Posts Tagged ‘militarisation’

US, China agree to stop firms from doing business with North Korea over nuclear threat, Tillerson says

June 22, 2017

Pledge to impose UN sanctions on Pyongyang comes after Trump’s tweet that Beijing’s efforts to rein in the reclusive state have ‘not worked out’

By Zhenhua Lu
South China Morning Post

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 11:45am

China and the US held high-level security talks on Wednesday and called on North Korea to halt its missile and nuclear programme, despite US President Donald Trump’s tweeted claim a day earlier that Beijing’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang have “not worked out”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a press conference after the talks that the US has made a commitment to hold North Korea accountable for multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions that “explicitly prohibited its nuclear weapon and missile programme”.

“We both agreed that our companies should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities in accordance with these resolutions,” Tillerson said.

China restated its position that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearised, but added that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, according to a statement released by the Chinese embassy in the US.

The statement also restated China’s opposition to the deployment of a US developed anti-missile shield in South Korea.

 US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated

Tillerson reiterated the Trump administration’s argument that China has the “diplomatic responsibility to exert pressure greater to prevent further escalation in the region”.

The two nations’ inaugural diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington came as tension in the Korean peninsula has risen after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student held by North Korea for nearly 18 months, died six days after returning to the US on June 13.

During the joint press conference with Tillerson, US Defence Secretary James Mattis accused North Korea of being “beyond any kind of understanding of law and order and humanity”. He added that Trump’s sentiments in his Twitter post represented “American people’s frustrations with the [North Korean] regime [which] provokes and provokes, and basically plays outside the rules”.

Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that China’s efforts to bring a resolution to the North Korea crisis had “not worked out”, adding: “At least I know China tried!”

Mattis said the US and China both reaffirmed that the North Korean nuclear and missile programme was an urgent threat and both pledged a strong commitment to cooperate on the shared goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. “Meanwhile we will take necessary actions to defend ourselves and our allies,” he said.

 US Secretary of Defence James Mattis pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated Press

Tillerson said he was unable to provide an update on the status of the other three Americans currently held in North Korea.

Abraham Denmark, former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, who stepped down in January, said: “It is only a matter of time before the president realises that China is not going to solve this problem.” Denmark added that additional sanctions from the US, including against Chinese companies with alleged links with North Korea, were “certainly possible”.

The Trump administration has also provided China with a list of people or bodies that allegedly support Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons network, which Beijing needs to take action against, Tillerson told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

A Chinese-based company, Mingzheng International Trading, is accused of laundering money on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean lender subject to sanctions, the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia said last Thursday.

 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pictured by a missile launcher. Photo: Associated Press

Heather Nauert, a US State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment after the US press conference on whether China had agreed to curb the cited Chinese groups’ trading with North Korea.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a security policy focused think tank in Washington, said: “Frustration is growing in the administration that China is not [doing] enough in this regard.”

Glaser added that if Beijing does not work more actively to stop these activities or take other measures such as reducing crude oil exports, there was likely to be more friction between the US and China over North Korea.

 US and Chinese officials pictured during the talks in Washington. Photo: Xinhua

In signs reflecting the two nations tensions over China’s more assertive claims in the South China Sea, Tillerson said the US opposed the “militarisation” of disputed waters in the region and “excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law”. The US would “uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight”, he said.

China called on the US not to take sides over the disputes and respect China’s territorial sovereignty, the Chinese embassy statement said.



Tillerson, In Australia, Critical of China on South China Sea — “Failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.” — “We cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems.”

June 5, 2017


© AFP / by Thomas WATKINS | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop leave at the end of a press conference in Sydney on June 5, 2017


China and other nations must strengthen efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday, while also calling out Beijing over its South China Sea activities.

America’s top diplomat, speaking after talks in Sydney, also gave a brief response to the unfolding crisis in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have all announced they are severing ties with gas-rich Qatar.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has spent recent weeks trying to reassure allies it can maintain a tough line against China’s “militarisation” of the South China Sea while at the same time seeking help from Beijing.

President Donald Trump — who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail — has turned to Beijing to help rein in ally North Korea’s weapons programme, prompting concern among Asian allies that America might go easy on the South China Sea territorial dispute.

“We desire productive relationships,” Tillerson said after annual discussions with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Sydney.

“But we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarising islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.”

He said China and other regional partners should “step up” efforts to help solve the North Korea situation, because it presents a threat to the “entire world.”

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

It has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

Tillerson reiterated US and Australian commitment to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to “ensure unimpeded flow of lawful commerce in a rules-based order”.

But reporters asked Tillerson if America was applying a double standard in telling countries to adhere to the international order while simultaneously pulling out of a trans-Pacific trade deal and the Paris climate accords — moves that prompted even longstanding allies to question whether America was retreating into isolationism.

“That’s why we’re here, that’s why we travel to the region, that?s why we engage with our counterparts,” Tillerson said, standing alongside Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Bishop and Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne.

We “travel to the region to meet with our counterparts and talk about all the issues that are important to them and hear from them concerns about where the (Trump) administration is positioned”.

– ‘Remain united’ –

Addressing the situation in the Gulf, Tillerson called on countries there to stay united and work out their differences.

“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,” he said.

“If there’s any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) remain united.”

Riyadh cut diplomatic relations and closed borders with its neighbour Qatar to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Tillerson and Mattis both said they did not anticipate any impact on efforts by a US-led coalition to battle the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The coalition currently conducts much of its operational planning and coordination from Al-Udeid air base in Qatar.

“I am confident there will be no implications coming out of this diplomatic situation at all, and I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations… have made to this fight,” Mattis said.

The US defense secretary blasted Iran for its “various destabilising efforts” in the region, referring to Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran’s involvement in the Yemen war.

by Thomas WATKINS

China rejects ‘irresponsible’ US remarks on South China Sea

June 5, 2017


© AFP | Competing claims to the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints


China has expressed “firm opposition” to remarks made by US Pentagon chief Jim Mattis during a regional defence summit over the weekend, after he criticised Beijing’s “militarisation” of the South China Sea.

Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns that China’s development of artificial islands in the region poses a threat to freedom of navigation through its waters, a major artery for international trade.

Competing claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks at the 16th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

“The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from other countries in several key ways,” Mattis noted, saying Beijing’s “militarisation” and “disregard for international law” showed its “contempt” for other nations’ interests.

In a statement late Sunday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Mattis’s comments “irresponsible” and accused “certain countries outside the region” of making “erroneous remarks driven by ulterior motives”.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the (Spratly) Islands and their adjacent waters,” Hua said, referring to reefs and islets in the South China Sea where Beijing has built installations that could be used by its military.

China’s behaviour in the South China Sea, which is claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, has sparked broad concern in the region.

But in May, Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a step towards easing friction over the sea, agreeing to a framework for a “code of conduct” to prevent incidents in the disputed waters.

Tensions over the Spratlys have also quieted down in recent months as new Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has pursued friendlier relations with Beijing.

China has balked at US involvement in the dispute and last month accused a US warship of trespassing after it sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing.

Hua said China “respects and safeguards all countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight” in the area “but definitely opposes certain country’s show of force in the South China Sea under the pretext of navigation and overflight freedom, challenging and threatening China’s sovereignty and security”.

In addition to Mattis, Japanese defence secretary Tomomi Inada also took the opportunity of the summit to scold China for its “unprovoked, unilateral attempts to alter the status quo” in the East and South China Seas.

Beijing is involved in a simmering territorial row with Tokyo over the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed by China as the Diaoyus.

“Remarks made by the Japanese side, which confuse right and wrong, are not worth refuting,” Hua said in her statement.


South China Sea: Japan, New Zealand Support International Law, Arbitral Ruling, Angering China

May 19, 2017
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, right, accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, reviews an honor guard prior to their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. AP/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool

MANILA, Philippines — Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English have expressed concern over the disputed South China Sea following their meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday.

In their joint statement released after the meeting, the two leaders called on concerned parties to settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and in light of the award issued by an international arbitral tribunal.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued the award invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters. The court also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS for building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.


The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, has decided to set aside the ruling in settling the dispute with China.


Abe and English called for the early finalization of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“They called on all parties to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight and ensure unimpeded trade while avoiding provocative actions that could increase tensions and erode regional trust and confidence, including land reclamation, building of outposts, construction and militarisation,” the joint statement read.

Beijing, however, finds the statement of Japan and New Zealand “rather inopportune.”

“Given all these, Japan still exerts itself in every possible way to stir up trouble and exaggerate what it called ‘the tense situation’ which does not exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Thursday.

Hua stressed that the arbitration case on the South China Sea has “already been turned over as a page of history.”

Philippine-China bilateral talks

Beijing urged Tokyo to adjust its mindset for mutual trust between regional countries and for peace and stability in the region.

“We cannot help but wondering: what does Japan really want? Peace and stability in the South China Sea? Or is it exactly peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as improving relations between China and the Philippines and other ASEAN member states that worry Japan so much?” Hua said.

The Philippines and China are set to hold the inaugural meeting of their bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea dispute on Friday.

“The two sides expect to have friendly exchanges during this meeting on the relevant maritime issue and properly manage disputes through bilateral dialogues so as to create favorable conditions for the final settlement of the relevant dispute and ensure a good atmosphere for the sound and steady development of bilateral ties and the smooth progress of practical cooperation in various fields,” the spokesperson said.

RELATED: China expects to ‘disperse suspicion’ in planned talks with Philippines


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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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.

Southeast Asian leaders wrestle over China at ASEAN summit — Some nations not comfortable with “total acquiescence” to China

April 29, 2017


(L to R) Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong prepare to pose for a “family photo” at Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit in Manila on April 29, 2017. AFP

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte faced pushback on Saturday at a regional summit in his efforts to weaken Southeast Asian resistance to Chinese expansionism in the contested South China Sea, diplomats said.

Duterte was due to release a chairman’s statement at the end of the one-day Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) leaders meeting that ignored an international tribunal ruling rejecting China’s sweeping claims to the strategically vital waterway.

Ahead of the summit Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop Chinese artificial island building in areas they claimed, so there was no point discussing it at diplomatic events such as Saturday’s summit.

“It cannot be an issue anymore. It (Chinese presence) is already there. What would be the purpose also of discussing it if you cannot do anything,” Duterte told reporters on Thursday.

But diplomats said other ASEAN nations, unhappy with intense Chinese lobbying of the Philippines, had sought to toughen up the chairman’s statement and there were hot debates on the issue leading up to Saturday’s summit.

“It can’t be seen that ASEAN has totally given in to Chinese pressure,” a Southeast Asian diplomat in Manila for the event told AFP.

China has been turning reefs and shoals in areas of the sea claimed by the Philippines and other nations into artificial islands, and installing military facilities there.

The United States has criticised the construction work, warning against militarisation in the waterway where $5 trillion in annual trade passes.

ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the sea, but China insists it has sovereign rights over nearly all of it.

The Philippines, under previous president Benigno Aquino, had lobbied hard at ASEAN summits for the bloc to voice its strong opposition to the Chinese expansionism, and official statements at those events often reflected that.

Aquino also filed a case at a UN-backed tribunal asking it to reject China’s claims and artificial island building.

The tribunal last year ruled largely in the Philippines’ favour. But the ruling came after Duterte took power.

– China win –

Duterte steadfastly refused to use the verdict to pressure China, instead pursuing warmer relations and billions of dollars’ worth of trade and aid.

Duterte’s chairman’s statement, which is meant to reflect the views of all ASEAN leaders, will voice concern but not mention the ruling nor China directly, according to excerpts of the latest draft on Saturday obtained by AFP.

China, through its ambassador to Manila, had this week been heavily lobbying Duterte to weaken it further, delegates and diplomats told AFP.

“The lobbying is quite intense. They (China) want it further watered down,” one diplomat told AFP.

China had wanted ASEAN to remove a reference to “respect for legal and diplomatic processes“, and it was taken out of the South China Sea section of the latest draft of the chairman’s statement.

Filipino diplomats said the phrase was important because “legal and diplomatic processes” encompassed the entire process of the filing of the case in the tribunal until its resolution.

Nevertheless, the new draft statement reintroduced a call for no further “land reclamation and militarisation” of the sea.

Diplomats said the reinclusion of the reference to land reclamation and militarisation meant that some ASEAN countries were not comfortable with “total acquiescence” to China.

“This has to be reflected in the statement,” one diplomat, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

The chairman’s statement was due to be released on Saturday afternoon, after the ASEAN leaders finished their meetings and ahead of an informal dinner.

The summit was also being closely watched for how Duterte, who has shocked with curse-laden tirades against the United States and other critics of his deadly drug war, handles hosting his first major diplomatic event.

Duterte’s drug war, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings by rights groups about a possible crime against humanity, has been widely condemned in the West.

But he has enjoyed support from some of his Southeast Asian guests this week, including Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Duterte opens 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Manila
Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi (R) shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) upon her arrival to attend the opening ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit in Manila on April 29, 2017. AFP/Mohd Rasfan

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday welcomed his fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as they gathered in Manila.

Duterte will preside over the opening ceremony of the 30th ASEAN Summit at the Philippine National Convention Center and the Leaders’ Retreat at the Coconut Palace.

The president, together with his partner Honeylet Avanceña, welcomed Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Vietnam Primie Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

The leaders are expected to discuss the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the way forward, external relations and future directions.

Regional and international issues are also expected to be discussed as the leaders sign the ASEAN declaration on the roles of the civil service.

The leaders will also meet with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and ASEAN youth.

The 10-member regional bloc was established in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug. 8, 1967 when the five founding members—Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand—signed the ASEAN declaration.

The ASEAN Summit is the regional bloc’s highest policy-making body.

China promised Philippines not to build in disputed shoal: Philippines foreign minister — “They promised they will not reclaim and build structures on Scarborough Shoal.”

February 23, 2017

MANILA: Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Beijing would not build structures on a rocky outcrop in the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said on Thursday (Feb 23).

Frosty ties between the two countries have improved as Duterte shifts away from traditional ally the United States and closer to Beijing, though the news came a day after China’s commerce minister postponed an official trip to the Philippines.

Yasay said Xi’s pledge was made during a meeting with Duterte in Beijing in October, after Manila raised the issue, in response to US intelligence reports suggesting China was sending dredging ships to the area.

“President Xi has promised President Duterte they will not reclaim and build structures on Scarborough Shoal,” Yasay told reporters.

He was responding to a query about a Reuters report that China is close to completing structures on its man-made islets that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles.

China also allowed Filipino fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal after Duterte’s state visit, for the first time since Beijing seized control of the area in 2012 and denied fishermen access to its rich fishing grounds.

It would be a “game changer” if China broke its promise, Yasay said, but added he was confident Beijing would keep its word.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said the two sides had reached an important consensus during Duterte’s visit to appropriately handle disputes and pursue joint development.

“The two sides have already returned to the correct path of friendly bilateral consultations to appropriately handle the South China Sea issue,” Geng Shuang said. “Cooperation between the two countries in all areas is flourishing.”

But he criticised Yasay’s recent remarks, saying they “run counter to the countries’ high-level consensus”.

“They do not accord with the current healthy and rapid development of China-Philippines relations,” he added.

“They do not accord with the current overall stable situation in the South China Sea or regional countries’ joint desire to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

China started reclaiming seven features it occupied in the Spratly islands immediately after the Philippines filed an arbitration case in the Hague in 2013, questioning its expansive claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim the strategic waterway, through which about US$5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods pass every year. It is also believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

China has built three airstrips and had been converting the manmade islands into garrisons, setting up anti-air missiles and air defence radars, against which Manila protested in December.

Manila would file another protest if it could confirm China was completing missile sites on its manmade islands, Yasay added.

China Media and Propaganda Machine Explodes in War Talk As U.S. Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson Suggests All Follow International Law in The South China Sea

January 13, 2017

Chinese media: Tough US line on South China Sea islands would risk war
Chinese media reacted defiantly after prospective US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing would be barred access to parts of the South China Sea. Editorials warned that such actions could lead to war.

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Chinese state media on Friday warned that the US risked a “devastating confrontation” with China if it blocked Beijing’s access to artificial island structures it is building in the South China Sea.
Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of State, told US senators he would seek to deny China access to the islands. The former oil executive explicitly said that the territories “are not rightfully China’s,” and compared Beijing’s actions in the region with Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
“First the island building stops, and second your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed,” Tillerson asserted the message to Beijing should be.
The warning drew ire from official Chinese media, which said any such US actions would risk war between the two global powers. An opinion piece in the Chinese state-owned China Daily newspaper accused Tillerson of “undisguised animosity toward China.”
“As many have observed, it would set a course for devastating confrontation between China and the US,” said the newspaper’s US edition. “After all, how can the US deny China access to its own territories without inviting the latter’s legitimate, defensive responses?”
South China Sea dispute
‘Most radical statement’
A separate editorial on the English website of China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper speculated that Tillerson’s “bluster” might be “just a bluff” for the US Senate, which must approve his nomination.
A US think tank says China appears to have put anti-aircraft and anti-missle systems on islands in the South China Sea. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says it’s been tracking satellite images since June.
Philippines unveils images of Chinese island building on disputed shoal
Tillerson calls Russia ‘an adversary’ in US Senate hearing
Tillerson and Exxon agree to $180 million severance package
The editorial noted that Tillerson – former boss of ExxonMobil – had also mentioned that US and Chinese economic and security interests were deeply intertwined.
“It is not clear which point, among the many he made, he will prioritize. But it is worth looking at his remarks that China should not be allowed access to the islands, since this is the most radical statement from the US side so far,” said the editorial.
“The US has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”
Satellite photos show China has built military facilities in the contested waters, also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, among others.
Beijing stays diplomatic
Washington claims Beijing’s activities in the region threaten freedom of navigation around the strategically vital waters. However, the administration of US President Barack Obama has not taken a position on the ownership of the islets and reefs of the South China Sea.
China’s official reaction to Tillerson’s comments was muted, with foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang advising Washington not to get involved.
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China foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang
“The South China Sea situation has cooled down and we hope non-regional countries can respect the consensus that it is in the fundamental interest of the whole world,” he said.
China has reclaimed more than 3,000 of acres of land, building military-grade infrastructure on reefs and islets mostly in the Spratly Island chain.
Tension over the South China Sea was expected to be a topic of conversation during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Vietnam, with the country seeking US support over China’s actions in the potential conflict zone.

  (January 10, 2017)

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier conducts first live-fire drill as Beijing shows off military might

China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

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A combined task force of Chinese and Russian warships exercised together in the western Pacific in 2016 and 2014. Reuters photo

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.
Tillerson: US-China friendly, adversarial
By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington | 
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Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, speaks at the confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Credit Chen Weihua/China Daily
Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, described interactions between the United States and China as “both friendly and adversarial.”

In his confirmation hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson was grilled most of the time for his close Russian ties, including with President Vladimir Putin when he was CEO of Exxon Mobile. China came up several times in the day-long hearing.

“China has emerged as an economic power in global trade, and our interactions have been both friendly and adversarial,” Tillerson said in his testimony.

Tillerson criticized China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and said China has not fulfilled its promise on UN sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We cannot continue to accept empty promises like the ones China has made to pressure North Korea to reform, only to shy away from enforcement,” said the 64-year-old.

Tillerson said China’s economic and trade practices have not always followed its commitments to global agreements. He also accused China of stealing US intellectual property.

In his first press conference after winning the election on Nov 8, Trump on Wednesday also accused China of hacking into the US Office of Personnel Management and taking advantage of the US economically and in the South China Sea.

“We have to deal with what we see, not with what we hope,” Tillerson said.

But Tillerson emphasized “we need to see the positive dimensions in our relationship with China as well”.

“The economic well-being of our two nations is deeply intertwined. China has been a valuable ally in curtailing elements of radical Islam. We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership,” he said.

Asked about the Trump administration’s policy on Taiwan, Tillerson reiterated the US commitment to Taiwan, but said, “I don’t know that there is any plan to alter the one China position”.

He mentioned several times his “whole of China approach”, saying “we’ve got to deal with the whole of China actions and recognize we have these balancing forces in our relationship that need to be dealt with.”

Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center of Brookings Institution, said Tillerson’s testimony was not a definitive indicator of future US foreign policy toward China.

“But his opening statement and some of his replies to Senatorial questions reveal a decidedly hard edge to his views of China,” he said.

“Though he acknowledges more positive developments in economic cooperation and in opposing international terrorism, his testimony makes no mention of US-China cooperation on the Iranian nuclear agreement or in the Paris climate accords. Such strongly worded complaints directed against China suggest that US-China relations could be entering a much more contentious phase as the Trump administration assumes power,” he said.

Zhiqun Zhu, professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said Tillerson’s statement was more moderate than he’d expected.

“He does not have a pro-Russia stance and his view of the US-China relationship as both friendly and adversarial is consistent with the mainstream thinking in the US,” Zhu said.

Based on Tillerson’s testimony, Zhu said there are many opportunities for cooperation between China and the US, but on several issues, particularly North Korea and the South China Sea, the two sides will have some rough times ahead.

“So it is expected that the US-China relationship will continue to be marked by cooperation and contention in the years ahead. I do not think any member of the Trump administration will intentionally disrupt and derail this most important bilateral relationship,” he said.

Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St Thomas in Houston, Texas, said Tillerson’s statement that the US should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership was a hopeful comment.

“However, Tillerson’s testimony provided a mixed message to China, one that signals that the Trump administration intends to disrupt the status quo of China-US relations,” he said.

“Where that will lead us is a pivotal question. But given the comments of the president-elect and some of his appointees, I would not be optimistic.”

China Installs Weapons in South China Sea, Satellites Show

December 15, 2016

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiery Cross Reef, Nov. 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Jeremy Page at


China Continues Military Construction in the South China Sea

December 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch: Cruising the disputed Paracel Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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China HQ-9 surface to air missile systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Donald Trump not expected to back down to China in Asia, experts say

November 28, 2016

By Gavin Fernando

DONALD Trump looks set to ramp up tensions in the South China Sea, Chinese research academics have warned.

A recent analysis by a leading think tank in China has found the US leader will not rescind the country’s military presence from the disputed region.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies think tank (NISCSS), has issued a landmark report on the United States’ military presence in the Asia-Pacific.

“There will not be a reversal in the Asia-Pacific policy, but the strategic rivalry between China and the US is likely to continue over the South China Sea,” he told reporters in Beijing.

The institute’s report is the first of its kind by a Chinese academic institution to compile available data on US military spending and deployment in the region.

It said the US has taken action to counter what it perceives as China limiting freedom of navigation in the region, which has created fears of military conflict between the two powers.

“From the US perspective, China’s large-scale construction activities in the South China Sea confirmed US suspicion that China intended to implement an anti-access/area-denial strategy,” the report said.

“The US has made the South China Sea issue an important vehicle for it to implement its Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy. Its direct involvement in the South China Sea would increase the cost of China’s rise.”

Tensions between the US and China won’t be easing any time soon.

Tensions between the US and China won’t be easing any time soon.Source:News Limited

According to the findings, the US military has carried out more than 700 naval and aerial patrols in the region over the past year.

Mr Wu warned these continued targeted operations could lead to militarisation of the waters, increasing the likelihood of conflict in the region.

“China could possibly set up an Air Defence Identification Zone in the South China Sea if the US continues to intensify patrols and low-altitude spying in the region,” he said.


Mr Wu warned it’s “very possible” for Donald Trump to deploy extra vessels in the disputed region.

The President-elect was notably silent on the South China Sea conflict during his campaign, with the exception of a March interview in which he said China had “total disregard” for the US.

“We have rebuilt China and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen,” he told The New York Times.

“They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”

Chinese research academics say it’s ‘very possible’ Donald Trump will deploy extra vessels in the South China Sea.

Chinese research academics say it’s ‘very possible’ Donald Trump will deploy extra vessels in the South China Sea.Source:AP

Since the election, his transition team has said it is looking to increase America’s military force against China.

Last week, Rudy Giuliani revealed the president-elect intends to prioritise building a “gigantic” military force to overthrow China’s ambitions in the region, which would allow them to fight a “two-ocean war”.

He said the US had made China a rich country through “bad trade deals”, adding that “they are totally disregarding our country”.

Macquarie University security studies analyst Adam Lockyer told it was likely America would have “a lot more military muscle” under Mr Trump’s presidency.

While we can’t get ahead of ourselves, much of that will likely go into the Asia-Pacific region, because China’s a major challenger.

“On one hand they’re paying less diplomatic and critical attention to the region, but on the other they’re building more military presence in the region.”

Zhu Feng, director of the South China Sea Centre at Nanjing University, told reporters in Beijing there would be “more continuity” of the existing US military policy under Mr Trump.

Both him and Mr Wu agreed there was a high possibility of increased US military spending in the region under Mr Trump.


Asia-Pacific security expert Jingdong Yuan from the Centre For International Security Studies told that neither China nor the US were being realistic about the conflict.

“Beijing and Washington will have to work on their differences while at the same time work together on things they both agree,” he said.

“This is a very complex relationship and neither America’s will to remain predominant nor China’s desire for a Sino-centric order in Asia are realistic.

“Indeed, if they both pursue these extreme goals, conflict will become more likely and it will be deeply destabilising for the region — Australia included.”

Experts have warned that neither China nor the US is being realistic about the conflict.

Experts have warned that neither China nor the US is being realistic about the conflict. Source: AFP

The NISCSS stressed a similar need for the two powers to work side-by-side.

“Given their differences in history, culture, tradition, social system, ideology and level of economic development, it is inevitable that China and the United States have differences and even frictions over some issues,” it said.

“Both countries want to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific, including the East and South China Seas, and to the global commons such as the outer space, cyberspace and the sea.

“Therefore, the two countries need to always keep the whole picture in mind, stick to the overall objective of building a new model of major power relationship, and recognise their shared interests far outweigh their differences.

“The two also need to manage crisis and prevent frictions in a timely way, and stay committed to increasing understanding and building more consensus through dialogue and consultation in a constructive way.”