Posts Tagged ‘international tribunal’

South China Sea: Proposed Code of Conduct With China Bypasses International Law

August 4, 2017
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In this Thursday, July 27, 2017 photo, a man and a child look at a picture showing the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly islands, in the disputed South China Sea, on display at the military museum in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry has criticized plans by Britain to send its new aircraft carriers on freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the strategic waterway, accusing it of stirring up trouble. Meanwhile, an official Chinese magazine says President Xi Jinping personally directed the enlargement of China’s presence in the South China Sea, crediting him with constructing a “maritime Great Wall.” AP/Andy Wong

MANILA, Philippines — The framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea will not serve as an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues.

Foreign ministers of ASEAN and China are expected to adopt the framework that will serve as an outline for a code of conduct on the disputed waters.

In a two-page document acquired by, one of the main objectives of the code is to establish a rules-based framework to guide the conduct of parties and to promote maritime cooperation in the disputed South China Sea.

Despite not being an instrument to settle disputes, the framework stated the parties’ commitment to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other principles of international law.

The framework did not include the arbitral ruling of a UN-backed tribunal that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. Last year, the international tribunal ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS following its reclamation activities within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

READ: DFA: Framework on South China Sea code might skip Hague ruling

The framework of the code of conduct stressed “[r]espect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law, and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”

This echoes President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks during his opening speech at the 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Manila last April, where he urged his Southeast Asian counterparts to set the tone of talks based on non-interference.

“Dialogue relations can be made more productive constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the ASEAN member states is observed,” Duterte said in his speech last April 29.

Meanwhile, another objective of the framework is to “promote mutual trust, cooperation and confidence, prevent incidents, manage incidents should they occur and create a favorable environment for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The framework also expressed commitment to a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties or DOC in the South China Sea.

In 2002, ASEAN member countries and China signed the DOC in Cambodia to resolve conflicting maritime claims peacefully. More than 14 years later, the concerned parties are yet to complete a binding code of conduct.

Peace and Freedom Comment: How can you trust a party to a Code of Conduct when they have already proven their unwillingness to follow international law?


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


Indonesian President Joko Widodo — Chinese regional hegemony crashing into Indonesian sovereignty

May 1, 2017

Indonesian President Joko Widodo touring the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea aboard the Imam Bonjol warship. (South China Morning Post)

NETRALNEWS.COM – States involved in the South China Sea dispute should engage in “concrete cooperation” well before any code of conduct is developed, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has proposed.

In an exclusive interview with This Week in Asia ahead of his visit to the Asean summit on Saturday, Widodo said that such cooperation would be an important step towards ensuring peace in the disputed waters. “In the transitional period before we have the code, the building block of trust is very important. I stress, very important,” he said.

Widodo’s comments indicate that Southeast Asia’s largest nation has no intention of becoming more confrontational over this potentially explosive issue. Asked for his assessment of the president’s remarks, maritime security expert Ian Storey said, “I do not discern a hardening of Indonesia’s position on the South China Sea, which remains consistent.”

– Widodo wants Chinese to keep coming – as investors, not workers –

Indonesia does not count itself among the states with active, competing claims over various parts of the South China Sea, but the vast archipelago has islands close to the resource-rich waters of the disputed territories.

Other than China, the four other claimant states are part of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean). The grouping has been discussing with China the formulation of a code of conduct since 2010. It arrived at a first draft only last month. A final version mutually agreed upon by all remains months, if not years, away, analysts say.

The code covers a binding crisis management mechanism, the prevention of the establishment of offensive weapons and ensuring freedom of navigation, among other matters.

Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, said the code would take time. “Therefore, before any situation erupts, we should undertake a form of concrete cooperation, for example, doing joint research in maritime resources, also working together to improve the maritime infrastructure in the area, and then developing the fishing industry. I believe there are many areas that can be worked upon together.”

– Indonesia has these bigger fish to fry than South China Sea –

He would not be drawn into commenting on China’s highly controversial policy of building islands in the waters and planting military installations on them. He would only reiterate that trust-building was an important step for all parties to undertake.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion worth of trade passes every year. Its assertion of sovereignty has been contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

While the Philippines took its case to an international tribunal for adjudication, which ruled in its favour, President Rodrigo Duterte has all but abandoned the country’s stance in exchange for economic concessions from China.

Duterte recently claimed that he intended to raise the Philippine flag on one of the islands but backed down under Chinese pressure. Although Indonesia is not a party in the dispute, the waters are a potential source of friction with China.

Maritime expert Storey noted that Indonesia rejected the legal validity of the “nine-dash line”, which China uses to demarcate its territorial claims. The nine-dash line overlaps with the internationally recognised exclusive economic zone around Indonesia’s gas- and oil-rich Natuna Islands.

“In order to [prevent] the issue from becoming a source of tension with Beijing, Indonesia has tried to segregate the problem from the wider South China Sea dispute by characterising the presence of Chinese trawlers in waters adjacent to the Natunas as one of illegal fishing,” said Storey, who is based at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Christine Susanna Tjhin, an expert on China-Indonesia relations, agreed. Widodo, she said, had focused on the encroachment by Chinese fishing vessels because it directly affected Indonesian livelihoods and ecosystems. He was less interested in “sabre-rattling” over the issue of Chinese regional hegemony and Indonesian sovereignty, she said.

– In bid to defend sovereignty, Indonesia plans to change name of South China Sea to Natuna Sea –

This was due not to a fear of upsetting China, but rather a reflection of his policy priorities and pragmatic character, added Tjhin, who is based at Jakarta’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “Jokowi has been focusing mostly on improving the domestic economy, which requires a stable regional environment and amicable and concrete cooperation with countries in the region,” said Tjhin.

Last week, defence magazine Jane’s Weekly reported the Indonesian Ministry of Defence had issued a tender to upgrade a naval pier on Pulau Natuna Besar, the largest of the Natunas. The upgrade would allow the deployment of larger vessels.

Asked why Indonesia felt compelled to upgrade its military capabilities there, Widodo said: “I have to make this clear, [the Natunas are] Indonesian territory. That is clear. We have a regency there. We have a population of 163,000 there. So there is no discussion about Natuna. We want a peaceful situation in the South China Sea.”


South China Sea: U.S. Rejects China’s Goal To Avoid Discussion at ASEAN — Obama says arbitration court ruling is “binding” and Beijing must abide by the international tribunal ruling

September 8, 2016


Li Keqiang said China wanted to work with other countries to “dispel interference” in the contested maritime zone

U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asean summit in Vientiane on Thursday. Photograph by Ye Aung Thu for AFP

The Associated Press

Sep 8, 2016, 2:17 AM ET

President Barack Obama put the long-simmering dispute in the South China Sea front and center on the agenda at a regional summit Thursday as it became clear that most of the other leaders gathered in the Laotian capital were going to let China off with a mild rebuke over its territorial expansion in the resource-rich waters.

“We will continue to work to ensure that disputes are resolved peacefully including in the South China Sea,” Obama said in his opening remarks at a meeting with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

He said an international arbitration ruling on July 12 against China was “binding” and “helped to clarify maritime rights in the region.”

ASEAN will hold a separate summit later Thursday with other world powers, including China and the U.S. The summit is expected to let China off with a muted reprimand over its expansionist activities in South China Sea, according to a draft of their joint statement to be released Thursday.

The U.S. has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s actions in the resource-rich sea. Obama brought that up again.

Referring to the arbitration panel’s ruling that invalidated China’s claims, Obama said: “I realize this raises tensions but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move forward together to lower tensions and promote diplomacy and regional stability.”

The draft of the summit statement said that ASEAN and its partners “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability and security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea.”

“Several Leaders remained seriously concerned over recent developments in the South China Sea … We stressed the importance for the parties concerned to resolve their disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international laws,” it said.

China has turned shoals and coral reefs into seven man-made islands and built airstrips capable of handling military aircraft on three of them. ASEAN leaders at their earlier summit on Tuesday expressed concern over China’s island-building.

A joint statement after the Tuesday summit said it “took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

The use of the phrase “some leaders” in the two statements underscores the fundamental problem ASEAN and the wider East Asia Summit has in dealing with China — not all its members are willing to scold Beijing. Cambodia, for example, remains in China’s camp, as does Laos to a large extent, preventing any robust statement from the consensus-bound ASEAN group.

U.S. officials, however, said that there were other critical elements in the ASEAN statement that China failed to block, and which amounted to a strong diplomatic rebuke of Beijing.

China pulled out all the stops to block any reference to the words “recent activities,” ”serious concern,” ”reclamation,” ”militarization,” ”loss of trust” and “need to respect legal processes,” but failed as all these phrases made it into the statement, said a senior U.S. administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic discussions.

Though Beijing recently announced a $600 million aid package to ally Cambodia, China was unable to get it to block the statement, said the official. Cambodia did however block an explicit mention of the tribunal’s ruling, which the Philippines was willing to concede, the official said.

The issue of ownership of territories in the South China Sea has come to dominate ASEAN summits in recent years. China claims virtually the entire sea as its own, citing historical reasons. That has pitted it against the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, all members of ASEAN, which have overlapping claims.

The U.S. military has also expressed concern over the possibility that China might turn Scarborough into another island, something that would give Beijing’s forces greater control over a swath of the South China Sea used as a passageway to the Taiwan Strait.


Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.


China Tries To Stop Discussion of South China Sea at ASEAN Meeting

Obama hits back by telling Asian leaders China must abide by the international tribunal ruling that its claims to the area have no legal basis

China has sent a coded warning to the United States to stay out of the South China Sea dispute after Beijing was again accused of building permanent structures on islands in the area.

Speaking after talks with rival countries at a regional summit in Laos, premier Li Keqiang said China wanted to work with other countries to “dispel interference” in the contested maritime zone.

But US president Barack Obama responded by warning that Beijing must abide by an international tribunal ruling that China’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis.

The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped clarify maritime rights in the region,” Obama told a summit of Asian leaders in Laos on Thursday. Beijing has vowed to ignore the verdict.

“I recognise this raises tensions,” Obama said referring to the ruling “but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move forward together to lower tensions and promote diplomacy and stability.”

The Philippines said earlier on Wednesday it was “gravely concerned” that Chinese boats were preparing to build structures at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, upsetting the diplomatic peace at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Vientiane.

China claims much of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims.

Officials said talks between regional leaders and Li on Wednesday went smoothly, but there was no reference to a July court ruling in The Hague that declared some of China’s artificial islands illegal and invalidated its claims to almost the entire waterway.

In a statement released later on Wednesday by China’s foreign ministry about the meeting, Li was paraphrased as saying China was willing to work with Asean countries in “dispelling interference … and properly handling the South China Sea issue”.

He did not elaborate, but such wording is typically used by Chinese leaders to refer to not allowing countries from outside the region with no direct involvement in the dispute, like the United States, from getting involved.

With joint efforts from China and Asean members, the situation in the South China Sea was moving in a positive direction, Li added.

Peace and stability in the area was directly related to prosperity and development of neighbouring countries, he said.

“Countries in the region are the biggest beneficiaries of peace in the South China Sea. History and facts have repeatedly showed that the South China Sea can only be peaceful and stable so long as the regional countries themselves get hold of the key to fixing the problems,” Lie said.

Increasingly assertive action by China’s coast guard ships in the South China Sea risks destabilising the region, according to the authors of new research tracking maritime law enforcement incidents across the vital trade route.

Hours before the meeting, however, the Philippines’ defence ministry released photographs and a map showing what it said was an increased number of Chinese vessels near Scarborough Shoal, which China seized after a standoff in 2012.

Li made no direct mention of Scarborough Shoal in the comments provided by the foreign ministry.



(L to R) Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chano-cha, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, U.S President Barack Obama, Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak pose for photo during ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Vientiane, Laos September 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Manuel Mogato | VIENTIANE

Asian leaders played down tensions over the South China Sea in a carefully worded summit statement on Thursday, but even before it was issued Beijing voiced frustration with countries outside the region “interfering” in tussles over the strategic waterway.

The heads of 10 Southeast Asian nations, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang among six other leaders, “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea”.

But the draft of a statement to be issued in Vientiane, Laos, tiptoed around the regional strains caused by competing claims to areas of the strategically important sea.

“Several leaders remained seriously concerned over recent developments in the South China Sea,” said the draft.

The statement, seen by Reuters, made no reference to a July ruling by a court in The Hague that declared illegal some of China’s artificial islands in the sea and invalidated its claims to almost the entire waterway.

Obama said on Thursday the ruling had helped clarify maritime rights. “I recognize this raises tensions but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move forward together to lower tensions,” he said at a summit meeting.

Officials said that talks on Wednesday between leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China’s Li had gone smoothly.

But in a statement later from China’s Foreign Ministry, Li was paraphrased as saying China was willing to work with Southeast Asian countries in “dispelling interference … and properly handling the South China Sea issue”.

He did not elaborate, but such wording is typically used by Chinese leaders to refer to not allowing countries from outside the region with no direct involvement in the dispute, like the United States, from getting involved.

China claims much of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Taiwan and four ASEAN members – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – also have claims, making it a hot spot of regional tension.

The other ASEAN nations are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand. Leaders from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States also attended the summit.

China has over the past year alarmed other claimants, and outside powers such as the United States and Japan, by re-claiming land on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities.

Shattering an illusion of cordiality at the summit in Laos on Wednesday, U.S. ally the Philippines released photographs and a map showing what it said was an increased number of Chinese vessels near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which China seized after a standoff in 2012.

Its defense ministry expressed “grave concern” that Chinese boats were preparing to build structures at the shoal.


The Philippines’ move came after a dispute with the United States, its former colonial power. Ties turned frosty when new President Rodrigo Duterte insulted U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on Monday, prompting the cancellation of a meeting between them.

The two leaders made some steps toward clearing the air late on Wednesday, however, chatting briefly, and exchanging pleasantries as they prepared to take their seats at a leaders’ dinner.

The United States has been a staunch ally of the Philippines and China has repeatedly blamed Washington for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea.

Washington says it has no position on the territorial disputes but wants to ensure freedom of navigation. To press that point, it has conducted patrols near Chinese-held islands.

Although the Scarborough Shoal is merely a few rocks poking above the sea, it is important to the Philippines because of the fish stocks in the area. Manila says China’s blockade of the shoal is a violation of international law.

The dispute has become more significant since the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in July that no country had sovereign rights over activity at Scarborough Shoal. China has refused to recognize the ruling by the court in The Hague.

Li made no direct mention of Scarborough Shoal in the comments provided by the foreign ministry, but Beijing said on Wednesday there had been no new activity there and “some people” were spreading information that was “hyping the situation”.

China’s embassy in Manila said there has been no dredging or building at the shoal and China has maintained a coastguard presence there for law enforcement patrols.

A statement by ASEAN on Wednesday listed eight points related to the South China Sea, but made no mention of the arbitration ruling.

The bloc traditionally shies away from taking a position on thorny diplomatic issues, especially where China is concerned, because of its influence in the region and the need to balance ties with the United States.

“Both China and the United States are among the most important partners of ASEAN, and ASEAN does not want to have to choose between those partners,” the secretary general of the bloc, Le Luong Minh, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


South China Sea: When China insisted that the Philippines not make any comment about the arbitration court ruling, President Duterte and Foreign Secretary Yasay knew they had to say “No Deal”

July 19, 2016
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said direct talks with China over the maritime flashpoint were unlikely to start anytime soon due to Beijing’s refusal to accept the ruling. AP Photo/Aaron Favila, file

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has rejected China’s request for talks on the South China Sea dispute because it asked Manila to “disregard” a court ruling on the issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“They asked us to open ourselves for bilateral negotiations but outside of and in disregard of the arbitral ruling. This is something that I told him was not consistent with our Constitution and our national interest,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said, referring to his Chinese counterpart.

Yasay said in an interview with ABS-CBN that he and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the possibility of bilateral talks on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Mongolia last weekend but made no headway.

During the meeting, Yasay said the Chinese insisted that the Philippines not make any comment about the ruling.

Yasay said he told Wang that bilateral talks could not be conducted without using the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision as a basis for the meetings.

“We would like to discuss with you how your fishermen would have access in that area, but not in the context of the arbitral tribunal,” Yasay quoted Wang as telling him in Mongolia.

“They said, ‘If you will insist on the ruling, discussing along those lines, then we might be headed for a confrontation’,” he added.

The remark about confrontation, Yasay said, has not only been the line of the Chinese foreign minister but also of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua when he discussed the South China Sea dispute with him.

The DFA chief said direct talks with China over the maritime flashpoint were unlikely to start anytime soon due to Beijing’s refusal to accept the ruling.

He said President Duterte’s priority was to regain access to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal for Filipino fishermen.

“We have asked China to exercise restraint and sobriety in this regard, that we maintain the status quo for now in terms of not taking aggressive actions… not coming out with any provocative statements,” he added.

Duterte said the Philippines would not yield its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea to China, as he vowed to stick to the ruling of the international tribunal on the maritime row.

Duterte gave the assurance during the courtesy call of a US congressional delegation yesterday at Malacañang.

“Just out of a meeting with new Philippine President Duterte. He assured us he has no plans to negotiate with China over island dispute,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy posted on Twitter.

Malacañang has yet to confirm Murphy’s tweets.

The meeting was attended by Yasay, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Jose Quilop.

Last week, Duterte asked former president Fidel Ramos to talk to Chinese officials, saying the Philippines would continue to resolve the sea dispute through diplomatic means.

Yasay to keep post

Meanwhile, Duterte said he has no plans to remove Yasay as DFA chief and concurrent government spokesman on the sea dispute.

Duterte said Yasay continues to enjoy his trust and that everything he says with regard to foreign policy has his blessing.

“Yasay speaks for me. Everything that he says in public, both national and international, comes from my guidance, and he has my backing and full support,” Duterte said.

Duterte praised Yasay, whom he said agreed to join his government despite his job as an educator.

He said Yasay accepted the post on condition that he would only serve for a few months because of his obligations as professor of universities in the US. – With Jaime Laude


 (Contains links to previous articles)

 (Includes links to articles posted since the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration)

 (This article has a list of all the background articles on the issues in the South China Sea)

China’s Arrogantly Domineering Attitude in the South China Sea

July 18, 2016

By Julian Ku

The award issued last week by an arbitral tribunal sitting in The Hague can only be described as a tremendous legal victory for the Philippines over China. The tribunal, which was formed pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ruled in favor of the Philippines on 14 of 15 claims. On every issues of substance, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines. Few experts who followed the award closely had predicted such a sweeping, one-sided result. I certainly did not.

But taking a step back after reviewing the award, perhaps I should not have been surprised. China’s legal arguments for maritime rights in the South China Sea were always weak since the Chinese mainland is much farther away than any of its neighbors. China exacerbated these weaknesses by refusing to participate in the tribunal in any way, and then launching a global public relations campaign that dramatically heightened the award’s significance in the eyes of the global media.

A contested sea.

In the award, the tribunal ruled that China had violated its obligations under UNCLOS in a variety of ways. First, the tribunal held that China’s nine-dash-line claim, which refers to a line delineating some form of Chinese sovereign rights over nearly 80% of the South China Sea, was inconsistent with China’s obligations under UNCLOS. Whereas the treaty requires all states to limit maritime rights to certain distances from land, the nine-dash line represented a broad claim to “historic rights.” China may well have had historic rights to fishing in the region dating back centuries, the tribunal ruled, but it gave up such rights when it agreed to join UNCLOS in 1996.

In return for joining UNCLOS and giving up its historic rights, the tribunal noted, China gained internationally recognized exclusive economic zones (EEZs) stretching out over 200 nautical miles from its mainland coasts and islands. Without UNCLOS, the tribunal pointed out, China would not have had such broad, internationally recognized maritime rights near its mainland coast and islands.

Second, the tribunal found that none of the land features claimed or occupied by China in the Spratly Islands (a group of land features near the Philippines) are actually “islands” as defined by UNCLOS. This means that even if China has sovereignty over all of the land features in the Spratlys, China cannot claim rights to control fishing and undersea hydrocarbons under an EEZ because there are no “islands” as defined by UNCLOS in the whole Spratly region.

Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague; hearing on the South China Sea. At the podium speaking to the court is then Foreign Minister of the Philippines, Albert del Rosario. China refused to participate.

Such EEZ rights thus default to the Philippines because much of this area lies within 200 nautical miles of the main Philippines islands. To be sure, the tribunal found that (contrary to the Philippines’ arguments) several land features do constitute “rocks” rather than simply “low-tide elevations.” So China could potentially claim 12 nautical miles of territorial seas around those rocks if it could establish sovereignty over them.

But the tribunal’s award makes it legally difficult for China to make a sweeping claim to sovereignty over both the land and the maritime zones in the Spratlys. It also calls into serious question the legality of China’s construction of an artificial island on Mischief Reef, which the tribunal held was merely a “low-tide elevation” incapable of generating even a 12 nm territorial sea.

Chinese dredging vessels are seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.Chinese dredging vessels seen in 2015 in the waters around Mischief Reef.(Reuters/US Navy)

Finally, the tribunal also ruled that China’s construction of artificial islands has caused “irreparable” damage to the region’s environment. Whether or not China has sovereignty over the land features, the tribunal held China had violated its UNCLOS obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment. China further violated its obligations to allow Filipino fisherman to enter their traditional fishing grounds and to avoid harassing or obstructing non-Chinese fishermen in the region.
It didn’t have to be this way

All of this constitutes a stunning across-the-board legal victory for the Philippines. Moreover, the award will only damage China while benefiting Southeast Asian states like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which are far less likely to base their maritime claims on sketchy underwater land features.

All of those nations, like the Philippines, have undisputed sovereignty over mainland coastlines that can generate broad maritime rights. China, whose mainland coast is 600 miles away, has to rely on land features that it does not even control and that are too small to generate maritime rights. Because China is the only state vulnerable to this type of legal attack, the other claimants will not hesitate to invoke the tribunal’s award since it will be unlikely to backfire on their own claims.

Francis Jardeleza, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, shows a copy of the tribunal’s decision.(EPA/Mark R. Cristino)

So now China finds itself on the losing end of a damaging arbitral award. But it didn’t have to be this way. In my view, China made two fateful mistakes in responding to the Philippines’ lawsuit. First, from the outset, China decided it would neither accept nor participate in the arbitral tribunal process. This meant that China gave up its right to appoint one member of the arbitral tribunal of its own choosing, and to participate and influence the appointment of three others.

South China Sea map on display at a maritime defence educational facility in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Photo via AP

Because of China’s boycott, the task of appointing four out of five members of the arbitral tribunal fell (pursuant to the treaty) to Shunji Yanai, the then-President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. While Yanai’s appointments were all experienced, credible international lawyers with deep expertise in the legal issues of the case, none was particularly sensitive or favorable to China.

China’s boycott also meant that China made no written submissions to the tribunal, and did not participate in oral hearings. From a legal point of view, this hurt China’s case because it could not fully present the substance of its arguments in a detailed form that could be legally persuasive, while its opponent filed thousands of pages of written documents. It also could not orally answer specific questions the tribunal had that might have influenced the final decision. While the tribunal made every effort to figure out China’s views from public statements published on the internet, there is little doubt that China’s case was hurt by the fact that no one actually presented it in a rigorous legal form.

Where was China? A scene from the tribunal proceedings.(Permanent Court of Arbitration)

Finally, China exacerbated the significance of the award by launching a global public relations blitz in the months leading up to release of the tribunal’s award. Most international tribunals operate in deep obscurity, especially in the United States. Media coverage is dutiful, but rarely comprehensive, because most international arbitral awards seem technical, dull, and unenforceable. The US government’s refusal to carry out an order from the International Court of Justice in 2008 barely rated a single day’s news coverage.

But China’s blizzard of editorials, op-eds by Chinese ambassadors, joint declarations with obscure foreign leaders, and Chinese civil society statements of support drew the attention of the global media like nothing else could. Such media gave foreign governments and NGOs a platform to opine on the importance of the award. When China reacted with clearly hostile and nearly frantic language, the global media had found its story. China, the newly risen power, was risking its global reputation in a now landmark international law ruling. Such a story, complete with China’s angry denials, was too good for the global media to resist.

Beijing has indicated it will simply ignore the award, and UNCLOS has no mechanisms for enforcing compliance with its awards. But China’s global image has suffered a serious blow. China promised in UNCLOS to allow an arbitral tribunal to conclusively settle any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the treaty, including whether such a tribunal has jurisdiction to hear the dispute. Once such a dispute arose, China boycotted and then tried to denigrate through a global publicity campaign the entire legitimacy of a widely accepted international treaty regime. And by refusing to comply, it has now reneged on that promise and damaged its image among its neighbors and partners around the world.
It is not an irreversible situation, but it was an avoidable one.

You can follow Julian on Twitter at @julianku.



 (Contains links to previous articles)

 (China always tells others what topics can and cannot be discussed)

Chinese tourists have posted photographs of themselves online showing off their catch, including endangered reefer sharks and red coral. Photo: Guangzhou Daily

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)


From the Baltic to the South China Sea, Russia and China See One Foe — the U.S.

July 16, 2016

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — On July 8 and 9, at the NATO summit in Warsaw, leaders of the Western world met to “reinforce our collective defense … at a defining moment for the security of our nations and populations.” Just three days later in The Hague, an international tribunal on the law of the sea handed down a long-awaited ruling that determined China had no basis for its claim of ownership over the entire South China Sea.

These two events appear unrelated, but both will have the effect of pushing Russia and China closer in standing up to what they perceive as their shared foe — the United States.

It is absolutely clear to the Kremlin who the mastermind is behind these anti-Russian moves.

The NATO gathering left no doubt about the primary threat to its members — “Russia’s aggressive actions.” The Warsaw summit communique’s references to Russia read like a criminal indictment. Moscow is accused of, among others things:

[T]he ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea … the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine … provocative military activities near NATO borders … irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace.

The terrorist threat from the Middle East, which is also mentioned in the communique, comes a distant second to these threats. In order to deter Moscow, the allies agreed to deploy multinational battalion-size battle groups to the four NATO countries that border Russia — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

nato missile shield romania

A Romanian officer at a ceremony for the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania, on Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Russia’s response was predictably furious. Moscow views the stationing of troops in Poland and the Baltic states as a major breach of the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations between NATO and Russia, in which both sides agreed to avoid stationing troops near each others’ borders. Russia is also seriously worried about NATO’s ongoing efforts to build a ballistic missile defense system in Europe. Moscow does not buy the alliance’s assurances that missile defense batteries in Romania and Poland are exclusively directed against potential threats emanating from the Middle East or North Korea.

The Kremlin was also offended by NATO’s invitation to the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro, which has historically close ties to Russia, to join the alliance as its 29th member. Moscow fears that the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova may be next.

Putin and Xi’s June 24 meeting was remarkable because of the unusually high level of thinly disguised anti-American rhetoric.

Moscow denounced the Warsaw meeting as an attempt “to demonize Russia” in order “to draw public attention away from the destructive role of the bloc and some of its allies in provoking crises and fanning tensions around the world.” Even though NATO counts 28 members and all its decisions are based on collective consensus, it is absolutely clear to the Kremlin who the mastermind is behind these anti-Russian moves — the U.S., supported by a few Russophobic European nations like Britain, Poland, the three Baltic states and Romania.

Just as Russia and NATO are facing off in eastern Europe, there is another drama unfolding on the opposite edge of Eurasia — in and around the South China Sea. An international tribunal ruled that China’s expansive claims to sovereignty over the sea have no legal basis. Predictably, Beijing called the litigation and its outcome “a political farce” and declared it “null and void.” Similar to Russia, China seesWashington as the main culprit stirring up trouble in the South China Sea by inciting the Philippines and other countries to stand up to China. Incidentally, of the five-person arbitration panel, four judges represented America’s NATO allies (France, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands). Beijing has no doubt that the tribunal ruling is part of Washington’s plot to pressure, isolate and contain China.

south china sea

Chinese helicopter crew members practice near Sansha, in the South China Sea, on July 14. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In order to better deal with a rising China, even an Asian-style NATO may eventually be in the cards. The U.S. has been vigorously strengthening its bilateral alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, expanding their reach and networking them into a U.S.-centered strategic web, with Japan, Australia and India assigned the role of the main regional bastions against China.

Given the geopolitical circumstances, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a lot to discuss at their recent summit in Beijing on June 26. Although overshadowed in the world media by the “Brexit,” the Putin-Xi meeting was remarkable because of the unusually high level of thinly disguised anti-American rhetoric. In their joint communique, Russia and China reaffirmed “mutual support on key issues of sovereignty, security and development.” They accused the U.S.-led West of undermining strategic stability while seeking “decisive military superiority,” and expressed their strong opposition to the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe and Northeast Asia. Putin and Xi also adopted a separate statement on collaboration in cyberspace, emphasizing the need to “respect state sovereignty in the information domain” and set up a bilateral mechanism to coordinate cyber policies.

Things have only gotten worse.

Rhetoric aside, Russia and China have continued to advance practical cooperation on a range of sensitive political and security issues. In May, Russian and Chinese militaries held their first joint exercises of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense units. In June, Moscow and Beijing reached an agreement on the joint production of liquid-fuel rocket engines, where Russia has a lot of expertise, in exchange for the supply of Chinese avionics for the Russian aerospace industry.

Last month, Chinese and Russian warships sailed simultaneously into the waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, ownership of which is a matter of dispute between Tokyo and Beijing, leaving the Japanese government wondering whether it was a coordinated move to put pressure on Japan. China and Russia might also be considering joint naval drills in the highly contested South China Sea. If Russian warships join the Chinese navy there, this would signify a major change in Moscow’s policy that has so far tried to maintain strict neutrality on the sovereignty disputes between China and Southeast Asian claimants.

Two years ago, I wrote that America’s policy of dual containment against both Russia and China was inevitably pushing them together to form an anti-Western quasi-alliance, possibly even recreating some conditions that, a century ago, led to World War I. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse since then. World War III is still a remote risk, but the alarming naval and air brinksmanship in the Baltic, Mediterranean and the South China Seas is happening with increasing frequency.

xi obama sunnylands

Obama and Xi take a walk at the Annenberg Retreat in California on June 8, 2013. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The opponents do keep communication lines open. Putin and Obama regularly talk over the phone, the NATO-Russia Council holds meetings, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited Moscow. Xi and Obama have had several personal meetings, and senior Chinese and American officials are engaged in strategic security dialogues.

The problem is that those dialogues are not getting us anywhere, with the different sides talking largely past each other. The U.S. and its allies, as well as Russia and China, obviously need some shift in how they perceive and approach one another. But it remains an open question what it would take to execute such a shift.


South China Sea: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen Tells Navy To Defend Taiwan’s Interests

July 13, 2016


South China Morning Post
July 13, 2016

President Tsai Ing-wen walks aboard the frigate on Wednesday at a naval base in Kaohsiung. Photo: EPA

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen briefly boarded a naval warship on Wednesday and addressed its crew before it set off to “defend Taiwan’s territory” in the South China Sea.

The naval patrol to Taiping Island in an disputed area of the ocean’s waters comes after an international tribunal ruled that it was merely a “rock” that conferred no maritime rights to a 200- nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Tsai told the crew on board the frigate to do all they could to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The president, who is commander in chief of Taiwan’s armed forces, said: “Your patrol mission to the South China Sea, which is being conducted ahead of schedule, is highly significant in view of the new development,

“The South China arbitration ruling, especially in the part about Taiping Island, has seriously hurt our rights to the South China Sea islands and their relevant waters.

“This naval mission is to demonstrate the resolution of Taiwanese people in defending our national interests.”

The international tribunal in The Hague on Tuesday dismissed mainland China’s claims to much of the South China Sea.

 President Tsai addresses the crew and officers. Photo: EPA

But it also ruled that features that remain above water at high tide in the Spratlys had the legal status of “rocks”, including Taiping, which is administered by Taiwan.

Taipei has attacked the tribunal’s findings, saying it has long considered the 46-hectare feature an island.

Tsai, however, also sounded a more conciliatory note in saying that Taiwan still supported resolving maritime and territorial disputes through negotiations in a peaceful manner.

“We are willing to join other countries in promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea under a equal footing,” she said.

Tsai’s government held a national security meeting before the ruling was announced on Tuesday.

It decided to reject the tribunal findings, given that they have no legal binding force.

The government also said Taiwan was never invited to take part in the arbitration process, nor had its opinions been sought.

Several government agencies, including the foreign, defence, interior and mainland affairs ministries, all issued statements rejecting the ruling. They also upheld Taiwan’s historical claims to islands in the South China Sea.

Chiu Chui-cheng, vice chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said the tribunal’s rejection of the “nine-dash line”, which mark mainland China’s claims to much of the South China Sea, was also unacceptable.

“The Republic of China [in Taiwan] enjoys the rights to various South China Sea islands and relevant waters in line with international law and the UN Convention on International Law of Sea and the locations of those South China Sea islands are based on the map [the ROC] had drawn in 1947,” Chiu said.

There had been speculation that Taipei might drop its historical claims in the South China Sea, but this was dismissed by the government.

All political parties in Taiwan, including the main opposition Kuomintang, are supporting the government’s position in rejecting the tribunal ruling.

Some KMT lawmakers urged the government to send more frigates to patrol the area around Taiping.

Others said Tsai should have led the naval frigate sailing to Taiping to uphold Taiwan’s claims.



South China Sea — “China will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty” — Reserves the right to create an air defense zone

July 13, 2016

Wed Jul 13, 2016 1:20am EDT

China vowed to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea and said it had the right to set up an air defense zone, after rejecting an international tribunal’s ruling that denied its claims in the region.

State media called the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague a “puppet” of external forces, after it ruled that China had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“China will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a front page commentary on Wednesday.

The case, overseeing an energy-rich region that is home to also one of the world’s busiest trade routes, has been seen as a test of China’s rising power and its economic and strategic rivalry with the United States.

Beijing called the Philippines claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea “baseless” and an “act of bad faith”. In a government white paper published on Wednesday China also said its fishing boats had been harassed and attacked by the Philippines around the Spratly Islands.

“On whether China will set up a air defense zone over the South China Sea, what we have to make clear first is that China has the right to…But whether we need one in the South China Sea depends on the level of threats we face,” the Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, adding that China hopes to return to bilateral talks with Manila.

“We hope that other countries don’t use this opportunity to threaten China, and hope that other countries can work hard with China, meet us halfway, and maintain the South China Sea’s peace and stability, and not turn the South China Sea in a source of war,” Liu said.

U.S. officials have previously said they feared China may respond to the ruling by declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, or by stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands.

China’s Liu also took aim at the judges on the tribunal, saying that as not one of them was Asian they could not possibly understand the issue and it was unfair of them to try.


The Philippines reacted cautiously to the ruling late on Tuesday, calling for “restraint and sobriety”.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held a cabinet meeting after the ruling was announced, but no comment was made about the what was discussed and the presidential palace canceled a regular briefing on Wednesday.

One of the lawyers who argued the Philippines’ case said that though the decision had been delivered, how and when the country would enforce the decision was complicated and unclear.

“There’s no timeline for this game, it might have an extended period of gestation,” said Florin Ternal Hilbay, a former solicitor general.


“I would assume our diplomats have read the decision and understand the complexities and consequences of enforcing the decision.”

Global intelligence firm Stratfor said fishermen from China or the Philippines were the greatest potential disruptors in the region, beyond the easy control of law enforcement.

“The greatest struggle for both countries will be to rein them in, preferably before they get to sea, lest they disrupt the delicate peace,” Stratfor said in a note.

In moves likely to antagonize Beijing, the coastguards of Japan and the Philippines took part in simulated rescue and medical response exercise off Manila Bay on Wednesday, part of what the two countries have called efforts to improve maritime security and combat crime and piracy.

Japan and China are involved in a separate territorial dispute in the East China Sea and Beijing has warned Tokyo against meddling in the South China Sea dispute.


Beijing’s ambassador to the United States earlier blamed the rise in tension in the region on the United States’ “pivot” toward Asia in the past few years. Cui Tiankai said the arbitration case “will probably open the door of abusing arbitration procedures.

“It will certainly undermine and weaken the motivation of states to engage in negotiations and consultations for solving their disputes,” Cui said at a forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. “It will certainly intensify conflict and even confrontation.”

President Barack Obama’s top Asia policy adviser, Daniel Kritenbrink, said the United States had no interest in stirring tensions in the South China Sea as a pretext for involvement in the region.

“We have an enduring interest in seeing territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia Pacific, including in the South China Sea, resolved peacefully, without coercion and in a manner that is consistent with international law,” Kritenbrink said at the same forum.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen boarded a navy frigate in southern Taiwan ahead of its departure for the South China Sea early on Wednesday, a regular patrol mission that was pushed forward by a day due to the Hague decision, which Taipei rejected.

“This patrol mission is to show the determination of the Taiwan people to defend our national interest,” Tsai said from the warship.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott and David Brunnstrom in Washington, Engen Tham in Shanghai and JR Wu in Tapei.; Writing by Brenda Goh.; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Demonstrators display a part of a fishing boat with anti-China protest signs during a rally by different activist groups over the South China Sea disputes, outside the Chinese Consulate in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 12, 2016.
China reserves right to declare air defense zone
The Associated Press

The Latest on an international tribunal’s ruling on the case filed by the Philippines against China’s claims in the South China Sea (all times local):

1 p.m.

A senior Chinese official says Beijing reserves the right to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the South China Sea, a move that would sharply escalate tensions in the disputed territory.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters Wednesday: “China has the right to do so . China has established an ADIZ over the East China Sea.”

He says such a move will be based on the level of threat against China.

He says, “If our security is being threatened, of course we have the right to demarcate a zone. This would depend on our overall assessment.”

He also says China hopes other countries will not take this opportunity to threaten China and “we hope that they will work with China to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not let the South China Sea become the origin of a war.”

China’s ADIZ over the East China Sea is not recognized by the U.S. and others.


10 a.m.

A day after an international tribunal said China had no legal basis for its expansive claim to the South China Sea, Beijing issued a policy paper saying the islands in the South China Sea are “China’s inherent territory”.

In a policy paper released Wednesday, China’s government asserted its sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters and opposes other countries’ “illegal claims and occupation.”

“It is the Philippines that has created and stirred up the trouble,” said Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, in introducing the paper.

The paper blamed the Philippines for violating an agreement with China to settle the disputes through bilateral negotiation and said Manila “distorted facts and concocted a pack of lies” to push forward the arbitral proceedings.


8:20 a.m.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday that China’s reputation and ambitions of becoming a world leader would suffer if it ignored the South China Sea ruling.

Bishop called on all parties to respect the ruling, which she described as final and legally binding.

“To ignore it would be a serious international transgression,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There would be strong reputational costs.”

Bishop said she expected to speak with her counterparts in China and the Philippines in coming days and expected the ruling to be discussed at the upcoming ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings in mid-July.

She said Australian ships and aircraft would continue to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight rights but refused to comment on specific details.


5:35 a.m.

China’s ambassador to the U.S. says an international tribunal ruling that rejected its expansive claims over the South China Sea will intensify conflict and could lead to confrontation.

Ambassador Cui Tiankai also accused the Hague-based tribunal of “professional incompetence” saying it was dealing with a sovereignty dispute, which is beyond its jurisdiction.

The case was brought by the Philippines, a U.S. ally.

Cui was speaking at a Washington think tank hours after the tribunal issued its ruling Monday.

U.S. officials say the ruling will narrow the geographical scope of territorial disputes in the South China Sea and could provide an impetus for fresh diplomacy among the claimant nations.

Cui said China always supports negotiations among the concerned parties, but the ruling will undermine the possibility of diplomacy.



South China Sea Court Decision Due Tuesday: China’s Navy in Military Exercises; At Least Seven U.S. Warships Near The Philippines — “Message of resolve to China and US allies.”

July 7, 2016


International court due to announce findings in response to a complaint of the Philippines next Tuesday

By Teddy Ng
South China Morning Post

United States navy destroyers have been sailing close to Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea ahead of a ruling by an international tribunal next week on the nation’s territorial claims in the disputed waters, according to a US media report.

The patrols by the destroyers USS Stethem, USS Spruance and USS Momsen have been conducted within 14 to 20 nautical miles of islands at Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands over the past two weeks, the Navy Times reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed US defence official.


The distance of the patrols from the islands is significant because it is not considered a freedom of navigation operation in the disputed waters, the report said.

A freedom of navigation patrol, within 12 nautical miles of islands, must be approved at very high levels, the report said.

The US navy announced on June 20 that the three destroyers were conducting operations in the South China Sea “in support of maritime security and the stability of all nations”, but the specific locations were not revealed.

Beijing is likely to regard any patrols by US ships within 12 nautical miles as an intrusion into its territorial waters. Patrols outside 12 nautical miles, however, minimise the risk of confrontation, but also serve as a message of resolve to China and US allies in the region ahead of the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, military experts said.

The tribunal is due to rule on China’s claims in the South China Sea on July 12. Beijing has refused to take part in the hearings, saying the court has no jurisdiction in the matter.

The case was brought by the Philippines, a rival claimant in the region.

The US patrols come as the Chinese military is conducting military drills in the South China Sea between July 5 and July 11 around the Paracel Islands.

 USS Spruance Patrols South China Sea. Photo: SCMP Pictures

“The 14 to 20 nautical mile range is a tactic intended to test the waters and see how China will respond and also send a message that the US navy will continue its presence,” said Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel. “On the other hand, as it is outside 12 nautical miles, the risk of miscalculation and confrontation can be contained. With more Chinese military vessels in the South China Sea, a patrol within 12 nautical miles by US is more prone to conflict.”

US officials have said the patrols by the three destroyers and the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group are part of its routine presence throughout the western Pacific. The US Navy has seven ships in the region, including the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy Times reported.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

US ships spent more than 700 days in the South China Sea last year and are on the track to spend more than 1,000 days in the area in 2016, the report quoted analyst Bonnie Glaser as saying, the director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Beijing has previously attacked the presence of US military vessels close to islands under its control, accusing Washington of “militarising” the South China Sea.



Chinese coast guard ship in the East China Sea. AFP photo provided by Japan’s coast guard

Indonesia Discusses “Violations of International Law” with China over South China Sea Dispute

March 21, 2016

By Haeril Halim, Anggi M. Lubis and Stefani Ribka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Mon, March 21 2016

The government will issue a protest against the actions of Chinese coast guard vessels that forcibly rescued a Chinese fishing boat that had been caught by the Maritime and Fisheries Monitoring Task Force fishing illegally near Natuna Islands on Sunday.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said her office would summon Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xie Feng on Monday to demand an explanation about the violation adding that she had asked Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi to prepare a formal protest letter to be sent to Beijing.

Susi called the intervention “arrogant” and said it hampered Indonesia’s war against illegal fishing, which has seen the capture and destruction of around 120 ships that have been caught poaching in the country’s territorial waters.

“The Chinese government does not want to see its ships being sunk. Although the ship has gone, we did manage to arrest its crew for prosecution. It [China] should have not have behaved in such a way because a national government should not step in to support illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing,” Susi said in a press briefing at her official residence in South Jakarta.

The incident began on Saturday at 2 p.m. when Indonesian authorities spotted the Chinese vessel Kway Fey 10078, of 200 gross tons, at the position 05°05’866” N/109°07’646” E, within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

At 3 p.m., the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry patrol vessel KP HIU 011 detained the vessel along with eight crew members, on the grounds of illegal fishing using trawl nets, and escorted the ship to Natuna waters for further investigation.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, on the way to Natuna, an armed Chinese coast guard ship collided with the towed ship in an apparent attempt to shut down its engine to prevent it being taken to Indonesian territorial waters.

Soon after, another better-equipped Chinese coast guard ship arrived on the scene and ordered the Indonesian patrol vessel to release the ship within 30 minutes in order that it could be taken back to Chinese waters.

Susi said she would demand the Chinese government hand over the Kway Fey to Indonesian authorities.

“We will ask the Chinese government to return the arrested ship,” Susi said.

The incident took place amid rising tension in the region, where several Southeast Asian countries have expressed their concerns over China’s land reclamation and over its claims on vast swathes of what is an important shipping corridor.

Several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims in the area.

Indonesia is not a claimant in the disputed South China Sea, but it is concerned with Beijing’s insertion of the resource-rich Natuna Islands within China’s self-proclaimed so-called “nine-dash” territorial line.

Commander of the Ranai Naval Base in the island of Ranai, Natuna, Col. Arif Badrudin said that the Chinese fishing vessel was conducting its illegal activities within an 83,515-square-kilometer area of the South China sea that is located at the intersection of Indonesia’s EEZ, Indonesia’s continental shelf boundary and China’s nine-dash line.

He said that many Chinese vessels carried out illegal fishing activities in the area, which is heavily guarded by Chinese coast guard ships.

Sunday’s incident is reminiscent of a similar skirmish on March 26, 2013 when a Chinese patrol vessel Nanfeng RRC 310 managed to snatch back an arrested Chinese ship, the RRC 58081, from the Indonesian patrol ship Hiu Macan 01 in Natuna waters.

Indonesian patrol ship Hiu Macan 302. This is believed to be a sister ship of the vessel in the altercation with China

Foreign Minister Retno said that Susi had briefed her about the incident but she declined to make a further comment.

Meanwhile, the ministry’s spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, said Retno had coordinated with Susi in handling the matter, adding that the ministry needed to examine further the exact position of the ship to determine what action it could take.

“If proven [that the Chinese fishing ship trespassed into Indonesian territory], we are going to take firm action and send a protest to the embassy,” he said, emphasizing that Indonesia did not have any overlapping claims with China over disputed areas in the South China Sea.

China’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, said the trawler was carrying out “normal activities” in “traditional Chinese fishing grounds”.

“On March 19, after the relevant trawler was attacked and harassed by an armed Indonesian ship, a Chinese coast guard ship went to assist,” it said.

“The Chinese side immediately demanded the Indonesian side at once release the detained Chinese fishermen and ensure their personal safety,” the ministry added.

China hopes Indonesia can “appropriately handle” the issue, it said.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry said the government would deploy bigger ships to guard the Natuna Islands in order for them to be able to resist any threat that could emerge in the future.

Chinese coast guard vessels patrolling in the South China Sea are twice or three times as large as the vessels Indonesia deploys to guard the Natuna waters.