Posts Tagged ‘militarisation’

U.S. Urges End To South China Sea Militarization

February 10, 2018
By: – Reporter / @FMangosingINQ
 / 01:46 PM February 10, 2018

RUNWAY ON ZAMORA REEF Stepping up its militarization of the South China Sea, Beijing has built a 3.1-kilometer runway on Zamora Reef in the Spratly archipelago. Similar runways have also been constructed on two other artificial islands.

The US Embassy in Manila is calling on China and all other claimants of the South China Sea to “refrain” from construction and reclamation activities, as well as the militarization of the disputed waterway.

“We call on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from taking any steps towards the construction of new facilities, militarization of disputed features, and further land reclamation in the South China Sea, and to commit to resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants, particularly given the ongoing efforts by Asean and China to negotiate a code of conduct,” US Embassy Manila press attaché Molly Koscina told the Inquirer in a text message on Saturday.

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Subi Reef from another angle showing the vast Chinese defense infrastructure

Koscina was asked for comment on the photos released by the Inquirer last February 5, showing the remarkable progress of China’s construction of air and naval bases on seven of its artificial islands claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has downplayed the sea dispute since he assumed the presidency in 2016, reiterated that the Philippines will continue to pursue its friendly ties with the regional superpower because it cannot go to war with China.

“We are neutral. We will continue to talk with China. This is not the time to be fighting over South China Sea because it will only lead to a war,” he said in a press conference on Friday in Davao City.

Duterte also chose to set aside the 2016 ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s massive claims in the South China Sea.

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Chinese bases near the Philippines

China and the 10-member Asean states are working on the code of conduct for the vital waterway, which is mostly claimed by China but also claimed by the Philippines and other Asean countries.

The embassy said the US will continue to uphold international law, and urged the regional claimants to hold a dialogue on the hotly contested waterway.

“We remain firm in our commitment to uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under international law with regard to freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea,” Koscina said.

“We continue to urge all claimants, including China, to peacefully manageand resolve disputes in accordance with international law,” she added.            /kga

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


Philippines’ pivot to China — Mr. Duterte is indeed rolling out the red carpet for China.

January 29, 2018
 / 02:13 PM January 29, 2018

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AIR SECURITY A Chinese bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea in this undated photo released by Xinhua News Agency. —AP FILE PHOTO

China’s presence in the Philippines has never been more pronounced than it is now.

Manila recently allowed a Chinese ship to conduct maritime research at a resource-rich vast underwater plateau known as Benham Rise, east of the main island of Luzon, near US bases in Guam and Hawaii.

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China research ship Ke Xue

For months, the Philippines has been drumming up a joint venture with China to explore for oil and gas in a contested area of the South China Sea.

China is also dipping its fingers into the Philippine telecoms industry. Shenzhen-based telco ZTE is leading a consortium that plans to invest US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) to build 50,000 microcell towers and compete with the two leading players.

Most big-ticket infrastructure projects have some level of Chinese involvement.

Tourists from China are also pouring in. The Chinese have dislodged the Koreans as the top tourists on the resort island of Boracay. Some 376,000 tourists from the mainland visited Boracay last year, compared with 375,000 from South Korea.

A historic ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague granting the Philippines rights to vast waters China is claiming, meanwhile, is fast slipping out of the national consciousness.

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All this, of course, plays to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brand of diplomacy. Since he took office in 2016, ties between Manila and Beijing have never been as warm or mutually beneficial.

China has pledged over US$24 billion in investment and loans to help finance Mr Duterte’s ambitious 3 trillion peso (S$77 billion, US$59 billion) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan.

Beijing has also backed, with funding and weapons, Mr Duterte’s brutal crackdown on the narcotics trade and war against Islamist terrorists.

In turn, Mr Duterte has set aside the decision from The Hague. He has also looked the other way as China fortifies its island bases in the South China Sea.

When told China had transformed Fiery Cross reef into a 2.8 sq km airbase, Mr Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said “there is still no breach of good faith, as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations”.

Mr Duterte is indeed rolling out the red carpet for China.

That pivot, however, has not come without consequences, especially as it relates to the Philippines’ decades-long relationship with the United States.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has turned to Indonesia and Vietnam, instead of the Philippines, to lead a pushback against China’s expansion in the South China Sea.

Mr Duterte’s aides have been obfuscating his pro-China remarks to allay concerns in Washington.

Seeking to downplay the Chinese presence at Benham Rise, Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano said the Philippines, since 2000, has approved all 13 requests from the US to conduct maritime research there, all nine Japanese requests, and all four from South Korea.

China filed 18 requests, but only two were approved, he said.

“I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves,” he told reporters. “Tell me, who are we favouring?”

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said Manila would lodge a diplomatic protest over the militarisation of Fiery Cross reef .

“If it is true, and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers, and even weapons systems, that will be a violation of what they said,” he said.

Dr Amado Mallonga, an expert on geopolitics at the University of the Philippines, said the Chinese are just “behaving like they should behave”. “China is a state, and it has state-owned enterprises,” he added.


“Obviously, the activities of its enterprise will be aligned with its foreign policy, and they see an opening because Duterte is open to them.”

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

While focus is on North Korea, China continues South China Sea buildup: think tank

December 15, 2017

By David Brunnstrom

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

December 14, 2017

China has built more infrastructure on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea in the past year, including underground tunnels and radar installations, even as it has sought to repair relations with other claimants, according to an analysis of fresh satellite images.

Beijing’s construction of the seven islands in the Spratlys archipelago since 2014 has raised deep concern in the U.S. and much of Asia that China could use them to try to enforce its claims to almost all the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

China completed land reclamation in the Spratlys in early 2016, but continued such work to expand outposts in the Paracel Islands until mid-2017, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, or AMTI, which released the images.

China also continued construction work designed to transform the three larger Spratly outposts into fully functional joint air and naval bases, and to upgrade at least three more Paracel outposts that could be used to bolster its control of the South China Sea, AMTI said.

The continued Chinese construction suggests that, even as regional tensions are focused on North Korea, Beijing remains determined to enhance its ability to defend its territorial claims, and to hamper U.S. military intervention in the South China Sea.

AMTI, which is part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, shared the images and its analysis exclusively with The Wall Street Journal. China’s foreign and defense ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fiery Cross Reef

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Fiery Cross saw the most construction over 2017, with work on facilities covering 27 acres and including hangars by the airstrip, radar installations and fortified shelters for missile platforms, AMTI said.

Fiery Cross is one of the seven fortified islands China has built in the Spratlys, where Beijing’s claims overlap with those of Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

In the last several months, China has also built what appears to be a high-frequency radar installation at the north end of Fiery Cross, according to AMTI. That consists of a field of upright poles, next to a large complex of communication or sensor equipment in white dome-shaped structures, it said.

While the range and precise purpose of such equipment can’t be established from such images, it will enhance China’s ability to monitor any activity by ships or aircraft in the surrounding area, says AMTI’s director Gregory Poling.

Earlier satellite images also showed a high-frequency radar installation on Cuarteron Reef, another of the Chinese-built islands in the Spratlys. High-frequency radar is often used to track ocean currents and ship movements, among other things.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Large underground tunnels on Fiery Cross that were identified in earlier satellite images have now been completed and covered, according to AMTI. It says they are likely for storage of ammunition, and work on underground stores for water and fuel was completed earlier.

Fiery Cross is one of the three Chinese-built Spratlys outposts, along with Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, that have airstrips and big harbors and which Beijing appears to be turning into wholly operational air and naval bases, according to Mr. Poling.

China says its island construction is mainly for civilian ends and military facilities there are principally to protect freedom of navigation and overflight. In an attempt to repair ties with neighbors, it agreed in November to start talks on a long-awaited code of conduct for the South China Sea.

Subi Reef

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

There was also substantial construction on Subi Reef during 2017, with work on buildings covering about 24 acres, according to AMTI. It said this included buried storage facilities, hangars, missile shelters, and radar or communications facilities.

A U.S. naval destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in October 2015, a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged during a state visit to the U.S. not to “militarize” the Spratlys.

U.S. officials have since accused China of violating that pledge. Chinese officials say their upgrades don’t constitute militarization and have repeatedly warned Washington not to interfere in its territorial disputes.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Since midyear, China has built what looks like a second “elephant cage” antenna installation, left, on Subi Reef as well as a new array of apparent radar domes, right, AMTI said. The exact function of these “elephant cages” is unclear. The U.S. used similar facilities in the Cold War for signals intelligence—monitoring other countries’ communications.

“The radars and signals intelligence strengthen [China’s] ability to monitor everything the other claimants and outsiders like the U.S. do in the waters and airspace of the South China Sea, which is a necessary step to control it,” said Mr. Poling.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

New storage tunnels at Subi, as at Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef, were completed and covered over in the past few months, according to AMTI.

“We can’t know for sure, but the construction of these new underground facilities, which are separated from each other and appear reinforced, suggests ammunition storage,” said Mr. Poling.

Mischief Reef

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Work on Mischief Reef this year was done on facilities covering 17 acres that also included underground ammunition storage, hangars, missile shelters and new radar and communications installations, AMTI said.

In August, a U.S. Navy destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near Mischief Reef, accompanied by two U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, according to U.S. officials. Another U.S. destroyer had conducted a similar patrol around Mischief in May in the first such operation under the Trump administration.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

China has started work on a new radar or communications installation on the north side of Mischief Reef, AMTI said.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

New storage tunnels on Mischief Reef were completed over the last several months and have been covered, AMTI said.

Tree Island

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Dredging and reclamation work at Tree Island in the Paracels continued as late as mid-2017, according to AMTI. In total, China built facilities covering about 1.7 acres and including a new helipad, solar installations and wind turbines, AMTI said.

The Paracels, which lie about 350 miles north of the Spratlys, are claimed by both China and Vietnam but have been controlled by Beijing since it seized them from Vietnamese forces in 1974.

North Island

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

China tried to connect North Island to neighboring Middle Island but gave up after the land bridge it created was washed out by a storm in October 2016, according to AMTI. It said China built a retaining wall around the remaining reclaimed land at the southern end of North Island earlier this year.

Triton Island

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Triton Island saw completion of buildings, including two large radar towers, according to AMTI. They are important as Triton is the outpost farthest southwest in the Paracels and waters around it have been the site of several recent minor clashes between China and Vietnam, as well as multiple U.S. freedom-of-navigation operations, AMTI said.

In July, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer conducted a patrol near Triton, coming to within 12 nautical miles of the island, according to U.S. officials.

Woody Island

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters

Woody Island is the largest island in the Paracels and serves as China’s military and administrative headquarters in the South China Sea. Developments there have often been precursors for those at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief in the Spratlys, AMTI said.

It said there was no substantial new construction on Woody Island this year, but at the end of October the Chinese military released pictures confirming for the first time that J-11B fighter jets had been deployed there.

Satellite images from November also showed several large planes that appeared to be Y-8 transport aircraft, which can be capable of electronic intelligence gathering, according to AMTI. It said larger hangars by the Spratlys airstrips could also accommodate Y-8s, suggesting such aircraft might be deployed there later.

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.