Posts Tagged ‘militarization’

South China Sea: China Takes Control — “The sheer numbers [of Chinese] are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out”

November 18, 2017

China is starting to dictate terms in one of the world’s strategic waterways, and the United States is largely missing in action.

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

In his 12-day trip to Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump largely focused on North Korea and trade, all but avoiding the simmering disputes in the South China Sea and steering clear of sharp criticism of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive activities there.

With the Trump administration focused elsewhere for now, China is quietly pressing ahead with its agenda in one of the world’s most strategic waterways, building more military facilities on man-made islands to buttress its expansionist claims and dramatically expanding its presence at sea at the expense of its smaller neighbors.

Beijing’s under-the-radar advances in the South China Sea could be bad news for countries in the region, for U.S. hopes to maintain influence in the Western Pacific, and for the rules-based international order that for decades has promoted peace and prosperity in Asia.

At the Chinese Communist Party congress last month, President Xi Jinping cited island building in the South China Sea as one of his top achievements so far, and touted the “successful prosecution of maritime rights.” Those rights appear at odds with international law: Xi is now assuring nervous neighbors that China will offer “safe passage” through the seas to other countries in the region.

“The South China Sea has fallen victim to a combination of Trump’s narrow focus on North Korea and the administration’s chaotic and snail-paced policymaking process,” said Ely Ratner of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as an advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.

China’s recent advances in the South China Sea aren’t as eye-popping as the overnight creation of artificial atolls in recent years, a massive engineering project dubbed the “great wall of sand” by a top U.S. admiral. That’s one reason the disputes got pushed to the back burner on Trump’s big trip.

“Because there’s no sense of immediate or medium-term crisis (in the South China Sea), they didn’t make it a big priority on the trip,” said Evan Medeiros of the Eurasia Group, who oversaw Asia strategy in the Obama White House.

But experts say the quiet moves — including expanding military bases, constructing radar and sensor installations, hardened shelters for missiles, and vast logistical warehouses for fuel, water, and ammunition — are threatening to turn China’s potential stranglehold on the region into reality.

Much of the activity has centered on three reefs converted into artificial islands through large-scale dredging: Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, about 650 miles from Hainan Island in southern China. Satellite imagery in June revealed a large dome had been erected on Fiery Cross with another under construction, suggesting a substantial communications or radar system, experts say. At Mischief Reef, workers were installing two more domes.

With runways, hangars for fighter jets, and communications hardware in place on the artificial islands, China can deploy military aircraft and missiles whenever it wants, solidifying its grip over the area and flouting international maritime law. The three newly built bases in the Spratlys, combined with another on Woody Island, will enable Chinese warplanes to fly over nearly the entire South China Sea, according to Pentagon officials and defense analysts. That could be the precursor to an “air defense identification zone” similar to the one that China slapped onto the East China Sea in 201

And the new bases have given China much greater reach at sea. Beijing has deployed more naval ships, Coast Guard vessels, and a flotilla of fishing boats that act as a maritime militia virtually around the clock. The ships can now dock nearby to refuel and resupply, rather than sail home, extending their time on station and their ability to project Chinese power through the area. That is changing the balance of power as fishing ships and coast guard vessels from other claimant countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are elbowed away from disputed features.

This summer, for example, Vietnam hoped to drill for natural gas off its own coast. But China reportedly summoned the Vietnamese ambassador and threatened military action if Hanoi went forward with development in its own exclusive economic zone. Sensing little backing from Washington, Vietnam quietly backed down and stopped drilling.

“The sheer numbers are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out,” said Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

More than nine months into the Trump administration, contrasts with U.S. policy under Barack Obama toward the South China Sea are apparent — as they are with the initial saber-rattling tone of Trump administration officials. The Obama administration put a focus on diplomacy and consistently sought to uphold international law regarding the disputed waterway, though it often shied away from sailing U.S. Navy ships through the waters to send a tough signal to Beijing.

The Trump administration has taken almost the opposite approach: Navy cruises to assert the right of navigation have become commonplace, but there is little sign yet of a concerted U.S. policy to diplomatically push back against Chinese encroachment or offer encouragement to U.S. allies and partners threatened by Beijing’s advances, former officials, experts and foreign diplomats said.

“By having no South China Sea policy, Trump ensures that all the initiative lies with Beijing,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center.

Former U.S. officials and congressional aides said the Trump administration appears to be pulling its punches on the South China Sea, as well as trade issues, in hopes of securing Beijing’s cooperation to cut off North Korea’s access to fuel and cash to fund its nuclear weapons program. So far, China has stopped short of drastic action to squeeze the regime in Pyongyang — and Chinese officials just contradicted Trump’s claims that the two countries have found more common ground.

At the end of his Asia trip, Trump did offer to “mediate” between Vietnam and China, but that spooked officials in Hanoi who fear they could be a pawn in a bigger U.S.-China game centered on North Korea.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on its approach to the South China Sea.

However, some former Obama officials are cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration, hamstrung so far by short staffing at key positions, especially regarding Asia policy, is starting to craft a more coherent policy toward the region, including a sharper focus on China’s activities in the South China Sea. Joint communiques in Japan and Vietnam stressed continued U.S. support for the rule of law and an end to coercion in maritime disputes, for example.

Ratner, the former Biden advisor, said he expects the Trump administration to chart a more proactive course as it settles into office.

“They appear to finally be getting their policy feet under them and I’m expecting more focus on South China Sea in the months ahead,” he said. “So it’s premature to declare it’ll remain a low priority going forward.”

 http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/16/with-trump-focused-on-north-korea-beijing-sails-ahead-in-south-china-sea/

Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. @dandeluc

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China’s playbook still working…

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Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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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.

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Duterte, Trump hit South China Sea ‘militarization’

November 14, 2017

By Paterno Esmaquel II
Rappler

The Philippines and the US stress ‘the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law’

 Updated 3:08 PM, November 14, 2017
BILATERAL MEETING. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting on November 13, 2017, on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines. Photo by AFP

BILATERAL MEETING. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting on November 13, 2017, on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump criticized the “militarization” of the disputed South China Sea as the two parties held their first bilateral meeting.

“Both sides reiterated their commitment to uphold their principles including the freedom of navigation and overflight, and the exercise of self-restraint,” said a joint statement by the Philippines and the US.

The two leaders also “stressed the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.”

“They further underscored the need to continue pursuing confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence, and to refrain from actions that would escalate tensions, including militarization,” the joint statement added.

This joint statement is expected to draw flak from China, which detests so-called US interference in the South China Sea dispute.

The Philippines and the US made these remarks as China is slammed for island building activities to assert de facto control over the South China Sea.

During the ASEAN Summit, the 10-member regional bloc and China tackled the South China Sea dispute, and agreed to start talks on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed waters.

In a draft statement for the ASEAN-China Summit, both parties vowed as well to not take the “calmer” situation in the South China Sea “for granted.”

In July 2016, Manila won a historic case against Beijing over the South China Sea, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to downplay this legal victory for the sake of better ties with China. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/188434-duterte-trump-south-china-sea-militarization-asean-2017

South China Sea: More Diplomatic Engagement Needed, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Says — “One Nation Cannot Block Off The Sea”

November 9, 2017

Vietnam

New Delhi, Nov 7 — In the backdrop of China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Vietnam today said “more diplomatic engagement” was needed to resolve the issue and that the region should not move towards a conflict situation.

Interacting with reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club here, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh, however, asserted that “whatever belongs to Vietnam has to be defended”.

He said South China Sea was an important maritime region and the trade of some of the world’s powerful countries, including the US and India, was conducted through it.

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Ton Sinh Thanh — Vietnam’s Ambassador to India. Photo by Priyanka Parashar — Mint

“China is not just a big country, but also a big neighbour. The South China Sea is a complicated problem and related not just to the island but also the exclusive economic zone. However, we do not have any other way (out of this problem) than through talks and negotiations.

“We should not move to a situation where we have to involve in a conflict. We need more diplomatic engagement and legal measures to solve this problem,” Thanh said in response to a question on Vietnam’s position on the South China Sea issue.

“Our position on this issue is very clear. We have already entered into a declaration with China as regards the code of conduct in the South China Sea. Hope there would be support from other countries, inside and outside of the region,” he said.

China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, a number of ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counter claims.

“But, of course, we have to be prepared. Whatever belongs to Vietnam, we have to defend. We have to defend our island and the exclusive economic zone,” the envoy said.

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over which a country has special rights regarding exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

“There should be a voice from the region. If South China Sea is blocked, what will happen,” Thanh asked.

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/south-china-sea-more-diplomatic-engagement-needed-says/1183829

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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.

South China Sea: Former Philippines FM says ASEAN is Adrift

November 9, 2017

‘In a broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift,’ former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario says ahead of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila

Published 3:27 PM, November 08, 2017
Updated 9:34 AM, November 09, 2017

EX-TOP DIPLOMAT. Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario in a speech on November 8, 2017, calls on ASEAN to exercise stronger leadership by emphasizing the rule of law. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

EX-TOP DIPLOMAT. Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario in a speech on November 8, 2017, calls on ASEAN to exercise stronger leadership by emphasizing the rule of law. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario criticized the “lack of leadership” in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as he scored the 10-member bloc for failing to stress the need for international law.

In a speech on Wednesday, November 8, Del Rosario said many ASEAN states “have found themselves being pulled in different directions.”

He continued: “This has been worsened by a lack of leadership from among us. In a broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift.”

Del Rosario explained that “the challenges we presently face may be attributed to a lack of emphasis on the importance of international law.”

“Without this emphasis, we have a disjointed reality between the statements that we make and the practices that prevail on the ground. These practices, with militarization chiefly among them, add to confusion and subtract from enduring trust,” he said.

He also said that trust in ASEAN “depends on the body’s ability to achieve meaningful consensus and demonstrate its effectiveness.”

“If ASEAN pursues an overabundance of caution, it risks becoming only a bystander to the events within its own region,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario was speaking at a conference organized by his think tank, the Albert del Rosario Stratbase Institute, 5 days before the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines.

China’s ‘creeping force’

ASEAN, a regional grouping that is marking its 50th year, is sometimes blasted for weak statements against China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Del Rosario was the foreign secretary who steered the Philippines in filing a case against China over the disputed waters. The Philippines won this case, but the Duterte administration chose to downplay this victory for the sake of better ties with China.

In his speech on Wednesday, Del Rosario emphasized China’s “creeping force” to control the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

He stressed that China should pursue its goals “within the framework of international law.”

“In our view, China should consider if, in achieving its present military or economic objectives, it will continue to have a measure of respect from its neighbors,” he said.

He said, on the other hand, “if trying to get everyone to adhere to the rule of law does not work, one other alternative is an approach characterized by a strategic build-up of defense capabilities for deterrence purposes.”

He cited experts’ suggestions for ASEAN countries to “thoughtfully ramp up their defense transfers and invest in select military platforms as a matter of necessity.”

“Although a cycle of reactive militarization will surely raise the stakes and the tension, this may still be a prudent path,” Del Rosario said.

He then recalled the time when “our seas were less tumultuous and our differences were less intractable.”

“Time is running short for us to return to that period,” Del Rosario said. – Rappler.com

South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

Updated 11:32 PM ET, Mon August 14, 2017

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN)When it comes to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s leaders must feel very lonely these days.

Their fellow Southeast Asian claimants have either reversed course after years of escalating tensions with Beijing, or are keeping their heads down and letting Hanoi take up the fight.
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In June, the Vietnamese government refused a Chinese demand to halt drilling by a subsidiary of Spanish company Repsol in an oil and gas block on Vanguard Bank—an area of the seabed that, as far as international law is concerned, is undisputedly Vietnam’s.
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Now Vietnam could be on the hook to Repsol for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will have a hard time convincing other companies that any of its offshore contracts are a smart bet.
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Repsol didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said its oil and gas activities take place in waters entirely within its sovereign rights.
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Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html
Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea 03:29

Deafening silence

How did Vietnam’s neighbors and the international community respond to this act of bullying by China? With deafening silence.
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After pushing back against Chinese coercion for years, the Philippines has turned defeatist under the year-old government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Manila now appears eager to trade silence regarding its maritime claims for economic carrots from Beijing.
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Malaysia, whose government is embroiled in corruption allegations and is barreling toward political crisis in the next general election, has little appetite for confrontation with China, an important benefactor.
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And Indonesia is happy to occupy a middle ground, resisting at the margins when it comes to Chinese fishing encroachments in its waters, but uninterested in taking a more active role in the disputes.
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Even Singapore, which remains deeply skeptical of China’s long-term intentions, is keeping its head down after being made a diplomatic punching bag by Beijing for its perceived support of the Philippines’ international arbitration victory last July.
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Divisions on display

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The divisions within Southeast Asia were on full display during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Minister’s Meeting earlier this month.
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The Philippines, which hosted the summit, and Cambodia wanted to strip out anything that could irritate China. But Vietnam, smarting from the Vanguard Bank incident and convinced that China’s diplomatic softening over the previous year was just a delaying tactic, argued for stronger language.
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Its tactics got it singled out in a China Daily editorial, which slammed Hanoi for “hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building.”
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Late on Sunday, the group reached a compromise that reinserted several points from previous ASEAN statements, including concern over recent land reclamation and militarization.
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The comprise language in the communique was weaker that some previous statements, particularly the Sunnylands Declaration signed by ASEAN leaders and President Barack Obama in 2016.
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But it was stronger than the group’s last statement, issued by Duterte following the ASEAN Summit in April, and helped avoid a repeat of the group’s 2012 debacle when then-host Cambodia blocked the release of any statement at all.
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Modest victory

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Still, Vietnam had won a modest victory and received a measure of support, even if grudgingly, from its neighbors. But the victory was short-lived.
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The next day, Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sided with China, telling the press,“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. So why will you put it again this year?”
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It was a surprising break for an organization built on consensus. Here was the group’s chair publicly airing disagreements with the supposed consensus and appearing to back an outside power over a fellow ASEAN member.
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China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Manila on August 5, 2017 to attend the ASEAN meeting, where Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

One-two punch

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The one-two punch of China’s successful coercion over Vanguard Bank and ASEAN’s tattered consensus in Manila has left Hanoi exposed.
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That isolation, which has been building for months, helps explain why Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich arranged a visit to Washington on the heels of the ASEAN meetings.
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Following his meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon announced that the two had “agreed to deepen defense cooperation, including by expanding maritime cooperation.” They even confirmed plans for a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in the future—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
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Hanoi remains convinced that China’s new charm offensive in the South China Sea is mostly smoke and mirrors—a conclusion strengthened by its recent experiences—and that sooner or later its neighbors will figure it out too. In the meantime, it will look for support wherever it can find it.

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Includes video:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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

South China Sea: U.S. vows to challenge excessive sea claims

August 14, 2017
Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe. AP/Gregory Bull, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe.

In a recent press briefing in Washington, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, on a daily basis under a comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP).

She explained that the operations, conducted in accordance with international law, are meant to demonstrate that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”

“It’s true in the South China Sea; it’s true in other places around the world as well,” Nauert said.

A US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea.

The USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Slamming the FONOP, the Chinese armed forces immediately sent naval ships to identify and verify the US warship and warned it to leave.

The United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague had awarded the Philippines “sovereign rights” over Panganiban Reef off Palawan, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The court ruling last year also invalidated China’s entire “nine-dash-line” claims over nearly all of the South China Sea. Beijing has ignored the ruling despite having ratified UNCLOS.

“We have a comprehensive freedom of navigation operations program, under which the US forces challenge excessive maritime claims around the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. All nations —that is guaranteed to the United States and to other nations, as well,” Nauert added.

The FONOP, she said, is not about any one country and is not about making a political statement.

Last year, the US conducted these challenging excessive maritime claims in 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners.

“The United States does these operations – the freedom of navigation operations – all around the world, many times of year,” Nauert said. “But this is nothing new. We’ve done it before; we’ll continue to do that.”

The US acknowledged on Thursday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under “tremendous” pressure on the South China Sea issues during the meetings in Manila last week but the regional bloc still “held on to its principles,” defeating attempts to drop “militarization,” “self-restraint” and “land reclamation” from the joint communiqué at the end of the milestone gathering.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/14/1728684/us-vows-challenge-excessive-sea-claims

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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

South China Sea: China Continues to Build Up Islands — “This is turning into a situation of no trust.”

August 10, 2017

Photos disprove China’s claim of halting land reclamation

China has reclaimed new land at the southern end of North Island and has begun to construct new facilities on it. CSIS AMTI via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — In response to the joint communique of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers issued last Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing has completed its land-filling two years ago.

The statement noted “concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence.”

Wang insisted that China is definitely not carrying out reclamation and accused Vietnam of being the only country reclaiming land in the South China Sea.

“Thus, if such phenomenon of sea-filling for land-reclamation still exists, it will never happen in China,” Wang said on Monday.

Vietnam led the push for a stronger statement on the South China Sea despite objections from Cambodia and the Philippines.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano himself admitted that he did not want to mention “land reclamation” and “militarizations” in the joint communique.

“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore,” Cayetano said earlier this week.

READ: Philippines admits wanting land reclamation, militarization out of ASEAN communique

On the other hand, satellite imagery obtained by Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) showed that China’s reclamation activities did not stop in mid-2015, contrary to Wang’s claims.

“Beijing continues to reclaim land farther north, in the Paracel Islands. The two most recent examples of this are at Tree Island and North Island in the Amphitrite Group,” the AMTI reported.

AMTI’s report in February showed that Beijing completed a new helipad and installed wind turbines and two photovoltaic solar arrays on Tree Island.

Tree Island has seen substantial upgrades in the last year. China has dredged a new harbor off the southwest end of the islet, considerably expanding its land area in the process CSIS AMTI via DigitalGlobe

In 2016, China started its reclamation to connect North Island with neighboring Middle Island in the Paracel Islands. The land bridge was washed out by a typhoon in October 2016 but China has started additional reclamation on the southern end of North Island, building a retaining wall to prevent erosion.

The Washington-based think tank also documented Vietnam’s activities in the Spratly Islands including dredging and reclamation work at several islets.

The think tank stressed that the South China Sea does not only include the Spratly Islands. For Vietnam, China’s activities in the Paracel Islands are just as destabilizing.

“Vietnam and all the Southeast Asian claimants also have an interest in deterring future island-building, for instance at Scarborough Shoal,” the report read.

Both China and Vietnam have conducted dredging and reclamation work as early as 2017 but neither approaches the scale of Beijing’s activities from late 2013 to mid-2015.

AMTI, however, noted that such work is “environmentally destructive, undermines regional stability, and warrants mention in diplomatic statements.”

READ: ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

A Vietnamese diplomat who was in manila for the ASEAN conference told Peace and Freedom, “This is turning into a situation of no trust.”

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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

 

Philippine News Agency Criticized For Using Xinhua Article On South China Sea Dispute

August 9, 2017
Originally by Chinese news wire agency Xinhua, the story – titled “Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue” – was released on the PNA website on Sunday. File

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine News Agency (PNA) is in hot water anew after it released an article that appears to side with China on the South China Sea issue.

Originally by Chinese news wire agency Xinhua, the story – titled “Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue” – was released on the PNA website on Sunday.

It focused on China’s supposed commitment to improving the situation in the South China Sea, at one point calling the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippine case “ill-founded.”

The commentary noted that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to “directly resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through peaceful means.”

“More than one year after an ill-founded award at a South China Sea arbitration unilaterally delivered by an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and improved thanks to the wisdom and sincerity of China and the parties concerned,” the article read, referring to the ruling that voided Beijing’s claims over the whole of the South China Sea by affirming the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in compliance with international law, but it should by no means be used as an excuse by certain countries outside the region to stir up trouble,” it added.

President Duterte has expressed willingness to temporarily set aside the ruling to improve the Philippines’ ties with China. But he promised to bring up the tribunal’s decision before Chinese leaders within his term.

PNA has since taken down the article, although it is still available through the Google web cache (https://goo.gl/KpXAmT).

Netizens immediately criticized PNA for releasing the story, questioning the state-funded agency for supposedly being a mouthpiece of China.

“What’s this? This must be a mistake! PNA becoming a mouthpiece of China? PNA criticizing in effect tribunal ruling in favor of PH?!” former Cabinet official and Parañaque representative Roilo Golez said on Twitter.

“Is PNA funded by China now? It looks like it is now,” another added.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said he has asked PNAofficials to explain why they should not face administrative charges for posting the Xinhua commentary.

“We have already sent a (memorandum) to PNA to explain in writing why they should not be held liable for any administrative charges,” Andanar said in a statement.

“We will take appropriate action against liable PNA officials and/or staff, if they are found to commit negligence in carrying out their duties and responsibilities,” he added.

http://www.philstar.com:8080/headlines/2017/08/10/1727360/pna-hit-posting-pro-china-article-sea-row

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

Hurrah for Vietnam, the country with cojones

August 9, 2017

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VIETNAM PROVIDED THE ONLY REAL DRAMA at the ASEAN conference. Here, Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Hurrah for Vietnam, the country with cojones. You can understand why the Vietnamese have defeated every powerful country that invaded or attacked a land that produced courageous patriots like Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. In their victories, the Vietnamese didn’t even have any help from the United Nations or any UN-supported court.

These days Vietnam is taking on its giant neighbor, practically all by itself in a sea of compliant Chinese satellites in Southeast Asia. Given the history of Vietnam, it’s doubtful that it will be deterred by the lack of support for its maritime territorial cause from its fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations led by the current holder of the revolving chair, the Philippines.

Perhaps if Vietnam also filed a case against China before the UN-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague, international support may be mustered for the implementation of the PAC ruling last year that invalidated Beijing’s claim over nearly all of the South China Sea.

The Philippines, the clear winner in last year’s landmark ruling, should have taken the lead role in rallying international support for compliance with the PAC ruling. Beijing, after all, can be reasonable and has implemented reforms in the past to comply with global rules. Any nation that wants respect on the world stage cannot thumb its nose at international rules, especially those it has itself ratified, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Instead the Philippines, under the current leadership, has decided to set aside the ruling as a way of poking critics in the eye – notably those condemning its human rights record such as the UN, the European Commission and the US (under the Obama administration).

President Duterte then announced a pivot to US rival China. So far, by his own admission, he’s finding it difficult to get even his own loyal military forces to go along with his pivot and turn their backs on treaty ally the United States.

This is especially difficult when the troops see the Chinese rapidly constructing artificial islands all over the South China Sea – including areas specifically awarded by the arbitral court to the Philippines such as Panganiban or Mischief Reef off Palawan. Now the islands are being equipped for military purposes. You have to be blind or high on banned substances not to see this happening.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is tasked with external defense, which includes protecting Philippine maritime territory. The Chinese island-building and militarization pose problems for the AFP that the commander-in-chief cannot ignore.

Duterte has often expressed regret at having to send AFP members to possible death in Marawi and other conflict zones in Mindanao. Government troops like this President because they can sense that he genuinely grasps the gravity of asking soldiers to be ready to die for their country.

But the President should put his ears closer to the ground at AFP and defense department headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo. There he can hear grumblings about his seeming failure to grasp the threat that soldiers may have to confront one day in the South China Sea – specifically, in the area awarded to the country under UNCLOS as exclusive economic zones, which we call the West Philippine Sea.

* * *

This does not mean that warmer ties with the world’s second largest economy aren’t welcome. President Duterte deserves credit for this.

China is among the oldest friends of the Philippines; the two countries are linked not just by historical, cultural and economic bonds but also blood ties. I am just one of millions of Filipinos with ancestral roots in southern China.

For friendship to endure, however, it must be anchored on mutual respect. There is no respect in encroaching on your neighbor’s territory, which any map will show is way beyond your part of the planet. You don’t even need the UNCLOS for this; good neighbors know where to set reasonable boundaries.

Even President Duterte is aware of the importance of international rules, at least when it comes to trade.

Duterte has emphasized that he is not junking the PAC ruling, but merely waiting for the right time to bring it up with Beijing. For now, he prefers to focus on mending fences first with China and expanding cooperation in many other areas such as fighting the drug menace and terrorism as well as improving public works infrastructure.

It’s a sound approach for dealing with the “face”-sensitive, nationalistic Chinese after the arbitral court ruling.

But the President will have to present to the nation soon some positive consequence of his government’s rapprochement with Beijing. The AFP is waiting for it; Filipinos are waiting for it.

The one time that he raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, he was threatened with war. Sure, the threat was softened by handshakes and grins and the diplomatese of formal meetings between the leader of a host country and a guest. But the message was unequivocal: if Duterte pushed through with Philippine exploration for minerals in waters declared as part of its economic zone by a UN-backed court, it would mean war with China.

How did we react to the threat? With bowing and scraping before the masters of the South China Sea.

ASEAN, especially under its current chair, has been largely useless against the masters. Its ministers issued an unsurprising, non-binding statement calling for self-restraint and “non-militarization” in the South China Sea – already a fait accompli.

China was the clear winner at the ASEAN gathering in Manila.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/08/09/1726892/satellites

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

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
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MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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