Posts Tagged ‘militarization’

South China Sea: US Navy officer says won’t be bullied by China in disputed waters

February 18, 2018

 

US Navy

A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us.” 

One of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers arrived in Manila on Friday for a routine port visit during its Western Pacific deployment.

More than 5,500 sailors from aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy will participate in community service projects while in Manila.

Philippine Star

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US Navy in South China Sea: ‘We’re Here’ No Matter China’s Military Buildup

  • Associated Press
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
U.S. forces are undeterred by China’s military buildup on man-made islands in the South China Sea and will continue patrolling the strategic, disputed waters wherever “international law allows us,” said a Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F-18 fighter jets.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and in the air in the region for 70 years to promote security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said Saturday on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines.

When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the overlapping territorial claims involving China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions, including the construction of seven man-made islands equipped with troops, hangars, radar and missile stations and three long runways.

China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and has challenged the U.S. naval supremacy in the western Pacific.

“We’re committed,” Hawkins told reporters. “We’re here.”

With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.
With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.

Trump strategy

The Trump administration has outlined a new security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence.

Washington stakes no claims in the disputes but has declared that their peaceful resolution and the maintenance of freedom of navigation are in its national interest. U.S. officials have said American warships will continue sailing close to Chinese-occupied features without prior notice, placing Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests.

In January, China accused the U.S. of trespassing when the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the Chinese-guarded Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing wrestled from the Philippines in 2012, despite its proximity to the main northern island of Luzon. After voicing a strong protest, China said it would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty.

The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson patrolled the sea before its Manila visit but did not conduct a freedom of navigation operation, Hawkins said.

“That’s not to say that we won’t or we can’t, but we have not, up to this point,” he said.

U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.
U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.

Stop in Vietnam?

There are reports that the Carl Vinson will also make a port call in Danang in Vietnam, another critical rival of China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, as the first American aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Hawkins declined to provide details of future trips.

China has also opposed the Philippine military’s deployment of a Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air patrol plane in late January to Scarborough, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. Chinese officials have relayed their objection to their Philippine counterparts, the official said.

China and Japan have their own territorial rifts in the East China Sea.

There was no immediate comment from Philippine military officials about China’s opposition to the surveillance flights at Scarborough.

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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

Gunboat diplomacy

U.S. and Chinese officials have said they have no intention of going to war in the disputed sea, but their governments have projected their firepower and clout in a delicate play of gunboat diplomacy and deterrence.

“We’re prepared to conduct a spectrum of operations, whether that’s providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief in the time of an emergency, or whether we have to conduct operations that require us to send strike fighters ashore,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to use that spectrum, but we’re ready to, in case we need to.”

The U.S. Navy invited journalists Saturday on board the 35-year-old Carl Vinson, which was packed with 72 aircraft, including F-18 Hornets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to back down from what he said was a Philippine foreign policy that was steeply oriented toward the U.S., but has allowed considerable engagements with his country’s treaty ally to continue while reviving once-frosty ties with China in a bid to bolster trade and gain infrastructure funds.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, where a bulk of the trade and oil that fuel Asia’s bullish economies passes through.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base
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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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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.

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Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson Operating in the South China Sea

February 17, 2018

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON: With a deafening roar, the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.

SHOW OF FORCE An F-18 Hornet fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the carrier strike group takes part in a routine deployment mission in the South China Sea, one hour away from Manila. AFP PHOTO

“US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.”

The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.

Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.

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In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F18 fighter jets roared off the deck, traveling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.

Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the 333-meter-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.

“The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”

Strategic competitor

But the location of the strike group – which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser – is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.

Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea – believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually – and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.

Manila has also protested China’s naming of five features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, a
vast undersea area within the Philippines’ continental shelf where the country holds sovereign rights.

Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China boasts just one carrier.

But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.

Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.

Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.

They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.

“We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.

Alliances shifting

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson – the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea – began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.

The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.

Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam – a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.

Britain said on Tuesday it would sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.
But alliances are shifting.

The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.

But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.

Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.

In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.
Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive.”

Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”

PH won’t recognize renamed features

The Philippines was not consulted by the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) Subcommittee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) in renaming several features within the Philippine Rise as proposed by China, and will not recognize these names, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Thursday.

“The decision of the SCUFN was made without due consultation with the Philippine Government,” Esperon said in a statement.

His statement came days after maritime expert Jay Batongbacal posted on Facebook that Beijing had proposed names before the IHO for several undersea features of the Philippine Rise.

These features include four seamounts and one hill, which are the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province; the Haidonquing Seamount located further east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form central peaks.

According to Esperon, the renaming of Jinghao and Tianbao seamounts were adopted in October 2015 while the renaming of Jujiu seamount was approved in September 2016.

The approval of the proposals in naming underwater features, as a matter of procedure, are decided upon solely by the 12-member SCUFN countries: Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Russia, Esperon explained.

Decisions made by the SCUFN are “deemed as final and non-appealable,” he noted.

“Because of the numerous complaints from many countries regarding its supposed arbitrary and unregulated decision-making process, the SCUFN decided to suspend last year the processing of pending proposals for the naming of undersea features worldwide,” Esperon said.

“Nonetheless our diplomatic posts have been alerted against such future applications in Philippine waters,” Esperon added.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced that President Duterte had ordered the Philippine Navy to “chase away” foreign vessels found within the Philippine Rise.

On June 12 last year, the military’s Northern Luzon Command hoisted a fiberglass Philippine flag within the Philippine Rise, to assert sovereignty over the territory.

with  DEMPSEY REYES

http://www.manilatimes.net/us-presence-matters-disputed-waters/380505/

Philippines, China to hold 2nd talk on South China Sea in Manila on Feb. 13

February 12, 2018
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 03:48 PM February 12, 2018

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 Subi Reef is now a giant Chinese Miliatry base

The Philippines and China will meet on Tuesday for the second bilateral consultative meeting in Manila to discuss the longstanding maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Malacañang said on Monday.

“Now, contentious issues concerning the South China Seas are discussed in what is known as a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea; and the second meeting of this Philippine-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila tomorrow, February 13, 2018,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

The BCM, established on October 2016, was meant “to discuss issues of concern to either side, and cooperation in the South China Sea, and identify mutually acceptable approaches towards addressing this issue,” Roque said.

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“So we are not being soft on China, there are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned,” he also said.

The BCM, he said, is being conducted at the level of a DFA Undersecretary and a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister; and would be held once every 6 months.

“We were busy last December, and hence, it was postponed for this month of February,” Roque said.

The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, while the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, according to Roque.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

The Philippine government has received criticisms it was being “too soft” in dealing with China’s continued militarization in the South China Sea. But Roque has denied this.

READ: Palace denies PH is ‘too soft’ on sea row with China

Recent aerial photos obtained by Inquirer showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

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

The first consultative meeting between Manila and Beijing was held in June 2017 in China.        /kg

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/164102/breaking-ph-china-hold-2nd-talk-sea-dispute-manila-feb-13#ixzz56tVOBOg8
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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.

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

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/164034/breaking-us-embassy-stop-militarization-south-china-sea#ixzz56jM4gtcn
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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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.

“Someday Philippines will thank China for reef structures”

February 7, 2018
That is, if the government can make the Chinese leave the area
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 01:09 AM February 08, 2018

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FHarryLRoque%2Fvideos%2F631740163687152%2F&show_text=0&width=560

The Philippines will one day “thank” China for the artificial islands it has built in the disputed South China Sea, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

But this would only happen if the Philippines will be able to ask China to leave the artificial islands it has reclaimed in the disputed sea.

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Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

“There will come a time when China‘s might had ceased, when we will have to thank them for the islands because it is only the Philippines that can legally build on those artificial islands,” Roque said in an interview aired on Wednesday on his Facebook page.

“Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave the islands,” he added.

In July 2016, the Phlippines won a landmark victory after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague favored its diplomatic protest against China, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

But China refused to honor this and continued with its reclamation and militarization of artificial islands in the disputed waterway.

On Monday, Feb. 5, INQUIRER.net published aerial photographs taken from June to December 2017 showing China has almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines into island fortresses.

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

But Roque reiterated there was nothing new in the developments.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

“There is nothing new happening in the islands now,” he said.

He said the Philippines had already filed diplomatic protest regarding Chinese build up in the disputed sea.

“They are saying they have completed, it is effectively a military base, but we’ve known that. And we have protested that,” he said.

“They are saying we should protest. We did that. Do you want to protest every minute, every day?” he added. “What else will the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] do if that is the case? But the truth of the matter is, better to have friendly relations now because while we can’t stand up to them. Let’s not give them the opportunity to use their weapons in these artificial island against us.”

Roque reiterated that the Philippines would not wage a war against China.

“No, we don’t want [that],” he said. “And moreover, why should we even bother? Because there is already a decision in our favor, that those islands anyway are in our exclusive economic zone.” /atm

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/163916/someday-ph-will-thank-china-reef-structures-roque#ixzz56Ru2FS56
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Related:

  Or Did Duterte Swindle The Filipino People?

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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.

Editorial: Philippines Taking A Beating on the Rule of Law (Plus: The Truth in the South China Sea Is Only Elusive to Some…)

February 5, 2018

There’s one thing that advanced economies have in common: the rule of law prevails. This is reflected in the annual Rule of Law Index, which was launched in 2016 by the World Justice Project, a US-based non-profit organization operating worldwide to advance the rule of law.

In the latest index, the best 10 performers are Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Canada and Australia. At the bottom are Afghanistan, Cambodia and Venezuela. This year’s index is notable in that the Philippines merited special mention as “the biggest mover” as it plunged by 18 places to 88th out of 113 countries from its rank in 2016, and 13th out of 15 countries in East Asia and the Pacific.

The report said the Philippines saw substantial drops in ranking in four out of the eight factors measured in the index, placing 107th out of 113 countries in terms of order and security, 102nd in criminal justice, 99th in adherence to fundamental rights, and 59th in constraints on government powers.

The other factors used to measure adherence to the rule of law are absence of corruption, open government, regulatory enforcement and criminal justice. The index covers 113 countries and jurisdictions, based on surveys conducted in 110,000 households and 3,000 experts.

The country has had problems for a long time with the eight factors. Why is the rule of law important? The index was initiated by the American Bar Association, which counts prominent legal professionals as honorary chairpersons. The World Justice Project stresses that effective rule of law fights poverty and disease, reduces corruption and protects people from injustice.

The rule of law, the group stresses, underpins development, accountable government and respect for basic rights. It promotes peace and deprives insurgencies of several reasons to advance their causes through armed conflict. If the government is sincere in its effort to bring peace and development especially in conflict areas, it must do more to strengthen the rule of law.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2018/02/06/1784982/editorial-rule-law-biggest-mover

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People Tell Us They No Longer Believe Philippine Presidential Spokesperson…

The Irish Call It Blarney

Palace downplays China’s ‘almost done’ militarization in South China Sea

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the islands, located off Palawan, were reclaimed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday downplayed reports that China is almost done militarizing seven Philippine-claimed reefs in the South China Sea, saying the Chinese built the structures before President Duterte assumed office.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the islands, located off Palawan, were reclaimed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.

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Harry Roque

“You know when I saw the headline, yes, it’s a fact perhaps, but is that news? I don’t think so. I think the moment that they start the reclamation, they declared that they will use it, they will have military facilities into the islands,” he added.

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what (do) they want us to do? We cannot declare war. Not only is it illegal, but it is also… because it’s impossible for us to declare war at this point,” Roque said in a press briefing.

In 2013, the Aquino administration filed a case with the UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in The Hague contesting China’s massive claim in the South China Sea. Three years later, the tribunal issued a ruling invalidating Beijing’s claim and reaffirming Manila’s maritime entitlements.

But the ruling did not stop China from building artificial islands over Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson South) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, which are all within Philippine territory.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

Duterte, who has been seeking closer ties with China, has set aside the ruling but promised to bring it up before Chinese leaders within his term. Malacañang has said the Philippines would continue to rely on China’s promise that it would not reclaim new islands.

“Those islands were reclaimed during the time of the former administration. They were complete in fact during the time of the previous administration, and I think whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases,” Roque said.

“So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” he added.

“As I said this militarization, if you can call it militarization, did not happen during the Duterte administration alone. It’s been long militarized and the question is, ‘what can we do?’ What did the past administration do and what can we do?”

Roque said China has not built new artificial islands since Duterte assumed office in 2016. He brushed aside claims that China’s construction activities would allow it to have de facto control of Philippine-claimed islands in the South China Sea.

“I don’t think there’s been an instance when China has curtailed freedom of navigation despite the fact that they have weapons in these reclaimed islands,” the spokesman said.

“We hope not because after all, all countries that (have claims) are under obligation to refrain from the use of force, that is illegal under international law,” he added.

Roque also shrugged off remarks from Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that relying on the good faith of China is like relying on the good faith of a thief.

“This is a democracy, he’s entitled to his opinion. But I would expect that next time, we would read his opinion in the form of a court decision because that’s the function of the judicial branch of government… Or as I said, he could run an elective, legislative position if he wants to make policy for government,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/06/1785089/palace-downplays-chinas-almost-done-militarization-south-china-sea

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Contrary to Roque’s remark, China structures on man-made islands grew under Duterte’s nose

The image shows the Chinese miltiary structures installed on Feiry Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef. AMTI, File

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday claimed that everything found on reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea was already there when President Rodrigo Duterte took over in 2016, but a report released late last year showed that many structures were installed during the current Philippine administration.

Roque also dismissed as not “news” any more a newspaper report on Monday showing that China’s militarization of its artificial West Philippine Sea islands was nearly complete.

“But our position is everything found on these islands were already there when the president took over,” Roque answered in a press briefing in the Palace when asked about installations done under the administration of Duterte.

“As I said this militarization, if you can call it militarization, did not happen during the Duterte administration alone. It’s been long militarized,” Roque said.

RELATED: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

However, a report released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in December last year showed that China continued its construction of infrastructure necessary for fully functioning air and naval bases on its larger outposts.

AMTI said some of the structures that were built since the start of 2017, well into Duterte’s first year in office, range from underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays.

“These facilities account for about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters, of new real estate at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratlys, and North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracels,” AMTI said in its December 2017 report.

AMTI said that Fiery Cross Reef saw the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering 27 acres or about 110,000 square meters.

This work included completion of larger hangars along the airstrip, work on large underground structures south of the island likely to house munitions or other essential materiel, a large communications/sensor array at the northeast of the island, various radar/communications facilities around the island and hardened shelters for missile platforms at the southern end, according to AMTI.

“The large underground tunnels AMTI identified earlier this year as likely being for ammunition and other storage have been completed and entirely buried,” the think tank said.

READ: China defends ‘peaceful construction’ of defense facilities on Fiery Cross

There was also work in 2017 on what appeared to be a high-frequency radar array at the north end of the island, AMTI added.

Work on Subi Reef meanwhile covered 24 acres or 95,000 square meters, according to the think tank, and included buried storage facilities, previously identified hangars, missile shelters, communications facilities and a high frequency “elephant cage” antenna array for intelligence.

There were also new storage tunnels at Subi in 2017, according to AMTI, in addition to buried structures previously made at the north of the island.

China is also poised to “substantially” boost its radar and intelligence capabilities at Subi, according to AMTI, as since mid-2017 it has built a second “elephant cage” as well as an array of radomes on its southern end.

READ: Lorenzana: Philippines to protest China airbase on Fiery Cross Reef

On Mischief Reef, China constructed underground storage for ammunition and other materiel, hangars and missile shelters, new radar and communication arrays and new storage tunnels and started work on a new radar array in 2017, according to AMTI.

“China has continued construction, though on a smaller scale, at its bases in the Paracel Islands. The most significant of this work in 2017 was at North, Tree, and Triton Islands,” it said.

Despite reports on China’s continuing militarization in the disputed waters, the government has insisted that it will not go to war with China and will instead rely on its “good faith.”

“If there is such militarization which China denies… The intent to use or to station military hardware has always been there even before the entry of the Duterte administration,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/05/1784894/contrary-roques-remark-china-structures-man-made-islands-grew-under

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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.

New photos show China is nearly done with its militarisation of South China Sea

February 5, 2018
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A close-up shot of the runway on Panganiban Reef (Mischief) shows it’s ready for use by the Chinese Air Force. Two other runways have also been built on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross) and Zamora Reef (Subi) in the disputed sea.PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, INQUIRER.NET

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, INQUIRER.NET) – Aerial photographs obtained by the Inquirer from a source show that China is almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago into island fortresses, in a bid to dominate the heavily disputed South China Sea.

Most of the photos, taken between June and December 2017, were snapped from an altitude of 1,500 metres and they showed the reefs that had been transformed into artificial islands in the final stages of development as air and naval bases.

Shown the photographs, Mr Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys and internationally known as Thitu Island, recognised new facilities on the man-made isles.

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Mischief Reef radomes

Mr Bito-onon saw the construction going on when he flew over the islands with foreign journalists nearly two years ago.

“These photos are authentic. I flew with HBO before the elections in 2016. We got repeated warnings from the Chinese because we were circling over the islands. I see there are now additional vertical features,” Mr Bito-onon said.

With its construction unrestrained, China will soon have military bastions on the Kagitingan Reef, known internationally as the Fiery Cross Reef; Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi) and McKennan (Hughes) reefs from which to project its power throughout the region.

WITHIN PHILIPPINES’ EEZ

One of the reefs, Panganiban, lies within the Philippines’ 370-kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled that Panganiban Reef belongs to the Philippines.

In a report on China’s militarisation of the South China Sea last December, US think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) said Kagitingan Reef had the most construction in 2017, with work spanning 110,000 square metres.

The runways for the three biggest reefs – Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora – appeared either completed or almost ready for use.

Lighthouses, radomes, communication facilities, hangars and multi-storey buildings had also been built on the artificial islands.

Amti, which described 2017 as a “constructive year for Chinese base building” in the South China Sea, noted the presence of underground tunnels, missile shelters, radars and high-frequency antennas on the artificial islands.

The photos obtained by the Inquirer showed the consistent presence of cargo vessels believed to be used in transporting construction supplies to the artificial islands.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

MILITARY SHIPS

Three military ships capable of transporting troops and weapons were docked at Panganiban Reef in a picture taken last Dec 30. These were two transport ships (Hull Nos. 830 and 831) and an amphibious transport dock (989).

The Luoyang (527), a Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class missile frigate, was spotted about a kilometre from Zamora Reef last Nov 15. This type of war vessel has two quadruple launchers installed amidships.

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Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class missile frigate

It also has a Type 79A dual-barrel 100mm gun installed on the bow deck, capable of firing 15-kilogram shells at a rate of 18 rounds per minute over a range of 22km.

Last June 16, the Luzhou (592), a Type 056 Jiangdao class missile frigate, was photographed at Panganiban Reef. China’s Defence Ministry reported the vessel took part in live-fire exercises in the South China Sea last December.

On the smaller reefs – Burgos, Calderon, McKennan and Mabini – the photos showed helipads, wind turbines, observation towers, radomes and communication towers had been built.

A photo taken last Nov 28 showed a single-barrel 100mm gun had been positioned on McKennan Reef.

STATUS QUO DEAL IGNORED

The extent of development on the reefs shows that China has gone ahead with building military outposts in the Spratlys despite a 2002 agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) not to change any features in the sea.

At the same time, China has softened the impact of its military build-up with pledges of investments to the Philippines and talk of a framework for negotiating with Asean a code of conduct for the management of rival claims in the strategic waterway.

Besides the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also claim parts of the Spratly archipelago. Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

North Korea’s missile and atomic weapon tests also helped draw international attention away from China’s construction activities on the reefs, although recent pronouncements from Malacañang indicated the Philippines was not exactly unaware of the Chinese military buildup in the Spratlys.

ROQUE: NO LONGER NEWS

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a news briefing early last month that China’s militarisation in the South China Sea was no longer news but the Philippines would not protest as long as China kept its “good faith commitment” that it would not reclaim any more islands in the waterway.

“The fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I’m concerned, is not new. It’s not news because we’ve always been against militarisation of the area. But the good faith commitment is not to reclaim new islands. I hope that’s very clear,” Mr Roque said.

“The point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoal in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so. But I think, from the very beginning, China, we knew, was militarising the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases,” he added.

DON’T TRUST A THIEF

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a member of the legal team that argued the Philippine case against China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea in the Hague arbitral court, slammed Mr Roque’s position, comparing it to trusting a thief.

“You don’t rely on the good faith of the thief (who’s trying to break) into your house. If you have that mindset, you rely on the good faith of someone who’s trying to break into your house, that means you’re out (of touch) with reality. You’re in a fantasy land. That’s not how the world is put together. That’s not realpolitik,” Mr Carpio said.

The Philippines is battling communist rebels, terrorists loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, and Abu Sayyaf bandits, but the country is facing a much bigger security threat, Mr Carpio said.

“The biggest (security) problem is China. If we lose (our maritime space in the West Philippine Sea), we lose it forever,” Mr Carpio told the Inquirer in a recent interview, using the local name of the waters within the Philippines’ EEZ in the South China Sea.

“And the area we will lose is huge, as big as the land area of the Philippines, about 300,000 square kilometres,” Mr Carpio said.

China will never return the territory it grabs, he added. “We cannot go to the (International Court of Justice) because China has to agree and China will never agree to submit to arbitration.”

ARBITRAL RULING

China has ignored the Hague tribunal’s July 2016 ruling that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim to the South China Sea and declared it violated Manila’s sovereign right to fish and explore for resources in its own EEZ.

But President Duterte, who came to power two weeks before the ruling came down, has refused to assert the Philippine victory, wooing China instead for loans and investments.

China has been only too glad to be neighbourly to the Philippines but it has also been determined to finish its island fortresses in the South China Sea and present its rivals for territory in the waterway with a fait accompli when they sit down to negotiate the code of conduct.

Security analyst Jose Antonio Custodio questions Malacañang’s playing down China’s militarisation of the South China Sea in exchange for economic assistance.

“We are talking (about) trillions of dollars (in) natural resources and we are compromising our territorial claims. At the end of the day, these are not Chinese grants but loans so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the disadvantageous position the Philippines is putting itself into,” Mr Custodio said.

Mr Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the time when the Philippines should have protested China’s militarisation had long passed.

But the situation worsened when the country refused to bring up the arbitration ruling at the Asean Summit in Manila last year.

“That helped China in doing everything that needs to be completed. If ever the government one day realises that those military aircraft are based there, definitely it has no one to blame but itself, because it did not act when the time to act was right,” Mr Batongbacal said.

CLAIMANTS DISUNITED

Asean’s silence on the arbitral ruling in favour of the Philippines during the Manila summit was a diplomatic score for China.

“Unity among the claimants is one of China’s biggest fears,” Mr Batongbacal said.

“(The Chinese) see it as a huge threat when the surrounding countries are aligned. That’s what they don’t like the most because they think it’s containment. The fact that Asean didn’t come to unite about the disputes because we did not push through putting it on the table, all of that really favoured China. They had a big win and that’s a huge relief for them,” he added.

Mr Carpio said the Philippines could have generated support from the international community if it asserted its victory over China in the arbitration case.

“If we are not aggressive, if we are sitting on the ruling and we are not enforcing it, the others will not support us,” he said.

The military, for its part, cannot do anything but follow the government’s foreign policy.

“We still navigate in those waters. But we are instruments of national policy, so we just follow whatever our national leaders and policymakers decide,” said a ranking military official who requested anonymity.

“Were there challenges (from China)? Yes, but we also challenged them, that’s part of the rules of the road. But the policies of the government are not only military, there’s also political, economic and diplomatic. You can’t confine it to the military,” the official said.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

If the Philippines does not assert its legal victory, it stands to lose 80 per cent of its EEZ in the South China Sea, covering 381,000 square kilometres of maritime space, including the entire Recto Bank, or Reed Bank, and part of the Malampaya gas field off Palawan, as well as all of the fishery, oil and gas and mineral resources there, Mr Carpio said.

“My estimate is 40 percent of water in the Philippines is in the West Philippine Sea, so that’s 40 per cent of the fish that we can catch and we will lose that as a food source,” he said.

“Malampaya supplies 40 per cent of the energy requirement of Luzon. If Malampaya runs out of gas in 10 years or less… we will have 10 to 12 hours of daily brownouts in Luzon. It will devastate the economy,” he added.

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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.

The growing danger of great-power conflict

January 26, 2018

How shifts in technology and geopolitics are renewing the threat

IN THE past 25 years war has claimed too many lives. Yet even as civil and religious strife have raged in Syria, central Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, a devastating clash between the world’s great powers has remained almost unimaginable.

No longer. Last week the Pentagon issued a new national defence strategy that put China and Russia above jihadism as the main threat to America. This week the chief of Britain’s general staff warned of a Russian attack. Even now America and North Korea are perilously close to a conflict that risks dragging in China or escalating into nuclear catastrophe.

As our special report this week on the future of war argues, powerful, long-term shifts in geopolitics and the proliferation of new technologies are eroding the extraordinary military dominance that America and its allies have enjoyed. Conflict on a scale and intensity not seen since the second world war is once again plausible. The world is not prepared.

The pity of war

The pressing danger is of war on the Korean peninsula, perhaps this year. Donald Trump has vowed to prevent Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, from being able to strike America with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, a capability that recent tests suggest he may have within months, if not already. Among many contingency plans, the Pentagon is considering a disabling pre-emptive strike against the North’s nuclear sites. Despite low confidence in the success of such a strike, it must be prepared to carry out the president’s order should he give it.

Even a limited attack could trigger all-out war. Analysts reckon that North Korean artillery can bombard Seoul, the South Korean capital, with 10,000 rounds a minute. Drones, midget submarines and tunnelling commandos could deploy biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of people would perish; many more if nukes were used.

This newspaper has argued that the prospect of such horror means that, if diplomacy fails, North Korea should be contained and deterred instead. Although we stand by our argument, war is a real possibility (see article). Mr Trump and his advisers may conclude that a nuclear North would be so reckless, and so likely to cause nuclear proliferation, that it is better to risk war on the Korean peninsula today than a nuclear strike on an American city tomorrow.

Even if China stays out of a second Korean war, both it and Russia are entering into a renewal of great-power competition with the West. Their ambitions will be even harder to deal with than North Korea’s. Three decades of unprecedented economic growth have provided China with the wealth to transform its armed forces, and given its leaders the sense that their moment has come. Russia, paradoxically, needs to assert itself now because it is in long-term decline. Its leaders have spent heavily to restore Russia’s hard power, and they are willing to take risks to prove they deserve respect and a seat at the table.

Both countries have benefited from the international order that America did most to establish and guarantee. But they see its pillars—universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law—as an imposition that excuses foreign meddling and undermines their own legitimacy. They are now revisionist states that want to challenge the status quo and look at their regions as spheres of influence to be dominated. For China, that means East Asia; for Russia, eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Neither China nor Russia wants a direct military confrontation with America that they would surely lose. But they are using their growing hard power in other ways, in particular by exploiting a “grey zone” where aggression and coercion work just below the level that would risk military confrontation with the West. In Ukraine Russia has blended force, misinformation, infiltration, cyberwar and economic blackmail in ways that democratic societies cannot copy and find hard to rebuff. China is more cautious, but it has claimed, occupied and garrisoned reefs and shoals in disputed waters.

China and Russia have harnessed military technologies invented by America, such as long-range precision-strike and electromagnetic-spectrum warfare, to raise the cost of intervention against them dramatically. Both have used asymmetric-warfare strategies to create “anti-access/area denial” networks. China aims to push American naval forces far out into the Pacific where they can no longer safely project power into the East and South China Seas. Russia wants the world to know that, from the Arctic to the Black Sea, it can call on greater firepower than its foes—and that it will not hesitate to do so.

If America allows China and Russia to establish regional hegemonies, either consciously or because its politics are too dysfunctional to muster a response, it will have given them a green light to pursue their interests by brute force. When that was last tried, the result was the first world war.

Nuclear weapons, largely a source of stability since 1945, may add to the danger. Their command-and-control systems are becoming vulnerable to hacking by new cyber-weapons or “blinding” of the satellites they depend on. A country under such an attack could find itself under pressure to choose between losing control of its nuclear weapons or using them.

Vain citadels

What should America do? Almost 20 years of strategic drift has played into the hands of Russia and China. George W. Bush’s unsuccessful wars were a distraction and sapped support at home for America’s global role. Barack Obama pursued a foreign policy of retrenchment, and was openly sceptical about the value of hard power. Today, Mr Trump says he wants to make America great again, but is going about it in exactly the wrong way. He shuns multilateral organisations, treats alliances as unwanted baggage and openly admires the authoritarian leaders of America’s adversaries. It is as if Mr Trump wants America to give up defending the system it created and to join Russia and China as just another truculent revisionist power instead.

America needs to accept that it is a prime beneficiary of the international system and that it is the only power with the ability and the resources to protect it from sustained attack. The soft power of patient and consistent diplomacy is vital, but must be backed by the hard power that China and Russia respect. America retains plenty of that hard power, but it is fast losing the edge in military technology that inspired confidence in its allies and fear in its foes.

To match its diplomacy, America needs to invest in new systems based on robotics, artificial intelligence, big data and directed-energy weapons. Belatedly, Mr Obama realised that America required a concerted effort to regain its technological lead, yet there is no guarantee that it will be the first to innovate. Mr Trump and his successors need to redouble the effort.

The best guarantor of world peace is a strong America. Fortunately, it still enjoys advantages. It has rich and capable allies, still by far the world’s most powerful armed forces, unrivalled war-fighting experience, the best systems engineers and the world’s leading tech firms. Yet those advantages could all too easily be squandered. Without America’s commitment to the international order and the hard power to defend it against determined and able challengers, the dangers will grow. If they do, the future of war could be closer than you think.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The next war”
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South China Sea: China Defends “Peaceful Construction” on Man Made Island Military Bases In Seas It Does Not Own

January 11, 2018

 

“Certainly, China also needs to construct necessary defense facilities for its own territory, which are not directed at any country,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.
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Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – January 11, 2018 – 10:35am
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MANILA, Philippines — Despite earlier making a promise not to militarize the features in the South China Sea, Beijing has defended its recent conduct in the disputed region.The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the construction of defense facilities — a rare admission of militarization — in their “own territory” is not directed at any country.“China’s peaceful construction on its own territory aims to make greater contributions to regional peace, navigation safety, disaster prevention and relief, maritime search and rescue and marine scientific research,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing on Tuesday.”Of course, China also needs to build necessary defense facilities,” he also said.Lu made the comment in response to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest with China over the buildup of the Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

This follows recent aerial shots shown by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showing that the Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into a fortified airbase with a hospital and military installations.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, stressed that Beijing and Manila maintain “unimpeded dialogue and communication on maritime-related issues.”

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“The Chinese side stands ready to continue stepping up communication with the Philippine side so as to eliminate misunderstanding and enhance mutual trust,” Lu said.

Lyle Morris, senior policy analyst at Rand Corporation, said that Beijing’s violation of its promise not to militarize the South China Sea bares their intentions in the region.

“China will do what it wants in the [South China Sea] until there is unified response,” Morris said on Twitter.

This quote from MOFA spokesman, admitting that China has violated its promise not to militarize its features in the SCS, lays bare the fraud of Chinese intentions in the region. China will do what it wants in the SCS until there is unified response. Remember this quote. pic.twitter.com/d0uMzLO9re

— Lyle Morris (@LyleJMorris) January 9, 2018

Earlier this week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Philippines continues to rely on China’s “good faith” commitment that they will not embark on new reclamation activities in the disputed waters.

Roque said that the information that Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into a Chinese airbase was “not new.”

“From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases,” Roque said.

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/01/11/1776767/china-defends-peaceful-construction-defense-facilities-fiery-cross#3X9ZyrOj623YKrBd.99

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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.

Philippines to protest over China activity on reclaimed reef

January 9, 2018

AFP

© WESTCOM/AFP | Fiery Cross Reef is an outcrop that Beijing turned into an artificial island and which now appears to house a military base
MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest with China after Manila questioned if Beijing had reneged on a pledge not to militarise a disputed South China Sea reef.Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment on them.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday said Manila was investigating reports of recent Chinese activity on Fiery Cross Reef, an outcrop that Beijing turned into an artificial island and which now appears to house a military base.

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Lorenzana spoke out despite recent moves by President Rodrigo Duterte to ease tensions with China.

“According to them they are not militarising (the reefs) and it was for peaceful purposes only like tourism,” Lorenzana said.

“But if it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and any weapons, defensive (or) otherwise, that would be a violation of what they said”.

Lorenzana said he had also received reports Philippine fishermen had been “harassed” by Chinese coastguards.

Last month, a US think tank released new satellite images showing deployment of radar and other equipment in disputed South China Sea islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the buildup continued despite rival claims across the sea from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Over 2017, China installed infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as “large radar and sensor arrays”, the Washington-based think tank said.

Fiery Cross Reef saw the most construction last year, with building work spanning 27 acres, or about 110,000 square metres, AMTI said its analysis of satellite images showed.

The Philippines had previously been one of the most outspoken countries in standing up to China’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

This culminated in Manila’s complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal that ruled in July 2016 that China’s territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

But since Duterte took office in mid-2016, he has decided not to use the ruling to pressure China but has instead chosen to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investment and aid.

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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.