN foreign ministers defied China’s steadfast stance and overcame their own disagreements to issue a joint statement criticizing Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the South China Sea.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems.

The U.S. and ASEAN claimants to the waters and islands oppose the work. They are wary of restrictions on ship movements in a key waterway for world trade which boasts rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil, gas and mineral deposits.

These tensions divide ASEAN. Some ASEAN nations want to stand firmly together against Beijing, while others who depend heavily on China for trade and investment are wary about possible retaliation.

ASEAN foreign ministers failed to promptly issue a joint communique after their annual gathering Saturday due to a disagreement over whether to include criticism, even indirectly, of China’s activities in the contested territories.

Then, in a surprise move late Sunday, they indirectly criticized Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the disputed waters.

They also in their 46-page statement referred vaguely to an international arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s historical claims to virtually all the strategic waterway.

The regional grouping decides by consensus, and last year Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.



The U.S., Chinese and Japanese navies ended a three-day search for a missing sailor who was believed to have gone overboard in the South China Sea.

Vessels and aircraft, including two Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy frigates and aircraft from two Japan Maritime Self-Defense ships, had combed roughly 10,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the sea west of the Philippines by Friday. The U.S. Navy said the joint search had demonstrated “the common bond shared by all mariners to render assistance at sea.”

The sailor was from the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, based in Yokosuka, Japan. He was reported missing on Aug. 1.

China accused the U.S. in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.

The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the U.S. considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.



Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will have the “confidence to conquer all forms of invasion” and won’t allow the loss of “any piece” of its land to outsiders.

His words were contained in a speech in Beijing marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

It strikes a similar note to other tough talk by Xi about China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors, including in the South China Sea.



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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


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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 chose to ignore international law.

China and India Face Off in the Himalayas

August 2, 2017

Standoff between regional rivals began when Beijing moved to extend a road in a disputed area

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talked in October with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a summit in Goa, India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talked in October with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a summit in Goa, India. PHOTO:MANISH SWARUP/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Aug. 2, 2017 9:42 a.m. ET

NEW DELHI—China on Wednesday stepped up pressure on India to withdraw from a weekslong military standoff that shows how the countries’ contest for leadership in Asia is heightening the risk of conflict.

The dispute began in June when Beijing assembled workers and machines to extend a road in a remote Himalayan territory that is claimed by both China and Bhutan, a small, mountainous nation that is a close ally of India.

The road is located near an area known as the “tri-junction,” where China, India and Bhutan meet.

Bhutanese soldiers tried to stop the construction, according to India, which said it then dispatched its troops in coordination with Bhutan. Indian and Chinese soldiers have since planted themselves on the disputed land.

Beijing says India is trespassing and must fall back as a “precondition and basis for any meaningful dialogue.” New Delhi says road-building in the area hurts India’s security interests and Bhutan’s territorial claims. Bhutan has called China’s actions a “direct violation” of the countries’ understanding not to change the situation on the ground until their boundary dispute is resolved.

In a position paper released Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry accused India of “flagrantly” crossing over into Chinese territory. “India has invented various excuses to justify its illegal action, but its arguments have no factual or legal grounds at all and are simply untenable,” the ministry said in the paper.

“No country should ever underestimate the resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty,” it added.

The standoff on the Dolam Plateau is sparking concerns of a prolonged period of strain between China and India, which are maneuvering for power and influence in a region being redefined by China’s rise.

“If India backed down, it would send a signal to the neighborhood that China is a better bet than India,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “This dispute is not just about a road. It’s a reflection of the changes and realignments that are taking place in Asia.”

Both countries are headed by nationalist leaders who have emphasized shows of strength. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to forestall a unipolar Asia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is preparing for a pivotal Communist Party congress in the fall. Foreign diplomats say that Beijing wants to minimize geopolitical tensions that could upset preparations but doesn’t want to be seen as soft on boundary claims.

A Chinese soldier and an Indian soldier in 2008 at a border crossing between the two countries
A Chinese soldier and an Indian soldier in 2008 at a border crossing between the two countries PHOTO:DIPTENDU DUTTA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The two nuclear-armed nations face off from time to time along the long, undemarcated stretches of their border. India lost a war, fought over territorial issues, to China in 1962.

The current dispute stands out because India doesn’t claim the territory where its troops are positioned. Indian military strategists worry greater Chinese access to the area could leave India vulnerable at the “Chicken’s Neck,” a narrow sliver of territory near the tri-junction that connects the bulk of India with its northeast.

India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, was in Beijing late last week. Neither side would say if the dispute was discussed in his talks with Chinese officials.

Ties between the two countries, never close, have grown far knottier as China has pursued regional dominance. It has made inroads into India’s traditional sphere of influence, from Nepal to Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean. In response, India has forged closer relations with the U.S. and Japan, moves that have irked Beijing.

India has also watched warily as Beijing has tried to shift the balance of power in Asia by enforcing its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The rivalry has surfaced in different ways in recent months. China is blocking India’s membership to an international body that controls trade in nuclear technology, and has stymied India’s attempt to impose United Nations sanctions on the leader of a Pakistan-based terror group.

In April, India facilitated a visit by the Dalai Lama to sensitive parts of the country, despite repeated warnings from China, which considers the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism a separatist.

The following month, India declined to participate in the launch of the One Belt, One Road initiative, China’s expansive infrastructure plan that seeks to tie dozens of countries to its ambitions. China’s efforts to build an economic corridor through Pakistan-governed territory claimed by New Delhi has drawn sharp protests from India.


“India’s positions on issues that go to the core of China’s vision for a new global framework have upset the Chinese,” said Jayadeva Ranade, the president of the New Delhi-based Center for China Analysis and Strategy. “It sees India’s intervention [over the Himalayan road] as the next in a series of provocative steps.”

Since the start of the standoff, Beijing has kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism of India’s position, which has been echoed in Chinese media.

A commentary published by the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, warned, “The public’s patience is running short” and “perhaps it is time that it be taught a second lesson,” a reference to the 1962 war.

Bhutan is caught in the geopolitical competition. India provides vital economic and military aid to Bhutan and exercises significant influence, but the Bhutanese shun the notion their country is a protectorate of India, as recent Chinese commentaries have asserted.

China, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Bhutan, would like to harness those sensitivities to diminish India’s hold and start building influence there, as it has done elsewhere in the region.

India and China both have incentives to maintain their position yet avoid escalation, adding to the difficulty of predicting how long the standoff will last or how it will end, said Antoine Levesques, a research associate for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The two sides, he said, are searching for a way to “walk the tightrope of showing results and restraint—both of which are important to both of them.”

Write to Niharika Mandhana at and Chun Han Wong at



Doklam deadlock: India and China will constantly challenge each other, get used to it

 (July 8, 2017)

China Says Restrained in Face of India ‘Concocting’ Excuses Over Border — India says China is to blame — Chinese expansion disturbs neighbors

August 2, 2017

BEIJING — China accused India on Wednesday of “concocting” excuses over the illegal entry of the South Asian nation’s military into Chinese territory on their disputed border, adding that China had shown great restraint.

The stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbors, who share a 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China’s Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

The two sides’ troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote northeastern regions.

India has said it warned China the road construction would have serious security implications.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said the Indian military was still in Chinese territory, and that China had acted with a great deal of restraint, demanding that India withdraw its forces.

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India and China mountain standoff. (AP Photo – Anupam Nath)

“But the Indian side not only has not taken any actual steps to correct its mistake, it has concocted all sorts of reasons that don’t have a leg to stand on, to make up excuses for the Indian military’s illegal crossing of the border.”

The ministry reiterated that the border had been agreed in 1890 by the governments of China and Britain, India’s colonial ruler until 1947, and later with the Indian government.

India’s actions are not only a serious encroachment of Chinese territory, but a challenge to regional peace and stability and normal international order, it added.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.

They have told Reuters that both sides’ diplomats have quietly engaged to try to ensure the stand-off does not escalate, and that India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down from confrontation without losing face.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Doklam deadlock: India and China will constantly challenge each other, get used to it

 (July 8, 2017)

China defends gasfield activity in East China Sea

August 2, 2017


© JAPAN COAST GUARD/AFP | China and Japan both claim islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, which knows them as Senkaku, and regularly send ships to nearby waters to assert their claims

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Wednesday defended its oil and gas activity in the East China Sea as occurring in areas “indisputably” under its jurisdiction, after Japanese protests stirred a longstanding dispute over the region.The two countries both claim islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, which knows them as Senkaku, and regularly send ships to nearby waters to assert their claims amid repeated diplomatic clashes.

Talks between Tokyo and Beijing begun in June 2008 to cooperate over oil and gas resources in the area broke down two years later amid rising tensions, and have not resumed.

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Yoshihide Suga

On Tuesday, Japan’s top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga told reporters it was “extremely regrettable that China is unilaterally continuing its development activity” by stopping mobile drilling ships near the median line separating the two countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

He added that Japan lodged a protest late last month after noticing the activity but did not specify what exactly the Chinese ships were doing.

“China’s oil and gas activities in the East China Sea are all located in maritime areas indisputably under Chinese jurisdiction,” China’s foreign ministry told AFP in a statement, adding: “The so-called issue of ‘unilateral exploitation’ does not exist.”

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The gas field under the joint development agreement lies in an area where both countries’ EEZs overlap.

Japan says the median line between the two nations should mark the limits of their respective EEZs.

But China insists the border should be drawn closer to Japan, taking into account the continental shelf and other features of the ocean.

China’s foreign ministry said it rejected the idea of a median line between Japan and China, calling it “Japan’s unilateral proposition.”

Chinese drilling ships were last spotted near that line in October 2016, Kyodo News and the Sankei Shimbun daily reported.

So far, China has built 16 drilling platforms on its side near the median line, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump offered reassurances the US would come to Japan’s defence if China were to seize the uninhabited Senkaku islets, which it calls Diaoyu.

In a joint statement with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February, the pair said they “oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands”.


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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 chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: China Criticizes British Freedom of Navigation Mission Plans — U.S., Allies Standing By International Law

July 31, 2017

BEIJING — 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.



China’s foreign ministry criticized plans by Britain to send its new aircraft carriers on freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the strategic waterway.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Friday in response to a question on statements by British officials that “some countries” from outside the region “insist on stirring up trouble while the situation is trending toward calm in the South China Sea.”

“Regardless of what banner these countries or individuals fly under, or what excuses they may peddle, their record of the same kind of sanctimonious interference in the affairs of other regions, leaving behind chaos and humanitarian disaster, prompts countries in this region to maintain a high degree of vigilance,” Lu said.

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China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson confirmed following a high-level meeting in Sydney with his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, that missions to the South China Sea would be near the top of deployment plans for the new carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade,” Johnson said.

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop look at each other during a press conference following their meeting in Sydney, Thursday, July 27, 2017. Johnson said that he supports a proposed free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia, as his country looks to strengthen its relationships with allies ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon later said exact plans for the deployments had not yet been finalized.

“But, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon said.

China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions carried by the U.S. Navy along with the presence of the navies of Japan, Australia and others in the waterway, through which an estimated $5 trillion in annual trade passes each year.



An official Chinese magazine says President Xi Jinping personally directed the enlargement of China’s presence in the South China Sea through the construction of man-made islands and other measures, crediting him with constructing a “maritime Great Wall.”

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China’s President Xi Jinping addresses 12,000 troops during an unprecedented display of China’s military muscle in Inner Mongolia, Sunday, July 30, 2017. Xinhua photo

Xi “personally led and directed a series of great struggles to expand strategic advantages and safeguard national interests,” the Study Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s central training academy, said in an article published Friday.

The president’s policies, including the building of islands and administrative changes elevating the status of China’s claims in the disputed Paracel island group, have “altered the basic direction of the South China Sea strategic situation.”

They have “created a solid strategic foundation for the winning final victory in the struggle for upholding rights in the South China Sea, the equivalent of building a maritime Great Wall,” the magazine said, referencing the centuries-old defensive structure built to protect China from invasions by Mongols and tribes from the north.

Under Xi, China has constructed seven man-made islands in the highly contested Spratly group by piling sand and cement atop coral reefs, later adding runways, aircraft hangers and other infrastructure with defensive uses. Islands in the Paracel islands and elsewhere have also been expanded and similarly augmented.

China claims the construction is mainly to improve safety for shipping and fishermen, although the Study Times article again appeared to underscore its military purpose.

The article also cited Xi’s involvement in policy regarding uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that China claims.

Giving “measures for measure,” China unilaterally declared control over a large swath of airspace in the East China Sea — a move declared illegitimate and ignored by the U.S. and others — and patrols the area on a regular basis, the article said.

It said Xi’s moves have “in one fell swoop, shattered Japan’s many years of maintaining ‘actual control'” over the islands, known in Chinese as Diaoyu and in Japanese as Senkaku.


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North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Choi in Beijing, China in June of 2016. Kyodo Photo