Posts Tagged ‘freedom of navigation’

China jabs back at Trump’s barb over South China Sea

September 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP | US President Donald Trump addresses the General Assembly
BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing hit back Wednesday at US President Donald Trump’s veiled criticism of its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, countering that the United States was a greater threat to sovereignty.In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump decried “threats to sovereignty” in Ukraine and the resource-rich South China Sea, without explicitly mentioning Russia or China.

“We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow,” Trump said.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The United States has conducted three “freedom of navigation” operations near islands held by China to challenge Beijing’s maritime claims since Trump took office in January.

“For some time now, some countries have used the pretext of freedom of navigation to bring their planes and fleets near the South China Sea,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday.

“Actually, I think this is behaviour that has threatened the sovereignty of South China Sea countries,” Lu told a regular news briefing.

Lu said the situation in the sea “has been cooling down” thanks to efforts by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I hope that this situation can be respected by relevant countries,” he said.

The spokesman also called for “restraint” in response to Trump’s warning that he will “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the US or its allies.

Lu reiterated Beijing’s call for efforts to bring the nuclear issue “back to the right track of peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation.”

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U.S. to Challenge China With More Patrols in Disputed Waters

September 2, 2017

Schedule of naval operations is set for the first time in effort to pressure Beijing over its maritime claims

Image result for USS Dewey, south china sea, photos

Photo: USS Dewey

Updated Sept. 1, 2017 6:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon for the first time has set a schedule of naval patrols in the South China Sea in an attempt to create a more consistent posture to counter China’s maritime claims there, injecting a new complication into increasingly uneasy relations between the two powers.

The U.S. Pacific Command has developed a plan to conduct so-called freedom-of-navigation operations two to three times over the next few months, according to several U.S. officials, reinforcing the U.S. challenge to what it sees as excessive Chinese maritime claims in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over all South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.

The plan marks a significant departure from such military operations in the region during the Obama administration, when officials sometimes struggled with when, how and where to conduct those patrols. They were canceled or postponed based on other political factors after what some U.S. officials said were contentious internal debates.

The idea behind setting a schedule contrasts with the more ad hoc approach to conducting freedom-of-navigation operations, known as “fonops” in military parlance, and establish more regularity in the patrols. Doing so may help blunt Beijing’s argument that the patrols amount to a destabilizing provocation each time they occur, U.S. officials said.

Chinese officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest U.S. plans. Beijing has accused the U.S. of militarizing navigation in the region by conducting military patrols. There have been three navigation patrols so far under President Donald Trump; there were four during the Obama administration, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Officials described the new plan as a more predetermined way of conducting such patrols than in the past, though not immutable. The plan is in keeping with the Trump administration’s approach to military operations, which relies on giving commanders leeway to determine the U.S. posture. In keeping with policies against announcing military operations before they occur, officials declined to disclose where and when they would occur.

The added military pressure on China comes while the U.S. is seeking greater cooperation from Beijing in reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program. The Trump administration has complained that Beijing hasn’t done all it can to pressure its allies in Pyongyang not to develop weapons or threaten the U.S. and its territories and allies.

In a new facet, some freedom-of-navigation patrols may be “multi-domain” patrols, using not only U.S. Navy warships but U.S. military aircraft as well.

Thus far, there have been three publicly disclosed freedom-of-navigation operations under the Trump administration. The last one was conducted on Aug. 10 by the navy destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, which days later collided with a cargo ship, killing 10 sailors.

That patrol around Mischief Reef—one of seven fortified artificial islands that Beijing has built in the past three years in the disputed Spratlys archipelago—also included an air component.

According to U.S. officials, two P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft flew above the McCain in a part of the operation that hadn’t been previously disclosed. More navigation patrols using warships likely now will include aircraft overhead, they said.

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P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft

Pacific Command officials had no comment on the matter.

The first such patrol under Mr. Trump was conducted by the destroyer USS Dewey May 24 around Mischief Reef. In July, the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem conducted a patrol near Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, coming to within 12 nautical miles of the island.

Together, the moves amount to a more extensive U.S. posture in the South China Sea, where the U.S. has attempted to counter what it sees as excessive Chinese claims around two island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, where Beijing has conducted reclamation activities, building or expanding islands using sand dredged from the ocean floor to establish runways, ports, buildings and other facilities for military purposes.

Those structures worry the U.S. and other nations, which believe China’s presence there could impede shipping lanes through which billions of dollars of cargo transit each year.

The U.S. doesn’t make claims to any of the islands, but conducts the patrols to challenge China’s claims, which overlap with those of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. forces operate throughout the Asia-Pacific region every day, including in the South China Sea. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Col. Manning declined to comment on the new Pacific Command plan.

Countries in the region have welcomed the more unhesitating Pentagon approach under Mr. Trump, said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, and a former consultant to the Pentagon and State Department.

“I think there has already been a positive reaction from the region that we see in the aftermath of the three fonops we’ve seen so far,” Ms. Glaser said.

She said the Obama administration was “too risk averse” when it came to freedom-of-navigation patrols. “We need to conduct fonops on a regular and consistent way that sends a signal about our unwillingness to accept excessive maritime claims, to challenge those claims, and to underscore that our operations in the South China Sea are no different in other parts of the globe,” she said.

A former Obama administration official said a move to increase the number of navigation patrols is a good idea, but must be accompanied by a broader strategy.

An aerial shot of part of the Spratly Islands in April 21.Photo: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

“I think regularized fonops are a good idea,” said David Shear, an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon under Mr. Obama. “I think they should be conducted in the context of a broader South China Sea and regional strategy, and it’s not clear to me that this administration has devised a strategy for the South China Sea or the region, so I’m not sure what purpose the fonops serve outside of that context.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke to U.S. aims in the region in an address earlier this year at a security conference in Singapore, declaring Washington has an “enduring commitment” in Asia based on strategic interests and “shared values of free people, free markets and a strong and vibrant economic partnership.”

The Obama administration’s move to “rebalance” U.S. military and economic attention to accentuate Asia was widely criticized, especially by Republicans. But Mr. Shear said Mr. Mattis’s remarks don’t spell out a new approach.

“This administration has repealed the rebalance but it hasn’t replaced it,” said Mr. Shear, now a senior adviser at McLarty Associates, an international trade consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Pentagon officials often were frustrated with the process of planning and conducting navigation patrols under the Obama administration. Typically, officials said, such plans would be forwarded from U.S. Pacific Command to the Pentagon and then vetted by the State Department and the White House National Security Council before being approved or disapproved depending on the White House’s own set of political priorities with the Chinese.

The chief of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, has publicly and privately pushed for more of these kinds of operations, and on a more regular basis. Speaking to reporters last year, Adm. Harris put it simply: “More is better” when it comes to navigation patrols.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-readies-plan-to-increase-patrols-in-south-china-sea-1504299067

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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.

US planning more regular South China Sea patrols — as many as two to three a month — to eyeball China

September 2, 2017

AFP

© US NAVY/AFP/File | The US has conducted three “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea since January — the last one by the USS John S. McCain, a destroyer that collided with a cargo ship days later off Singapore, killing 10 sailors

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Pentagon is planning to conduct more regular patrols in the South China Sea — as many as two to three a month — to assert freedom of navigation in disputed waters claimed by China, the Wall Street Journal reported.The newspaper said the aim is to create a more consistent posture to counter China’s maritime claims, rather than a more ad hoc approach favored during Barack Obama’s administration.

US officials declined to say where or when the new patrols would be made, but said the plan developed by the US Pacific Command calls for two or three so-called “freedom of navigation” operations a month over the next few months.

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Future patrols also could include US military aircraft as well as US Navy warships, the Journal said.

There have been three “freedom of navigation” operations since President Donald Trump took office in January — the last one by the USS John S. McCain, a destroyer that collided with a cargo ship days later off Singapore, killing 10 sailors.

During the Obama administration, the US Navy conducted four such operations in the South China Sea, where China has asserted its claims by building artificial islands and establishing runways, ports and other facilities on them.

China claims nearly all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — all ASEAN members — as well as Taiwan.

Washington and Beijing have seen their relations grow increasingly fraught since a promising summit between Trump and China’s Xi Jinping in April.

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The U.S. Navy is staffed by humans

August 26, 2017

By Ravi Velloor
The Straits Times

Four days after the USS John S. McCain suffered major damage in a collision while on approach to Singapore, questions swirl about the manner of the accident, and its reasons.

That it should have come so soon after a sister vessel the USS Fitzgerald suffered a similar accident while leaving a Japanese port, has raised a bunch of troubling questions.

As they say, the first time may be an accident and the second coincidence, but three becomes a pattern.

In the US Navy’s case – or more specifically, the 7th Fleet’s case – there have been not three, but four costly mishaps just this year.

Two other ships currently deployed to the Asia-Pacific, the USS Antietam that ran aground in Tokyo Bay and the USS Lake Champlain that struck a South Korean fishing boat, suffered damage this year.

That certainly makes for a pattern. With a US warship calling in Singapore every three days or so, there is every reason for the Republic to take more than a little interest in what’s going on.

Naturally, conspiracy theories abound.

One line of thinking is that hackers may have corrupted the massive computer systems of the John S. McCain and perhaps, other vessels.

In the case of the John S. McCain, that does not seem the case. Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific fleet, seems to have ruled out a cyber attack in near categorical terms.

Adm Swift should know, of course, but George Kurtz, former head of technology at MacAfee who now owns CrowdStrike, one of the world’s top cyber security companies, had a more nuanced view.

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USS John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side, which is the left side of the vessel facing forward. Photo was taken off Changi Naval Base on Aug 21, 2017. ST PHOTO: ​DESMOND FOO

 

While declining to speculate, he told me that any assessment of an incident of this nature would necessarily have to be placed in a geo-political context.

In the John S. McCain’s case, it had just completed a Freedom of Navigation Operation, or FONOP, in the South China Sea where it was repeatedly warned by Chinese vessels.

The current chatter in cyber security circles, he said, is that while the McCain’s computers may not have been compromised, it is probably worth examining if anyone could have tinkered with the GPS system to send her, or the other vessel, off course by a few hundred metres.

It is an interesting theory and not the first time it has come up for mention.

In the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan is sent off by MI-6 on precisely such a mission: to block a power-mad media tycoon’s attempt to start the next world war by engineering an incident at sea. In that instance, a British man of war is diverted into the hands of what appears to be Chinese military, sparking fury in Whitehall.

While nothing can be ruled out these days, the likely explanation could be more mundane and hark back to the essence of the craft – the quality of seamanship.

All major navies of the world do suffer accidents. It is estimated that since World War II, the major navies would have together recorded at least 1,400 mishaps.

Closer home, in early 2014, the Indian Navy chief, Admiral DK Joshi, quit after a series of accidents involving his force. The costliest of those mishaps was the loss of a docked Kilo class submarine that sank after an explosion on board while loading missiles for a mission.

At the time, poor observance of protocols was cited as the reason. The larger pattern was one of falling standards, poor equipment, and inadequate training.

But the United States is considered the gold standard of the navy game. It has the best technology, whether for the turbines that provide the power below deck, or in the missiles and radars stacked above. Its warships are designed for far greater crew comfort, than, say, a comparable Russian craft. And it is the rare naval officer in the world who has not read up on the life and times of Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy, or wished to be like him.

Yet, the US Navy too is staffed by humans. And there is little doubt that its personnel have been under strain and its resources stretched.

The US Congress was recently informed that about 100 ships have been deployed every day since 2001, the year the US suffered the 9/11 attacks. Since its current strength is 277 vessels that makes for a massive utilisation ratio. This, naturally, tells on maintenance, crew rest and training.

While President Donald Trump has said he wants to take the navy to 350 ships, that is a long way away.

In the immediate future, the pressure on its resources will only grow since many ships are due to have completed their normal use cycle and come due for retirement, or scrapping.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/us-navy-mishap-james-bond-or-poor-seamanship

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US won’t pull back from South China Sea ops: general

August 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Navy ships are sailing close to a contested island in the South China Sea in a show of strength to challenge China’s territorial claims

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – An American general insisted Friday the United States would not pull back from operations in the disputed South China Sea to combat Beijing?s territorial claims despite a series of accidents involving US warships.General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said the American military still had “credibility… all over the world” despite the incidents, which have raised concerns that the US armed forces are overstretched in Asia.

In the latest incident, the USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore early Monday, tearing a huge hole in the vessel?s hull and leaving two sailors dead and eight missing.

It was the fourth accident involving an American warship in the Pacific this year, two of them fatal.

The McCain had been heading to the city-state after conducting a freedom of navigation mission — sailing close to a contested island in the South China Sea in a show of strength to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims.

The US has been carrying out a growing number of such operations in recent years as China increasingly asserts its claims to almost the entire sea, despite partial counter-claims from some Asian neighbours.

“There is no setback to those (freedom of navigation) operations following these incidents,” O’Shaughnessy told reporters during a visit to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

“We stand firm that we are going to sail and fly anywhere where international rules allow. We will continue to do that.”

“Every day, we have operations within the South China Sea and areas surrounding it.”

He added that the latest collision should not eclipse the work of the US military as a whole.

“I don’t think that we should let one incident overshadow the great capability that the United States of America brings across all services,” he said.

Still, the incidents have provided a propaganda windfall to US rivals like China, with the foreign ministry in Beijing voicing concerns American warships posed a “security threat” to civilian vessels in the South China Sea.

Monday’s accident was the second involving an American destroyer in two months after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

A multinational search operation at sea for the missing sailors on the McCain was called off Thursday, with divers now focusing on flooded compartments in the warship.

The remains of a second sailor were recovered from the ship late Thursday and identified as Dustin Louis Doyon, the US Navy said.

South China Sea: Philippine Foreign Minister Defends Chinese Presence in Philippine Waters — Urges mutual trust with Beijing

August 16, 2017
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano gestures during a news conference following the conclusion of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and Related Meetings Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top diplomat justified the reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island in Palawan, stressing that the country should develop mutual trust with Beijing.

Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo earlier said that China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel and two large fishing vessels one to three nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island.

READ: China ships massing near Pag-asa sandbars?

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File photo

Pag-asa, a fifth class municipality in Palawan, is the second biggest island in the Spratly Islands next to the Taiwanese-occupied Itu Aba.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that China should not be regarded as an enemy.

“Why were we not concerned about the US doing freedom of navigation, ang lalaki ng ships nila. You know why? Kasi they’re our allies so if we keep looking at China as the enemy, every time na may movement sila masyado tayong nag-re-react,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano added that the Philippines should instead ask China for an explanation regarding their presence instead of being alarmed.

On the other hand, Alejano called on the Duterte administration to ask China to order their ships away from Pag-asa Island and file a diplomatic protest against China.

“I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China,” Alejano said.

The foreign ministers of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, under the leadership of Cayetano, earlier released a joint communique emphasizing the importance of self-restraint and non-militarization in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano, however, admitted that he did not want to initially include “land reclamation” in the statement as Beijing supposedly stopped its land-filling activities in the region.

RELATED: Photos disprove China’s claim of halting land reclamation

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

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

 

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

Top U.S. general says committed to working through difficulties with China

August 15, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 15, 2017 / 5:35 AM

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reviews a Chinese honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo – Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

BEIJING (Reuters) – There are many difficult issues between the United States and China but both share a commitment to work through them, the United States’ top general said on Tuesday during a visit to Beijing amid tension over nuclear-armed North Korea.

“I think we have to be honest. We have many, many difficult issues where we don’t necessarily share the same perspective,” Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army.

“We share a commitment to work through these difficult issues,” he added, without elaborating.

Fang said China attached great important to his visit and had arranged for him to observe a military exercise.

In a later statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the two discussed North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea and signed a framework agreement on a China-U.S. military dialogue mechanism, though it gave no details.

Fang said cooperation was the only correct choice for the two countries, and their two militaries could certainly become good cooperative partners, the ministry added.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Gen. Fang Fenghui shake hands after signing an agreement to strengthen communication between the two militaries amid tensions concerning North Korea at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China August 15, 2017.Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

“The Chinese military is willing to make efforts with the U.S. side to strengthen strategic communication, increase strategic mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, appropriately handle problems and disputes and effectively manage and control risks,” the ministry cited Fang as saying.

The United States has called on China to do more to rein in its isolated neighbor North Korea, while China has said it is Washington that needs to be making more efforts to lessen tensions and speak directly to Pyongyang.

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U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, second left, speaks during a meeting with Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, not shown, at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

North Korea’s leader has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam while he watches U.S. actions a little longer, the North’s state media said on Tuesday, as South Korea’s president said Seoul would seek to prevent war by all means.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, say they are committed to having a stable military-to-military relationship, but there are deep fault lines.

China has been angered by U.S. freedom of navigation patrols near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea and U.S. arms sales and support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province.

The United States has expressed concern about what it calls unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft by the Chinese air force and a lack of transparency in China’s military spending, China being in the midst of an ambitious military modernization program.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/14/1728684/us-vows-challenge-excessive-sea-claims

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

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

 

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

Philippines: US destroyer in Mischief Reef not objectionable

August 11, 2017
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The US destroyer recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian Senyk, file

MANILA, Philippines — The latest freedom of navigation operation of the United States near Mischief Reef in the South China Sea is not a cause of concern for the Philippines, a Malacañang official said Friday.

USS John S. McCain recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed displease with the operation and said that they will bring up the issue with the US side.

“The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security,” the ministry said in a statement.

On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the Philippines does not find the US operation objectionable.

“We’re not the spokesman for the Chinese. On the other hand, in the words of [Defense] Secretary Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding presumed innocent passage of sea craft and that there is, in other words, freedom of navigation,” Abella said in a televised press briefing.

Last May, the US launched its first freedom of navigation operation in the disputed the South China Sea, traveling near Mischief Reef.

READ: Challenging China, US launches first South China Sea operation under Trump | Beijing protests US Navy patrol through South China Sea

USS Dewey also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands, urging Beijing to seek an explanation with the US over the incident.

Mischief or Panganiban Reef, also being claimed by the Philippines, is included in the ruling of an international arbitration court based in the The Hague, Netherlands.

The United Nation-backed tribunal considered Mischief Reef as a low-tide elevation, which gives no entitlement to any exclusive maritime zone under international law.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/11/1727916/philippines-us-destroyer-mischief-reef-not-objectionable

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China Protests US Ship Sailing by Island in South China Sea

August 11, 2017

BEIJING — China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the U.S. over the Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in which a warship sailed past one of China’s man-made islands in the strategic South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement late Thursday that the U.S. move “severely undermines China’s sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides.”

China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea, routinely protests such operations, which President Donald Trump’s administration has continued partly to reassure allies locked in territorial disputes with Beijing.

“China has the firm determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Geng said. The U.S. move will “compel China to take measures to further raise its capacity to defend national territory,” he said.

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USS John S. McCain

A U.S. Navy official told The Associated Press that the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed past Mischief Reef on Thursday but gave no details. U.S. officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by international law.

Geng said the Chinese navy “identified the U.S. warship, warned and expelled it.”

China and the U.S. maintain different interpretations on international law as applied to the operation of warships, and Beijing has ignored a Hague arbitration court’s ruling that invalidated much of its South China Sea claim.

Tensions escalated after China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the U.S. and China’s neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing’s military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation.

China has reportedly installed a missile defense system on the new islands, although Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday that China had “stopped or already completed land reclamation,” on the islands two years ago.

Earlier, Wang said talks on a nonaggression pact aimed at preventing clashes from erupting in the South China Sea may start this year if “outside parties” don’t cause a major disruption, in an apparent reference to Washington and allies such as Japan.

The U.S. is not a party to the disputes in the busy and potentially oil- and gas-rich waters that also involve Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Washington, however, has declared it in its interest to ensure that the conflicts are resolved peacefully and that freedom of navigation and overflight remain unhampered. An estimated $5 trillion in annual trade passes through the waterway.

Washington’s critical actions came as it courts the help of China, North Korea’s ally, in taming Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions and ending its missile tests.

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