Posts Tagged ‘freedom of navigation and overflight’

Philippine News Agency Criticized For Using Xinhua Article On South China Sea Dispute

August 9, 2017
Originally by Chinese news wire agency Xinhua, the story – titled “Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue” – was released on the PNA website on Sunday. File

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine News Agency (PNA) is in hot water anew after it released an article that appears to side with China on the South China Sea issue.

Originally by Chinese news wire agency Xinhua, the story – titled “Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue” – was released on the PNA website on Sunday.

It focused on China’s supposed commitment to improving the situation in the South China Sea, at one point calling the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippine case “ill-founded.”

The commentary noted that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to “directly resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through peaceful means.”

“More than one year after an ill-founded award at a South China Sea arbitration unilaterally delivered by an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and improved thanks to the wisdom and sincerity of China and the parties concerned,” the article read, referring to the ruling that voided Beijing’s claims over the whole of the South China Sea by affirming the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in compliance with international law, but it should by no means be used as an excuse by certain countries outside the region to stir up trouble,” it added.

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

PNA has since taken down the article, although it is still available through the Google web cache (

Netizens immediately criticized PNA for releasing the story, questioning the state-funded agency for supposedly being a mouthpiece of China.

“What’s this? This must be a mistake! PNA becoming a mouthpiece of China? PNA criticizing in effect tribunal ruling in favor of PH?!” former Cabinet official and Parañaque representative Roilo Golez said on Twitter.

“Is PNA funded by China now? It looks like it is now,” another added.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said he has asked PNAofficials to explain why they should not face administrative charges for posting the Xinhua commentary.

“We have already sent a (memorandum) to PNA to explain in writing why they should not be held liable for any administrative charges,” Andanar said in a statement.

“We will take appropriate action against liable PNA officials and/or staff, if they are found to commit negligence in carrying out their duties and responsibilities,” he added.




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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.


Asean goes soft on China

August 2, 2017
In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible. File

MANILA, Philippines –  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is seen to take a softer stand on China’s aggressive moves in disputed waters and to highlight instead the conclusion of negotiations on a framework of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

The latest talks on the COC were held on May 18 in Guiyang, China.

In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible.

ASEAN and China are set to endorse a framework for a COC that will regulate the future behavior of the parties concerned during the meeting in Manila this week. The framework will be endorsed for eventual crafting of a COC.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the framework, completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the leaders of ASEAN and China, contains elements which the parties have agreed to.

But the draft does not call for a legally binding COC, as some ASEAN countries had wanted.

Pending conclusion of a substantive COC, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) in its entirety,” the draft communiqué said.

“Taking note of concerns expressed by some ministers over recent developments in the area, we reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, pursuing mutually agreed practical maritime areas of cooperation, and avoiding unilateral actions in disputed features that may further complicate the situation in keeping with the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the draft statement said.

The draft communiqué did not mention the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines.

‘Philippines should seek enforcement of arbitral award’

But Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines should seek enforcement of the arbitration ruling against China on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio said this after warning that a joint venture with China on the disputed islands would violate the Constitution.

Carpio said the Duterte administration should instead push for its territorial rights stemming from the government’s victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

He raised suggestions as the country is set to host next week the ASEAN foreign ministers for the framework of the COC for claimants in the maritime row.

Among the options for the government, according to Carpio, is to initiate an agreement among all ASEAN members with territorial claims in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that could overlap among countries as ruled by the PCA.

He also suggested that the Philippines enter into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia on overlapping EEZ on the extended continental shelf claim in the Spratlys.

Carpio explained such agreements would implement part of the arbitral ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ.

“Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them leaving, only the territorial disputes,” the magistrate said in an interview.

He explained that such declarations would also isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratly islands.

The SC justice said another option would be to file before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf an extended continental shelf (ECS) claim beyond the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon.

Carpio believes that the UN body would likely award the ECS claim to the Philippines since China would not participate in the process and oppose it. This would be similar to the Philippines’ ECS claim in Benham Rise, which was unopposed.

“If China opposes our ECS claim, China would have a dilemma on what ground to invoke,” he stressed, adding that China cannot invoke its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea as the CLCS is bound by the PCA ruling under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Carpio reiterated that the Philippines can file a new case before the UNCLOS tribunal if China starts reclamation activities in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as this would destroy the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

Carpio earlier criticized the policy of the Duterte administration on the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea for “setting aside” the PCA award won by the legal team, of which he was part.

He said the policy is “without discernible direction coherence of vision” and “relies more on improvisation than on long-term strategy.”

But the SC justice clarified the blame does not fall on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), because it is Duterte who is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.

DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar earlier said the PCA ruling might not be mentioned in the framework to be approved by the ASEAN foreign ministers.

The official said the framework would be “generic” and would only outline the nature of the code of conduct for parties in the dispute.


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

 (July 8, 2017)

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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.


India, US call for freedom of navigation, rule by international law amid South China Sea disputes

June 27, 2017


US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) walk to the Oval Office with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) after his arrival to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 26 June 2017
US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) walk to the Oval Office with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) after his arrival to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 26 June 2017 CREDIT: EPA

WASHINGTON: With an eye on China and the disputes in the South China Sea, India and the US today called for freedom of navigation and resolving of territorial and maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.

“In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters at the Rose Garden of the White House after his maiden meeting with President Donald Trump.

Later, a India-US joint statement on the meeting said as responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, Trump and Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region.

“Recognising the significant progress achieved in these endeavours, the leaders agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership,” the joint statement said.

In accordance with the tenets outlined in the UN Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper, the statement said.

To this end, Trump and Modi reiterated the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region, it said.

The statement comes amid China being engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

Modi and Trump called upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.

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US stand on South China Sea remains unchanged amid China dialogue

June 24, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis appear at news conference following a Diplomatic and Security Dialogue Meeting with a Chinese delegation including State Counselor Yang Jiechi and military Chief of Joint Staff Fang Fenghui, at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. AP/Cliff Owen

MANILA, Philippines — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis made it clear to Beijing that Washington’s position on the South China Sea remains unchanged during a security dialogue between the two countries.

Tillerson and Mattis hosted Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi and Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department, for the first session of the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington.

Tillerson said he and Mattis had a frank exchange of views on the disputed waters with the Chinese leaders.

“We oppose changes to the status quo of the past through the militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law, and we uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight,” Tillerson said in a press conference.

Mattis said that they also discussed the importance of freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of maritime disputes and ways to decrease tension in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon chief stressed that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.

“On South China Sea, this is a dialogue where we identify areas where we can work together and to understand those areas where we have, I would call them disconnects, where are our understanding of the problem is very different from theirs,” Mattis said.

Mattis added that Beijing and Washington will continue to work on “closing gaps” in their understanding in the future.

“But I would say for right now that’s the whole purpose for the dialogue that we held here today, and we will be holding more in the future,” Mattis said.

A few weeks ago, Tillerson accused China of using its economic power to evade issues such as the South China Sea dispute.

“We desire productive relationships, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether its militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during his visit to Sydney.

Irked by Tillerson’s remarks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that China and Southeast Asian countries have been making efforts to uphold peace and stability in the contested waters.


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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.

US, China agree to stop firms from doing business with North Korea over nuclear threat, Tillerson says

June 22, 2017

Pledge to impose UN sanctions on Pyongyang comes after Trump’s tweet that Beijing’s efforts to rein in the reclusive state have ‘not worked out’

By Zhenhua Lu
South China Morning Post

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 11:45am

China and the US held high-level security talks on Wednesday and called on North Korea to halt its missile and nuclear programme, despite US President Donald Trump’s tweeted claim a day earlier that Beijing’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang have “not worked out”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a press conference after the talks that the US has made a commitment to hold North Korea accountable for multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions that “explicitly prohibited its nuclear weapon and missile programme”.

“We both agreed that our companies should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities in accordance with these resolutions,” Tillerson said.

China restated its position that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearised, but added that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, according to a statement released by the Chinese embassy in the US.

The statement also restated China’s opposition to the deployment of a US developed anti-missile shield in South Korea.

 US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated

Tillerson reiterated the Trump administration’s argument that China has the “diplomatic responsibility to exert pressure greater to prevent further escalation in the region”.

The two nations’ inaugural diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington came as tension in the Korean peninsula has risen after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student held by North Korea for nearly 18 months, died six days after returning to the US on June 13.

During the joint press conference with Tillerson, US Defence Secretary James Mattis accused North Korea of being “beyond any kind of understanding of law and order and humanity”. He added that Trump’s sentiments in his Twitter post represented “American people’s frustrations with the [North Korean] regime [which] provokes and provokes, and basically plays outside the rules”.

Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that China’s efforts to bring a resolution to the North Korea crisis had “not worked out”, adding: “At least I know China tried!”

Mattis said the US and China both reaffirmed that the North Korean nuclear and missile programme was an urgent threat and both pledged a strong commitment to cooperate on the shared goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. “Meanwhile we will take necessary actions to defend ourselves and our allies,” he said.

 US Secretary of Defence James Mattis pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated Press

Tillerson said he was unable to provide an update on the status of the other three Americans currently held in North Korea.

Abraham Denmark, former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, who stepped down in January, said: “It is only a matter of time before the president realises that China is not going to solve this problem.” Denmark added that additional sanctions from the US, including against Chinese companies with alleged links with North Korea, were “certainly possible”.

The Trump administration has also provided China with a list of people or bodies that allegedly support Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons network, which Beijing needs to take action against, Tillerson told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

A Chinese-based company, Mingzheng International Trading, is accused of laundering money on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean lender subject to sanctions, the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia said last Thursday.

 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pictured by a missile launcher. Photo: Associated Press

Heather Nauert, a US State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment after the US press conference on whether China had agreed to curb the cited Chinese groups’ trading with North Korea.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a security policy focused think tank in Washington, said: “Frustration is growing in the administration that China is not [doing] enough in this regard.”

Glaser added that if Beijing does not work more actively to stop these activities or take other measures such as reducing crude oil exports, there was likely to be more friction between the US and China over North Korea.

 US and Chinese officials pictured during the talks in Washington. Photo: Xinhua

In signs reflecting the two nations tensions over China’s more assertive claims in the South China Sea, Tillerson said the US opposed the “militarisation” of disputed waters in the region and “excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law”. The US would “uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight”, he said.

China called on the US not to take sides over the disputes and respect China’s territorial sovereignty, the Chinese embassy statement said.


Testy times for China and India

August 6, 2016

By Ravi Velloor
Associate Editor (Global Affairs)
The Straits Times

While most eyes are focused on the South China Sea, the situation in South Asia, and the deteriorating state of ties between India and China, bear close watching too.

This week some New Delhi newspapers carried stories that the Narendra Modi government just gave the Indian Army permission to deploy a hundred pieces of an advanced version of its supersonic cruise missile, Brahmos. The weapon, co-developed by Russia and India, has a 290km range and has apparently been perfected for mountain warfare with “steep-dive” capabilities. The regiment in charge is to be located in Arunachal Pradesh, a sprawling and thinly populated province bordering Tibet that China claims in its entirety.

Since it is rare that defence ministries reveal such specifics as deployment of key weapons, it is a fair bet that the target audience for the story was not in India but several thousand miles away, in Beijing. It is meant to counter the perception of dominance that China, with its smooth roads running up to the corners of Tibet, has over an India that has been rather slow to build its own border infrastructure.

The signalling is the latest evidence of the deteriorating relationship between the Asian giants. While most eyes are focused on the South China Sea, where China’s aggressive island-building, arming and patrolling has sparked fears of a conflict, the developing situation in South Asia bears watching too.

Last week, the chief minister of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, which borders China, loudly spoke of “incursions” by Chinese troops into land that India believes belongs to it, only to moderate his remarks a few hours later under pressure from New Delhi.

Uttarakhand is in the so-called “middle sector” of the 4,000km, undemarcated boundary between China and India. It was one of the areas that was considered to be relatively tranquil whereas the Western sector, off Pakistan, and the eastern sector off Arunachal, was always seen as more prone to be “live”. That makes the development more worrisome.


Even though the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army have not exchanged a single shot since 1967, and their last war was in 1962, the unresolved border question clouds the relationship and holds back prospects of a bigger Asian resurgence. What’s more, despite 19 rounds of talks by special representatives, the last of which was held this April, as well as several boundary talks before, the two are nowhere near a solution. China has settled its land disputes with 12 of its neighbours. But the one with India, and tiny Bhutan whose foreign policy is influenced by New Delhi, seems intractable.


What’s behind the tension? Until 2005, when India signed its civilian nuclear deal with the United States – seen as a landmark in the strategic ties between the two large democracies – there was much hope of relations between China and India developing swiftly. There seemed to be energy in the border talks. Trade, particularly, was growing at a canter and steadily advancing towards the US$100 billion (S$134 billion) mark. Indeed, China, under President Hu Jintao, had bowed to US persuasion to allow India a special waiver to receive US civilian nuclear technology, even as it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

India’s leadership publicly insisted that the US relationship stood on its own merits and was not targeted at another country. Asia was big enough to accommodate the aspirations of both India and China, said Dr Manmohan Singh, prime minister of the time. Its raucous media was another matter. Shrill and strident – “We have the US at our back. China, here we come” – was often the underlying sentiment in news reports.

Did India have its own compulsions? With its traditional strategic friend the Soviet Union having long collapsed, and Russia, the successor state, in disarray, it needed new friends. China’s steady ascent and tendency to assert itself internationally was also getting New Delhi nervous. The US was dangling the carrot of access to high technology and promising to help turn India into a “major power in the 21st century”. The bait was taken.

Posted in New Delhi as The Straits Times bureau chief for South Asia, I once stood in a room where Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, the now-disgraced and jailed Chinese princeling, made a forceful plea for India to stay its neutral course and to not forget its civilisational linkages with China.

“Six hundred years ago, the admiral Zheng He visited India no less than seven times,” he told his audience. Yet Zheng He was never accused of a single misdeed against the country. “We welcome you to take a share of our market. It is something we also want emotionally,” Bo said to applause.

By 2008 China seemed to have decided that the US was gaining traction in using India as a tool against it. Its patrolling of the boundary got more aggressive and its forays into South Asia, India’s backyard, more determined. After India turned down a request from Sri Lanka’s Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa to build a transhipment port in Hambantota, on the island’s southern tip, China stepped in and built the facility. It also built up influence in Nepal, which has an open border with India.

In 2010, Dr Singh complained of a “new assertiveness among the Chinese” and that it is “difficult to tell which way it will go”. Saying it is important to be prepared, he said it appeared that China wanted to keep India in “low-level equilibrium”.

Since Mr Modi took power in 2014, the US relationship has moved with even greater speed. For most eyes, the nation is steadily shedding its old doctrine of non-alignment and turning towards what can only be described as a non-treaty ally of the US. Washington now calls India a “major defence partner”. The two are poised to share military logistics.


As the US-India strategic relationship grows, China is pushing back. It is building an economic corridor through Pakistan to reach the Arabian Sea. A section of this runs through an area held by Pakistan and claimed by India. Two divisions of PLA troops are at work there, protected by a specially-raised Pakistani army division. Since 2008, it has also been aggressively patrolling the fuzzy boundary with India, once moving in nearly 30km south of the line and pitching tents. Indeed, President Xi Jinping’s 2014 visit to India, months after Mr Modi was installed, soured on that very issue.

The Washington-New Delhi link will only get stronger as India seeks to build its Asian footprint. The US now conducts more military exercises with India than with any other nation. Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, his nation’s former envoy to China, said in Singapore last year that New Delhi aspires to be a “leading power rather than just a balancing power”. Consequently, he added, “there is also a willingness to shoulder greater global responsibilities… reflected in our role in peace- keeping and keeping our maritime commons secure and safe”.

This clearly irks China. For more than a decade, but more frequently now, India has been sending warships into the South China Sea. A joint statement issued after a landmark second visit to India by US President Barack Obama early last year, spoke of affirming the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, “especially in the South China Sea”.

In his Singapore lecture last November, Mr Modi said “India will lend its strength to keep the seas safe, secure and free for the benefit of all”.

These things rub up against China’s vital interests. And it has retaliated. It has repeatedly blocked India’s attempts to have three key figures of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba listed by the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council. In April, India granted a visa to the Uighur leader Dolkhun Isa, who had been scheduled to visit the hill town of Dharamsala, headquarters of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan “government in exile”. While it rescinded the visa subsequently, the initial act of granting entry was to flag annoyance at China’s blocking the listing of Jaish-e- Muhammad chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the UN. Azhar was held by Pakistan after his outfit was accused of orchestrating an attack on an Indian Air Force base in north India.

Historically, both sides have missed opportunities to settle their boundary dispute and move on. In 1960, Zhou Enlai offered a package deal that would involve India keeping Arunachal if it could give up its claims over the Aksai Chin area of Kashmir. But New Delhi turned him down. Today, when India seems ready for a package deal, that offer is no longer on the table.

Mr Dai Bingguo, who negotiated with four Indian Special Representatives over a decade, published a book recently where he indicates that the two missed an opportunity when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in charge of India. He was keen to settle the matter quickly but was unexpectedly voted out of office in 2004. The Congress-led government that took power thereafter was too weak to clinch a deal. One of Mr Dai’s Indian counterparts, Mr Shivshankar Menon, said last year that most of the technical work for a border accord had been done. What was needed now was political will to make the “adjustments” on maps.

At one level muscular leadership on both sides – Mr Modi in India and Mr Xi in China, complicates the situation and makes it more difficult to make those adjustments.

But in that also lies opportunity. After all, both men dominate their nations as few have before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline ‘Testy times for China and India’.

China threatens to ‘take revenge’ against Australia after disputing its rights in the South China Sea

August 5, 2016

PUBLISHED: 20:40 EST, 3 August 2016 | UPDATED: 21:31 EST, 3 August 2016

Australia’s position that China should adhere to an international ruling on the disputed South China Sea received a stinging rebuke from a state-backed newspaper at the weekend.

The prominent Global Times described Australia as ‘delirious’ for its decision to support a ruling in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that China had no historic claim to the waters and it had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights.

The article mocked Australia as a ‘paper cat’ and said if the country stepped into the contested waters, it would be an ‘ideal target for China to warn and strike.’

The South China Sea is a critical international shipping route through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Here’s a quick explanation of why the area has become such a flashpoint.

A state-run Chinese newspaper has demanded 'revenge' against Australia after it backed an international tribunal's decision to reject its claims over the South China Sea (pictured)

The Chinese navy launched into military drills with their Russian allies in the East China Sea on Monday amid heightened maritime tensions in the region

The Chinese navy launched into military drills with their Russian allies in the East China Sea on Monday amid heightened maritime tensions in the region


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What’s the argument about?

Territory. In particular, who has rights to the sea’s enormous wealth of untapped oil, gas and fish reserves.

China claims much of the South China Sea within its ‘nine dash line’, which is based on historic usage and was declared in 1947. The exact coordinates of the line are considered ambiguous by critics, but on maps it stretches deep into the South China Sea from China’s most southern province, Hainan.

However, the territorial claim – which encompasses hundreds of islands, rocks and reefs – is firmly disputed by five other nations.

China was found to have violated the Philippines' maritime right by erecting artificial islands which decimated natural coral reefs and disrupted both fishing and oil exploration

China was found to have violated the Philippines’ maritime right by erecting artificial islands which decimated natural coral reefs and disrupted both fishing and oil exploration


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Taiwan, Vietnam and China claim complete ownership of the Spratly and Paracel Islands, while the Philippines and China – and to a lesser extent Taiwan – have locked horns over Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs about 220 kilometres east of the Philippines.

Brunei and Malaysia say parts of the South China Sea, including a number of ‘features’ in Spratly Islands, fall within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

An EEZ, which were established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), stretches 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline and gives exclusive rights to the use of marine resources.

Tensions in the South China Sea are not new and the waters have been the scene of several clashes in the past 40 years.

In 1974, South Vietnamese and Chinese ships exchanged fire in the Paracels. The Vietnamese, who were trying to force the Chinese out of the area, lost dozens of troops and China took control of the islands.

The two countries then fought a small naval battle over the Spratly Islands in 1988.

Other flashpoints include Chinese naval vessels shadowing and harassing US naval ships conducting freedom of navigation excursions, and tense standoffs between the Philippines and China.

Philippines and China.

The judgement of tribunal of The Hague found China violated the Philippines¿ maritime right by erecting artificial islands that disrupted fishing and oil exploration

The judgement of tribunal of The Hague found China violated the Philippines’ maritime right by erecting artificial islands that disrupted fishing and oil exploration

What did the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rule?

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The international court ruled China had no historic rights to the South China Sea and it had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights.

The tribunal announced in July: ‘The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.’
It also condemned China’s rapid build up of artificial islands in the Spratly chain, which the country is doing to boost its claims in the region.

The Philippines lodged its suit against Beijing in 2013, saying China was in violation of the UNCLOS, to which both countries are signatories.

China boycotted the court hearing and said its claims in the region would be unaffected.


Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on China to abide by the ruling and urged a peaceful resolution to the dispute

Why is China so angry with Australia?

Following the decision, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on China to abide by the ruling and urged a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

Australia is not a claimant in the sea but has consistently supported U.S.-led freedom of navigation activities in and over it.

Bishop said Australia would continue to exercise its rights to freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

China reacted furiously to calls from Western countries that the ruling should be respected and reserved some of its harshest criticism for Australia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Bishop’s remarks were ‘wrong’ and Australia should stop treating the dispute as a game.
‘Honestly speaking, I’m a bit shocked at Bishop’s comments,’ Lu said last month.

‘Honestly speaking, I’m a bit shocked at Bishop’s comments,’ Lu said last month.

A scathing editorial appeared in The Global Times last week  slamming Australia  

A scathing editorial appeared in The Global Times last week  slamming Australia


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U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby on South China sea ruling

China has no legal basis for claiming it owns huge parts of the South China Sea, The Hague rules —  but Beijing says it rejects the decision — The Sun
China calls for WAR with Australia for opposing Beijing’s territory claims in the South China Sea






South China Sea: Plenty of Work Still To Do Following Arbitration Court Verdict

June 23, 2016


Reports quoting sources said China is planning to set aside the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). AP/Charles Dharapak

MANILA, Philippines – A favorable decision by an international arbitral court on Manila’s maritime case against Beijing is no guarantee of an easing of tensions in the South China Sea, a senior US official said yesterday.

Tension is likely to persist in the region, the official said, even if the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rules in favor of Manila, as China has made it clear it would not honor a verdict repudiating its expansive claim in the South China Sea.

Reports quoting sources said China is even planning to set aside the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The same official, who declined to be named, also said China is using its fishing fleets with armed escorts to bolster maritime claims in disputed territory. But the official, in a teleconference in Manila with journalists from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Beijing, said the US is not taking sides on the issue.

“We are expecting a ruling in the next several weeks in the arbitration case that’s been brought by the Philippines with respect to maritime entitlement in the South China Sea… South China Sea is an important maritime space for the international community. Asia is the most populous and economically dynamic region in the world and as such, South China Sea a global significance,” the senior US State Department official said.

As such, the state department official said the US will sustain its role in ensuring regional peace by continuously enforcing freedom of navigation and overflight operations over the South China Sea and East China Sea regions.

There were reports the UN court is handing down its verdict either before the end of the month or in early July.

The US has deployed two of its carrier strike groups to the Philippine Sea ahead of the verdict.

“Our freedom of navigation program globally is in that demonstrating that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever the laws allow. So in that sense, I think that it has been successful in demonstrating in East Asia that that we will continue to uphold that policy,” the US official said while calling on China to refrain from making provocative actions.

The arbitration case presents a good opportunity to go back to principles and to attempt to steer the conversation about the South China Sea issue, the official said.

Solid backing

The official added that the Philippines will have the solid backing of the international community in exploring ways of convincing Beijing to abide by the court ruling.

“I would say that our security commitment to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is ironclad. We take anything that concerns Philippine security very seriously and we will be working with all our partners in the region to analyze the ruling and to respond to anything that may happen after that,” the US official said.

The official also expressed concern over China’s tactics of sending Coast Guard ships to escort its fleet of fishing vessels in disputed waters.

“It’s a disturbing trend to see Chinese fishing vessels accompanied by its Coast Guard vessel to assert a claim that is not legitimate,” the official said.

The comments came after Indonesian warships fired warning shots and detained a Chinese-flagged fishing boat and seven crew near the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea last week, in actions slammed by Beijing.

“I do think that it does point to an expanding presence of Chinese – sort  of military and paramilitary forces – and used in a way that is provocative and potentially destabilizing,” the US official added.

Unlike several other countries in the region, Indonesia has no overlapping claims with China to islets or reefs in the sea, but Beijing’s claim to fishing rights near the Natunas appears to overlap with Jakarta’s exclusive economic zone.

Last week’s incident was only the latest in a series of skirmishes between the two countries since Jakarta launched a crackdown on illegal fishing in 2014.

In March, Chinese coast uards rammed a Chinese boat detained near the Natunas and helped it escape as the Indonesians towed the vessel to shore.

And last month, the Indonesian navy opened fire on a Chinese trawler near the islands and seized the vessel.

Following last week’s confrontation, the commander of the Indonesian navy’s western fleet said the fishing vessel incursions were “structured,” indicating  Beijing had “given its blessing.”

“China protested because it thinks this area is theirs,” commander Achmad Taufiqoerrochman told reporters.

“Actually the (fish) stealing is just a ruse to stake its claim,” he added.

China has undertaken land reclamation works in the Spratly Islands, one of the South China Sea’s main archipelagoes which are also claimed by the

Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Beijing praises ally

China, meanwhile, praised its ASEAN ally Cambodia for siding with Beijing on the South China Sea row.

“We highly commend and appreciate Prime Minister Hun Sen’s remarks at the commencement of Cambodia’s academy of governance yesterday,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press conference in Beijing.

The Cambodian leader has voiced his country’s rejection of arbitration as means of settling the maritime dispute.

Chinese pressure was blamed for ASEAN’S retraction of a statement sounding alarm over Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea.

The original document, released by ASEAN member Malaysia and described as a joint statement from the bloc, warned that developments in the hotly contested South China Sea could “undermine peace, security and stability.”

“China will not accept any solution imposed upon it nor any unilateral resort to a third party dispute settlement procedure,” Hua said. “China remains committed to resolving relevant disputes through negotiation with sovereign states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law,” she said.

The Chinese foreign ministry also accused the Western media of turning a “blind eye” to the  support by nations for Beijing’s position.

“It is no news to us that some western media sometimes call white black. But we know now that they also have problems with doing simple math,” Hua said, referring to media reports that only eight countries back China’s position.

“Some statements were reported, and some were not. Whatever way they chose, dozens of countries have made their voices heard,” she added. The countries backing China’s position are in Africa and are dependent on Chinese aid.

China’s top newspaper, for its part, has strongly criticized the US deployment of carriers to international waters near the Philippines.

The US carriers John C. Stennis and Ronald Reagan began joint operations in seas east of the Philippines at the weekend in a show of strength.

“The US picked the wrong target in playing this trick on China,” the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary.

It was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng,” a Chinese-language homonym for the phrase “voice of China” that is often used to express the paper’s views on foreign policy.

“Behind this misjudgment is Washington’s anxiety and arrogance, and it is the true expression of its hegemonic nature,” the paper added.

The US Navy chief said on Monday the deployment was a signal of the US commitment to regional security, adding that he hoped it would deter any attempts to destabilize the region.

The US Pacific Command (PACOM) said the carriers started their dual operations on Saturday, including air defense drills, sea surveillance, defensive air combat training and long-range strikes.

PACOM said the US last conducted a dual carrier operation in the Western Pacific in 2014. Two carriers operated in the South China Sea and East China Sea in 2012. – AP



The Indonesian government has identified China as a major potential source of funds, and last year chose a Chinese consortium over a rival bid from Japan to fund and construct a high-speed railway line.


© Indonesia Navy/AFP | Indonesian War Ship KRI Imam Bonjol-363 arrests a Chinese fishing boat in Natuna water on June 21, 2016 — Charged with illegal fishing

South China Sea: Philippines Sides With ASEAN Leaders Who Retracted Document Critical of China — “Nobody wanted to offend the meeting host China”

June 16, 2016
The Philippines participated in the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China on June 14. Pool photo via China Daily

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday issued the retracted Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) statement on tensions in the South China Sea.

The DFA said that the ASEAN foreign ministers expressed serious concerns over the developments in the disputed waters during their meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The foreign ministers issued a statement Tuesday night following a special ASEAN-China meeting in Kunming, Yunnan province in China. The tough statement on the South China Sea was retracted as it may have offended the meeting host, a Malaysian official said in previous reports.

The region’s foreign ministers stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight above the disputed sea.

The ministers also reiterated their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Jose Almendras issued the ASEAN foreign ministers’ concerns on the contested waters:

  • Had a candid exchange with the Chinese Foreign Minister in view of the recent developments on the ground;
  • Expressed their serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea;
  • Stressed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);
  • Emphasized the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would further complicate the situation or escalate tensions, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law;
  • Articulated their commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the UNCLOS and the UN Charter;
  • Emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation, which may raise tensions in the South China Sea;
  • Reiterated their firm commitment to the full and effective implementation of the
  • Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety, and while noting the momentum and new phase of consultations, urged the early adoption of an effective Code of Conduct;
  • Pursuant to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety, and pending the early adoption of an effective Code of Conduct, stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures that would enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties.

Almendras noted that the Philippines’s arbitration case against China was raised during the meeting.

The Philippines stressed that arbitration is among the legal and diplomatic processes in resolving the disputes in the region that is fully consistent with the DOC and in accordance with international law.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations is expected to issue a ruling on the Philippines’s case against China’s nine-dash line claim over the disputed sea soon. China, however, insisted that it will not accept the international tribunal’s decision.

G7 Leaders Voice Strong Concern About South China Sea

May 26, 2016

By Thomas Wilson and Kiyoshi Takenaka

ISE-SHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on Thursday on the need to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.

The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations’ summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan.

“Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs.

At a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China’s peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo’s opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force. He also urged respect for the rule of law. Both principles are expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit.

The United States is also increasingly concerned about China’s action in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the South China Sea issue had “nothing to do” with the G7 or any of its members.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (File Photo)

“China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain,” she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to resolve maritime disputes peacefully and he reiterated that the United States was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

Obama on Thursday pointed to the risks from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated state was “hell bent” on getting atomic weapons.

But he said there had been improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material.

“It’s something that we’ve put at the center of discussions and negotiations with China,” Obama told reporters.

Seko, speaking the first of two days of the summit in central Japan, said Abe told G7 counterparts that Pyongyang’s development of nuclear technology and ballistic missiles poses a threat to international peace, including in Europe.

“It is necessary to make North Korea realize that it would not be able have a bright future unless such issues as abduction, nuclear and missile development are resolved,” Abe told the group, according to Seko.

The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.


The global economy topped the agenda earlier in the day, when G7 leaders voiced concern about emerging economies and Abe made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis. Not all his G7 partners appeared to agree.

The G7 leaders did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth but the timing and amount depended on each country, Seko told reporters, adding that some countries saw no need for such spending. Britain and Germany have been resisting calls for fiscal stimulus.

“G7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis,” Seko said.

Abe presented data showing global commodities prices fell 55 percent from June 2014 to January 2016, the same margin as from July 2008 to February 2009, after the Lehman collapse.

Lehman had been Wall Street’s fourth-largest investment bank when it filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 15, 2008, making its bankruptcy by far the biggest in U.S. history. Its failure triggered the global financial crisis.

Abe hopes, some political insiders say, to use a G7 statement on the global economy as cover for a domestic fiscal package including the possible delay of a rise in the nation’s sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent planned for next April.

Obama ripped into Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying the billionaire had rattled other G7 leaders and that his statements were aimed at getting headlines, not what was needed to keep America safe and the world on an even keel.

Trump has been accused of racism, misogyny and bigotry for saying he would build a giant wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants, would temporarily ban Muslims from the United States and issued a series of comments considered demeaning to women.

Summit pageantry began when Abe escorted G7 leaders to the Shinto religion’s holiest site, the Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan, dedicated to sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, mythical ancestress of the emperor.

On Wednesday night, Abe met Obama for talks dominated by the arrest of a U.S. military base civilian worker in connection with the killing of a young woman on Japan’s Okinawa island, reluctant host to the bulk of the U.S. military in Japan.

The attack dimmed Obama’s hopes of keeping his Japan trip strictly focused on his visit on Friday to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing, to highlight reconciliation between the two former World War Two enemies as well as his nuclear anti-proliferation agenda.

(Reporting by Thomas Wilson and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kylie MacLellan, Ami Miyazaki and Ben Blanchard; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel, William Mallard; Editing by Mark Heinrich)