Posts Tagged ‘Fiery Cross Reef’

What China’s military air crashes really signal

February 12, 2018

Experts say rising incident rate shows China flexing military might, flying more missions

The deadly crash of a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) military plane in Guizhou province last month during a training exercise has raised questions about whether China’s relentless push for military modernisation has outpaced its actual capabilities.

The incident, which claimed the lives of at least 12 crew members onboard, has severely hit air force morale, as it happened just weeks after the crash of a J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jet, a source told the South China Morning Post.

“We must recognise that in China, there is a fatal gap between the air force’s combat-ready training and its imperfect aircraft development,” the source said.

Despite engine and aircraft design problems, pilots have been pushed to fly the warplanes “because there is this political mission to build a combat-ready fighting force”, explained the source.

The crashes are the latest in what appears to be a growing string of often-fatal accidents involving China’s military planes.

While the PLA does not openly report such incidents, there were at least seven known crashes in the last two years, including one last November that killed Ms Yu Xu, one of China’s first female fighter pilots.

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A J-15 fighter jet landing on the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning last year. China had more than 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimates.PHOTO: XINHUA

But rather than a sign of deteriorating capabilities, military experts told The Straits Times the accident rate shows a strengthening of PLAAF and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force.

TECHNOLOGY AND CORRUPTION ISSUES AT PLAY

The PLA’s air programmes face significant challenges, not least because most of its warplanes are cloned from foreign designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge jet engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The J-15 fighter jet, for instance, is based on Russia’s Su-33. The new J-20 and J-31 stealth planes closely resemble America’s F-22 fighter jet and F-35 joint strike fighter, prompting United States lawmakers to accuse Beijing of stealing US designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The use of ageing aircraft, such as the 1990s-era Tu-154, for long-distance maritime missions also shows a lack of confidence in the new models when it comes to longer missions, said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies research fellow Wu Shang-Su.

A more deep-seated problem is the PLA’s graft-riddled past, which has likely compromised the quality of its fighter jet programmes.

Former PLA chief Guo Boxiong was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 for having amassed a fortune in bribes.

“As vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission over the past decade, Guo was in charge of R&D (research and development) and reports were that he took ‘tremendous bribes’ from the defence industry,” said PLA expert Arthur Ding of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies.

“If that’s the case, the technology and quality of platforms like jet fighters may not meet the PLA’s demands, and this can partially explain why they are suffering this kind of incident rate.”

HIGHER MISSION, TRAINING TEMPO MOST SIGNIFICANT FACTOR

But experts agreed that the biggest contributor to the PLA’s rising accident rate is that it has been tasked to take on more varied and demanding missions, alongside a vast expansion in its hardware and numbers. Since last year, the Chinese air force has conducted “island encirclement patrols” around Taiwan involving its fighter jets, bombers and surveillance planes. Such flights are the “new normal”, a PLAAF spokesman said in December.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV in recent months also shows Beijing wants to regularise deployments of combat aircraft in the South China Sea, through the air and naval facilities it has built on disputed islands there, such as on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys and Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

To support the greater range and number of missions, the PLA’s air assets have been significantly boosted over the past decade. China had over 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimated in a report. The PLA today has almost 3,000 aircraft, about the same number as that of Japan and South Korea combined, said Global Firepower, an index of countries’ military strength.

“More aircraft, more personnel, more missions, more training and a higher profile – these are all major factors that account for the incident rate,” said Mr Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence industry analyst for military publication IHS Jane. “One of the outcomes of the increase in these factors is unfortunately more accidents, but that holds true for all militaries around the world.”

More accidents in the short term also indicate President Xi Jinping’s effort to get the PLA to change its culture is succeeding, said Dr Ding.

Since he took office, Mr Xi has pushed to transform the PLA into a modern military “capable of fighting and winning” a 21st-century war.

Dr Ding noted that in the old days, PLAAF commanders would conduct highly scripted training scenarios that had minimal risk of casualties, unlike real combat scenarios, as casualty rates directly affected promotion prospects. Today’s exercises are much more complex, combat-realistic and integrated. Just last month, China conducted a series of training exercises involving the spectrum of its air assets – from the new J-20 fighter to the H-6K bomber and Y-20 transport aircraft.

“My impression is that (President Xi) has encouraged the top brass to face the reality that rigorous training will mean greater likelihood of incidents, and for the PLA, this mindset shift is probably a good one,” he said.

But this also means that countries in the region should be prepared for a more formidable Chinese air force in the coming years – one that is able to project air power far beyond China’s borders. “It’s probably not so good for China’s neighbours, because down the road, in the long term, it means China’s real combat and operations capability will be substantially improved.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline ‘What PLA air crashes really signal’.
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China seeks to name sea features in Philippine Rise — Did China Swindle The Philippines?

February 7, 2018
 
The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor. Namria graphic

MANILA, Philippines — Why is China interested in conducting research in the Philippine Rise, an area in the Western Pacific where it has no maritime territorial claim?

One possible answer, according to official sources: Beijing is seeking naming rights for seven or eight submarine mountains or seamounts and ridges in Benham or Philippine Rise and the surrounding Philippine Sea.

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The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor.

The first edition of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, based on about 20,000 soundings, came out in 1904, but the map is a work in progress. A GEBCO Digital Atlas was published in 1994.

Experts estimate that it will take 200 years to complete mapping of the planet’s entire ocean floor, so research contributions from various countries are accepted by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO.

Those who “discover” ocean features with the required supporting research get to name them.

The Chinese Navy Hydrographic Office submitted to the GEBCO Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names proposed names for undersea features including a seamount that it wants to call Jujiu in Benham Rise and other parts of the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific.

All are in the Philippine Basin and within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The IHO-IOC website, in its record of China’s undersea feature name proposals, shows one filed for a ridge in the Philippine Basin that Beijing says a Chinese vessel called Li Siguang Hao “discovered” in September 2004 following a survey from July to September of the same year.

Beijing reportedly converted the naval vessel into a fishery law enforcement ship called Yuzheng 203 sometime in 2012.

The China Navy Hydrographic Office submitted the undersea feature name proposal, together with bathymetric maps, to the IHO-IOC on April 17 last year, seeking to name the feature Shouyang Ridge.

“Shouyang,” according to the application, is “another name for Chinese lunar January, i.e. the beginning of the spring when the grim cold air gives way to the all encompassing warmth imperceptibly. The poetic and pictorial inspiring appellation, created by associating month, climate and the changes of great nature, manifests the wisdom and temperament of people living in the ancient world.”

China’s so-called nine-dash-line claim over nearly all of the South China Sea does not extend to the Pacific Ocean. The entire Chinese maritime claim was invalidated by the UN-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague in 2016.

President Duterte ordered all foreign research activities in the area stopped the other day, for still unspecified reasons. A Chinese vessel, however, has completed its research in the area.

Explaining the President’s order, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said “we simply have to regulate what is within our sovereign rights” even if “we have to share with humanity, with other nations what is in there.” Foreign groups wishing to conduct research or exploration in Philippine Rise are required to get clearance from Esperon.

He stressed the Philippines would like to assert its sovereign rights over waters within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. “It simply means that we value also what we have,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/08/1785645/china-seeks-name-sea-features-philippine-rise

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

History lessons for Duterte and Cayetano on China’s respect for Philippine waters

February 7, 2018

With 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Two decades of bilateral talks, negotiations, and deadends, starting from 1995. Then, in 2016, an overwhelming legal victory for the Philippines in an arbitration case that was novel and historic in a number of ways—but a decision that China refuses to abide by. In sum, that’s our country’s difficult relationship with the regional hegemon in resolving our dispute over parts of the South China Sea.

All these happened not so far back in our history, while President Rodrigo Duterte was Davao City mayor and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano a local politician who later became congressman and senator. Tensions with China over scattered rocks, reefs, and islands in what is now called the West Philippine Sea may have been far removed from these two men’s consciousness. But as the country’s leaders, they have a responsibility to protect the national interest, with history as their guide.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Sure, Benham Rise is not disputed territory. The 13-million-hectare area off the coasts of the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, larger than Luzon, is unambiguously part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, as declared by the United Nations in 2012.

But letting China conduct maritime research there, while allowing it to ignore our country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and militarily dominate the area, is deplorable. It is Stockholm Syndrome at its fullest: the more the Philippines is abused, the more it gives in to China.

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China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, shows Chinese military construction

To refresh the memories of our leaders, here’s a short timeline:

  • 1988 – China occupied Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef), Cuarteron Reef (Calderon Reef), and Subi Reef (Zamora Reef). Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef have been transformed into military bases, while a high-frequency radar installation was built on Cuarteron Reef.
  • 1995 – China grabbed Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) and built certain structures which, they said, were shelters for their fishermen. Look how Mischief Reef is today: it is a military base complete with underground storage for ammunition.
  • 2004-2005 – The Philippines and China entered into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) to do a 3-year research of petroleum resources in parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam protested this controversial deal so it became a trilateral agreement. China, which used its ship, collected the data, and Vietnam supposedly processed it, and the Philippines interpreted it. The survey results, some of which were blurred, have remained confidential. China, it is said, controlled the process. A case questioning the constitutionality of the JMSU is pending with the Supreme Court.
  • 2011 – China stopped the Philippines from exploring for oil and gas in Reed Bank.
  • 2012 – China took control of Scarborough Shoal.
  • 2013-2014 – China attempted to prevent Philippine ships from delivering supplies to and rotating personnel in Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines as of February 2018

Sneaking into Benham Rise

Recently, in another part of the Philippines, a Chinese survey vessel hovered in Benham Rise for 3 months, a fact Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed last year. The DFA, then under Secretary Enrique Manalo, said China had not been issued any permit to research. Why then was China there and what was it doing?

Despite this breach, which happened on Duterte’s watch, Cayetano has blithely given the go signal to China to survey the country’s coral-rich eastern seaboard. The DFA, however, has not released details of the permit given to the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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The approval process was likewise not transparent. Usually, it is a multi-agency team – including the DFA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture (particularly the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) – that reviews research requests such as this.

Damage to coral reefs

Forgotten is this race to study Benham Rise is China’s plunder of the coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea and the massive damage it has done to the marine biodiversity of the area. The construction of artificial islands in features that China had occupied, turning these into fortified military bases, had impacted reefs on a “scale unprecedented in the region” and which will take decades to centuries to recover.

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The international tribunal that heard the Philippine maritime case versus China ruled overwhelmingly against China on environmental issues. Among others, the judges said China engaged in – and tolerated – the harvesting of endangered species on a significant scale and in a manner that was destructive of the coral reefs. Its land reclamation has caused irreparable harm to the environment. Studies by experts proved this.

While China’s intentions in Benham Rise, as the scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) explain, has everything to do with ocean currents and understanding climate change, there is concern that China will collect information on the marine wealth and eventually use it to exploit the area, just like it did in the West Philippine Sea.

Filipino scientists from UP-MSI are reportedly on board China’s ship, Ke Xue Hao, to participate in the research, a requirement for any foreign country doing marine scientific research in Philippine waters. Their presence may serve as check on the Chinese.

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

But with 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down. This is not just about science. It is also about trust. – Rappler.com

The author, editor at large of Rappler, is writing a book on how the Philippines won its maritime case versus China.

https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/195289-benham-rise-history-lessons-duterte-cayetano

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

More Photos:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5360751/Chinas-militarisation-South-China-Sea-revealed.html

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Editorial: Philippines Taking A Beating on the Rule of Law (Plus: The Truth in the South China Sea Is Only Elusive to Some…)

February 5, 2018

There’s one thing that advanced economies have in common: the rule of law prevails. This is reflected in the annual Rule of Law Index, which was launched in 2016 by the World Justice Project, a US-based non-profit organization operating worldwide to advance the rule of law.

In the latest index, the best 10 performers are Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Canada and Australia. At the bottom are Afghanistan, Cambodia and Venezuela. This year’s index is notable in that the Philippines merited special mention as “the biggest mover” as it plunged by 18 places to 88th out of 113 countries from its rank in 2016, and 13th out of 15 countries in East Asia and the Pacific.

The report said the Philippines saw substantial drops in ranking in four out of the eight factors measured in the index, placing 107th out of 113 countries in terms of order and security, 102nd in criminal justice, 99th in adherence to fundamental rights, and 59th in constraints on government powers.

The other factors used to measure adherence to the rule of law are absence of corruption, open government, regulatory enforcement and criminal justice. The index covers 113 countries and jurisdictions, based on surveys conducted in 110,000 households and 3,000 experts.

The country has had problems for a long time with the eight factors. Why is the rule of law important? The index was initiated by the American Bar Association, which counts prominent legal professionals as honorary chairpersons. The World Justice Project stresses that effective rule of law fights poverty and disease, reduces corruption and protects people from injustice.

The rule of law, the group stresses, underpins development, accountable government and respect for basic rights. It promotes peace and deprives insurgencies of several reasons to advance their causes through armed conflict. If the government is sincere in its effort to bring peace and development especially in conflict areas, it must do more to strengthen the rule of law.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2018/02/06/1784982/editorial-rule-law-biggest-mover

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People Tell Us They No Longer Believe Philippine Presidential Spokesperson…

The Irish Call It Blarney

Palace downplays China’s ‘almost done’ militarization in South China Sea

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the islands, located off Palawan, were reclaimed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday downplayed reports that China is almost done militarizing seven Philippine-claimed reefs in the South China Sea, saying the Chinese built the structures before President Duterte assumed office.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the islands, located off Palawan, were reclaimed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.

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Harry Roque

“You know when I saw the headline, yes, it’s a fact perhaps, but is that news? I don’t think so. I think the moment that they start the reclamation, they declared that they will use it, they will have military facilities into the islands,” he added.

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what (do) they want us to do? We cannot declare war. Not only is it illegal, but it is also… because it’s impossible for us to declare war at this point,” Roque said in a press briefing.

In 2013, the Aquino administration filed a case with the UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in The Hague contesting China’s massive claim in the South China Sea. Three years later, the tribunal issued a ruling invalidating Beijing’s claim and reaffirming Manila’s maritime entitlements.

But the ruling did not stop China from building artificial islands over Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson South) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, which are all within Philippine territory.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

Duterte, who has been seeking closer ties with China, has set aside the ruling but promised to bring it up before Chinese leaders within his term. Malacañang has said the Philippines would continue to rely on China’s promise that it would not reclaim new islands.

“Those islands were reclaimed during the time of the former administration. They were complete in fact during the time of the previous administration, and I think whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases,” Roque said.

“So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” he added.

“As I said this militarization, if you can call it militarization, did not happen during the Duterte administration alone. It’s been long militarized and the question is, ‘what can we do?’ What did the past administration do and what can we do?”

Roque said China has not built new artificial islands since Duterte assumed office in 2016. He brushed aside claims that China’s construction activities would allow it to have de facto control of Philippine-claimed islands in the South China Sea.

“I don’t think there’s been an instance when China has curtailed freedom of navigation despite the fact that they have weapons in these reclaimed islands,” the spokesman said.

“We hope not because after all, all countries that (have claims) are under obligation to refrain from the use of force, that is illegal under international law,” he added.

Roque also shrugged off remarks from Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that relying on the good faith of China is like relying on the good faith of a thief.

“This is a democracy, he’s entitled to his opinion. But I would expect that next time, we would read his opinion in the form of a court decision because that’s the function of the judicial branch of government… Or as I said, he could run an elective, legislative position if he wants to make policy for government,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/06/1785089/palace-downplays-chinas-almost-done-militarization-south-china-sea

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Contrary to Roque’s remark, China structures on man-made islands grew under Duterte’s nose

The image shows the Chinese miltiary structures installed on Feiry Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef. AMTI, File

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday claimed that everything found on reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea was already there when President Rodrigo Duterte took over in 2016, but a report released late last year showed that many structures were installed during the current Philippine administration.

Roque also dismissed as not “news” any more a newspaper report on Monday showing that China’s militarization of its artificial West Philippine Sea islands was nearly complete.

“But our position is everything found on these islands were already there when the president took over,” Roque answered in a press briefing in the Palace when asked about installations done under the administration of Duterte.

“As I said this militarization, if you can call it militarization, did not happen during the Duterte administration alone. It’s been long militarized,” Roque said.

RELATED: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

However, a report released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in December last year showed that China continued its construction of infrastructure necessary for fully functioning air and naval bases on its larger outposts.

AMTI said some of the structures that were built since the start of 2017, well into Duterte’s first year in office, range from underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays.

“These facilities account for about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters, of new real estate at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratlys, and North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracels,” AMTI said in its December 2017 report.

AMTI said that Fiery Cross Reef saw the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering 27 acres or about 110,000 square meters.

This work included completion of larger hangars along the airstrip, work on large underground structures south of the island likely to house munitions or other essential materiel, a large communications/sensor array at the northeast of the island, various radar/communications facilities around the island and hardened shelters for missile platforms at the southern end, according to AMTI.

“The large underground tunnels AMTI identified earlier this year as likely being for ammunition and other storage have been completed and entirely buried,” the think tank said.

READ: China defends ‘peaceful construction’ of defense facilities on Fiery Cross

There was also work in 2017 on what appeared to be a high-frequency radar array at the north end of the island, AMTI added.

Work on Subi Reef meanwhile covered 24 acres or 95,000 square meters, according to the think tank, and included buried storage facilities, previously identified hangars, missile shelters, communications facilities and a high frequency “elephant cage” antenna array for intelligence.

There were also new storage tunnels at Subi in 2017, according to AMTI, in addition to buried structures previously made at the north of the island.

China is also poised to “substantially” boost its radar and intelligence capabilities at Subi, according to AMTI, as since mid-2017 it has built a second “elephant cage” as well as an array of radomes on its southern end.

READ: Lorenzana: Philippines to protest China airbase on Fiery Cross Reef

On Mischief Reef, China constructed underground storage for ammunition and other materiel, hangars and missile shelters, new radar and communication arrays and new storage tunnels and started work on a new radar array in 2017, according to AMTI.

“China has continued construction, though on a smaller scale, at its bases in the Paracel Islands. The most significant of this work in 2017 was at North, Tree, and Triton Islands,” it said.

Despite reports on China’s continuing militarization in the disputed waters, the government has insisted that it will not go to war with China and will instead rely on its “good faith.”

“If there is such militarization which China denies… The intent to use or to station military hardware has always been there even before the entry of the Duterte administration,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/05/1784894/contrary-roques-remark-china-structures-man-made-islands-grew-under

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines government on China buildup on PH reef: What do you want us to do? — Malacañang portrays itself as helpless in the face of China — Not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.” — Really? — Something is fishy…

February 5, 2018

(UPDATED) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque again downplays continued militarization by China of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea

Published 3:05 PM, February 05, 2018
Updated 3:39 PM, February 05, 2018

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang, on Monday, February 5, portrayed itself as helpless in the face of China’s continued construction on Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), a reef that belongs to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do they want us to do?” asked Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a Palace news briefing.

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 Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

He was asked what the Philippine government intends to do about the new structures built by China on the reef located in the Spratlys which the Permanent Court of Arbitration, through a landmark ruling, affirmed belongs to the Philippines.

Photos show the reclaimed reef now has a concrete runway, two radomes for radar equipment, two hangars, and a control tower.

Roque said the reclamation of the reefs in the Spratlys began during the administration of Benigno Aquino III and that the government had already known then of China’s plan to build military structures on them.

“I think whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases. So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” said President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.

Asked if the Philippines intends to file a diplomatic protest against China, Roque was evasive.

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China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, shows Chinese military construction

“In the first place, it did not happen overnight. I think the previous administration must have filed also a protest, when it became apparent that they were going to be used as military bases,” he said.

Roque insisted that the only red flag for Malacañang is if China creates more artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

This despite Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying a month ago that even just military buildup on existing artificial islands is a violation of China’s promise.

“I know for a fact that the Chinese government said some time ago that they are not going to militarize those reclaimed islands,” said Lorenzana last January 8.

If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and weapons, then it will be a violation of what they said,” he added.

Asked to explain the discrepancy between his remarks and that of the defense chief, Roque said he can only speak for Duterte and not for other Cabinet members.

Options outside of war

This is the second time Roque has downplayed new Chinese construction in the West Philippine Sea. In early January, he also said the transformation of Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) into a Chinese air base was not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.”

During the Monday briefing, Roque wondered out loud what else the Duterte administration could do in the face of China’s continued construction on reclaimed reefs. He even asked reporters present for suggestions since declaring war against China is “impossible.”

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had previously outlined 5 steps the Duterte administration could take to deter China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea without going to war.

One of these steps is to file a diplomatic protest. Another is to send the Philippine Navy to patrol features in the EEZ.

Carpio also said the Philippines could ask for the assistance of the United States, possibly in the form of joint naval patrols. He also advised the government to avoid any act or statement that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Why Justice Carpio wants China to read his e-book)

Asked about Carpio’s criticism of the Duterte administration’s decision to trust China’s word on its activities in the West Philippine Sea, Roque said it would be better for Carpio to write a relevant court decision or to run for a post in government.

“He could run [for] an elective, legislative position if he wants to make policy for government,” said Roque. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/195287-malacanang-china-buildup-mischief-reef-west-philippine-sea

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No automatic alt text available.

China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

China to bring 4G+ telecom services on man-made islands in South China Sea

February 3, 2018
Aerial photos aired by China Central Television show the completed construction of facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. CCTV via Asia Times

MANILA, Philippines — China’s navy and telecommunication corporations are reportedly working to improve communications system in Chinese-occupied features in the disputed South China Sea by bringing 4G+ services in the area.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

On Friday, state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the Chinese navy has signed an agreement with Beijing’s three largest telecom operators to “comprehensively upgrade” civil communication system on Chinese reefs in Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) islands.

The project is targeted to be completed in May.

“The project will greatly increase the number of telecommunication base stations on some islands and reefs, such as Yongxing (Woody), Yongshu (Kagitingan), and Meiji (Panganiban),” Xinhua reported.

“The operators also promised more affordable service packages for users,” it added.

“In addition to improvements in the living conditions for civilians and military on the islands and reefs, the upgrade is also expected to provide support for fishery, emergency response, maritime search and rescue, and humanitarian relief efforts in nearby waters.”

In a report dated December 14, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s CSIS identified all permanent facilities that can be used for military purposes that China completed or began work since the start of 2017.

AMTI said Beijing had done “smaller scale” construction at its bases in the Paracel islands, which are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Although there was no substantial new construction at the island last year, Woody island, China’s military and administrative headquarters in the disputed sea, saw two first-time air deployments that “hint at things to come at the three Spratly Island airbases farther south.”

READ: Analyst: China continues expansion in South China Sea as int’l focus ‘shifts away’

China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who courted the Asian power for billion dollars’ worth of investments.

RELATED: US think tank expert: South China Sea diplomatic breakthrough ‘unlikely’

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/03/1784227/china-bring-4g-telecom-services-man-made-islands-south-china-sea

Philippines to protest over China activity on reclaimed reef

January 9, 2018

AFP

© WESTCOM/AFP | Fiery Cross Reef is an outcrop that Beijing turned into an artificial island and which now appears to house a military base
MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest with China after Manila questioned if Beijing had reneged on a pledge not to militarise a disputed South China Sea reef.Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment on them.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday said Manila was investigating reports of recent Chinese activity on Fiery Cross Reef, an outcrop that Beijing turned into an artificial island and which now appears to house a military base.

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Lorenzana spoke out despite recent moves by President Rodrigo Duterte to ease tensions with China.

“According to them they are not militarising (the reefs) and it was for peaceful purposes only like tourism,” Lorenzana said.

“But if it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and any weapons, defensive (or) otherwise, that would be a violation of what they said”.

Lorenzana said he had also received reports Philippine fishermen had been “harassed” by Chinese coastguards.

Last month, a US think tank released new satellite images showing deployment of radar and other equipment in disputed South China Sea islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the buildup continued despite rival claims across the sea from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Over 2017, China installed infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as “large radar and sensor arrays”, the Washington-based think tank said.

Fiery Cross Reef saw the most construction last year, with building work spanning 27 acres, or about 110,000 square metres, AMTI said its analysis of satellite images showed.

The Philippines had previously been one of the most outspoken countries in standing up to China’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

This culminated in Manila’s complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal that ruled in July 2016 that China’s territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

But since Duterte took office in mid-2016, he has decided not to use the ruling to pressure China but has instead chosen to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investment and aid.

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

Philippine Government Defends China’s ‘Good faith’ in South China Sea

January 9, 2018

“All I’m saying is that there is still no breach of the good faith obligation for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. Presidential Photo/Joey Dalumpines

Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – January 9, 2018 – 12:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — Recent reports from Chinese state media that one of the Manila-claimed reefs in the Spratly Islands has been transformed into an airbase is “not news,” Malacañang said Tuesday.

Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television had released aerial images of Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef show that the artificial island now functions as a fortified airbase with a hospital and military installations.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said that China has not yet breached its “good faith commitment” not to reclaim new islands.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

“From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases so the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I am concerned, is not new,” Roque said in a televised press briefing.

Roque had earlier claimed the Palace “[doesn’t] know where these works are.”

He stressed that the Philippine government continues to rely on Beijing’s “good faith” that it will not embark on new reclamation activities inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Duterte’s spokesman added that the Philippines has always been against the militarization of the disputed area.

DND: Philippines to file diplomatic protest

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, appears to have a different position on recent developments on Fiery Cross Reef.

The Defense chief warned that the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest against China if proven that they are militarizing the reclaimed islands.

Asked about Lorenzana’s comment, Roque said that this would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The DFA under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has opted to focus on aspects of diplomatic ties with China outside the South China Sea dispute.

Citing the July 2016 ruling of the United Nations-back tribunal, Roque noted that only the Philippines has the right to make installations within the disputed features as part of its exclusive economic zone.

“I think that without doing anything, the tribunal already articulated the correct legal position of the country and the correct legal position that the Philippines is the coastal state that should exercise sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.

Roque had cited the landmark tribunal award, which the Duterte administration repeatedly refused to bring up during talks with Beijing to settle the South China Sea dispute.

The Philippines, as ASEAN chair last year, made no mention of the tribunal award in all of its statements following the leaders’ meetings in Manila in April and November.

RELATED: Philippines insists on dialogue with China amid completed airbase in South China Sea

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/01/09/1776116/palace-defends-chinas-good-faith-south-china-sea#5sQuoFcxdgd5B6qD.99

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South China Sea: Philippines to protest to China over apparent airbase on manmade island

January 9, 2018

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines will make a diplomatic protest to China, which the southeast Asian nation’s defense minister described as having reneged on a promise not to militarize artificial islands in the busy South China Sea waterway.

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FILE PHOTO: Construction is shown on Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the disputed South China Sea in this June 16, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to Reuters on June 29, 2017. MANDATORY CREDIT CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The United States has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement along the key trade route.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s comment followed a Dec. 30 broadcast of aerial footage by the official China Central Television (CCTV) showing Fiery Cross Reef, which appeared to have been transformed into an airbase.

“The Chinese government said some time ago that they were not going to militarize those reclaimed islands,” Lorenzana told reporters, adding that the protest would be made through the foreign ministry.

“If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and even weapons systems, that will be a violation of what they said.”

Asked about the protest, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said the construction was on the country’s territory and was intended to aid peace in the region, as well as maritime safety and disaster prevention.

“Of course, China also needs to construct necessary defense equipment for its territory,” the spokesman, Lu Kang, told a regular briefing on Tuesday. “The relevant equipment is not directed at any particular country.”

China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been courting Beijing in hopes of winning business and investment.

China has assured the Philippines it will not occupy new features or territory in the South China Sea, under a new “status quo” brokered by Manila as both sides try to strengthen their relations.

Reports about China militarizing reclaimed islands were not new, presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a regular news briefing.

“We have always been against the militarization of the area,” he added. “It is certainly not OK, because it constitutes a further threat to peace and security in area.”

China is holding to a commitment not to reclaim more islands, Roque added, however.

“There is still no breach of the good faith obligation for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamation,” he said, when asked about the situation on the reef.

China has denied U.S. charges that it is militarizing the South China Sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The reef has a hospital with more than 50 doctors, high-speed mobile connections and an airport with a runway of 3,160 meters (3,456 yards) to serve what Beijing calls a “weather station” equipped with radar, Chinese state media say.

In the last 27 years, China’s navy has sent more than 1,000 soldiers to guard the reef, state media have said.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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

Philippines Seeks Dialogue With China Over South China Sea Construction, Militarization — “The Philippines will not be giving up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea.” (Unless it’s it too late)

January 5, 2018
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – January 5, 2018 – 5:46pm

Aerial photos aired by China Central Television show the completed construction of facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. CCTV via Asia Times

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/01/05/1774949/philippines-insists-dialogue-china-amid-completed-airbase-south-china-sea#zpal2hWeYuwAWwMw.99

MANILA, Philippines — Following recent reports that one of the Manila-claimed features in the South China Sea has been transformed into a fortified airbase, the Philippine government insists on pursuing dialogue with China.

“The Philippines pursues cordial but frank dialogue with concerned parties on the issue of the South China Sea through various bilateral and multilateral platforms,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television recently aired aerial photos of Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands, which is now a 2.8-square kilometer airbase.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

Hong Kong-based Asia Times reported that the island contains a runway long enough for H-6K strategic bombers to land. The artificial island also has a hospital and military installations.

Fiery Cross Reef, reportedly the third largest island in the contested waters, has become a logistics hub in support of Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the South China Sea, according to the report.

The DFA, however, reiterated that the Philippines will not give up its territory in the disputed region as stated by Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano before.

“Nevertheless, Secretary Cayetano has stated several times that the Philippines will not be giving up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea,” the DFA added.

In its July 2016 ruling, the United Nations-backed tribunal agreed that Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef are rocks. This means that the three features appear during high tide but cannot sustain habitation or economic life. They are allowed a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.

The tribunal also ruled that China violated its obligations under the UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment with its island-building activities at Fiery Cross Reef.

RELATED: Palawan within range of China’s jets, missiles in South China Sea

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/01/05/1774949/philippines-insists-dialogue-china-amid-completed-airbase-south-china-sea#zpal2hWeYuwAWwMw.99

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