Posts Tagged ‘international law’

Tillerson: China ‘Predatory’ for Dumping ‘Enormous Levels of Debt’ on Developing Nations

October 20, 2017

In this Sept. 26, 2017, photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the State Department in Washington. Tillerson is making his second trip to China since taking office in February, and relations between the two world powers have rarely mattered so much. The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons has entered a new, dangerous phase as its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump exchange personal insults and threats of war with no sign of a diplomatic solution. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Tillerson’s speech comes as a welcome response to the aggressive global agenda laid out by Xi, but it is also surprisingly tough given how hard the Trump administration has worked to get China on board with restraining North Korea.

Tillerson, who usually plays the “good cop” counterpart to Trump’s fiery criticism of global adversaries, was unsparing in his criticism of China’s business practices. The topic of his speech was “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century.” He segued into hammering China during the Q&A session, after praising India’s economic development and efforts against terrorism in glowing terms for a good twenty minutes.

CSIS President John J. Hamre teed up the assault by quoting a “very interesting” passage from Tillerson’s remarks on India, in which he called for a close U.S.-Indian partnership to “ensure the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity” and prevent it from becoming “a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by predatory economics, Tillerson described the hunger of emerging economies and “fledgling democracies” in the region for infrastructure investment.

“We have watched the activities and actions of others in the region, particularly China, and the financing mechanisms it brings to many of these countries, which result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt,” said the secretary of state.

“They don’t often create the jobs, which infrastructure projects should be tremendous job creators in these economies, but too often foreign workers are brought in to execute these infrastructure projects,” he continued. “Financing is structured in a way that makes it very difficult for them to obtain future financing, and often has very subtle triggers in the financing that results in financing default, and the conversion of debt into equity.”

“This is not a structure that supports the future growth of these countries,” Tillerson said. “We think it’s important that we begin to develop some means of countering that with alternative financing measures, financing structures.”

“During the East Asia summit, ministerial summit in August, we began a quiet conversation with others about what they were experiencing, what they need, and we’re starting a quiet conversation in a multilateral way with how can we create alternative financing mechanisms,” he revealed. “We will not be able to compete with the kind of terms China offers, but countries have to decide—what are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty and their future control of their economies? We’ve had those discussions with them as well.”

Tillerson recalled having similar discussions with borrowers during his days as a private-sector oil executive, which is a hopeful sign that he’s the right person to be waging this quiet financial war with China.

“On a direct competitive basis, it’s hard to compete with someone who’s offering something on financial terms that are worth a few points on the lending side,” he conceded, an especially important point when considering the billion-dollar scale of the loans he was describing. “We have to help them put that in perspective of the longer-term ability to control their country, control the future of their country, control the development of their economy in a rules-based system.”

“That’s really what we’re promoting. As you retain your sovereignty, you retain your commitment to a rules-based order, we will come with other options for you,” he said. This will be an interesting challenge when China is so aggressively pushing the idea that sovereignty, both individual and national, is overrated compared to the material benefits provided by authoritarian central control.

Examples of the predatory practices Tillerson described can be found in places like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, the latter two of which have been “virtually decimated” by Chinese debt manipulation according to this critique. Not coincidentally, the targets of Chinese financial assault tend to be located along its “New Silk Road” trade route construction project (which is often explicitly linked to the infrastructure projects Beijing funds) or along the borders of China’s great regional adversary, India.

Another case study is Cameroon, which owes China a huge amount of money, and noticed last year that Chinese loggers were illegally cutting down its forests. Critics specifically cited Cameroon’s debt to China for infrastructure loans as a major reason environmental laws were not enforced against it.

Tillerson compared China’s economic growth to India’s and concluded China has acted “less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order.” He called out China’s “provocative actions in the South China Sea” as a direct challenge to international law.

“We’re going to have important relationships with China. We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy,” he said.


What Xi Jinping’s second term can bring Asean (Good News and Bad News)

October 20, 2017
 / 03:24 PM October 19, 2017
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP FILE PHOTO

The Chinese Communist Party kicked off its 19th congress on Wednesday, ready to set a fresh course for the country and recast the leadership, although President Xi Jinping will almost certainly be re-elected to a second five-year term and be given even greater power in running the country. Xi’s leadership is utterly crucial as China’s peaceful rise has significant impacts on this region and the world.

At the congress, which continues through Saturday, the party will amend its constitution to incorporate Xi’s political thoughts and philosophy, in effect elevating his status close to that of founding chairman Mao Zedong and of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated China’s sweeping economic reforms.

Xi in his turn seeks to establish a fiscally moderate yet prosperous society by 2020 through reforms, the rule of law and strict party discipline. His thinking prioritises the integrated development of politics, culture, society and environmental protections while ensuring economic stability. It would be an impressive feat indeed if China could in the next five years put that vision into practice without any of the components being cruelly distorted.

Under Xi, however, China has over the past five years become more aggressive and more authoritarian, even with its healthy economy and remarkable technological advances. While China’s economic assistance to countries in Southeast Asia is most welcome, territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea have cast our giant neighbour as an arrogant bully.

Xi’s “One Belt One Road” initiative is set to create a multitude of opportunities for economic development spanning much of the world, but building physical links over land and sea will also give China the wherewithal to expand its influence into every connected nation. Its political and economic influence is already evident enough in most member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar rely on China for financial and technological aid. Thailand and Laos are in partnerships with Beijing to build a railway that will connect them all, a project requiring not just Chinese investment and technology but also human resources. Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar have bolstered their military ties with Beijing, purchasing hardware from and conducting joint exercise with China.

All of this, though, proceeds in the shadow of the South China Sea conflicts, which put Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam directly at odds with Chinese expansionism. The volatile combination of fiscal reliance on Beijing and confrontation over disputed maritime territory could well split Asean in two. Its members with no land in the South China Sea tend to stand closer to Beijing in all other matters. Every Asean summit has at least one member-country imploring the others to tone down the wording of statements objecting to Chinese territorial incursions. China is poised to take full advantage of such disunity, and in fact might well be encouraging it.

It can be argued that Asean-China relations have suffered under Xi’s leadership. In the interest of maintaining and improving stability in Southeast Asia, Xi would be well advised to review his dealings with Asean. The bloc as a whole is a valuable trading partner for China. Every effort must be made in his second term to resolve the South China Sea issue and to pursue other forms of mutually beneficial cooperation with Asean, not just its individual members.

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


No automatic alt text available.
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.

(Contains links to several related articles)

No automatic alt text available.


Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (Enslavement Project?)


China is the nation gaining the most, so China should step up to pay for a greater share of the planned railway network, the Thai transport minister said less than a month agao

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.



US: We will not ignore China’s challenge to rules-based order

October 19, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

MANILA, Philippines — While maintaining relations with Beijing, Washington stressed that it will not “shrink or ignore” its challenges to the international rules-based order.

In his remarks on US-India relations, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson criticized China for its activities in the disputed South China Sea.

“China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for,” Tillerson said Thursday (Manila time).

In a separate media briefing, the US State Department noted that international order has been under a lot of strain.

A senior US State Department official added that Tillerson said that he wanted constructive relations with China and that he is in regular contact with the Chinese leadership.

READ: Tillerson seeks stronger ties with India, chides China

“China has risen alongside India, but China has done so less responsibly and China has undermined the international rules-based order while countries like India operate within this rules-based order,” the State Department said.

The official added that the US has supported the rise of both China and India, which have “risen very differently.”

“But we are not going to shrink or ignore China’s challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries,” the US State Department said.

“And when you look, as the Secretary (Tillerson) said about the shared values, shared security, shared national security interests, shared economies, shared democracies, this is a great friendship that we want to expand and deepen on all areas,” the official added.

Earlier this year, Tillerson accused Beijing of using its economic power to evade issues such as the South China Sea dispute and the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

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

China has been undermining the 2016 award issued by an international arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment under the UNCLOS when it constructed artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.


No automatic alt text available.
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 says it will not militarize the South China Sea — But satellite images show the real truth

October 18, 2017
Image may contain: text
Construction is shown on Mischief Reef in this June 19, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to Reuters. (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout/Reuters)

BEIJING — China maintained it will not militarize the South China Sea despite persistent reports it has been constructing military structures in the disputed territory.

Yao Wen, deputy director general for policy planning of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Asian department, gave this assurance on Monday in an interview with Asian journalists covering the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress.

“China will never seek militarization of South China Sea,” Yao replied when asked if China could make a categorical statement that it would not use its military to assert claims in the disputed sea lanes.

He did admit that structures have been constructed on reclaimed reefs and islands “within China’s sovereignty.”

“Yes indeed, we have some construction works. There are some projects that are actually public structures, especially the lighthouse and hospitals … we believe the neighboring countries will benefit from in the future,” he said.

Yao reiterated China’s call to countries not directly involved in the territorial dispute to leave the resolution to the claimant countries, which include the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

He said stationing military vessels and aircraft near the disputed territory “is highly dangerous” as it could lead to misjudgment.

“We are worried about the so-called free navigation activities of non-relevant countries that come as far as near five to six nautical miles of the reefs where our staff are stationed,” Yao said, apparently referring to such operations by the United States and its allies in the region.

Yao said territorial disputes, particularly those surrounding China’s nine-dash line and historical rights claims, should be resolved peacefully through dialogues and negotiations among the affected countries.

China-Philippines relations hit a snag after The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ 2013 arbitration case to contest China’s nine-dash line claims.

But President Rodrigo Duterte, who has chosen to seek closer relations with China, has set aside the verdict.

“The disputes in the south China are always there but the important thing is how to manage those disputes and china and the Philippines have done groundbreaking work in this respect. The basic position of China is to resolve the differences for common development,” Yao said.



 No automatic alt text available.
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.


Opinion: Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

October 6, 2017

By Ralph Jennings

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.


  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.


  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”


  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”


  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.


 No automatic alt text available.
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 Increases Efforts To Claim South China Sea Sandbars Near Philippines

October 5, 2017
Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) said that he received reports that Chinese militia had been harassing Philippine vessels conducting patrols in the three sandbars west of Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea. Rep. Gary Alejano/Released

MANILA, Philippines (First published at 7:30 p.m., Oct.4) — The Chinese are employing new tactics in their bid to claim sandbars near Pag-asa Island as part of the territorial waters of Subi Reef, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Alejano said he received a report that Chinese maritime militia harassed a Philippine patrol vessel conducting a seaborne patrol in the three sandbars west of Pag-asa (international name Thitu) on September 18.

The sandbars are numbered three, two and one with number one as the farthest, as shown in the photo provided by Alejano.

The three sand bars are part of the Pag-asa Island network of sand bars, reefs, and atolls which are under the Philippine control. Rep. Gary Alejano/Released

According to the report, no untoward incident occurred when the Philippine vessel reached sandbar three.

As the vessel neared sandbar two, a Chinese maritime militia less than two nautical miles south sounded its siren continuously to warn the Philippine vessel.

“A People’s Liberation Army Navy and another Chinese maritime militia were positioned just over one [nautical mile] north of sandbar two,” the report read.

Four Chinese maritime militias closed in on the Philippine vessel as it proceeded to sandbar one and sounded their sirens simultaneously.

Alejano described this action as a “deliberate but aggressive action undertaken by Chinese maritime militia to ward off or limit any Philippine vessel from coming near to sandbars.”

The Chinese Navy and Coast Guard have reportedly been stationed permanently in the vicinity of the three sandbars, according to the lawmaker.

“The Chinese have apparently employed a new tactic in pressuring or harassing Philippine vessels patrolling the sand bars. This is an indication that China intends to claim these sandbars as part of the territorial waters of Subi Reef that they have reclaimed,” Alejano said.

‘We should not let guards down’

Alejano warned that the Philippine government must be watchful of the Chinese, particularly on its actions in the disputed West Philippine Sea. The Duterte government has had a rapprochement with China in pursuing a new foreign policy that seemed to have created friction with longstanding ally, United States.

The Philippines and its traditional maritime rival, China, have agreed to restart bilateral negotiations over the row months after an international arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s maritime claims.

“While the country is talking with China, we should not let our guards down. We should be vigilant in guarding our territories and protecting our rights in West Philippine Sea,” he said.

The lawmaker further expressed concern over government troops stationed in the occupied islands facing threats from Beijing.

“They need all the support from our government and the Filipino people. It would be disheartening for them to hear from high government officials that we cannot defend ourselves from any external aggression,” Alejano said.

The Philippines should take lessons from Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, which were snatched by China from the country.

As a low-tide elevation, Subi Reef is not entitled to a 12-nautical mile territorial waters nor a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. This was included in the July 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Pag-asa Islands, on the other hand, is the second largest island in the Spratly Group and is entitled to territorial waters and an exclusive economic zone. The island is part of the province of Palawan.

“Therefore, the Philippines has all the rights to patrol the territorial waters of Pag-asa Island which include the three sandbars located just two to five nautical miles away from it,” Alejano said.

RELATED: Alejano: Chinese flag planted near Philippines-controlled island


 No automatic alt text available.
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: China Has A New Claim To Nibble More Land From Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines? “The Four Sha Claim”

September 27, 2017
Beijing’s “four sha” claim in the South China Sea includes the Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank area. Google Maps

MANILA, Philippines — Shifting away from its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, Beijing has forwarded a new sovereignty claim over the island groups in the disputed waters.

China’s “four sha” (Chinese for sand) claim covers sovereignty and maritime entitlements from four island groups in the South China Sea—the Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank area—according to a report from The Washington Free Beacon.

The Pratas Islands are occupied by Taiwan while the Paracel Islands are being disputed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Parts of the Macclesfield Bank are being claimed by China and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam over the ownership of the Spratly Islands.

According to the report, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has laid its new tactic to assert its claims over the disputed sea in a closed-door meeting with US State Department officials last month.

International law experts Julian Ku and Christopher Mirasola, however, said that China’s four sha claims are no more lawful than its nine-dash line claim.

“The challenge for critics of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, however, will be effectively explaining and articulating why this shift does not actually strengthen China’s legal claims in the South China Sea,” Ku and Mirasola said in an article published by Lawfare.

In July 2016, the United Nations-backed tribunal invalidated the nine-dash line claim and ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

READ: The verdict: Philippines wins arbitration case vs China

The four sha claim is not new as Beijing had stated it in a 2016 white paper disputing the Philippines’ claims in the arbitration at The Hague-based tribunal.

“China has, based on Nanhai Zhudao [the “Four Sha”], internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” Beijing said in its 2016 white paper.

The 2016 tribunal award found that no feature in the Spratly Islands is large enough to generate a 12-nautical mile territorial sea. Beijing’s declaration of straight baselines around the Paracel Islands would be contrary to the UNCLOS as it does not qualify to the required ratio, the international law experts said.

Article 47 of the UNCLOS states that archipelagic baselines may only be drawn if they enclose a state’s “main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between one to one and nine to one.”

Ku and Mirasola noted that China’s new legal strategy is weaker than the nine-dash line claim as it clearly violates the UNCLOS.

“Most Chinese defenses of the Nine Dash Line argued that the claim predated China’s accession to UNCLOS and therefore not governed by it,” the experts said.

Beijing, however, may still benefit from trading the nine-dash line which has become a diplomatic liability as it has made China an easy target for foreign criticism.

“Second, by adopting language more similar to that found in UNCLOS, China may be betting that it can tamp down criticism, and win potential partners in the region,” Ku and Mirasola said.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s willingness to work with Beijing would support this conclusion, the international law experts added.

“China’s legal justification for the Four Shas is just as weak, if not weaker, than its Nine-Dash Line claim. But explaining why the Four Shas is weak and lawless will require sophisticated legal analysis married with effective public messaging,” they said.

RELATED: US gov’t study: 9-dash line inconsistent with int’l law


The South China Sea and China’s “Four Sha” Claim: New Legal Theory, Same Bad Argument

By Julian KuChris Mirasola

Monday, September 25, 2017, 11:00 A

The Washington Free Beacon reports that China may be backing away from its most controversial legal justification in the South China Sea: the “Nine-Dash Line.” Officials from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs advanced a new legal theory at a closed-door meeting with U.S. State Department officials last month that would rely upon China’s sovereignty claims over the “Four Sha” island groups in the South China Sea instead of the Nine-Dash Line.

According to the Beacon, Deputy Director General Ma Xinmin of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Treaty and Law “assert[ed] sovereignty” and maritime entitlements extending from four island groups in the South China Sea – Dongsha, Xisha, Nansha, and Zhongsha. Collectively, these island groups are referred to as the “Four Sha” (四沙) (“sha” in this context meaning sand). In English, these areas are respectively referred to as the Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and the Macclesfield Bank area.

While dropping or even de-emphasizing China’s Nine-Dash Line claim in favor of the Four Shas has important diplomatic and political implications, the legal significance of such a shift is harder to assess. The constituent parts of China’s Four Sha claims have long been set forth publicly in Chinese domestic law and official statements. Based on what we know so far, these new Chinese legal justifications are no more lawful than China’s Nine-Dash Line claim. The challenge for critics of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, however, will be effectively explaining and articulating why this shift does not actually strengthen China’s legal claims in the South China Sea.

The Four Sha claim has a long pedigree in Chinese law and practice. China’s 1992 law on the territorial sea and contiguous zone, for example, declared that China’s land territory included the “Dongsha island group, Xisha island group, Zhongsha island group, [and] Nansha island group.” A 2016 white paper disputing the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea arbitral process similarly claimed that:

China’s Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands) consist of Dongsha Qundao (the Dongsha Islands), Xisha Qundao (the Xisha Islands), Zhongsha Qundao (the Zhongsha Islands) and Nansha Qundao (the Nansha Islands). These Islands include, among others, islands, reefs, shoals and cays of various numbers and sizes. 

Taken together, this history shows that the Four Sha are not new to China’s claims in the South China Sea. The key question, still largely unanswered, is what legal meaning China intends to impart to these island groups.

In a 2016 white paper, Beijing stated that, “China has, based on Nanhai Zhudao [the “Four Sha”], internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.” Neither the white paper nor the Beacon’s report explain how China derives these maritime zones from the four island groups. As China recognizes, each island group includes a variety of features, many of which would not independently generate maritime entitlements. The 2016 arbitral tribunal, for example, found that no feature in the Spratly (Nansha) island chain is large enough to generate more than a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. This means that China’s claims in the Spratlys (Nansha) would not generate more than a series of isolated 12 nm zones.

In 1996, China declared straight baselines around the Paracel (Xisha) Islands, treating them as a single geographical unit (likely as a means to maximize Beijing’s maritime claims). Rumors have persisted for at least a year that China may declare similar straight baselines around the Spratly (Nansha) Islands. Indeed, the Beacon’s report could be read to say China is preparing to declare straight baselines around all four “Sha” island groups. While such claims would not extend as broadly as the Nine Dash Line claim, it would still result in China claiming legal entitlements over most of the waters in the South China Sea.

Because China is not constituted “wholly by one or more archipelagos” (think Indonesia or the Philippines), the U.S. and most countries would view straight baselines around an island group as contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Indeed, Article 47 states that archipelagic baselines, such as those around the Paracels, may only be drawn if they enclose a state’s “main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to 1.” China plainly does not qualify under this definition. China’s total land mass is vastly disproportionate to its maritime entitlements – far beyond UNCLOS’ 9:1 ratio.

For this reason, this new Chinese legal strategy is even weaker than the Nine-Dash Line given that it clearly violates UNCLOS (e.g., Articles 46 and 47). Most Chinese defenses of the Nine Dash Line argued that the claim predated China’s accession to UNCLOS and therefore not governed by it. Despite the legal weaknesses of its possible new strategy, China may still reap some benefits from trading the Nine-Dash Line for the Four Shas.

First, the Chinese leadership may have realized that the Nine Dash Line has become too much of a diplomatic liability. The Nine-Dash Line is completely sui generis and no other state has made a historic maritime claim anything like it. For this reason, the Nine-Dash Line makes China an easy target for foreign criticism in a way that straight baselines around island groups probably will not.

Second, by adopting language more similar to that found in UNCLOS, China may be betting that it can tamp down criticism, and win potential partners in the region. Philippine President Duterte’s continued willingness to work with Beijing despite their conflicting maritime claims would support such a conclusion.

Third, and most intriguingly, China may have concluded that it can better shape (or undermine, depending on your point of view) the law of the sea by adopting UNCLOS terminology. As a rising, revisionist power, China has an interest in reinterpreting the existing rules to better suit its interests. Winning support for straight baselines among international lawyers and governments may be easier than finding support for its Nine-Dash Line claim. China can count on a growing roster of Chinese international lawyers and scholars who could build support for this new approach in the global community. Some have called this strategy a form of “lawfare.”

So while we might be encouraged to see the Nine-Dash Line pass into the (legal) dustbins of history, we should be skeptical about whether the Four Shas herald a new more modest Chinese role in the South China Sea. China’s legal justification for the Four Shas is just as weak, if not weaker, than its Nine-Dash Line claim. But explaining why the Four Shas is weak and lawless will require sophisticated legal analysis married with effective public messaging. Whether the U.S. government can muster these tools to advance its South China Sea policy remains to be determined.
 No automatic alt text available.
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.



Indonesia, Long on Sidelines, Starts to Confront China’s Territorial Claims

September 11, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.”

It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

The pushback from Indonesia takes direct aim at Beijing’s claims within the so-called “nine-dash line,” which on Chinese maps delineates the vast area that China claims in the South China Sea. It also adds a new player to the volatile situation, in which the United States Navy has been challenging China’s claims with naval maneuvers through waters claimed by Beijing.


The coastline at Ranai, the administrative center of the Natuna islands. Credit Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Indonesia “is already a party to the disputes — and the sooner it acknowledges this reality the better,” said Ian J. Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where he researches South China Sea issues.

The dispute largely centers on the Natuna Sea, a resource-rich waterway north of Indonesia that also lies close to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Before naming part of the contested waterway the North Natuna Sea “to make it sound more Indonesian,” Mr. Storey said, Indonesia last year began beefing up its military presence in the Natunas. That included expanding its naval port on the main island to handle bigger ships and lengthening the runway at its air force base there to accommodate larger aircraft.

Image may contain: one or more people, mountain, sky and outdoor

People take pictures of a burning ship as the government destroyed foreign boats that had been caught illegally fishing in Indonesia waters, at Morela village in Ambon island, April 2017. Indonesia destroyed 81 mostly foreign boats on the weekend that had been caught illegally fishing in its waters, taking to more than 300 the number sunk since President Joko Widodo launched a battle against the poaching of fish in 2014. Antara Foto/Izaac Mulyawan — Reuters photo

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has been that it is not a party to any territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike its regional neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Last year, however, Indonesia and China had the three maritime skirmishes within Indonesia’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands, which lie northwest of Borneo.

After the third skirmish, in June 2016, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it claimed for the first time that its controversial nine-dash line included “traditional fishing grounds” within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The administration of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, whose top administrative priorities since taking office in October 2014 include transforming his country into a maritime power, has ordered the authorities to blow up hundreds of foreign fishing vessels seized while illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

Mr. Joko, during a visit to Japan in 2015, said in a newspaper interview that China’s nine-dash line had no basis in international law. (See map below) . He also chaired a cabinet meeting on a warship off the Natunas just days after last year’s third naval skirmish — a move analysts viewed as a show of resolve to Beijing.

On July 14, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held a conspicuously high-profile news conference to release its first national territorial map since 2005, including the unveiling of the newly named North Natuna Sea. The new map also included new maritime boundaries with Singapore and the Philippines, with which Indonesia had concluded agreements in 2015.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, a deputy minister at Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told journalists that the new Indonesian map offered “clarity on natural resources exploration areas.”

That same day, Indonesia’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources signed a memorandum for warships to provide security for the highly profitable fishing grounds and offshore oil and gas production and exploration activities within the country’s exclusive economic zone near the Natunas.

Read more at the source:



No automatic alt text available.

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.

Turkish foreign minister defiant over arrested Germans

September 2, 2017


© AFP/File | Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people including journalists under the state of emergency imposed in a crackdown after the failed July 2016 coup.

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday dismissed Berlin’s angry reaction to the arrest of German citizens in Turkey, local media reported, a row which is worsening the nations’ already fraying ties.

“When we arrest (a coup plotter) Germany starts to get upset. But what are we supposed to do?” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency.

“This is also a Turkish citizen but it (Germany) asks why are you arresting my citizen?”.

Turkey has made a wave of arrests since a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people including journalists under the state of emergency imposed in a crackdown after the failed July 2016 coup.

Berlin said Friday that two more German nationals had been held in Turkey “for political reasons”, as Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Ankara that Germany could re-examine its policies following the latest Turkish action.

The latest arrests brings to 12 the total number of Germans in Turkish custody that Berlin considers them political prisoners.

There is “no legal basis” for detention in most of these cases, Merkel said, according to remarks carried by Germany’s DPA news agency.

According to the Dogan news agency, the two German nationals most recently arrested are of Turkish origin and were detained at Antalya airport in southeastern Turkey over suspected links with the failed coup.

“If it’s someone connected to the failed coup, if they supported it, then why are you protecting them?” asked Cavusoglu, speaking in southern Turkey at celebrations for the major Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha.

– Frayed ties –

Relations between the two NATO allies have deteriorated sharply since Berlin sharply criticised Ankara over the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup.

The arrest of several German nationals, including the Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel, the Istanbul correspondent for Die Welt daily, further frayed ties.

Yucel has now spent some 200 days in Turkish custody ahead of a trial on terror charges.

German journalist Mesale Tolu has been held on similar charges since May, while human rights activist Peter Steudtner was arrested in a July raid.

Following Steudtner’s arrest, Germany vowed stinging measures impacting tourism and investment in Turkey and a full “overhaul” of their troubled relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, has also sparked outrage after charging that Germany is sheltering plotters of last year’s coup, as well as Kurdish militants and terrorists, and demanded their extradition.

Erdogan added to the tensions this month when he urged ethnic Turks in Germany to vote against Merkel’s conservatives and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in September 24 elections.

On Friday, Merkel hit out against Erdogan’s call, saying Germany’s election “will be decided only by the people in our country, who have German citizenship”.

The escalating tensions have split the three-million-strong Turkish community in Europe’s top economy, the largest diaspora abroad, which is a legacy of Germany’s “guest worker” programme of the 1960s and 70s.


Turkey and Germany:

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

September 2, 2017

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

Image result for USS Dewey, south china sea, photos

Photo: USS Dewey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance, photos

P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft

Pacific Command officials had no comment on the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Jeremy Page at



Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

No automatic alt text available.

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.