Posts Tagged ‘Gaven’

Photos show Beijing’s militarisation of South China Sea — China’s island fortresses

February 6, 2018

By Tom Phillips
The Guardian

China accused of building ‘island fortresses’ as Philippine newspaper obtains aerial images

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Beijing has been accused of building “island fortresses” in the South China Seaafter a newspaper in the Philippines obtained aerial photographs offering what experts called the most detailed glimpse yet of China’s militarisation of the waterway.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer said the surveillance photographs – passed to its reporters by an unnamed source – were mostly taken between June and December last year and showed Chinese construction activities across the disputed Spratly archipelago between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the region.

The Inquirer said the images showed an “unrestrained” building campaign designed to project Chinese power across the resource-rich shipping route through which trillions of dollars of global trade flows each year.

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 Installations on Johnson South Reef. Photograph: Daily Inquirer

Some photographs show cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.

Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs such as Fiery Cross, Subi, Mischief, McKennan, Johnson South, Gaven and Cuarteron.

The Inquirer described the reefs as “island fortresses”. Bonnie Glaser, an expert in Asia-Pacific security issues from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the images “the most complete, detailed batch of aerial pics available” of China’s military outposts in the South China Sea.

EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea . This is the most complete, detailed batch of aerial pics available of China’s SCS military outposts.

However, both Beijing and Manila sought to play down the significance of the images.


What is the South China Sea dispute?


Ties between the two Asian countries have warmed since Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, took power in 2016 and set about forging a lucrative new alliance with China during a four-day state visit to Beijing.

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 Images from the Philippine Daily Inquirer showing Mischief Reef. Photograph: Daily Inquirer

Responding to questions about the photographs, the presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, told reporters: “[The region has] long been militarised. And the question is, what can we do?”

He reportedly added: “What do you want us to do? We cannot declare war.”

Opposition figures hit back, accusing Duterte’s administration of betraying their “sacred core duty” to defend their country’s territory.

Experts interviewed by China’s Communist party press also shrugged off the photographs, suggesting they showed mostly civilian installations.

“Civilian facility construction is the major focus of the South China Sea islands building and the portion of defence deployment is relatively small,” Chen Xiangmiao, from the state-run National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

Another Chinese expert, Zhuang Guotu, accused foreign journalists of “hyping” Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea, but added: “China has the right to build whatever it needs within its territory.” Zhuang claimed China’s military deployment was not for military expansion, but about defending its security and interests.

In December a report claimed China had created military facilities about four times the size of Buckingham Palace on contested South China Sea islands.

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Pinterest — Fiery Cross Reef. Photograph: Daily Inquirer

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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.


China Signaling it May Finally ‘Militarize’ the South China Sea Officially — China has Already Built Up Seven Land Formations With or Able To House Chinese Military Installations

January 29, 2018

China may be getting ready to overtly “militarize” its island bases in the South China Sea. After years of counter-accusing the United States of militarizing the region while maintaining that its man-made islands were “necessary defense facilities,” Chinese officials are using a recent transit by a U.S. warship to lay the groundwork for deploying real force projection capabilities to its outposts.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that a U.S. Navy destroyer violated its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the disputed feature in the South China Sea on January 17th. In an unusual step, China was the first to reveal that the transit occurred and may be using it to signal future military deployments to the bases it has built on reclaimed islands in the Spratly Islands.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. ship’s passage gravely threatened the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel in the area, but did not elaborate how. He went on to say that China would take “necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by both China and the Philippines. Starting in 2012, China effectively occupied the shoal, using maritime law enforcement and paramilitary Maritime Militia vessels to evict Filipino fishermen. In early 2016 the United States apparently believed that China might attempt to begin land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal as a prelude to constructing military facilities similar to what it has done in the Spratly Islands, prompting the head of the U.S. Navy to voice rare public concern over China’s impending moves. Analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies speculated that China’s intended reclamation efforts were only stymied following intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy and deterrent signaling.

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A Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal last year.

Since there are no structures on Scarborough Shoal to support the deployment of military equipment, unless China again tries to build an artificial island on the shoal those “necessary measures” probably just mean a heavier Chinese maritime presence in the area. But other Chinese commentary points to the possibility that China may use the Hopper’s transit as pretext for militarization elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Militarization is a sensitive topic in the strategic waters of the South China Sea. To quell concern about its robust island-construction campaign, China’s President Xi Jinping said that China “did not intend” to militarize the Spratly Islands in 2015 remarks at the White House. Those reclaimed islands are now home to extensive communications and sensor facilities, long runways, and hardened hangars and ammunition storage bunkers. Chinese officials have long explained away this construction as “necessary defense facilities” but not militarization.

As early as 2016, U.S. intelligence assessed that China’s Spratlys bases could, or could shortly, host forces like fighters, bombers, and long range anti-ship or land-attack missiles that were capable of projecting power far beyond any defensive requirements. But to date, China has only deployed short-range missiles and point-defense weapons that cannot project control over the seas or skies around the islands, allowing Chinese officials to sustain a thinly plausible claim to be staying within President Xi’s promise that China would not militarize them. But Chinese officials now appear to be laying the narrative foundation to claim that the strategic situation in the South China Sea will force China to deploy the more robust military capabilities those Spratlys bases can accommodate.

Chinese officials have floated the premise that the United States was forcing it to deploy increasing military capabilities to the region for defensive purposes before. In 2016, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman invoked this explanation when he responded to a U.S. think tank report revealing new defensive weapons on China’s Spratlys bases by saying that “If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?”

China’s recent statements signal that deployments could be more imminent.

Following the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comments, the official People’s Daily newspaper published an editorial saying that the U.S. presence in the South China Sea would “hit a brick wall.” It went on to warn that the United States activities would force China to “strengthen and speed up” its buildup of capabilities in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region. An editorial in the Global Times tabloid claimed even more explicitly that China had exercised restraint in its responses to the United States’ military presence in the South China Sea and that eventually China would “militarize the islands.”

Claims that U.S. freedom of navigation represents a threat to its islands is more plausibly pretext for militarization. The United States excels at over-the-horizon strike, using long range missiles to hit targets from beyond ranges that they would be subject to easy counterattack. If the United States was going to attack China’s built-up facilities in the South China Sea, there is little reason that its warships or bombers would close within visual range of the islands to do so.

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USS Hopper

It is doubtful, then, that the Hopper’s transit had any effect on China’s plans. China has been building up its islands’ capabilities for some time, with deployments perhaps restrained only by a desire to mitigate backlash from the United States and other countries in the region. It’s also possible that the United States’ 2016 assessments were optimistic about the islands’ readiness to accommodate sustained deployments.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently released a report revealing China completed over 70 acres of new construction and facility improvement on its bases in the South China Sea, last year. That construction provides some context to recent reports from Chinese official media about the special facilities and preparationsrequired to support a deployment of fighter jets to the Paracel islands last year. Details on the special accommodations the Chinese military had to make for the tropical conditions in the South China Sea like sealed, thermostabilized airplane hangars, suggests that its bases in the Spratlys are only now reaching a level of completion that can confidently support advanced combat forces, and all China needs now is an excuse to justify the deployments.

China built artificial islands in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs




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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.


South China Sea: The Philippines Relies Upon China’s “Good Faith”

November 7, 2017

More Chinese island-building? Rody relies on ‘good faith’

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

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is relying on China’s “good faith” that it would not embark on new reclamation activities in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea in the face of renewed concerns sparked by Beijing’s launching of a large dredging vessel.

In remarks before military officials and veterans of the Marawi battle, Duterte said he hoped China could be trusted to keep its word that it would not build new islands in disputed waters or in areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China recently launched what it described as a “magic island-maker” vessel, triggering speculations that it would be used to reclaim Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ, but was declared a “common fishing ground” by an arbitral court based in The Hague. It is only 124 nautical miles off Zambales.

Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping himself had promised not to reclaim Pagasa “and the nearby islands that we have occupied already.”

The same assurance, Duterte said, was given to Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

“He will not build something on the Scarborough Shoal,” the President said, referring to Xi.

“I just hope that he would honor it because it will change the entire geography of the world. And war starts. I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” he added.

While vowing to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea, Duterte stressed it is not yet the time to do it.

The Chief Executive reiterated he would not go to war over the West Philippine Sea as it would result in a “massacre” of Filipino troops.

“If I were to insist on our arbitral claim as demanded by some of the justices, I would run afoul with everything else because China is not the only power that is claiming a part of the (South) China Sea. Taiwan has a claim and it overlaps the northern part of the country, our economic zones. And Vietnam has another idea of what this is. And Malaysia. And they were starting really to pile up,” the President said.

“Instead of just facing one, I’d be facing many. If there are concessions given or conceded, the other countries who are also claimants on the same area will start to assert. That’s my problem. It’s really the changing geopolitics,” he pointed out.

He also vowed to be “frank” in discussing the maritime row with China on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meet in Vietnam.

Duterte will leave for Da Nang today for the summit, where he is expected to interact with fellow leaders including Xi.

There was no official announcement if Duterte and Xi would have a meeting in Vietnam but the Philippine leader hinted that he might have a word with Chinese officials.

China Daily report said dredging ship Tiankun is 140 meters long and can dredge as much as 6,000 cubic meters of sand or clay per hour from 35 meters below the water’s surface.  Similar ships were said to have been used to build artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Earlier yesterday at Malacañang, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte “recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations”  when asked to comment on the launching of the dredging ship.

“China has told the President, they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that. We need to rely on good faith because otherwise there would be no predictability in international relations,” Roque told a press briefing.

China occupied Panatag Shoal in 2012 after a standoff with Philippine Navy vessels, which had tried to arrest Chinese poachers. Chinese maritime surveillance ships harassed Philippine Navy vessels, enabling the poachers to escape with their illegal harvest of giant clams, endangered corals and baby sharks.

The Panatag standoff prompted the Aquino administration to contest China’s massive claim in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which eventually validated Manila’s position. Beijing had vowed not to comply with the ruling.

Asked whether the President would question the launching of the vessel, Roque replied: “As I said, he has relied completely on the principle of good faith. Which is, in fact, a fundamental and cardinal principle of international law.”

Roque noted that Duterte has opted to maintain very close and cordial relationship with China despite the dispute over some areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“I think we are seeing new heights in terms of Philippine-Chinese relations and it has resulted in very tangible results, particularly economic investments,” he said.

China has undertaken massive reclamation activities in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, areas located off the western province of Palawan.

Airstrips, radar systems and barracks were also seen on the reefs, reinforcing theories that China is shoring up its military might in the region.

China has denied militarizing the South China Sea and maintained that it is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Meanwhile, construction of a beaching ramp in Pag-asa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group has started in preparation for more improvements of military and civilian structures in the island town, the Department of National Defense said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, through spokesman Arsenio Andolong, said the construction ramp is expected to be completed early next year, depending of weather conditions.

The defense official said a beaching ramp would allow large ships to dock and unload construction materials.




China Installs Weapons in South China Sea, Satellites Show

December 15, 2016

President Xi Jinping had pledged not to place arms on the islands in the Spratly archipelago


Updated Dec. 15, 2016 3:09 a.m. ET

In this undated photo released Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, by China’s Xinhua News Agency, two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets take off from an unspecified location to fly a patrol over the South China Sea. China’s air force announced Saturday that it has conducted a combat air patrol over disputed areas of the South China Sea. Jin Danhua/Xinhua via AP


BEIJING—China has installed antiaircraft guns and other weapons on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in a disputed part of the South China Sea, according to a U.S. think tank’s analysis of recent satellite imagery.

Late Wednesday, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said China had installed the weapons despite President Xi Jinping’s pledge not to militarize the islands in the Spratly archipelago, where Beijing’s territorial claims are contested by several other governments.

AMTI’s report, published on its website, comes after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump suggested this month he would challenge China on trade and the status of Taiwan, and accused Beijing of building a “massive military complex” in the South China Sea.

China’s island-building over the last three years has raised fears in the U.S. and among its Asian allies and partners that Beijing plans to use its expanding military power to enforce its territorial claims and take control of one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

AMTI, run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that since June and July it had tracked construction of hexagonal structures on three artificial islands—Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef—where China has built airstrips large enough to accommodate military aircraft.

Those hexagonal structures are nearly identical to defensive fortifications built earlier at four smaller artificial islands, which appear to include antiaircraft guns and probably close-in weapons systems, or CIWS, designed to track and shoot down cruise missiles, AMTI said.

“These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” AMTI said.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases.”

An aerial photo of Subi Reef taken Nov. 17.
An aerial photo of Subi Reef taken Nov. 17. PHOTO: CSIS/AMTI DIGITALGLOBE

China’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

China says it has “indisputable sovereignty” over all South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters but its claims overlap with those of Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally.

Beijing has said that the islands are mostly for civilian uses—such as weather monitoring and search-and-rescue—but will also serve defensive purposes. It landed a military aircraft on one in April.

Fiery Cross Reef, Nov. 10.

The U.S. says it doesn’t take sides in the territorial dispute but regards most of the South China Sea as international waters and has often sent military planes and ships through the area, sometimes close to Beijing’s artificial islands, to demonstrate its right to freedom of navigation.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in a speech at an Australian think tank on Wednesday that the U.S. fought its first war after independence to defend its right to freedom of navigation.

“No one, including me, wants conflict. I’ve been loud and clear that I prefer cooperation so that we can collectively address our shared security challenges,” he said.

“But I’ve also been loud and clear that we will not allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally—no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea. I say this often but it’s worth repeating—we will cooperate where we can and be ready to confront where we must.”

I say this often but it’s worth repeating—we will cooperate where we can and be ready to confront where we must.

—Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, in Australia on Wednesday.

Adm. Harris has often taken a more strident tone toward China than the Pentagon or the White House under President Barack Obama. Analysts say his remarks may be more in line with thinking in the Trump transition team.

On Wednesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to a question about Adm. Harris’s remarks by saying the situation in the South China Sea was “improving,” and by urging the U.S. to honor its commitment not to take sides.

AMTI said the weapons it identified could be used to back up a defensive umbrella provided by a future deployment to the islands of mobile surface-to-air missile systems.

“Such a deployment could happen at any time,” it said.

Images of one of the larger artificial islands, Fiery Cross Reef, showed towers that likely contained targeting radar, ATMI said. That kind of radar is used to guide missiles and other weapons.

Write to Jeremy Page at


China Continues Military Construction in the South China Sea

December 15, 2016

US think tanks says advanced systems installed mean Beijing ‘could deploy fighter jets and missiles tomorrow if they wanted’

Thursday, December 15, 2016, 12:30 p.m.

China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Wednesday, citing new satellite imagery.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said its findings come despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarise the islands in the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

AMTI said it had been tracking construction of hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands since June and July. China has already built military length airstrips on these islands.

“It now seems that these structures are an evolution of point-defence fortifications already constructed at China’s smaller facilities on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron reefs,” the think tank said, citing images taken in November.

“This model has gone through another evolution at [the] much-larger bases on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs.”

Satellite images of Hughes and Gaven reefs showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns and what were likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) to protect against cruise missile strikes, it said.

Images from Fiery Cross Reef showed towers that likely contained targeting radar, it said.

Watch: Cruising the disputed Paracel Islands

AMTI said covers had been installed on the towers at Fiery Cross, but the size of platforms on these and the covers suggested they concealed defence systems similar to those at the smaller reefs.

“These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defence of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” it said.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defence against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases.”

AMTI director Greg Poling said AMTI had spent months trying to figure out what the purposes of the structures was.

“This is the first time that we’re confident in saying they are anti-aircraft and CIWS emplacements. We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there,” he said.

“This is militarisation. The Chinese can argue that it’s only for defensive purposes, but if you are building giant anti-aircraft gun and CIWS emplacements, it means that you are prepping for a future conflict.

“They keep saying they are not militarising, but they could deploy fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles tomorrow if they wanted to,” he said. “Now they have all the infrastructure in place for these interlocking rings of defense and power projection.”

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China HQ-9 surface to air missile systems

The report said the installations would likely back up a defensive umbrella provided by a future deployment of mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) platforms like the HQ-9 system deployed to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, farther to the north in the South China Sea.

It forecast that such a deployment could happen “at any time,” noting a recent Fox News report that components for SAM systems have been spotted at the southeastern Chinese port of Jieyang, possibly destined for the South China Sea.

China has said military construction on the islands will be limited to necessary defensive requirements.

The United States has criticised what it called China’s militarisation of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them that have angered Beijing.

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Xi Jinping inspects U.S. honor guard with U.S. President Barack Obama, during a atate visit to the U.S., September 25, 2015. After the visit, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry siad they had agreement with Mr. Xi to not militarize the South China Sea

US president-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on January 20, has also criticised Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea while signalling he may adopt a tougher approach to China’s assertive behaviour in the region than President Barack Obama.

The US State Department said it would not comment on intelligence matters, but spokesman John Kirby added: “We consistently call on China as well as other claimants to commit to peacefully managing and resolving disputes, to refrain from further land reclamation and construction of new facilities and the militarisation of disputed features.”


The Associated Press

BEIJING — China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea, a U.S. security think tank says, upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report late Wednesday that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.

The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military grade 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations and other infrastructure.

CSIS based its conclusions on satellite images taken in mid-to-late November and published on the website of its Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry repeated that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”

“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.

The Philippines, which has troops and villagers stationed on some reefs and islands near China’s new artificial islands, expressed concern despite recently improving relations with China.

“If true, it is a big concern for us and the international community who uses the South China Sea lanes for trade,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good.”

China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” CSIS experts wrote in the report.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” the report said.

Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region while downplaying their military utility. They also mark China’s claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year, while the U.S. Navy insists on its right to operate throughout the area, including in waters close to China’s new outposts. China has strongly criticized such missions, known as freedom of navigation operations.

The U.S. has committed to beefing up its military presence in the area, although new uncertainty has been introduced by incoming president Donald Trump, who broke long-established diplomatic protocol by talking on the phone earlier this month with the president of China’s longtime rival Taiwan.

Trump has called for a reconsideration of its commitments to its Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea, while simultaneously criticizing Chinese trade policy toward the U.S. along with its new territorial assertiveness. He also referred to China’s man-made islands in a tweet earlier this month, saying Beijing didn’t ask the U.S. if it was OK to “build a massive military complex in the South China Sea.”

“The timing is significant in that these first clear images come amid Trump’s challenging comments about China and its South China Sea fortresses,” said Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security for the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a visit to the U.S. last year that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area, prompting some foreign experts to accuse China of going back on its word with its new deployments.

Despite that, China considers it vital to equip the islands with defensive means given their distance — 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) — from the Chinese mainland, together with the nearby presence of forces from rival claimants such as Vietnam, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.

“As the matter of fact, these occupied islands have been armed and fortified for a long time,” Yue said. “No country in the world would only commit to providing civil services without considering its own security safety.”

Looking forward, the nature of China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the U.S., said the IISS’s Neill.

“China will argue that they are entitled to place whatever they want there in reaction to U.S. actions,” Neill said. “The big question is whether Trump will embark on a more strident or discordant policy in the South China Sea.”


South China Sea: Arbitration Decision Due Soon From UN Arbitration Court

June 26, 2016


By Richard Javad Heydarian

The Philippines’ lawfare strategy in the South China Sea disputes is inching closer to a moment of truth. In coming weeks, an arbitral tribunal, formed under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is set to pass a final judgment on the ongoing maritime spats between China and the Philippines. For the first time, a team of impartial, top-caliber legal experts will officially weigh on the validity of China’s expansive claims and growing footprint across arguably the world’s most important waterway. What is at stake is preventing China from fulfilling a Seldenian Closed Sea (Mare clausum) in favor of preserving a Grotian Free Sea (Mare Liberum) at the heart of the Western Pacific.

Yet it is ultimately up to the Philippines’ incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte, to decide on what to do with a likely favorable arbitration outcome. And this introduces some element of uncertainty into the picture. Unlike his outgoing predecessor, Benigno Aquino, Duterte—a self-described “socialist” with historical ties to Philippine communists—doesn’t seem to be very keen on confronting China and has, quite legitimately, expressed doubts vis-à-vis Washington’s commitment to its Southeast Asian ally. (In fact, during the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, which brought together the world’s leading defense ministers and experts, I asked Admiral Harry Harris, commander of United States Pacific Command, about the precise extent of American treaty obligations to the Philippines in an event of contingency in the South China Sea. I wasn’t able to receive an unequivocal answer beyond well-rehearsed semantics.)

More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through the South China Sea.  Almost all of Japan’s oil comes through the Indian Ocean and  South China Sea.

Astonishingly, Duterte has even expressed reservations concerning the wisdom of ongoing efforts to bolster the Philippines’ minimum deterrence capability. “Fighter jets are good only for ceremonial flybys. I’m not in favor of building up external defense, I will not got to war with China,” Duterte recently told reporters. Though known as often mercurial, he was actually consistent with his earlier stance during the campaign trail, when he dismissed the purchase of much-needed jet fighters as a “waste of money.” For the incoming president, what matters is internal security operation, especially in light of the worrying resurgence of extremist groups, tied to Islamic State, in the southern island of Mindanao.


Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte gives a press conference in Davao City on June 2, 2016. Credit AFP and Getty Images

Duterte, meanwhile, has expressed growing interest in reviving long-frayed bilateral investment relations with China, even though this may come at the expense of a compromise on sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea. During his meeting with Chinese ambassador Zhao Jian, among the first dignitaries who met the president-elect shortly after the elections, Duterte and the Chinese envoy apparently went down to business right off the bat, discussing prospects for massive Chinese infrastructure investments in the Philippines. Obviously delighted by the cordial exchanges, with large-scale Chinese investments hanging in the balance, Duterte went so far as to praise Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “great” leader.


A woman protests over China's South China Sea Claims in Manila (June 2016)

China’s claim over the South China Sea islands is an inflammatory issue in the Philippines, Vietnam and among other ASEAN members. AFP Photo

Duterte has also expressed doubts as to the utility of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China, which has boycotted the proceedings and questioned the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal to oversee the South China Sea disputes. Encouraged by convivial exchanges with the incoming Philippine leadership, China recently reiterated its call on the Philippines to entirely drop the arbitration case as a sign of goodwill. After all, the verdict is expected to be released a week after Duterte officially assumes power, so technically the case could still be dropped. And as Columbia University professor Matthew C. Waxman succinctly explains, much is also at stake for the whole international law regime, which may explain the curious timing of the expected release of the arbitration judgment.

The Trial of the Century

“For the UNCLOS system—as a body of rules and binding dispute settlement mechanisms—prominence and credibility are at stake,” Waxman explains. The arbitration body faces the risk of “being ignored, derided and marginalized by the biggest player in the region.”

Philippine team at United Nations arbitration on the case against China at The Hague, Philippines Foreign Minister Alberto del Rosario third from the left

Last October, the arbitral tribunal (formed under Article 287, Annex VII of UNCLOS) decided that it would indeed exercise jurisdiction on almost half of the items in the Philippines’ memorial (official complaint), with the remaining items subject to simultaneous examination in terms of both jurisdiction and merit. In a ten-page summary, the judges argued that the Philippine-initiated arbitration case “was properly constituted” and that the “act of initiating this arbitration did not constitute an abuse of process [as asserted by China].”

The judges reiterated that “China’s non-appearance in these proceedings does not deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction,” and “international law does not require a State to continue negotiations when it concludes that the possibility of a negotiated solution has been exhausted.” The Tribunal, which has no mandate to decide on questions of sovereignty, decided that it can nonetheless exercise jurisdiction on determination of the nature of disputed features (see Art. 121 on “regime of islands”), particularly the Mischief, Gaven, McKennan, Hughes, Johnson, Cuarteron and Fiery Cross Reefs, as well as Scarborough Shoal.

It can also exercise jurisdiction on allegedly aggressive maneuvers by China against Philippine vessels operating close to Scarborough Shoal, as well as the ecological impact of China’s reclamation activities near Scarborough and Second Thomas shoals. But key items such as the validity of China’s sweeping nine-dashed-line claims and dubious doctrine of “historical rights” were left for further deliberation. Meanwhile, China continuously ignored opportunities, in accordance to Article 5, Annex VII, to formally participate in the proceedings.

Thus, the arbitration body effectively demolished China’s longstanding claim that (1) UNCLOS and arbitration bodies under its aegis have no mandate to arbitrate disputes concerning the South China Sea disputes; (2) the Philippines has yet to exhaust bilateral negotiations before resorting to compulsory arbitration; and (3) China, under Article 298, has exempted itself from such arbitration procedures.

This isn’t just some legal hairsplitting. There are huge strategic implications. First of all, it means that not only the Philippines, but also other claimant countries could resort to a similar lawfare strategy to pressure and extract concessions from China. In effect, the Philippines’ arbitration case could create a “lawfare multiplier.” So far, Indonesia, which is inching closer to dropping its neutrality status in the South China Sea disputes, and Vietnam, which has ramped up defense ties with America, have threatened to go along the same path if China continues to press its advantage in adjacent waters.

IDLED Epifanio Marqueza, one of the captains of a reef-fishing fleet, gestures next to his vessel idled in Masinloc, Zambales province, after an encounter with a Chinese Coast Guard ship at the nearby Panatag Shoal. AFP

Secondly, and more importantly, the arbitration verdict could provide a perfection legal justification for not only America, but also other key naval powers such as Japan, to launch sustained, multilateral Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea. Coordinated and multinational FONOPs by America and its key allies hold the promise of creating just enough pressure to force China to recalibrate its posturing in disputed areas.

Hard Choices

What is clear is that the Duterte administration will not drop the arbitration case, which is in its final phase. This is just politically impossible, given the amount of domestic and international support the Philippines’ lawfare has generated. In fact, incoming foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay made it clear that the Duterte administration will “not pursue any bilateral talks [with China] at this time until we hear, or wait for, the outcome of the decision of the arbitral tribunal to come out.”

Of course, there is a possibility, albeit minimal, that the Philippines will lose on all key items in its arbitration case. For instance, the arbitral body may resort to indefinite legal semantics to avoid giving an impression of openly scolding China. It could also shun exercising jurisdiction on key items like the validity of China’s nine-dashed-line claims, while partially censuring China on other more minor items.

This would surely be a disaster for the Philippines and likeminded countries, which are eager to leverage international law against China, but still leaves Duterte the option of distancing himself from the potential debacle by dismissing it as nothing but a foolhardy maneuver of his predecessor.

A largely favorable outcome, meanwhile, would give the Duterte administration great leverage in any bilateral showdown with China. For instance, the new administration could promise to not fully leverage the arbitration outcome—essentially treating it more of an advisory opinion than a binding verdict—in exchange for Chinese concessions in the South China Sea, ranging from non-imposition of restrictions on Filipino fishermen, troops and vessels roaming the disputed waters to mutual disengagement from the Scarborough Shoal, in addition to large-scale investments.

Without a doubt, China would welcome any opportunity to avoid a massive soft-power coup if Manila chooses to rally international support and portray China, an aspiring regional hegemon, as an indubitable outlaw. So far, the Group of Seven industrialized powers, Australia and almost all relevant players in Asia have openly or indirectly expressed their support for the arbitration case, forcing a panicked China to vociferously question the legitimacy of the arbitration body, set up its own international courts and rally the support of up to forty countries as a kind of counter-coalition.

There is, of course, another curious option. The Duterte and Xi administrations could simultaneously project their respect for international law and operationalize their willingness to bilaterally resolve the disputes by opting for a more mutually acceptable mechanism under the UNCLOS. Both parties can, for instance, consent to the creation of a “conciliation commission” (see Annex V), which allows both parties to address their overlapping claims with the guidance of a mutually agreed-upon panel of legal experts, who would provide legal advise but issue no binding verdict. In metaphorical terms, while Duterte’s predecessor opted for divorce proceedings (i.e., compulsory arbitration), he can instead opt for marriage counseling (i.e., conciliation commission) with China.

For sure, the Duterte administration will come under tremendous pressure from all corners to extract the maximum strategic dividend out of his predecessor’s lawfare. Most likely, Duterte, who has vowed to adopt an independent foreign policy, will decide his next step based on the nature of the verdict and what he perceives as the most pragmatic option to protect the Philippines’ national interest and avoid unnecessary conflict with China.

Richard Javad Heydarian teaches political science at De La Salle University, and formerly served a policy adviser at the Philippine House of Representatives (2009-2015). The Manila Bulletin, a leading national daily, has described him as one of the Philippines’ “foremost foreign policy and economic analysts.” He is the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific (Zed, London). Follow him @Richeydarian.





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


Above Chinese chart shows Chin’a “Nine Dash Line.” China says it owns all ocean territory north of the Nine Dash Line. There is no international legal precedent for this claim.

The chart below shows in stark terms the vast ocean area China is claiming. China says it can stop shipping or air traffic in this zone any time it wants and has talked about establishing an Air Defense identification Zone (ADIZ) here.

Beijing’s Claims of South China Sea Support May Not Hold Water — Legally, China’s Sea Claims Look Ridiculous

June 18, 2016

China says 60 countries back stance on international tribunal; Only 8 have publicly stated support

A handout dated Feb. 18, 2015 and made available by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office shows construction at Mabini (Johnson) Reef by China in the disputed Spratley Islands in the south China Sea.
A handout dated Feb. 18, 2015 and made available by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office shows construction at Mabini (Johnson) Reef by China in the disputed Spratley Islands in the south China Sea. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The Wall Street Journal
June 17, 2016 12:33 a.m. ET
BEIJING—The landlocked African kingdom of Lesotho doesn’t have an obvious stake in the South China Sea, but it is among some 60 countries that China says stand behind it as it faces potential censure by an international tribunal over its territorial claims there.

The sudden involvement of Lesotho and other small nations far from Asia is the product of a Chinese blitz to rally support in the final countdown to a ruling in The Hague, which could come this month, on a case brought against China by the Philippines.

The response has been less enthusiastic than China suggests, however: Only eight countries have publicly stated their support for its right to boycott the proceedings in The Hague.

They are Afghanistan, Gambia, Kenya, Niger, Sudan, Togo, Vanuatu and Lesotho, according to public statements reviewed separately by The Wall Street Journal and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, in Washington.

Five countries on China’s list have outright denied backing Beijing, including two members of the European Union.


For a country that has long castigated the U.S. for “internationalizing” the dispute, the drive suggests growing concern in Beijing that the ruling, which can only be enforced through international pressure, could leave it isolated.

The mixed results also show the limits of China’s clout, even among nations hungry for its money.

“This looks more like a coalition of the equivocal, or the simply unaware,” said Euan Graham, an expert on the South China Sea at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

China says it doesn’t acknowledge the tribunal’s jurisdiction and won’t abide by the ruling on the case brought by the Philippines—one of five governments whose claims in the South China Sea overlap with Beijing’s.

The U.S. and its allies—including the Group of Seven nations—have closed ranks in the past month to urge Beijing to respect the verdict, with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter warning that China risks erecting a “Great Wall of self-isolation.”

China has responded by accusing the U.S. of “hegemony,” denouncing the tribunal in editorials in local and foreign media, and publicly thanking dozens of nations it says are backing Beijing.

It hasn’t published an official list, but the Foreign Ministry put the total at more than 40 nations last month and state media put it at almost 60 this week.


“Compared to seven or eight countries, this number speaks volumes,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday.

He blamed countries outside the region for broadening the dispute.

“That’s why some countries that care about us and are friendly to us want to understand the real situation,” said Mr. Lu. “After understanding the merits of the issue, they decided to take a stand and uphold justice.”

The eight nations that explicitly back China have all echoed its arguments that Beijing has the right to choose its own method of dispute resolution, according to their public statements.

One, the West African nation of Gambia, has gone as far as to endorse Beijing’s sovereignty claims after switching diplomatic ties to China from Taiwan in March.

China also says many Arab states expressed their support in a “Doha Declaration” at a meeting in Qatar last month. But that declaration hasn’t been made public and neither Qatari nor Chinese officials were able to provide a copy.

One Chinese official said it was still being translated.

Russia, the only major power on China’s list, agrees the dispute shouldn’t be internationalized, but hasn’t explicitly backed Beijing on the tribunal—a position that reflects its close defense ties with Vietnam, one of China’s rivals in the South China Sea.

Greg Poling of the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said many countries appeared to have chosen not to publicly contradict China. “Ultimately, China’s ability to spin a compelling counternarrative and get other nations to buy into it will determine how much pressure it faces,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on the countries that have yet to echo Chinese statements or that deny backing Beijing.
They include Poland, a member of the EU, which as a bloc has backed the arbitration process.

Polish officials were taken aback in April when Beijing suddenly issued a statement that hadn’t been approved by both sides following a meeting between their foreign ministers.

It said Poland supported China’s policy of resolving the dispute “through dialogues and consultations,” making no mention of arbitration.

The statement “did not accurately reflect Poland’s position on the issue of the South China Sea, which has been communicated to the Chinese side,” Poland’s Foreign Ministry said. “That position remains unchanged and is in line with the entire EU’s policies.”

Slovenia, another EU member, and the Balkan state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also denied official Chinese statements that they backed Beijing on the arbitration.

Most surprising, perhaps, is that China has had trouble winning the support of some smaller nations to which it provides large amounts of aid and investment.

In April, Fiji denied a Chinese official media report that it stood by Beijing on the South China Sea. And when China announced in April an “important consensus” with Laos, Cambodia and Brunei on the South China Sea, those three countries stayed mum.

Officials from Laos and Brunei didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Cambodian government spokesman denied his country had reached an agreement with China. “We haven’t changed our position,” he said.

—Ryan Kilpatrick in Hong Kong contributed to this article.

Write to Jeremy Page at


South China Sea: Asean nations unsettled by China’s construction, but discord blocks issuance of joint statement

June 17, 2016

Map shows potential Chinese radar cover in the South China Sea, according to analysis by US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. AFP

Philippine Inquirer, The Associated Press and AFP

DIFFERENCES within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) prevented the 10-nation bloc from issuing a tough statement on territorial feuds in the South China Sea after a meeting hosted by China this week, a Philippine official said yesterday.

Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), told reporters the Asean foreign ministers’ failure to issue a joint statement after discussing the disputes with their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, prompted half of the bloc’s member states to issue their own individual statements.

All the ministers initially agreed on the text of the joint statement, Jose said, but some may have changed their mind later, preventing it from being issued publicly.

“This is actually an Asean media statement that was agreed on but somewhere along the way, after the meeting ended and most of foreign ministers left, it was not issued officially,” Jose said.

In the statement, the foreign ministers expressed “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.”

China has opposed such language, which could provide the United States and its allies added justification to intervene in the disputes.

Sweeping claims

China claims almost all of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of its smaller neighbors in the region.

To bolster its sweeping claims, China has constructed artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, topping some of them with airstrips that could receive military planes.

The disunity in Asean underscores the difficulty of resolving the disputes, which analysts fear could spark an armed confrontation in one of the world’s busiest waterway.

Founded in 1967, Asean decides by consensus, meaning just one member state can stall agreement on any issue.

It consists of a diverse collection of governments, including US-allied democracies and Chinese-aligned authoritarian states.

Rival claimants

Four of its members—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam—are locked in the territorial disputes with China and Taiwan.

Asean also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Singapore and Thailand.

After the foreign ministers initially forged an agreement on the statement, Malaysia’s foreign ministry issued it to reporters, Jose said, suggesting that other member states later withdrew their approval for it to be publicly issued.

A senior Philippine diplomat said Laos, Cambodia and Burma withdrew their backing of the joint statement to avoid offending China, which later opposed its official issuance because of a lack of a consensus within Asean.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the sensitive issue with reporters.

Individual statements

Jose said it remained unclear whether the statement would no longer be officially issued, adding that amid the impasse, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam had gone ahead and released their own statements about the closed-door discussions, which took place between Wang and the Asean ministers on Monday to Tuesday in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

Asked in Beijing whether China had objected to the statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang did not answer directly, but said on Wednesday that China had been assured that it was not an official Asean document and had been retracted.

“If Asean wants to officially issue something that represents its stance, it should be agreed upon by all Asean members,” Lu told reporters, implying a lack of consensus within the grouping.

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Tension Rising in South China Sea?

March 7, 2016


SOUTH CHINA SEA — The South China Sea has been a source of much tension among countries with competing territorial claims to portions of the region, and China’s rapid expansion in recent years has only made things worse.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy. — Reuters pic

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy. — Reuters pic

– See more at:

According to the Washington Post, about a third of the world’s shipping lines pass through the South China Sea annually. The area is abundant with oil, natural gas, marine life and other resources — and no less than six countries are claiming land there as their own.

Invoking geographical proximity, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim all or part of the disputed islands in the area.

China claims the entire South China Sea as its territory. In 2014, its nine-dash line was updated to a 10-dash-line, now including Taiwan.

According to a report compiled for the U.S. Congress, China began dredging in the South China Sea in 2013, moving sediment from the seafloor to submerged reefs to create artificial islands. By 2015, there were seven new islets: Mischief, Subi, Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughs, Cuarteron, and Johnson South Reefs.

Shortly afterwards, China built docks, lighthouses, bunkers, helipads, communication towers and other infrastructure on the islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reports that in September 2015, a three-kilometer runway was completed on Fiery Cross Reef, with three civilian test flights successfully landing by January. Airstrips are nearing completion at both Subi and Mischief Reefs.

Radar facilities on the smaller islets — Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughs and Johnson South — allow China to monitor surface and air traffic more significantly. On Woody Island in the Paracels, Beijing recently deployed two batteries of HQ-9 surface to air missiles and fighter aircraft.

The expansion has both environmental and political ramifications. In forming the new islands, marine ecosystems were damaged and possibly destroyed. According to the Guardian, they were either outright buried or killed by corrosive sand and sediment from the dredging process.

Rapid militarization of the area also has tensions running high in the region. The United States, not recognizing China’s ownership of the islands, sent missile destroyers near the islands last year as a show of force.–342840429264896



Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have also expanded islands in the Spratlys, but on a much smaller scale. CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have also expanded islands in the Spratlys, but on a much smaller scale. CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

China has repeatedly rejected international arbitration on the disputed islands. FLICKR / TIMES ASI

China has repeatedly rejected international arbitration on the disputed islands. FLICKR / TIMES ASIA

China recently deployed surface to air missiles to Woody island in the Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam also claim these islands. Pictured: China’s HQ-9 Surface To Air Missile launcher vehicle

Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. Xi told President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that China would not militarize the South China Sea.


Chinese HQ-9 Air Defense System

Chinese J-11 Fighters Deployed To Woody Island In South China Sea

China posted pictures of armed J-11 Flanker fighters operating from Woody Island located in the northern portion of the South China Sea. China has been totally remodeling its runway and aviation support facilities on the Paracel Islands outpost located about 200 miles south of Hainan Island, a project that appears to be complete.

China’s oil rig 981 was placed in what Vietnam said was Vietnam’s territorial waters near Woody Island in the summer of 2014. China removed the oil rig after months of exploration — and protest riots in Vietnam. Since that time, China has placed fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles at Woody Island.

Chinese vessels anchor near Vietnam’s DK1 rig. Photo b Mai Thanh Hai
Joseph Stalin — ‘Quantity has a quality all its own.’
Chinese fishing boats make ready for the fishing season. Vietnam and the Philippines have been reporting harassment and hostile acts from Chinese fishermen in traditional Vietnamese and Filipino fishing grounds.
These are Chinese fishing boats doing what the Vietnamese call “swarming”
Chinese fishing boats “swarming”



 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

Chinese vessel sank fishing boat in Vietnamese waters: authorities


Photos shows Chinese maritime law enforcement officers stooping and search a vessel (illegally) in international waters. Thais, Filipinos, Malaysian and Indonesians complain that “China acts as if it owned all the oceans.”

Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People on September 5, 2012. During President Obama’s first term, she developed the “Pivot To Asia” idea — but four years later the evidence of the pivot is difficult to see — or comprehend — especial to the Philippines and Vietnam.

Chinese coast guard vessel rams a Vietnamese vessel in what Vietnam called “a lawless act of aggression and a violation of international law.” The the U.S. response has been lacking….

Vietnamese fishermen inspect one of their vessels after it was rammed by a Chinese ship
Vietnamese fisherman Bui Tan Doan suffered a broken leg during a scuffle with Chinese fishermen inside his traditional fishing ground, June 7, 2015. Photo: Hien Cu

Captain Pham Quang Thanh on the fishing boat that was fired at by a Chinese naval boat off Hoang Sa. He said China set his boat on fire.


Vietnamese fishermen swimming for their lives after their boat was rammed and sunk by Chinese fishermen, summer, 2014.

Chinese coast guard ships harassed and blocked a Vietnamese rescue boat from reaching a fishing boat in distress near Hoang Sa on October 23, 2015. Photo by Xuan Son

South China Sea: New China Radar For Sea/Air Control of Vast Region

February 23, 2016

Agence France-Presse
04:35 PM February 23rd, 2016
Philippine daily Inquirer

China Radar South China Sea
Map showing potential Chinese radar cover in the South China Sea, according to analysis by US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. AFP

BEIJING — Beijing is installing radar facilities on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, an American think tank has said, in a move that could “significantly change” the operational landscape.

Satellite imagery of Cuarteron reef in the Spratly islands released by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shows what appears to be a high-frequency radar installation, as well as a lighthouse, underground bunker, helipad and other communications equipment.

The photographs come only a week after US officials said China had deployed surface to air missiles in the Paracel islands further north, and with tensions mounting in the strategically vital region.

“Placement of a high frequency radar on Cuarteron Reef would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic coming north from the Malacca Straits and other strategically important channels,” said CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Images of other small reefs nearby which China has transformed into artificial islands — Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South — revealed other features identified by CSIS as possible radar towers, gun emplacements, bunkers, helipads, and quays.

CSIS said that while the earlier deployment of HQ-9 surface to air missiles was “notable”, it “does not alter the military balance in the South China Sea”.

But it went on: “New radar facilities being developed in the Spratlys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape.”

The US has in recent months sent warships to sail within 12 nautical miles — the usual territorial limit around natural land — of a disputed island and one of China’s artificial constructions in what it says is a defence of the right to free passage.

Beijing claims almost the whole of the South China Sea — through which a third of the world’s oil passes — while several other littoral states have competing claims, as does Taiwan.

Last week China confirmed it had placed “weapons” on Woody Island in the Paracels, defending what it said was its sovereign right to do so.

Beijing says it defends the right to freedom of navigation, and insists its island building aims to provide public goods, such as search and rescue facilities, but maintains it has the right to deploy necessary “self-defense” capabilities.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was heading to Washington on Tuesday for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, where the issue was expected to be on the agenda.

Kerry told reporters last week: “There is every evidence, every day, that there has been an increase of militarisation of one kind or another. It’s of a serious concern.”

US President Barack Obama last week called for “tangible steps” to lower tensions in the region.

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 (Washington Post)