Posts Tagged ‘international law’

Australia Foreign Policy White Paper hits China’s activities in South China Sea — SCS is a “major fault line” in regional order.

December 6, 2017
In this April 21, 2017, file photo, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea are seen from a Philippine Air Force C-130. CSIS AMTI via DigitalGlobe, File

MANILA, Philippines — Expressing concern over the scale of China’s activities in the disputed South China Sea, Australia urged all claimants to clarify the full nature of their claims in accordance with international law.

In its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper released a few weeks ago, Australia stressed its position that the UN-backed tribunal’s ruling on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China is “final and binding on both parties.”

Clarifying that they are not taking sides in the competing claims, Australia considers the South China Sea as a “major fault line” in the regional order.

“Like other non-claimant states, however, we have a substantial interest in the stability of this crucial international waterway, and in the norms and laws that govern it,” the Foreign Policy White Paper read.

Australia noted that they have urged all claimants to refrain from actions that would increase tension in the region. They have also called for a halt on Beijing’s land reclamation and construction activities.

Resolving dispute should be based on international law, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Australia said in its foreign policy paper.

“Australia opposes the use of disputed features and artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes,” the white paper read.

The Australian government vowed to ensure international law, particularly UNCLOS, will be respected and implemented to protect freedom of navigation in the region.

Meanwhile, China criticized Australia for its “irresponsible comments” on the South China Sea.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian stressed that Australia is not in a position to make comments on the contested waters as they are not a claimant country.

“It has been proven by facts that interference from countries outside the region can only complicate the South China Sea issue and will be of no help to regional peace and stability,” Wu said in a press briefing.

Earlier this year, Beijing also slammed US Secretary Rex Tillerson for his comment that China is using its economic powers to buy its way out of problems.

“China is a significant economic and trading power, and we desire a productive relationship, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failure to put appropriate pressure on North Korea,” Tillerson said in Sydney last June.

Beijing had been insisting that the situation in the South China Sea has “cooled down” following direct consultations and dialogues with claimant states.

RELATED: China assures Philippines: No military force in South China Sea


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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.


How will Trump’s Asian diplomacy play out?

December 5, 2017

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Akihiko Tanaka, left, and Ryozo Kato

The Yomiuri Shimbun

U.S. President Donald Trump has completed his first Asian tour since being inaugurated. With the Asia-Pacific region facing problems, including the threat of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile development and the conflict between China and its neighbors as China’s economic and military strength fuels increased maritime expansion, what was the outcome of Trump’s “America First” diplomacy? What are its future tasks? We asked experts for their thoughts.


Time to assess North Korea sanctions

Akihiko Tanaka

President of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

Trump safely passed the diplomacy test. He was able to maintain the deterrence power against North Korea and to deliver the message of reinforcing sanctions. On this point, he received a degree of commitment even from slightly worried South Korean President Moon Jae In and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was also significant that Southeast Asian countries have expressed the idea of implementing economic sanctions against North Korea.

Now is the time to assess the effect of sanctions. We can see North Korea’s attitude and decide whether to hold talks with them. If it continues its nuclear and missile development, there is no point in talking.

The United States has adopted an offensive military stance to ensure that deterrence is effective. The question is whether the United States will start a preemptive war to destroy nuclear and missile facilities even if there is no indication of a nuclear attack by North Korea. That would violate international law and is difficult to imagine, since it is unknown whether a North Korean counterattack could be 100 percent contained.

The United States would lose authority in the event of massive casualties among the South Korean people and American citizens in South Korea.

However, I think there is little possibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons and missiles due to strengthened sanctions. Solving the issue in one or two years is unrealistic. It may take five, 10 or 20 years. Even if North Korea threatens Japan or South Korea with nuclear weapons, we don’t have to submit to it.

Nevertheless, there are concerns of an outbreak caused by a miscalculation or mistake, so it is important for Japan to develop ballistic missile defenses.

Japan and the United States agreed on a common diplomatic strategy of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” I myself have insisted on the concept of emphasizing the Indo-Pacific region, so I think it’s fine.

However, it is a mistake to think of this as a strategy to create a network encircling China. The region is important because it is expected to see high growth in the future. I think China would find the strategy acceptable because it coincides with the “one road” element of its “One Belt, One Road” [initiative], which can be regarded as a maritime silk road for the 21st century.

The important point is to reduce the threat of war as much as possible in this region. A range of conflict zones exist in the northern inland area, and stable growth will not happen unless the threat of terrorism or civil war is reduced. In the South China Sea, where the Pacific and Indian oceans connect, we need to watch how China acts. It is imperative that it is not allowed to proceed with the construction of more bases.

Finally, a broad agreement by the 11 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement showed Japanese diplomacy is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think the United States will return to the TPP under the Trump administration, but mainstream U.S. experts in international relations and economics want their country to understand the disadvantages of not joining the multilateral agreement. Though unusual in terms of Japan’s diplomacy, the country must steadily build a framework without the United States, while being willing to welcome the United States if it returns.

Tanaka is an expert in international politics. He served as a professor at the University of Tokyo, vice president of the university, and president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency before assuming his current position in April. His major publications include “Word Politics” and “The Post-Crisis World.” He is 63.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Haruki Sasamori.)


Japan, U.S. should align views on China

Ryozo Kato

Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States

Trump’s Asia tour was a kind of debut performance, and he deployed his brand of omnidirectional foreign policy. Although he was absent from the East Asia Summit at the end of his itinerary, I think his emphasis was ultimately on bilateral meetings.

The tour was of major significance in terms of U.S. involvement in Asia. The United States’ two security priorities are Russia, which opposes it on the Ukraine issue, and the Middle East. I’d hesitate to say that Asia is an urgent issue. Because of this, it was important that the tour offered Trump and his aides the chance to feel for themselves the future importance of Asia.

In Japan, Trump first visited the U.S. Yokota Air Base.

He must have recognized the strong presence of the Japan-based U.S. military in East Asia and the firmness of the Japan-U.S. alliance. With North Korea’s nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles approaching actual deployment capability, it is obvious but also very significant that he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mutually recognized that the situation is approaching the stage where maximum pressure is required to really bring [development] to a halt.

For the United States, I think Japan plays a role similar to that of Britain in Europe, and China is like the former Soviet Union.

However, one aspect is different: While the Soviet Union prioritized the military, China is a major power both economically and militarily. It is not an easy opponent. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to Trump to visit the Forbidden City was reminiscent of the behavior of an emperor. Trump may not agree with Xi’s values, but it is possible he was impressed by his style of governance.

Traveling through Japan, China and South Korea, Trump likely saw that the position of each country differs even on the single issue of North Korea, and that the issue is not easy to address. It is impossible to formulate and implement a plan to deal with the Korean Peninsula problem without considering China’s strategy.

In a press announcement after the U.S.-China summit, Xi said, “The Pacific is large enough to accommodate both the United States and China,” and raised the possibility of a “G-2 concept” that includes the United States and China. Although this was a natural statement for China to make, steadily implementing such a strategy would diminish the prestige of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and also harm U.S. national interests.

It must be acknowledged that the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy is still short on specifics. I would like the United States to first review future changes in the military balance and trends in China before coming up with its Asia policy.

Japan should strengthen talks with the United States on China to develop a shared view on the country. Additionally, Japan must take the necessary steps to ensure the stability of the Asia-Pacific region and that the United States play its role properly.

To increase the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance, Japan must raise its defense budget that, in turn, requires open domestic discussions about such matters as constitutional amendments, the nuclear issue, energy and cyber issues.


Kato joined the Foreign Ministry in 1965. After working as director general of the Asian Affairs Bureau, senior deputy minister and other posts, he served as the ambassador to the United States from October 2001 to June 2008. After retirement, he served as a commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization. He is 76.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Tatsuya Fukumoto.)

Philippine Government tells U.S. congressional committee: Philippines remains “as firm as ever” in protecting human rights

November 9, 2017

In this Sept. 5, 2016 photo, police inspect the site where alleged drug user Marcelo Salvador was shot dead by unidentified men in Las Pinas, south of Manila, Philippines. Drug dealers and drug addicts, were being shot by police or slain by unidentified gunmen in mysterious, gangland-style murders that were taking place at night. Salvador became a victim, the casualty of a vicious war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives as part of a campaign by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines remains “as firm as ever” in protecting human rights, Malacañang said Thursday after a US House caucus urged US President Donald Trump to raise rights concerns with President Rodrigo Duterte in their upcoming meeting.

In a letter dated November 2, Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois) and James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, called on Trump to use his meeting with Duterte as an opportunity to confront the Philippine leader about the reported cases of extrajudicial killings under the crackdown on drugs.

READ: US House caucus urges Trump to raise rights concerns with Duterte

Hultgren and McGovern also informed the American leader about the results of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing early this year, where they learned that Philippine police have killed 7,000 suspected drug dealers “without charges or trial.”

READ: Fairness sought in US probe on drug war

Reacting to the letter, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that while the Palace will not comment on Washington’s internal affairs, Duterte and Trump’s “warm rapport” would allow a “candid” discussion on matters of shared interest.

“We reiterate that our adherence to the rule of law remains as firm as ever, as is our commitment to the protection of human rights. The government is investigating allegations of so-called extrajudicial killings, including homicide cases with drug-related motives,” Roque said.

Roque earlier this month acknowledged that extrajudicial killings have been happening since as early as the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2010. He said the police cannot ignore that the Supreme Court as well as international law have working definitions of extrajudicial killings.

“Ongoing investigations include the conduct of public congressional hearings. All these are undertaken precisely to ensure that due process and the rule of law prevails despite the Philippines’ significant drug problem,” Roque said Thursday.

Figures from the government’s #RealNumbersPH campaign put the number of drug suspects killed in government operations since July 2016 at 3,967.

Earlier, a White House official reportedly said that Trump plans on discussing the human rights situation in the Philippines on his forthcoming meeting with Duterte.

READ: Trump to raise human rights with Duterte at ASEAN Summit

Duterte and Trump are set to hold their first bilateral talks on the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila next week.

The two will also meet at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam this week.

Before leaving for APEC on Wednesday, Duterte, who brooks no criticism of his human rights record and war on drugs, said he wants Trump to lay off the topic of human rights during their first bilateral meeting.

“Lay off, that is my business. I take care of my country,” Duterte said.

The maverick Philippine leader earlier incited diplomatic alarm after he announced Manila’s “separation” from its century-old alliance with Washington after former US President Barack Obama criticized the firebrand Philippine leader’s drug war.

Ties between the two countries’ later improved upon Trump’s election victory. In a telephone conversation last April, Trump had told his Philippine counterpart he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

Philippine President Duterte says he hopes China will not build on Scarborough Shoal

November 8, 2017

By Carmela Fonbuena

Published 7:48 PM, November 07, 2017
Updated 8:55 PM, November 07, 2017

‘I wish he will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,’ says President Rodrigo Duterte

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes China will “honor” its commitment to not build on Scarborough Shoal, the rocky sandbar off Zambales province that China occupied in 2012.

The statement comes after a command conference where Duterte was briefed on the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), part of his preparation for his trip to Vietnam where he will meet with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit.

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Scarborough Shoal is one of the richest fishing ground remaining in Philippine waters after the Chinese takeover. A Chinese takeover here would make in next to impossible to challenge China in the South China Sea. According to military experts, “IF China takes Scarbourough, that slams shut the door on any military operations against China for a long time.”

It was a reiteration of a statement he made in Davao last October when he said he is holding on to China’s promise it wouldn’t build anything on Scarborough Shoal.

Duterte claimed China gave his government the assurance it “will not be building something in Scarborough Shoal.”

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“I wish he (President Xi Jinping) will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” Duterte said.

Renewed concerns are raised as China launched a massive dredger ship that can build artificial islands similar to what it had already built in the South China Sea.

International security observers fear that the “island-maker” could be deployed to construct facilities on Scarborough Shoal, which is widely believed to be a red line for the US.

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China unveils ‘magic island maker’ ship – The Straits Times

Duterte spoke about his administration’s friendship with China during the 67th anniversary of the Philippine Marines, the unit in the frontlines protecting Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Laro ito ng geopolitics (It’s a game of geopolitics),” Duterte told the Marines.

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A Chinese H-6 bomber circles Scarborough Shoal

Duterte hinted at another trip to China. “You will have to trust me. Pupunta ako doon (I’m going there) and I will assert something and I will try one day, we’ll put a stake on what we think is ours,” said Duterte.

In the same speech, Duterte said the Philippines remains the “best friend” of the US as the thanked the country’s ally for its assistance in fighting local armed groups in Marawi City. –


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

Philippines scraps sandbar plan after China anger: defence chief — Philippines must dance to China’s music

November 8, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File | The Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has chosen to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investments and aid from President Xi Jinping’s China

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops to scrap plans of building a fishermen’s shelter on a sandbar in the disputed South China Sea after Beijing complained, his defence chief said Wednesday.

The military in August brought bamboo and palm roofing materials to one of three sandbars that emerged near one of their garrisons in the Spratlys archipelago in the contested sea, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“We tried to put some structures (on) one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted,” Lorenzana told a regional security forum.

“And so the president came to know about this and he said: ‘Let’s pull out’.”

The apparent reversal comes at a time of improving relations between China and the Philippines, which until recently had bitterly contested their overlapping claims to the sea.

Lorenzana later told reporters that Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano advised Duterte there was an agreement between the two nations not to put up structures on new South China Sea features.

“We did not occupy it but some of our fishermen would like to establish a shelter there. They (China) saw it and they complained, so we had to pull out,” Lorenzana said.

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

It has been turning reefs in the sea into islands, installing military aircraft and missile systems on them.

China’s sweeping claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

The Philippines had for many years been one of the region’s strongest opponents to Chinese expansionism.

A United Nations-backed tribunal ruled last year that China’s territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

But the Philippines, under Duterte, decided not to use the verdict to pressure China, instead electing to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investments and aid.

Lorenzana said the sandbar the military had planned to build the shelter on was a 500-square-metre (5,382-square-foot) outcrop located 4.6 kilometres (2.9 miles) from Philippine-held Thitu island.

Thitu is located about 26 kilometres (16 miles) from one of the artificial Chinese islands.

Lorenzana said the sandbars were now empty and that Manila was not worried China would occupy them in turn.

Nevertheless, he said he was concerned over the potential for future confrontation as Chinese fishing fleets escorted by maritime patrol vessels showed up in waters considered a traditional Filipino fishing ground.

“We have troops there, we have ships. Their troops could confront ours. That’s the kind of encounter I’m talking about. Now if there’s a mis-encounter, misunderstanding or miscalculation it could result into violence,” Lorenzana said.




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.




South China Sea: Philippines monitors China’s biggest ocean dredge — “Magic island-maker may tell the world China’s next island-building move”

November 6, 2017
China unveiled the Tian Kun Hao cutter-suction dredger called ‘a magic island-maker’ by its designer and  considered as the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia. AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense is closely monitoring China’s launching of Tian Kun Hao, its biggest island-making vessel, amid mounting suspicions that the world’s biggest and most sophisticated dredger will be deployed in the South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that this development is causing some concerns as he pins his hope on the recently agreed protocol and mechanism on de-escalation of tension in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

“We have reports that they launched their big dredger, but we don’t know where it is going. We are constantly monitoring the movement of this ship,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of the 78th anniversary celebrations of the defense department.

China’s official media Xinhua earlier quoted a Beijing-based military expert as giving assurance that “China will abide by the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea… and won’t use the dredger to expand its artificial islands.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has troops in nine occupied territories in the Spratlys archipelago, two of which – Pag-asa island and Ayungin Shoal – are adjacent to China’s reclaimed islands over Subi and Panganiban reefs. Its Western Command (Wescom) also conducts regular maritime and air territorial patrol over the country’s Kalayaan Island Group.

“We have security there in Pag-asa, and we also have troops… in all the islands that we occupy, so we will know immediately if they are doing something there,” Lorenzana said.

Although he clarified that it might be too early to react as authorities still could not point where Tian Kun Hao is heading, he believes that this could become a subject of concern if the dredger will be seen in the Kalayaan group.

Described as a “magic island maker,” Tian Kun Hao has begun water tests at the coastal province of Jiangsu.

The South China Morning Post quoted maritime security experts as saying the vessel could raise concern among nations with rival claims on territories in the South China Sea since it suggests that Beijing is preparing to reassert its dominance in the disputed waters.




South China Sea: International law and the promises from China to the Philippines

November 3, 2017
In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat circles a Filipino fishing boat near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Renato Etac via AP, File photo

President Rodrigo Duterte has now returned from his second trip to Japan, which is the only return trip that he has made to any of the Philippines’ major partners. To recall, Duterte visited both China and Japan in October last year. Although his Cabinet officials have represented him abroad, the president himself has not yet made a return trip to Beijing. Now over a year in office, could the president be highlighting the other dimensions of his “independent” foreign policy?

The visit to Tokyo has crucial timing, as it comes very soon before the major ASEAN meetings that will be held in the middle of this month. Also in advance of those meetings, the Stratbase ADR Institute is hosting a conference entitled “ASEAN Leadership Amid a New World Order.”

The full morning of the conference will be talking about the Philippines and ASEAN’s political and security concerns. Speaking on ASEAN defense cooperation will be no less than Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, who will be accompanied by Professor Renato de Castro, ADRi Trustee; Professor Masashi Nishihara of the Research Institute for Peace and Security (Japan); Professor Christopher Roberts of the University of New South Wales (Australia); Professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines; Professor I Made Andi Arsana of Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia) and Gregory Poling of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The president’s visit to Japan in advance of the major ASEAN meetings may be an important sign of that country’s importance of Malacañang’s objectives. Japan’s new pledge of $9 billion in aid, in addition to the billions signed last year, is expected to be primarily channeled into the national infrastructure drive. Most encouragingly, the president committed to ensuring that our cooperation with Japan would be concretely implemented as soon as possible.

Just as importantly, the president confirmed that he discussed maritime security concerns, presumably including the situation in the West Philippine Sea, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Upon his return to the country, Duterte reiterated his desire for China to live up to its promises not to build on Sandy Cay or on Scarborough Shoal, both of which have strategic locations inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. As he put it, “China has put it on record that near Pag-asa where we also have our … the Scarborough island, China has committed to us not to build anything there and I hope that they would honor that commitment to us.”

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China H-6 bomber near Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

Above and beyond the immediate national security interests of our country, however, we also have the region’s interest to consider. By exercising restraint over the militarization of its existing facilities in addition to stopping its land reclamation activities, China would be showing its commitment to the general environment of trust in our region. As we already know, the South China Sea challenge has single-handedly complicated our country’s relationships with other Southeast Asian nations, with China, and with the United States. Rather than contribute to the building blocks of enduring trust, the continuing character of the problem weakens the security environment in Southeast Asia.

We should welcome Duterte’s statements holding China to its commitment. In addition, however, we should further encourage the Philippines to keep on this track and remind all countries of their obligations to their neighbors as enshrined in international law and their declarations with ASEAN. These documents, after all, are meant to reflect long-lasting commitments that reflect their shared principles and their shared understanding of what maintaining the region’s peace entails.

Just as there is no getting away from international law, there should be no getting away from the Philippines’ recently-won ruling from the international legal tribunal, which arguably provided all the clarity that we needed over our rights in our Exclusive Economic Zone. The international tribunal’s decision an essential piece of the puzzle in fostering the maritime security that we desire in Southeast Asia. The case not only showed that disputes can be resolved without recourse to force and in accordance with law, it has become an example for the region to lean on in understanding their own rights and responsibilities.

Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of



Beijing seen poised for fresh South China Sea assertiveness

October 31, 2017


By Greg TorodeBen Blanchard

Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

October 31, 2017

FARS News (Iran)

Maung Zarni: Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

TEHRAN (FNA)- Activist and scholar Maung Zarni says that the plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse under the administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and now there are about 100,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homeland every week.

The Burmese scholar in an exclusive interview with FNA said that Aung San SuuKyi’s leadership has been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists which was intended to give acceptability to what, he believes, is a “military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism”.

According to the rights activist, Rohingyas in Myanmar live under restrictive measures of movement, marriage and child control in either open prisons or internally displaced persons camps (IDP camps). He also added that the Muslim minority’s access to food supplies and medical care is awfully limited.

Maung Zarni is a democracy advocate, Rohingya campaigner, and an adviser to European Centre for the Study of Extremism. He is also a research fellow at Genocide Documentation Centre and has been frequently interviewed by international media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV and TRT World.

FNA has conducted an interview with Maung Zarni about the terrible living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims and the reasons behind the inaction by the so-called international community to stop what the United Nations calls “textbook ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya.

Below you will find the full text of the interview.

Q: Rohingya Muslims are not included in Myanmar’s list of 135 official minorities meaning they are deprived of the right to citizenship. Why do you think the Rohingyas have been left stateless by their own government in the first place?

Firstly, 135 official minorities are nothing but a fiction used by the Burmese military to justify their institutional narrative that Myanmar faces constant threat of Balkanization, if the military return to the barracks. So, I don’t and won’t repeat the regime’s self-serving propaganda. The military has since early 1960’s shifted its policy of the official embrace of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of the Union of Burma to a radical strategic perspective according to which a sizeable pocket of Muslims in a single geographic pocket next to a populous Muslim region of the then Pakistan was a threat to Burma’s national security. Every wave of expulsion, violence, death and destruction of Rohingyas over the last 40 years has been triggered by this dangerous strategic paradigm.

Q: Aung San SuuKyi’s coming to power as the Nobel Peace laureate and first democratic government brought about major hopes to the Burmese including the Rohingya. In your opinion, has anything changed for the Muslim minority since she took office?

Suu Kyi’s leadership, and Suu Kyi the person, have been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists. Her ascendency to de facto leadership has only lent the veneer of acceptability to what really is a military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism. The plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse, with 100,000 fleeing every week.   Mirroring the military’s Muslim-free armed forces, she presides over her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), and the NLD-controlled Parliament, with not a single Muslim representation.

Q: There are reports about mosques across Burma being damaged or completely destroyed and authorities have been refusing to allow Muslims to repair their mosques. Why is the government refusing to allow the Muslim minority to access their place of worship which is considered to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression and religion?

Mosques – like any places of worship in any religion – serve as the anchor of Muslim communities throughout Burma. The severe restrictions on the repair, renovation, or expansion of mosques are motivated by the intent to prevent the growth of the community in spirit and strength. It is a part of the Buddhist ethnocratic state’s attempt to monitor, control and subjugate Muslim communities – although Islam in Burma has long been a peaceful religion for centuries since it arrived centuries ago.

Q: Could you please let us know about the conditions of displaced Rohingyas living both in and outside Myanmar’s borders?

Even seasoned humanitarian workers would tell you how shocked they are at the first sight of the conditions under which Rohingyas living in India and Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar, Rohingyas live in two different types of situation: open vast prisons and the internally displaced persons camps.   They have no freedom of movement; all aspects of their lives are totally controlled by the Burmese military authorities at the top of the administrative structures and local Buddhist Rakhine who occupy the majority of the admin posts. Rohingyas’ access to food and food systems (such as streams and rivers, paddy fields, etc.) as well as opportunities to earn a living has been controlled and restricted. Doctor-patience ratio for the two major towns – Buthidaung and Maungdaw – are estimated to be 1: 150,000 – while the national average is 1: 1,000 – 2,000. Extreme malnutrition is prevalent with sub-Sahara-like conditions. Only Rohingyas are singled out for strict marriage control and child control. Rape and gang-rape of Rohingya women and even girls are rampant.  Mass arrests of Rohingya males are routine. Summary execution, forced labour, extortions, etc. are routinely practised by the security troops that split Rohingya region into two dozen security grids.  It is this kind of inhuman conditions under which Rohingyas are forced to exist – not live as humans – that has been a major push factor behind regular, if less dramatic and less reported than the most recent one, waves of fleeing Rohingyas. Emphatically, I must state that these conditions are maintained as a matter of policy by the central governments since the late 1970’s: to destroy life as we know it, for the entire Rohingya community as a distinct ethnic group, whether recognized by the State officially, as such or not. Precisely because of the policy of destroying Rohingya community as a group I have been calling this a genocide – a textbook genocidal act as defined by the Genocide Convention.

Q: The state counsellor faces mounting criticism over what the United Nations calls “textbook ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya. This systematic persecution has been ongoing for years. Why do you think we do not see any strong reaction by international human rights organizations, namely the United Nations to stop all the injustice and atrocities?

To the UN and all the world powers, typically all genocides are inconveniences. The refusal to recognize the nature of the heinous crimes by its proper legal name, that is, genocide speaks volumes about the absence of collective will to end this international crime. I find it utterly disgusting that UN and even human rights agencies opting to call it by Milosevic’s original euphemism. The genocidal Serb was a clever bastard who knew ‘ethnic cleansing’ was not a crime under international law. If a crime is recognized as genocide that the UN system would be obliged to intervene to end it. Truth is international law is nothing without the political will to enforce it.    Ending genocide has never been deemed strategically or commercially profitable. Hence, empty talks and outcome less meetings.

Q: On several occasions we have seen the western countries, namely the US and the UK, acting without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. We have seen them imposing sanctions and even taking military action against countries solely based on their own political and geopolitical interests. But when it comes to Myanmar, they do not seem to be much concerned about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing as we do not see any strong reaction. What do you think is the reason behind the double standard?

UK and USA are known to bypass the Security Council, in pursuing their strategic interests, however defined. They have launched invasions in countries throughout the world, from Korea and Vietnam to Africa and the Middle East. But ending genocides is not viewed as part of their strategic interest. Additionally, they delude themselves into thinking that some semblance of democracy and human rights regime can still be salvaged with its Burmese proxy Aung San Suu Kyi, although she has lost the support and admiration of the world. The truth is UN and international law, as well as the institutions of global governance do not work for the oppressed majority of peoples around the world. Rohingyas are not an exception.

Q: Aung SanSuu Kyi did not attend this year’s UN General Assembly session. She did so without providing any reason for the withdrawal. As we discussed, the United Nations so far has failed to act properly to stop the violence. Why do you think then she decided to cancel her trip to the UN?

It’s a clear sign that she now views the world as a hostile place for her to go. The world no longer sees her as “the hopes of Burma”, let alone “the voice of the voiceless”. She has become world-infamous for hiding her head in the sand when it comes to issues of crucial import to the country. Forget going to the UN where she expected strong criticism of her leadership failures. She has no moral or intellectual integrity to confront inconvenient realities of her country, particularly the issue of Rohingya genocide that concerns the world.