Posts Tagged ‘James Shoal’

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.

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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.

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A contested sea.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You can follow Julian on Twitter at @julianku.

Source: http://qz.com/733012/it-is-beijings-fault-that-china-lost-big-in-the-south-china-sea-ruling/

Related:

 (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)

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South China Sea: Beware the “Chinese Superiority Complex” — It’s time for the Philippines to tell China: “No More Free Fish.” (Or anything else)

July 17, 2016

Commentary From Peace and Freedom

By John Francis Carey

Philippines needs to tell China: “No More Free Fish.” (Or anything else). Photo by Bryan Alano

Most national leaders encountering the Chinese these days will comment upon the Chinese attitude of arrogance and superiority currently washing through China’s top echelons of power.

This is a subject not often discussed in “polite company.” But it should be — especially as junior diplomats and new negotiators head toward today’s China.

Usually, after a few drinks, a European or American or even a Russian diplomat or official will confess to the sense that the Chinese think they run the world right now.

This “Chinese Superiority Thing” as one diplomat we know calls it —  is a dangerous psychological mind-set, as any psychologist or historian can tell us.

Germans have been known to have that “master race” thing sometimes. It isn’t polite to say it, we know — so my apologies to all.

We Yanks, of course, have been known for our overbearing “we can tell you how to run things” demeanor. Maybe that will slip away some now that America’s status as an economic and military superpower is much more frequently in question.

So, please excuse my own overbearing arrogance for just a brief word on the “Chinese Superiority Complex” — as my favorite psychologist calls it.

The worst part of the Chinese Superiority Complex is a kind of racism found when Chinese interact with the Japanese, Vietnamese and Filipinos. If you’ve seen it, you know. The Chinese can often act as if the inferior Asians around them are just little uneducated people in the way of Chinese greatness.

And woe be unto the Japanese, especially. China isn’t finished holding Japan accountable for World War II by a long shot.

Every other “great power” has suffered this kind of thing since the Roman Empire — but it is always damaging to the goals of the very people that exhibit any hint of disdain for the the folks called “those people.”

Much of the current South China Sea sovereignty dispute is a manifestation of China’s psychological return to a mind-set of the “Greatness of the Emperors.”

By teaching Chinese schoolchildren for the past 50 years that China owns the entire South China Sea all the way to James Shoal in Indonesia, China has created generations of arrogant ego-maniacs unconcerned with the facts, the law or history. The South China Sea, as one Chinese delegation member told us, “is part of our birthright as Chinese.”

Yet according to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, that birthright is actually a wrong since birth.

China has dredged by destroying growing coral reefs that may never recover — inflicting almost unbelievable and wanton ecological damage to shoals, reefs, atolls and the rest that they should never have visited without the express permission of the rightful owners under the law.

The notion that China does not in fact “own” the South China Sea, that the “indisputable sovereignty” is not only disputable but wrong — will take a while to diminish.

But we must get on with the task of discussing honestly with China the ways of the world.

China won’t like it. But it has to be done now.

We had better get on with it or face the fact that we’ll be seeing little red flags on every chunk of sand between Hanoi and Manila, Manila to Singapore and Singapore to who knows where the terminus of the new maritime silk road will end?  Riyadh maybe. Or Paris. We once though London — but since Xi Jinping’s coach ride with the Queen and the Brexit vote, maybe my friends in London can stop paying for Chinese language classes.

Photo: October 20, 2015.

This cautionary note is especially important for our friends Rodrigo Duterte and Perfecto Yasay as they charge off toward Beijing in hopes of maybe getting a high-speed railroad or something in exchange for the sovereignty, food and natural resources God gave to the Philippines.

Our advice is this: don’t give China another Filipino fish. Not one. The Chinese should be paying damages to the Philippines for destroying much of the South China Sea marine environment — and they know it.

AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Related:

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

Giant clam at Hundred Islands National Park — a national park in the Philippines. These giant clams are now endangered. Photo by Ed Gomez

Reef debris after destruction by a Chinese super dredge in the South China Sea

David and Goliath ? A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. The Philippines was resupplying Filipino marines on BRP Sierra Madre. (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

In this photo released by the Office of the City Mayor of Davao City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a copy of the book on Chinese President Xi Jinping from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during a courtesy call in Davao City in the southern Philippines, Monday, May 16, 2016. Office of the City Mayor Davao City via AP, file
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Mr. Duterte should be saying, “Show me the money.” China owes the Philippinines hundreds of billions of dollars. They should be made to pay in gold since they manipulate their currency.

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South China Sea: China’s citizens are angry with international maritime court ruling because they’ve always been taught the South China Sea is theirs — International court exposes China’s dishonest schoolbooks, state media lies and propaganda

July 14, 2016

If you keep retelling a lie, often people will grow to believe it…..


Chinese citizens have reacted swiftly and angrily to a ruling this week that China’s claim to most of the South China Sea are illegal.

By Zheping Huang and Echo Huang Yinyin
Quartz

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Patriotic netizens have called for war against the Philippines, a boycott of the country’s products, and created a somewhat racist cartoon to mock Filipinos. They’re jumping the Great Firewall to spit vitriolic, expletive-laden insults on Twitter, and over 20,000 Chinese citizens have signed an open letter to protest against the court ruling.

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Many can’t believe the Philippines brought a complaint to an international tribunal to begin with.

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“Why were there any disputes?,” Lin Hongguang, a 23-year-old university student now based in Australia, wondered to Quartz. “You don’t have to be taught that the South China Sea belongs to China—just like no one would ask whether northeastern region belongs to China.”

This disbelief and anger is rooted in the fact that Chinese citizens never learn in school that the sea is claimed, under international law, by other countries, or that China’s claims have been disputed for decades.

.Nationalistic education is common in many countries, but China has probably carried it to extremes—and censorship means there’s little conflicting information available for students.

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China’s state-run education system makes a point of drilling into students’ heads the four extremities of China’s territory. Where is the southernmost point? It’s a shoal sitting 1,100 miles from the Chinese mainland and 50 miles from the Malaysian coast, according to official textbooks.

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Here’s a map from a geography textbook from a high school in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province that’s representative of most textbooks:


China’s territory.(Quartz)

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Every Chinese student learns the name “James Shoal,” or Zengmu Ansha, a small bank in the South China Sea, lying 72 feet below water. China officially claims the shoal as the southernmost feature of its territory, although Malaysia also claims it, under the UN Convention on the Continental Shelf.

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The pink box on the bottom of the map above reads “The southernmost point of our country’s territory is Zengmu Ansha in the Nansha [Spratly] Islands.”

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Geography textbooks in China have been that way since the 1940s, Zheng Wang, Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the US’s Seton Hall University, explains in The Diplomat. Generations of Chinese have done the same exercise in middle school: “The students use a ruler to measure the distance from the northernmost point of China (Mohe, near the Amur River, at the latitude of 53° 29′ north) to Zengmu Ansha (at the latitude of 4° 15′ north) and then feel very proud of their country’s vast territory.”

“Where is the southernmost point of China’s territory?” is a regular test question.

Not only do students learn about James Shoal, they’re tested on it often.

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“Where is the southernmost point of China’s territory?” is an often-asked question in high school examinations, explains Guan Siqi, 23, who works for an environmental NGO in Beijing. “At first you would wonder what the heck James Shoal was,” Guan said. She said the nearness of other islands and countries to the nine-dash line made her wonder as a kid if China was being a bit of a bully, but it wasn’t until she read news about the territory the she learned it was actually disputed.

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Shi Junyu, 22, a university student from Guangzhou, remembers being punished by his geography teacher when he failed to come up with the James Shoal’s name, by being forced to stand against the wall. “I hate geography class,” he added.

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Other official textbooks have also played a part in asserting China’s South China Sea claims. “The Rich Xisha [Paracel] Islands,” an article in People’s Education Press’s Chinese textbook for 9-year-olds said that the islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, are “our country’s coast defense outpost” with “beautiful scenery” and “rich natural resources.”

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On the islands, “sea turtles are turned upside-down by fishermen, with their four legs in the air—there’s no way to escape,” the article said, describing how they’re caught. “The rich Xisha Islands are the place where we have lived generation to generation,” it concludes. “With the development of our motherland’s construction, the lovely Xisha Islands will definitely become more beautiful and richer.”

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Roy Zhou, 25, from Guangzhou, remembers he was “fascinated by the beautiful pictures,” in the article, as he learned that the South China Sea was unquestionably part of China’s territory.

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After this week’s court ruling, young Chinese say their belief that China’s territory extends to James Shoal is firmer than ever. No matter how the South China Sea issue plays out, Lin, the student in Australia, said, “I will stand by China.”

Source: http://qz.com/730669/chinas-citizens-are-livid-at-the-south-china-sea-ruling-because-theyve-always-been-taught-it-is-theirs/

Related:

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 (Contains many links and references)

 

South China Sea: China’s Foreign Ministry says Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction to rule

June 30, 2016

China’s Foreign Ministry statement repeats Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction to rule in the matter and Beijing will rejects its findings

By Liu Zhen
South China Morning Post

Thursday, June 30, 2016, 11:51am

China has repeated that it will not accept the ruling of an international tribunal over its claims in the South China Sea after the court announced that it will deliver its findings on July 12.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague had no jurisdiction in the matter and should not have heard the case.

“With regard to territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China,” the statement said.

China has refused to take part in the case which was brought by the Philippines, a rival claimant to territory in the South China Sea.

The Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily also published a commentary on the issue.

“China does not accept any activity based on illegal arbitration and is well prepared to defend our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea with firm and powerful actions at any time,” it said.

The arbitration court said in a statement late on Wednesday night that would deliver its ruling in the case next month.

Manila went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague three years ago seeking to clarify its economic entitlements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and declare void China’s “nine-dash line” claim on the South China Sea.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about US$5 trillion worth of trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The maritime territorial issue pits China against several Southeast Asian countries and has escalated tension in the region.

The court had “informed the parties” that “the tribunal will issue its award on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at approximately 11am [Central European Time]”, the institution based in The Hague said.

China argues at territorial issues are not subject to the UN convention on the law of the sea and that as early as 2006 it declared – in line with Unclos – to exclude disputes concerning maritime delimitation from mandatory dispute-settlement procedures.


A member of the Indonesian navy standing before the Chinese trawler Hua Li-8 in Belawan, North Sumatra, on April 23, 2016. Indonesia has accused China of illegal fishing in Indonesia’s EEZ.  PHOTO: AFP

The Philippines has asked the court to rule on three aspects relating to neighbouring countries’ competing claims in the sea.

First, it wants the court to rule whether the Philippines’ territorial claims in the region under the 1982 convention should be placed above China’s historic claims to the same area, known as the “nine-dash line”.

Second, it wants a ruling on whether the disputed islands are actually “islands, rocks, low-tide elevations, or submerged banks”. The ruling could shore up the Philippines’ claims to the region by making it their Exclusive Economic Zone.

Third, it wants the court to rule whether China has infringed on the Philippines’ sovereign rights through China’s construction and fishing activities.

China has said 47 countries support its refusal to recognise the case. Its diplomats have written editorials in regional newspapers denouncing what has been seen widely as a bold move by Manila, with scope for repercussions.

Incoming Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, said on Monday he would not discuss the case until a ruling was made.

Additional reporting by Reuters

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1983247/china-defiant-after-international-tribunal-sets-date

Related:

 

In this photo released by the Office of the City Mayor of Davao City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a copy of the book on Chinese President Xi Jinping from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during a courtesy call in Davao City in the southern Philippines, Monday, May 16, 2016. Office of the City Mayor Davao City via AP, file
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South China Sea — The Struggle for Power in Asia Continues

June 20, 2016

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We at Peace and Freedom decided to go back and re-read Bill Hayton’s book, “The South China Sea — The Struggle for Power in Asia.”

Much of what Bill predicted when he wrote the book in 2014 has already come to pass.

For the past two years, Asia has been constantly troubled by China’s remarkable rise, and an almost total disregard for international norms and laws.

This crisis is coming upon a world already beset by an unprecedented humanitarian migration crisis, an Islamic-inspired jihad that shown no sign of let up, and wars across the Middle East from Afghanistan to Libya. Boko Haram and other groups are still active in many parts of Africa and in Venezuela the troubled nation in now in a growing hunger crisis.

Global leaders seem to face challenges of an unprecedented magnitude unknown since the end of of World War II. One wonders if the human race is headed toward World War III — or maybe we are already in the opening acts…

Below is part of a Review by Nayan Chanda of Bill Hayton’s book “The South China Sea — The Struggle for Power in Asia,” reprinted from GlobalAsia.org. If you don’t have time to re-read the book, Nayan Chanda review is a good reminder about what is going on…

Bill Hayton, who covered Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the BBC in 2006-2007 and wrote an engaging book, Vietnam: Rising Dragon, about that country, has now provided a comprehensive account of a complex conflict. Digging deep into the archives, he has produced a detailed yet accessible story of how the South China Sea has emerged from a mythical danger zone to a real arena of conflict between regional powers and a source of big-power strife.

Hayton has dispelled some popular misconceptions about the South China Sea. “The Sea,” Hayton notes, “is not particularly rich in oil and gas resources, the military bases on the disputed islands are not particularly ‘strategic’ since almost all could be destroyed with a single missile strike.” Nor is this body of water an ancient playground for Chinese sailors. His account places the South China Sea and the people who sailed and fished around it at the center of history, not the latecomers of state powers. His meticulous account shows islands, reefs and rocks that lie astride the water that attracted only fishermen of the coastal countries seeking marine delicacies and guanofor use as fertilizer on rice fields.

For a long period, until the early 19th century, the only other people who cared about those specks in the South China Sea were European sailors who sought ways to avoid these dangerous shoals and reefs and whose wrecked ships ended up giving names to these features. Non-coastal powers such as Japan and later Maoist China first got interested in one of those islands as possible sources for guano. Rising nationalism in late Qing China saw the involvement of the European colonial powers and Japan as a challenge. They considered themselves to be the rightful owners of the islands, even though initially the Chinese paid scant attention to them. Hayton emphasizes that it was the people of coastal territories, the Nusantao, sea gypsies of Southeast Asia who made their living from the waters surrounding the islands and coral reefs.

Notwithstanding China’s oft-repeated claim that these are China’s historical waters (Deng Xiaoping is said to have told Vietnamese leaders that the South China Sea “… belonged to China since ancient times”), there is no archaeological evidence that Chinese ships made trading voyages across the South China Sea until the 10th century. Although the Chinese did travel on other people’s boats, they were “content to let others take the risk of going to sea and then manage the trade at the point of arrival.” Well-known Ming dynasty expeditions led by the Muslim eunuch Admiral Zheng He, which brought a large Chinese armada to India and East Africa, proved to be a short-lived ocean adventure.

Not only did the Chinese show a lack of interest in the South China Sea, for a long time the Chinese believed in the myth about the existence of a long embankment in the middle of the sea “where the water descends into the underworld.”

Hayton also demonstrates how the modern controversy over the sovereignty of the waters is the result of the arrival of the Europeans and the introduction of the Westphalian concept of territorial boundaries and their extension into the sea. Asia’s notion of a kingdom’s border was until then fluid and hierarchic. The rise of Chinese nationalism and the desire to end “centuries of humiliation” by colonialists led China to claim ownership of the islands and reefs. The nationalist mapmakers produced maps of the South China Sea showing features that “belonged” to China, although their names were most often translations or plain transliteration of names given by European sailors. Macclesfield Bank in the middle of the South China Sea was named after a British ship; China called it Hong Mao Qian, “the bank of the barbarians with red hair.” Near the Borneo coast is James Shoal, an area of shallows 22 meters under the sea, but claimed to be southernmost point of Chinese territory as a result of a mistranslation; because of their unfamiliarity with the area, Chinese mapmakers in 1933 gave it the Chinese name Zengmu Tan, or “James Sandbank” (Zengmu is a transliteration of James). In 1947 the name was revised to Zengmu Ansha, or “James Reef,” but the fictional Chinese territorial claim has persisted.

In 1936, Bai Meichu, an ardent nationalist geographer who had earlier created the “Chinese National Humiliation Map” to educate his countrymen, produced his most memorable map, showing a U-shaped line marked by 11 dashes going around the perimeter of the South China Sea as far south as James Shoal. In 1953, the Communist Chinese government, perhaps as an act of solidarity towards a struggling comrade, removed two dashes that had cut through the Gulf of Tonkin next to Vietnam, leaving the line with only nine dashes. This nine-dash line showing the border of China’s claim has since been presented (in 2009) to the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf as marking the extent of China’s historic waters.

Even if one disregards the lack of evidence for China’s claim of historic waters, there is another problem: Hayton points out that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China signed in 1982, does not recognize the claim of historic waters, instead basing territorial rights on distance from islands and other features. Since 1990, China has repeatedly called upon claimant countries to accept Chinese sovereignty and engage in joint development of energy resources. The fact that such a joint venture is proposed in areas effectively under the control of other states, but not where China is in control, has not enticed any country to take up the Chinese offer. Aware that its extensive sovereignty claims cannot win in a court of law, China has taken recourse to the old practice of claiming rights based on historical antecedents and has deployed its economic, political and military resources to realize that claim.

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/south-china-sea-struggle-power-asia

Related readings:

As Beijing flexes muscles in South China Sea, Malaysia eyes harder response — While New Philippine Leader Says He Will Not Listen to The U.S. — “We will be charting a course of our own.”

June 2, 2016

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MIRI, Malaysia – Spotting a large vessel off the coast of Sarawak state in March, officers on a Malaysian patrol boat were shocked when it steamed towards them at high speed, blaring its horn before veering off to reveal “Chinese Coast Guard” emblazoned on its side.

According to an officer from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been sighted several times before around the South Luconia Shoals, off the oil-rich town of Miri. But such an aggressive encounter was a first.

“To us, it looked like an attempt to charge at our boat, possibly to intimidate,” said the officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly but showed Reuters a video of the previously unreported incident.

Spurred by the incident and the appearance of some 100 Chinese fishing vessels in the area around the time, some in Malaysia are hardening the nation’s previously muted responses towards their powerful neighbor China.

One senior minister said Malaysia must now stand up against such maritime incursions as China flexes its muscles along dozens of disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea.

China’s growing assertiveness has already alarmed the Philippines, Vietnam and other claimants. It has also increased US-China tensions, with the two heavyweights trading accusations of militarizing the vital waterways through which some $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

But heralding its “special relationship” with China, and heavily reliant on trade and investment, Malaysia’s previous responses to China’s activity in the region have been described by Western diplomats as “low-key”.

It downplayed two naval exercises conducted by China in 2013 and 2014 at James Shoal, less than 50 nautical miles off Sarawak. And in 2015, concerns raised by Malaysian fishermen in Miri about alleged bullying by armed men aboard Chinese Coast Guard vessels were largely ignored.

Fishing fracas

But when scores of Chinese fishing boats were spotted in March encroaching near South Luconia Shoals, a rich fishing ground south of the disputed Spratly Islands, Malaysia sent its navy and uncharacteristically summoned China’s ambassador to explain the incident.

China’s foreign ministry downplayed the matter, saying its trawlers were carrying out normal fishing activities in “relevant waters”.

Just a couple of weeks later, Malaysia announced plans to set up a naval forward operating base near Bintulu, south of Miri.

The defense minister insists the base, which will house helicopters, drones and a special task force, is to protect the country’s rich oil and gas assets from potential attacks by Islamic State (IS) sympathizers based in the southern Philippines, hundreds of kilometers to the northeast.

Some officials and experts however say China’s activities off the coast are a more important factor.

“If you beef up security for oil and gas assets, you are protecting yourself from non-state and state actors so there is some plausibility to what he’s saying,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

“But is it really being driven by Daesh? I don’t think so,” Storey added, using an alternative name for IS.

Underscoring the hardening attitude, one senior federal minister told Reuters that Malaysia must take more decisive action on maritime incursions or risk being taken for granted.

The minister, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, highlighted the contrast between Malaysia’s response in March to a similar incident just days earlier in neighbouring Indonesia.

“When the Chinese entered Indonesia’s waters, they were immediately chased out. When the Chinese vessels entered our waters, nothing was done,” the minister said.

Last month in parliament, Malaysia’s deputy foreign minister also reiterated that like other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia did not recognize China’s controversial Nine Dash Line, which it uses to claim over 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Limited options

Asked about the incident described by the MMEA officer, China’s foreign ministry said both countries had a “high degree of consensus” on dealing with maritime disputes through dialogue and consultation.

“We are willing to remain in close touch with Malaysia about this,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Malaysia’s reliance on China goes some way to explaining Kuala Lumpur’s reluctance to react more strongly.

China is Malaysia’s top export destination and Malaysia is the biggest importer of Chinese goods and services in the 10-member ASEAN group.

Corporations owned by the Chinese government also paid billions of dollars last year to buy assets from debt-riddled state investment firm 1MDB, which has been a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Najib Razak.

China’s influence in Malaysia’s domestic affairs has always been a concern for the Malay-majority nation. Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia account for about a quarter of the population.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were tested in September when the Chinese ambassador visited China town in the capital Kuala Lumpur ahead of a pro-Malay rally, and warned that Beijing has no fear in talking against actions that affect the rights of its people.

The ambassador was summoned to explain his comments but the Chinese foreign ministry defended the envoy.

Seeking to balance its economic and national security interests, Malaysia is pursuing various strategies including bolstering its surveillance and defence capabilities while promoting a code of conduct between China and ASEAN countries signed in 2002.

A more sensitive option is to seek closer military ties with the United States.

One senior official told Reuters that Malaysia has reached out to the United States for help on intelligence gathering and to develop its coast guard capabilities, albeit quietly to avoid angering Beijing.

Storey said moves to secure closer US military ties could be twinned with soft diplomacy to try to convince China to be less assertive on its claims, but resolving the issue would be difficult regardless.

“None of these strategies work very well, but what can you do?,” Storey said. “This dispute is going to be around for a very long time.” Reuters

– See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/568335/news/world/as-beijing-flexes-muscles-in-south-china-sea-malaysia-eyes-harder-response#sthash.vRwrCnWd.dpuf

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Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks as cabinet members look on during a press conference in Davao. PHOTO by AFP

Philippines president-elect says won’t rely on United States on South China Sea dispute with China

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday (May 31) his country would not rely on long-term security ally the United States, Reuters reported, signalling greater independence from Washington in dealing with China and the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines has traditionally been one of Washington’s staunchest supporters in its standoff with Beijing over the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China has built artificial islands, airstrips and other military facilities.

Duterte, the tough-talking mayor of Davao City who swept to victory in a May 9 election, has backed multilateral talks to settle rows over the South China Sea that would include the United States, Japan and Australia as well as claimant nations.

He has also called on China, which claims most of the sea, to respect the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone granted to coastal states under international law.

Asked by reporters if he would push for bilateral talks with China, Duterte replied: “We have this pact with the West, but I want everybody to know that we will be charting a course of our own.”

He added: “It will not be dependent on America. And it will be a line that is not intended to please anybody but the Filipino interest.”

In another hint that frosty relations between the Asian neighbours could soon warm, Duterte also described China’s Xi Jinping as “a great president”, AFP reported.

Chinese-Philippine ties soured during the six-year term of outgoing President Benigno Aquino, whose government sued China before a United Nations tribunal over its claims to most of the South China Sea.

Asked about Duterte’s comments on the South China Sea at a State Department briefing, Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said the United States had “no problem whatsoever” with bilateral talks among the claimants.

Russel noted that some disputes in the South China Sea were by their nature multilateral and could not be resolved on a bilateral basis, but added “those that can, we’re all for it.”

Duterte’s comments came he was unveiling his cabinet line-up a day after a joint session of Congress declared him the election winner. He formally takes over as president on June 30.

Key ministerial appointments went mainly to conventional choices, a decision likely to allay nerves among foreign and domestic investors about a lurch away from reforms that have generated robust economic growth.

They also may point to a bid to resolve differences over the South China Sea.

The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to waters rich in oil and gas and through which trillions of dollars’ worth of trade pass each year.

Duterte’s pick for foreign secretary, Perfecto Yasay, has sounded a conciliatory note.

“I don’t think that there is another way of resolving this dispute except talking to each other,” Yasay told reporters this week. “We certainly would like to make sure that we are able to resume bilateral talks because these are necessary.”

NOT SO CLEAR CUT

Muddying the picture somewhat was the choice of Nicanor Faeldon, a former marine who led a coup bid about a decade ago, as head of the customs bureau, the country’s second-largest agency in terms of revenue.

In December, Faeldon took a group of Filipino protesters to a disputed island in the South China Sea that is held by the Philippines, triggering an angry response from Beijing.

Before Duterte’s election, the Philippines also took the dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, although China does not recognise the case. A ruling is expected in the coming weeks.

“I am waiting for the arbitration,” Duterte said of the process, when asked about investment prospects with China. “It will impact on us in so many fronts … I would like to wait for this, then, with the advice of the cabinet, I might be able to proceed. But you know, I am not ready to go to war. It will just result in a massacre.”

Duterte, 71, named a former school classmate, Carlos Dominguez, as finance minister, and an economics professor, Ernesto Pernia, as economic planning minister.

“I can assure you they are all men of integrity and honesty,” Duterte said in Davao, where he was mayor for more than two decades before being elected president.

Dominguez, who was mining and farm minister in two previous governments, hails from a wealthy family that has interests in real estate and hotels, while the US-educated Pernia is a former lead economist for the Asian Development Bank.

“We are very excited about this cabinet,” said Perry Pe, president of the Management Association of the Philippines.”They will hit the ground running from the first day.” Duterte’s defiance of political tradition has drawn comparisons with US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

His “man-of-the-people” demeanour tapped into voters’disappointment at the ruling elite’s failure to tackle poverty and inequality despite average economic growth of more than 6 per cent under President Benigno Aquino.

Duterte condones execution-style killings of criminals, shudders at the thought of wearing a tie or socks, and has vowed not to work until after noon when he becomes president.

Some cabinet positions have yet to be announced, and two of the 21 jobs confirmed so far are women. When a female journalist asked a question at the briefing, Duterte wolf-whistled.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/philippines-president-elect-says-wont-rely-on-united-states-on-south-china-sea-dispute

Aggressive Chinese Moves in the South China Sea Disconcerting Neighbors

June 1, 2016

World | Wed Jun 1, 2016 4:52am EDT

Spotting a large vessel off the coast of Sarawak state in March, officers on a Malaysian patrol boat were shocked when it steamed toward them at high speed, blaring its horn before veering off to reveal “Chinese Coast Guard” emblazoned on its side.

According to an officer from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been sighted several times before around the South Luconia Shoals, off the oil-rich town of Miri. But such an aggressive encounter was a first.

“To us, it looked like an attempt to charge at our boat, possibly to intimidate,” said the officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly but showed Reuters a video of the previously unreported incident.

 
China has had a 4,000-tonne 3401-class Chinese coast guard ship near Malaysia almoist continuously since February 2015.
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Spurred by the incident and the appearance of some 100 Chinese fishing vessels in the area around the time, some in Malaysia are hardening the nation’s previously muted responses toward their powerful neighbor China.

One senior minister said Malaysia must now stand up against such maritime incursions as China flexes its muscles along dozens of disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea.

China’s growing assertiveness has already alarmed the Philippines, Vietnam and other claimants. It has also increased U.S.-China tensions, with the two heavyweights trading accusations of militarizing the vital waterways through which some $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

But heralding its “special relationship” with China, and heavily reliant on trade and investment, Malaysia’s previous responses to China’s activity in the region have been described by Western diplomats as “low-key”.

It downplayed two naval exercises conducted by China in 2013 and 2014 at James Shoal, less than 50 nautical miles off Sarawak. And in 2015, concerns raised by Malaysian fishermen in Miri about alleged bullying by armed men aboard Chinese Coast Guard vessels were largely ignored.

FISHING FRACAS

But when scores of Chinese fishing boats were spotted in March encroaching near South Luconia Shoals, a rich fishing ground south of the disputed Spratly Islands, Malaysia sent its navy and uncharacteristically summoned China’s ambassador to explain the incident.

China’s foreign ministry downplayed the matter, saying its trawlers were carrying out normal fishing activities in “relevant waters”.

Just a couple of weeks later, Malaysia announced plans to set up a naval forward operating base near Bintulu, south of Miri.

The defense minister insists the base, which will house helicopters, drones and a special task force, is to protect the country’s rich oil and gas assets from potential attacks by Islamic State (IS) sympathizers based in the southern Philippines, hundreds of kilometers to the northeast.

Some officials and experts however say China’s activities off the coast are a more important factor.

“If you beef up security for oil and gas assets, you are protecting yourself from non-state and state actors so there is some plausibility to what he’s saying,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

“But is it really being driven by Daesh? I don’t think so,” Storey added, using an alternative name for IS.

Underscoring the hardening attitude, one senior federal minister told Reuters that Malaysia must take more decisive action on maritime incursions or risk being taken for granted.

The minister, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, highlighted the contrast between Malaysia’s response in March to a similar incident just days earlier in neighboring Indonesia.

“When the Chinese entered Indonesia’s waters, they were immediately chased out. When the Chinese vessels entered our waters, nothing was done,” the minister said.

Last month in parliament, Malaysia’s deputy foreign minister also reiterated that like other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia did not recognize China’s controversial Nine Dash Line, which it uses to claim over 90 percent of the South China Sea.

LIMITED OPTIONS

Asked about the incident described by the MMEA officer, China’s foreign ministry said both countries had a “high degree of consensus” on dealing with maritime disputes through dialogue and consultation.

“We are willing to remain in close touch with Malaysia about this,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Malaysia’s reliance on China goes some way to explaining Kuala Lumpur’s reluctance to react more strongly.

China is Malaysia’s top export destination and Malaysia is the biggest importer of Chinese goods and services in the 10-member ASEAN group.

Corporations owned by the Chinese government also paid billions of dollars last year to buy assets from debt-riddled state investment firm 1MDB, which has been a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Najib Razak.

China’s influence in Malaysia’s domestic affairs has always been a concern for the Malay-majority nation. Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia account for about a quarter of the population.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were tested in September when the Chinese ambassador visited China town in the capital Kuala Lumpur ahead of a pro-Malay rally, and warned that Beijing has no fear in talking against actions that affect the rights of its people.

China has practiced amphibious landing of troops at James Shoal, Malaysia.

The ambassador was summoned to explain his comments but the Chinese foreign ministry defended the envoy.

Seeking to balance its economic and national security interests, Malaysia is pursuing various strategies including bolstering its surveillance and defense capabilities while promoting a code of conduct between China and ASEAN countries signed in 2002.

A more sensitive option is to seek closer military ties with the United States.

One senior official told Reuters that Malaysia has reached out to the United States for help on intelligence gathering and to develop its coast guard capabilities, albeit quietly to avoid angering Beijing.

Storey said moves to secure closer U.S. military ties could be twinned with soft diplomacy to try to convince China to be less assertive on its claims, but resolving the issue would be difficult regardless.

“None of these strategies work very well, but what can you do?,” Storey said. “This dispute is going to be around for a very long time.”

(Additional reporting by Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING.; Editing by Praveen Menon and Lincoln Feast)

Related:

 (From January, 2014)

.

 (Contains links to several related articles)

 (Cyber Security is a Global problem)

 

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 (Links to several related articles)

China is starting submarine patrols of subs carrying Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) with nuclear warheads in the Pacific Ocean for the first time this month.

The big picture look at the South China Sea

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

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

 

South China Sea: Will China’s Moves Toward the Scarborough Shoal be the “red line” for the Philippines and the United States?

May 15, 2016

 (The Philippine Star) |

Will the Scarborough Shoal be the “red line” for the Philippines and the United States against China’s intention to create a new artificial island in the West Philippine Sea?

The phrase “to cross the red line” is used worldwide to mean a line in the sand or “a limit which safety can no longer be guaranteed.” If the Scarborough Shoal is declared as a “red line” it means that any Chinese incursion into the area will be prevented with force by the Philippine-American alliance.

Although American naval forces have been sailing within the 12-mile limit in other Chinese held artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, the United States and China have so far avoided direct confrontation. It has also been noticeable that the United States has avoided any explicit statement that it would commit its forces to defend any attack on Filipino maritime vessels and fishing boats that are harassed by Chinese naval vessels. There has been no clear official assurance to the Philippine government by the United States of any US naval or military assistance to prevent any territory from being permanently taken over by China.

American foreign policy has been to declare neutrality on the issue of sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea. Historically, the US position started in the 1930s when Japan annexed these two island groups. But the Scarborough is a different story. Professor Jay Batongbacal, Filipino maritime law expert, outlines the history of Philippine sovereign claim to the Scarborough Shoal.

The 1900 Treaty of Washington between Spain and the United States stated that all territories administered by Spain as part of the Philippine Islands, even if they were located outside the original 1898 Treaty of Paris, were ceded to the United States. In 1938, the United States Department of State official again officially recognized that the US acquired title to Scarborough Shoal from the basis of the 1900 Treaty.

The State Department allowed the Scarborough’s transfer to the then Philippine Commonwealth with concurrence of the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Commerce. Upon its declaration of independence in 1946, the Philippines took over the administration of Scarborough Shoal. In fact, in 1963 the Philippine Navy destroyed a smugglers’ base in the shoal. The Scarborough area was also turned into a gunnery range for the US bases in the Philippines. However, Philippine fishing and survey vessels were allowed to operate in the area.

Chinese fishermen

China did not intrude into the area until after the American bases were closed in 1991. In the early 2000s, China asserted that it had traditional fishing rights in the area. Finally in 2012 China coerced the Philippines into leaving the area and harassed Philippine fishing vessels entering the area.

Political science Professor Richard Heydarian of De La Salle University, recently wrote a paper entitled “Asia’s New Battlefield: The Philippines’ South China Sea Moment of Truth.” Here are excerpts from his article:


China dredger Tian Jing Hao — “The Coral Reef Eater”

“A spectre is haunting Asia – the spectre of full Chinese domination in the South China Sea. Latest reports suggest that China would soon move ahead with building military facilities in the Scarborough Shoal, a contested land feature it has occupied since 2012….This is nothing short of a nightmare for the Philippines which is already struggling to protect its supply lines in the Spratly chain of islands due to growing Chinese military assertiveness in contested waters.

Unlike most of Chinese occupied features which lie well beyond the immediate shores of other claimant states, the Scarborough Shoal is located just about 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines, well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – and also its continental shelf. To put things into perspective, the shoal lies 900 kilometers away from the closest Chinese coastline. For Manila, the contested land feature is arguably what James Shoal is to Malaysia and Hainan is to Mainland China.”

Professor Heydarian concludes his paper stating: “In the Scarborough Shoal, America is expected to come to the Philippines rescue if the Philippine “armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific” come under attack by a third party ( China) in an event of armed clashes. The United States, along with allies such as Japan and Australia, are also expected to assume the de facto role of enforcers once the arbitration is out. Whether it wants it or not, the Philippines is now at the center of Asia’s new strategic battlefield.

Will the Philippines be willing to deploy its frigates and coast guard vessels to block any efforts by China to build military facilities on the Scarborough Shoal? This may sound like bravado at this point. But if Vietnam was willing to draw a red line in the Paracel island, then the Philippines could also draw its own red line in the Scarborough shoal.

Role of Japan

Japan will not only play a greater role but will even be the decisive factor in the geopolitical conflicts in East Asia including the disputed territories in the South China Sea. Japan has actually more at stake in ensuring that the South China Sea is not completely dominated by China.

Japan has almost no natural resources. Its resource needs, from Africa and the Middle East, must be transported through the South China Sea. In the past, Japan depended on the United States for military protection. But Japan must now prepare for a future where the United States might not be willing to accept full responsibility to serve as the region’s policeman. The third largest economy in the world must now assume the burden of also becoming a military superpower in order to maintain a balance of power in East Asia.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2016/05/15/1583297/scarborough-red-line

South China Sea Moment of Truth

April 30, 2016

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By Richard Javad Heydarian
The National Interest

A specter is haunting Asia—the specter of full Chinese domination in the South China Sea. Latest reports suggest that China could soon move ahead with building military facilities on the Scarborough Shoal, a contested land feature it has occupied since 2012. This would allow China, according to a Mainland source, to “further perfect” its aerial superiority across the contested waters. By building a sprawling network of dual-purposes facilities, and more recently deploying advanced military assets to its artificially created islands, China is inching closer to establishing a de facto Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area. Integrating the Scarborough Shoal into its burgeoning defensive perimeter across the South China Sea will not only give it an upper hand in the contested waters, but also allow China to place the Philippines’ capital and industrialized regions within its strategic reach.

This is nothing short of a nightmare for the Philippines, which is already struggling to protect its supply lines in the Spratly chain of islands due to growing Chinese military assertiveness in contested waters. Unlike most of Chinese occupied features, which lie well beyond the immediate shores of other claimant states, the Scarborough Shoal is located just about 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines, well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)—and also its continental shelf. To put things into perspective, the shoal lies nine hundred kilometers away from the closest Chinese coastline. For Manila, the contested land feature is arguably what James Shoal is to Malaysia and Hainan is to Mainland China.

Manila lost control over the shoal after a tense standoff with Chinese coast guard forces in the middle of 2012. But for more than a century, the Philippines has treated Scarborough Shoal as its northernmost outpost in the South China Sea. In fact, as far back as the Spanish colonial era, the Southeast Asian country has treated the shoal as the natural extension of its national territory. During Cold War years, it was a gunnery range and regular area of naval exercises for American forces, which accessed military bases in the Philippines.

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As a leading Filipino maritime-law expert, Jay Batongbacal, explains, it was only after the departure of American military bases (1991) that China began to “take concrete action to assert its long-dormant paper claim to the shoal, beginning with the issuance of amateur-radio licenses to hobbyists in 1994,” the year China wrested control of the Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef. In short, China’s assertion of its (supposedly) historical claim on the land feature was hinged on coldblooded balance-of-power calculations. Cognizant of the Philippines’ minimal-to-nonexistent deterrence capability and the Obama administration’s equivocations on the extent of its defense obligations to Manila, China felt confident enough to usurp control over the shoal.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has been drenched in the ecstasy of presidential elections, with growing indications that the next government could be on a much more friendly footing with China, which giddily expressed its hope that the “new [Philippine] government can adopt positive and well-thought policies towards China, properly deal with relevant disputes, and improve bilateral relations with concrete actions.”

Yet it’s far from assured that the next Filipino president will continue the incumbent administration’s alignment with America as well as its tough posturing against China. With the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague expected to issue its final verdict on the Philippines’ case against China in coming months, the predisposition of the incoming Filipino president has gained greater salience. Above all, however, everyone is wondering about the United States’ next move: Will it stand by its ally and try to prevent China’s prospective militarization of the Scarborough Shoal, or, alternatively, will it continue its futile—if not counterproductive—policy of strategic ambiguity on the issue? Time is of essence.

Tightening Noose

China is beginning to feel the heat. Earlier this year, the usually meek Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), after a retreat with U.S. president Barack Obama at Sunnylands, released a joint statement, which can be interpreted as a collective support for the Philippines’ arbitration case and, more explicitly, growing regional worry over China’s revanchist activities in the South China Sea.

Both American and ASEAN leaders expressed their shared “commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal [author’s emphasis] and diplomatic processes, without resorting to threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law,” specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They also reiterated the centrality of “non-militarization and self-restraint” in the disputed waters, in accordance to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea, which (Paragraph V) discourages China and ASEAN claimant states from “inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features.”

Shortly after the Sunnyland Summit, the ASEAN foreign ministers reiterated their earlier joint statement with America, expressing how they have “remained seriously concerned over the recent and ongoing developments [in the South China Sea] and took note of the concern expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area.” During the recently concluded Group of 7 (G7) summit, the world’s leading Western powers and Japan were even more specific in supporting the Philippines’ arbitration case against China.

In their joint statement, foreign ministers of the leading industrialized countries expressed their vigorous opposition to “intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions,” an unmistakable jab against China’s activities in the South China Sea. They also emphasized the centrality of the “peaceful management and settlement of maritime disputes . . . through applicable internationally recognized legal dispute settlement mechanisms, including arbitration,” an unmistakable endorsement of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China, which has boycotted the whole proceeding.

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A besieged China lashed back, urging “the G7 member states to honor their commitment of not taking sides on issues involving territorial disputes.” Worried about isolation in the region, China has also stepped up its efforts to divide-and-conquer ASEAN, urging Brunei, Laos (the current ASEAN chair) and Cambodia to decouple the South China Sea disputes from the regional agenda. China’s continued foray into Malaysian and Indonesian fishing grounds has also provoked a massive diplomatic backlash, with Jakarta threatening to revisit its relations with Beijing in light of what it views as a direct assault on its territorial integrity and sovereign rights within its EEZ. Malaysia may follow suit. China has practically alienated all key ASEAN states, including (ethnic-Chinese-majority) Singapore, which has openly accused Beijing of undermining regional unity on the South China Sea issue.

Though China’s plans for dominating the so-called First Island Chain go back decades—mainly based on the strategic vision of Beijing’s Mahan, Liu Huaqing, who was the commander of the Chinese navy from 1982-88—it is only in recent years that China has developed the requisite capabilities and mustered sufficient political will to push across its adjacent waters. But China is also beginning to realize that it can’t dominate its adjacent waters without losing the good will of its smaller neighbors. Relations with the Philippines have been particularly toxic in recent years. In fact, under the Aquino administration, the Southeast Asian country has been on the forefront of efforts to build international pressure on China.

Great Uncertainty

The leaders in Beijing, however, seem optimistic that the upcoming elections in the Philippines may lead to some favorable recalibrations. And it has a lot of cards to play. For one, the shadow of an impending Chinese military base just 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines is hovering above the Filipino presidential elections. One can’t rule out the possibility that China is trying to coax the Filipino presidential candidates into compromise by raising the prospect of militarizing the Scarborough Shoal.

More specifically, with the arbitration verdict expected soon, Beijing may be trying to intimidate the incoming Filipino administration against fully using the likely favorable outcome for the Philippines. Many legal experts expect the Arbitral Tribunal to nullify China’s claims over low-tide-elevations (LTEs) such as Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, providing a perfect legal pretext for expansive American-led Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) against China. The arbitration panel may even go so far as deciding on the validity of China’s notorious nine-dashed-line claims, which covers much of the South China Sea, as well as the validity and legal basis of its ‘historical rights/waters’ claims.

At the very least, China may be seeking to cajole the next Filipino president into keeping mum on the arbitration outcome, that is to say, to treat it as an advisory opinion and a relic of the past administration’s strategy rather than a binding legal decision under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Interestingly, both leading presidential (Rodrigo Duterte) and vice-presidential (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) candidates have signaled their interest in engagement rather than confrontation with China.

On his part, Marcos Jr., the only son of the late dictator, has consistently called for robust engagement and compromise with China. Even before taking the lead in the vice-presidential race, he called on the Philippine government to “make arrangement with China”, which involves negotiations on the Philippines’ fishing rights in contested waters but, crucially, “not the contentious issue of who owns the territories,” essentially, he expressed openness to a compromise over the sovereignty question. Echoing the vice-presidential frontrunner, Duterte has not only expressed his openness to direct talks with China as well as a possible joint development deal, but recently even stated that if China will “build me a train around Mindanao, build me train from Manila to Bicol . . . build me a train [going to] Batangas, for the six years that I’ll be president, I’ll shut up [on the sovereignty disputes].”

Both candidates don’t seem to be gung-ho on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China. So it’s possible that the next Philippine government will not fully leverage the arbitration outcome against China, and in exchange might seek guarantees from the latter on the nonmilitarization of Scarborough Shoal. But given the great anti-China sentiment in the Philippines, coupled with bitter experiences with join-development arrangements with China in the past, the Aquino administration’s successor will have relatively limited room for maneuver, especially if China decides to build military facilities on the Scarborough Shoal and/or escalate its para-military and fishing activities within the Philippines’ EEZ.

At this point, everything boils down to how far the United States is willing to go to aid its beleaguered ally. There is growing pressure on the Obama administration to openly extend the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty to Scarborough Shoal in order to deter further Chinese belligerence. After all, America’s current policy of strategic ambiguity doesn’t seem to have worked. As America ramps up its military presence in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, it has no interest in seeing China establishing military bases eerily close to Philippine shores.

More directly, the Philippines also has the option of deploying frigates and coast-guard vessels to block any efforts by China to build military facilities on the contested shoal, with America providing back up support—through reconnaissance missions and aerial patrols, inter alia—by maintaining a robust presence ‘just over the horizon’. The two allies have been already conducting joint patrols in contested waters. America is currently augmenting its military footprint, particular air power, in the Philippines, signaling preparations for potential contingency interventions in coming months. In the Scarborough Shoal, America is expected to come to the Philippines’ rescue if Philippine “armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific” come under attack by a third party (China) in an event of armed clashes. The United States, along with allies such as Japan and Australia, are also expected to assume the de facto role of enforcers once the arbitration verdict is out. Whether it wants it or not, the Philippines is now at the center of Asia’s new strategic battlefield.

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Richard Javad Heydarian is an Assistant Professor in political science at De La Salle University, and formerly a policy adviser at the Philippine House of Representatives (2009-2015). The Manila Bulletin, a leading national daily, has described him as one of the Philippines’ “foremost foreign policy and economic analysts.” He is the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific (Zed, London), and a regular to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Image: Philippine Marines at an exercise. US military photo, public domain.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/asias-new-battlefield-the-philippines%E2%80%99-south-china-sea-15985

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China’s missile destroyer CNS Harbin conducts live fire exercises during a joint naval drill with Russia in 2014. Credit Zha Chunming, China Daily

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 (Washington Post)

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China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies: China says it has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands since the Ming Dynasty

January 30, 2016

Tensions in the South China Sea have intensified over maritime disputes, especially between China, the Philippines and Vietnam. China says it has indisputable sovereignty over islands there and the adjacent waters. But there are overlapping claims by other countries.

Our reporter Han Bin talked with Professor Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in southern China’s Hainan Province. Professor Wu explained China’s official position. Some of the archives he showed us are being released to the media for the very first time.

Studying and collecting the historical evidence of Chinese sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea. This has been the focus of Professor Wu Shicun’s work for two decades. The deeper he goes, the more he believes that China needs to present its claims clearly and publicly.

“The ‘U shaped line’, or the ‘nine-dash line’, is a line of ownership of the features and historical waters. It indicates China’s claim of sovereignty over all the islands and reefs within the line, and China’s historical rights in fishing, navigation and exploitation in the South China Sea,” Wu said.

This Chinese map was drawn by the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of China in 1946. The 8 dashes mark what’s known as China’s “traditional maritime boundary line”.

And this text book published in 1936 marks the island groups within China’s domain, and China’s southernmost boundary at Zengmu Ansha, known as James Shoal in the West, at 4 degrees north latitude.

Wu Shicun stresses that China was the first country to discover and name these island groups. The history of continuous use and exercise of authority spans over 2,000 years.

This map identifies some island groups as “Wanli Changsha”, literally meaning “long sandy banks tenth of thousands of miles afar.” They are marked as the territory of the Ming Dynasty.

The Institute has collected some rarely seen historical documents, which trace a period of history which is not well known.

Wu Shicun says no other country can provide more definitive evidence to support a claim. But today, the stakes are much higher.

“Due to various reasons, such as the implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the pursuit for marine resources, and the increasing US pivot to Asia, the South China Sea disputes have developed from the original disputes over islands and surrounding waters, to a geopolitical contest of politics and interests, resource exploitation, and navigation control, involving both the claimant and non-claimant states, within this region and far beyond,” Wu said.

Wu Shicun believes that handling the South China Sea disputes requires prudence, and the eventual resolution will take a very long time.

He says the only choice for all the claimant states is to put aside their disputes, and agree to common exploitation through dialogue and cooperation.

The background of the South China Sea disputes is complex. That’s why mapping the differences and their historical basis is vital in the analysis of the situation in region. These historical documents from China, may help provide the context in which current tensions are unfolding.

Contains Video:

http://english.cntv.cn/2016/01/30/VIDEqeftZo9gWmicUZXYTfXn160130.shtml

Related:

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A scene from a video taken by a Vietnamese fisher shows a foreign boat shooting water at his on January 6, 2016. The boat has the markings of Taiwan’s coast guard. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre, Vietnam
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 (Bill Hayton says China’s claims to the South China Sea are not legally valid)

 

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