Posts Tagged ‘missile systems’

Amid China’s South China Sea Construction, President Duterte has been a passive observer

June 30, 2017
Faced with China’s version of “build, build, build” in the South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his “non-combative” stance in dealing with Beijing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. PPD/Robinson Niñal, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Faced with China’s version of “build, build, build” in the South China Sea, President Duterte is keeping his “non-combative” stance in dealing with Beijing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

“We need to reiterate the fact that the President has said – his approach to the situation, to regional geopolitics has always been to come into a mutual understanding and dialogue in order to resolve cases like these,” Abella said during the “Mindanao Hour” program held in Davao City.

While the government would rather leave the matter to the Department of National Defense and Department of Foreign Affairs, Abella stressed that Duterte has made his position clear on the issue – to be “non-adversarial” and opt for “peaceful dialogue.”

“We need to just go back to the fact that the President at this stage has been non-combative and non-adversarial, but has approached regional geopolitics from the point of view of dialogue and mutual understanding and mutual support,” Abella said.

He was reacting to a report of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative – part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies – that new missile shelters and radar and communication facilities were being built on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief) and Zamora (Subi) reefs in the Spratlys.

The report said the ongoing installation of a very large antenna array on Panganiban should be of concern to the Philippines due to its proximity to an area claimed by Manila.

The facility would certainly boost Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the report said.

Duterte began cozying up to China right after assuming the presidency last year, purportedly as part of his pivot to China and “separation” from the US, which has been critical of his bloody war on drugs.

He also described his warming of relations with Beijing as a step toward an independent foreign policy.

On Wednesday, Duterte witnessed the turnover by Beijing of a military package worth about P500 million delivered by cargo aircraft at Clark Freeport.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua also donated P5 million in assistance for families of soldiers killed or injured in the government’s fight against the Maute group in Marawi City. Beijing also donated P15 million to help in the rebuilding of the war-torn city.


 (Includes links to several related articles)

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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.


China builds military facilities in Spratlys — Ignoring international law

June 30, 2017
China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway. File

WASHINGTON – China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Mischief (Panganiban) and Subi (Zamora) reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The report said the building of a large antennae array on Mischief should be of concern to the Philippines. Last year, the United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court had awarded the Philippines sovereign rights over Mischief off Palawan, which the Chinese began occupying in 1993.

The US has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route.

Last month, a US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in a so-called freedom of navigation operation, the first such challenge to Beijing’s claim to most of the waterway since US President Donald Trump took office.

China has denied US charges that it is militarizing the sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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Trump has sought China’s help in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts.

China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef to go with the eight already on the artificial island, AMTI said. Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, the think tank said in a previous report.

In February, Reuters reported that China had nearly finished building structures to house long-range surface-to-air missiles on the three islands.

On Mischief Reef, a very large antennae array being installed would presumably boost Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the think tank said.

A large dome recently was installed on Fiery Cross and another is under construction, indicating a sizeable communications or radar system, AMTI said. Two more domes are being built at Mischief Reef, it said.

A smaller dome has been installed near the missile shelters on Mischief, “indicating that it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there,” AMTI said.

“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time,” it said.

‘Golden period’

In Manila, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s visit to Beijing is timely as relations between China and the Philippines have entered a “golden period of fast development.”

He said the two countries have signed 22 cooperative agreements in less than six months and China has become the Philippines’ biggest trading partner for the first time.

“The agenda is very clear, for the enhancement of relations between China and the Philippines,” Zhao said of Cayetano’s meeting with Chinese officials.

Cayetano, who left for a four-day official visit to China last Wednesday, has met Chinese leaders, including Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, according to Zhao.

“I think Secretary Cayetano is doing a very good job and the Chinese side attach great importance to his first official visit to China in his capacity as secretary of foreign affairs,” the ambassador said.

“He has very good conversations with his counterpart Wang Yi,” he said.

Zhao said the South China Sea issue would likely be tackled during Cayetano’s meeting with Chinese leaders.

“I think this will be one of the topics. You know China and the Philippines have already established bilateral channel between the two ministries of foreign affairs to talk about the South China Sea and related issues, and that China has already been open and we would hope that it would be friendly and candid exchange of views through that bilateral channel,” he pointed out.

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

Despite the legal victory, Duterte has chosen to put the ruling on the back burner, saying he would revisit it later in his term.

The arbitral tribunal’s decision came three years after the previous Aquino administration turned to the court for help to assert the country’s jurisdiction over land features in the West Philippine Sea coveted or already seized by China.

Beijing has vowed not to honor the ruling.  – Reuters

The world is seeing, today, a lesson in how China honors international agreements —  in Hong Kong:


 (Includes links to several related articles)

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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.

As it engages Duterte in the Philippines, China keeps building in South China Sea — “Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time.”

June 30, 2017
New Chinese missile shelters and radar facilities have spotted on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines — New satellite imagery released by a Washington-based think tank shows that there has been no letup in the construction of military facilities in the Philippines’ maritime backyard despite the warming up of Manila’s relations with Beijing.

Over the past few months, the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative observed the installation of new missile shelters, radar and communications facilities and other infrastructure on man-made islands sitting on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan), Mischief Reef (Panganiban) and Subi Reef (Zamora).



The continuing activities in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines persisted while China is engaging with its Southeast Asian neighbors on the framing of a binding code of conduct to hopefully manage South China Sea disputes.

READ: Analysts: Draft a sign of progress on South China Sea code of conduct

The report said that the images suggest that “while the region is engaged in peaceful discussion, China remains committed to developing its power projection capabilities.”

In May, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte restored direct negotiations with Beijing. Duterte has led a marked foreign policy pivot away from the Philippines’ traditional ally, the United States, and toward China over the past year immediately after a United Nations-backed tribunal ruled in favor of Manila’s maritime claims and dismissed China’s.

READ: ASEAN accepting South China Sea as China’s lake, says analyst

The Manila-Beijing dialogue mechanism was reestablished for the first time in six years following a period of tense engagement under President Benigno Aquino III. Duterte, in contrast, flew into China twice—for an official visit and to attend the Xi Jinping-led “One Belt, One Road” summit—in his first year in office.

New expansion

The AMTI report says the artificial island on Fiery Cross Reef has been the most advanced of China’s bases in waters of the West Philippine Sea, the part of the strategic waterway the Philippines claims to be within its exclusive economic zone.

Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs have hosted hardened shelters with retractable roofs at least since February with a potential to house missile launchers. Four additional shelters were spotted by satellite on Fiery Cross in June.

A line of “very large” antennae were also seen being hoisted on a small outpost at the southern side of Mischief, “presumably boosting China’s ability to monitor activity around the feature,” the report says.

“That ability should be of particular concern to Manila, given Mischief’s proximity to Palawan, Reed Bank, and Second Thomas Shoal,” it says.

Another house for a large radar antenna was also spotted on a building at the southern end of Fiery Cross. A similar facility was seen being built at its northern end, and two more of the same on Mischief Reef.

Near the facilities on Mischief, a smaller dome was found. This indicates that “it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there.”

Four potential underground munitions structures were similarly spotted on each reef. A Pentagon report cited buried facilities previously built there to store water and fuel.

James Clapper, former director of US national intelligence, told Sen. John McCain that China is likely to complete its offensive and defensive facilities in the Spratly Islands in late 2016 or early 2017.

“He wasn’t far off the mark,” the AMTI reports. “Major construction of military and dual-use infrastructure on the ‘Big 3’—Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross Reefs—is wrapping up, with the naval, air, radar, and defensive facilities that AMTI has tracked for nearly two years largely complete.”

“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time,” it adds.

READ: China exploring joint military drills with Philippines vs terrorism

In July last year, the Hague-based arbitral tribunal ruled that the Big 3 were originally high-tide features that do not legally generate their own continental shelf or exclusive economic zones despite China’s newer islands.

After the freedom of navigation operations of the US Navy to challenge Chinese claims in the area halted in the later months of the Obama administration, only one FON mission was announced to have been conducted under President Donald Trump.

Image result for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, photos

At a news conference Thursday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Philippines and China would “continue to improve our mutual trust and control our differences so as to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea.” Wang’s Philippine counterpart, Alan Peter Cayetano, is in Beijing this week with Manila having received rifles and ammunition from its maritime rival.

READ: US stand on South China Sea remains unchanged amid China dialogue


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US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a dinner at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017, watched by Mr Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan. PHOTO: NYTIMES

(Contains links to many related articles from earlier)

 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)


© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces


Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

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“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

Read the rest:

Push for South China Sea code stirs Asean suspicions about Beijing’s endgame — Many remain unconvinced on the bypassing of international law — Voice suspicions of Beijing’s sincerity

April 27, 2017

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China-occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (REUTERS) – China’s support for finalising a code of conduct in the hotly contested South China Sea is generating some hope in South-east Asia of settling disputes, but those working out the terms remain unconvinced of Beijing’s sincerity.

Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).

But given the continued building and arming of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, Beijing’s recently expressed desire to work with Asean to complete a framework this year has been met with scepticism and suspicion.

“Some of us in Asean believe this is just another ploy by China to buy time,” said one senior diplomat familiar with the talks. “China is expectedly stalling until it has completely attained its strategic objectives… What need is there for the green grass when the horse is dead?”

The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which commits to following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, and”refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features”.

But the DOC was not stuck to, especially by China, which has built seven islands in the Spratly archipelago. It is now capable of deploying combat planes on three reclaimed reefs, where radars and surface-to-air missile systems have also been installed, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative think tank.

Beijing insists its activities are for defence purposes, in areas it considers its waters. Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines, however, all claim some or all of the resource-rich waterway and its myriad of shoals, reefs and islands.


The Asean diplomat said the two rounds of talks so far this year gave the impression of progress, but details worked out so far were “essentially the same” as the DOC.

Another diplomat from the 10-member bloc said the framework would be “re-stating most of the major points” of the DOC, but the hard part was getting China to agree to a legally binding contract.

“Here lies the big challenge. You need to understand this is not just a simple matter of conforming to a set of words,” the diplomat said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not directly answer a question on whether China would support an enforceable code of conduct, but said China hoped for the framework and code to be completed this year.

Finalising the framework would be a feather in the cap for the Philippines, which chairs Asean this year. Manila has reversed its stance on the South China Sea, from advocating a unified front and challenging Beijing’s unilateralism, to putting disputes aside to create warm ties.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has opted not to press China to abide by an international arbitration decision last year that ruled in Manila’s favour and invalidated Beijing’s sweeping South China Sea claims.

There will be no mention of the Hague ruling in an Asean leaders’ statement at a summit in Manila on Saturday, nor will there be any reference to concerns about island-building or militarization that appeared in last year’s text, according to excerpts of a draft seen by Reuters.

A diplomat at the Asean secretariat said there was urgency from all parties to get the framework done this year, but Asean was taking “a leap of faith” with China and there were concerns about what the end result might be.

Richard Heydarian, an expert on politics and international affairs at Manila’s De La Salle University, said China’s strategy was to project an image of being a responsible stakeholder rather than an aggressor, and avoid being bound to rules that could weaken its geopolitical position should the United States assert itself in the South China Sea.

“China wants to come up with a symbolic framework that says to America ‘Hey, back off, we’re dealing with Asean on a very diplomatic level’, but nothing significant enough to operationally restrict their ability to respond if the Trump administration takes a tougher position,” he said.


FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Despite all this:

South China Sea: ASEAN Urged To Move Toward Unity Amid Military Tensions

September 2, 2016


Leaders of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) gathering at next week’s (Sept 6-8) annual summit in Vientiane, Laos, will be tempted to avoid frank talk about the South China Sea that might anger China. But if they gloss over a dangerous escalation of military tensions in area, they risk sleepwalking into conflict.

Recent satellite photos appear to show China building more than 70 hardened hangars on three of the features it controls in the Spratly chain. These were followed by reports that Vietnam had moved missile launch systems onto some of the outposts it controls in the same area. Hanoi has said the reports are inaccurate, but has reserved the right to “move any of our weapons to any area at any time within our sovereign territory”, including the features it claims in the Spratlys.

Vietnam and China have fought twice within living memory over disputed areas of the South China Sea. In 1974, Vietnam lost its last outpost in the Paracel Islands, and in 1988,some 70 Vietnamese soldiers died in clashes after which China took over a number of key features in the Spratlys.

Their forces remain less than 5km apart in parts of the Spratlys, which have become the front line in a regional arms race. China’s defence budget grew by 11 per cent between 2014 and last year. Vietnam is now the world’s eighth-largest purchaser of arms, including missile systems, attack submarines and fighter aircraft. The Philippines has ordered frigates from India and patrol vessels from Japan and France. And even Singapore agreed to allow the United States to base surveillance planes on its territory.

The countries of East Asia seem to be heading down a one-way street that leads not just towards greater potential for confrontation, but also towards a more violent conflict should a confrontation occur.

This is despite the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed by China and the 10 Asean members in 2002, representing a non-binding commitment by the parties to resolving their differences “without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned”.

The signatories also promised to refrain “from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features”.

Two of the keys to the problem are China’s unpredictability and lack of clarity. It has studiously maintained what one senior Chinese diplomat described as “strategic ambiguity”. It has failed to articulate either the coordinates or the nature of its nine-dash line, a key driver of the Philippines’ decision to seek the ruling issued in July by the arbitral tribunal at The Hague.

China’s unpredictability, such as its island-building programme or its decision to move an oil exploration rig off the Vietnamese coast two years ago, convinced the other claimants that their old security assumptions were no longer reliable.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

The result is that everyone is preparing for the worst, including strengthening their defences, buying new hardware and boosting their offensive capacity.

Conflict is in nobody’s interest. Trade worth some US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) moves through the South China Sea each year, and the fisheries generate some US$20 billion a year.

For the claimant nations, the cost of hostility would be particularly punishing. In 2013, the last year for which data is available, China accounted for 14 per cent of trade with Asean states, and that figure is likely to have grown since. The damage that would be caused by disruption to East Asia’s delicate web of supply chains would probably exceed these estimates.

Even without direct confrontation, the cost of defying Beijing is high. Between 2006 and 2013, Chinese foreign direct investment into the 10 Asean states totalled some US$33 billion, including US$2.6 billion in Indonesia and US$1.4 billion in Cambodia. The Philippines, which has had the most contentious territorial relationship with China, had negative net inflows from China of US$1 million over the same period, according to Asean figures.

China also has a great deal to lose from overt confrontation. The South China Sea trade routes are its vital economic arteries: conflict between claimants – or even lone Philippine or Vietnamese nationalists armed with rocket-propelled grenades – could result in a significant rise in shipping costs as freighters are forced to take a much more circuitous route to their destination or pay war-risk insurance premiums. As an example, when piracy in the waters off Somalia was at its height, transit insurance premiums rose from US$500 per ship to US$150,000 per ship.

If confrontation has an unacceptable price, compromise is also not cost-free. Territorial control in the South China Sea is a zero-sum game: one country’s gain is another’s loss. Nationalism runs deep in East and South-east Asia, a trait that governments have exploited to hang on to popular legitimacy even as they struggle to deliver economic growth amid a regional slowdown. In the current climate, any regional government hinting at ceding territory would risk being outflanked by its own right wing.

There can be no long-term military solution to the disputes in the South China Sea. If the logical conclusion of the recent rounds of militarisation and rearmament are to be avoided, the first step is for the region to admit openly that there is a real problem and then discuss how it might be resolved.

Given the fears about power asymmetry, Beijing’s suggestion that it holds bilateral talks with the other claimants is unlikely to bear fruit.

Multilateral talks involving, at a bare minimum, all the claimants and preferably a regional grouping such as Asean are the only viable way forward.

•Tim Johnston is Asia Programme Director at International Crisis Group, the independent conflict-prevention organisation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline ‘Asean needs frank dialogue on South China Sea issue’.


Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Vows To Defend Muslim Countries Against Terrorism and Zionism — One day after Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani visits Russia

April 17, 2016

The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday vowed to defend Muslim countries against terrorism and Israel while insisting that its neighbors should not feel threatened.

Speaking during a National Army Day parade in which Iranian forces displayed sophisticated air defense systems recently acquired from Russia, Rouhani praised Tehran’s role in helping the Syrian and Iraqi governments roll back the Islamic State group.

“If tomorrow your capitals face danger from terrorism or Zionism, the power that will give you a positive answer is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. But he added that Iran would only help if Muslim countries asked it to, and said its military power was purely for defensive and deterrent purposes.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses a ceremony in Tehran on April 17, 2016

“The power of our armed forces is not against our southern, northern, eastern and western neighbors,” he said.

He appeared to be referring to Gulf Arab states, which have long viewed Iran as seeking to dominate the region. Saudi Arabia and Iran are longtime rivals that back opposite sides in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars.

During the parade, the army displayed Russian-made S-300 air defense missiles delivered earlier this month.

In 2010, Russia froze a deal to supply the sophisticated systems to Iran, linking the decision to U.N. sanctions. President Vladimir Putin lifted the suspension last year following Iran’s deal with six world powers that curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

The United States and Israel have expressed concern over the missile systems, fearing they could upset the regional balance of military power.

Iran also displayed tanks, light submarines, short-range missiles and other weapons.


Iran’s Soleimani in Russia for talks on Syria, missiles: sources

Business | Fri Apr 15, 2016 4:01pm EDT


Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani has flouted an international travel ban and flown to Moscow for talks with Russia’s military and political leadership on Syria and deliveries of Russian missiles, sources said on Friday.

The main purpose of his visit was to discuss new delivery routes for shipments of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, sources said. Several sources also said Soleimani wanted to talk about how Russia and Iran could help the Syrian government take back full control of the city of Aleppo.

“General Soleimani traveled to Moscow last night to discuss issues including the delivery of S-300s and further military cooperation,” a senior Iranian security official told Reuters.

Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani

Soleimani met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, one source said. A Kremlin spokesman said a meeting with Soleimani was not on Putin’s schedule.

Asked about Soleimani’s visit, the Iranian embassy in Moscow said it had no information about it.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of State John Kerry raised concerns about reports of Soleimani going to Russia in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, but added that Washington was not in a position to confirm the visit.

Kirby said U.N. sanctions on remained in effect, “so such travel, if true, would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and we believe, then, a serious matter of concern to both the U.N. and the United States.”

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States would continue to insist that Russia and other countries comply with U.N. obligations “and prevent the international travel of Soleimani.”

“We also intend to continue to raise the issue in New York,”

the official said, referring to the United Nations.

Soleimani’s visit is likely to be seen as a sign that the tactical alliance of Russia and Iran over Syria remains strong despite some reported differences over battlefield strategy.

“Soleimani’s most likely meetings would be with (Russian) military leaders – Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, among others, although the possibility of meeting with President Putin cannot be ruled out,” said Yuri Lyamin, a Russian security analyst who follows Russian-Iranian military developments.

Iranian media reported on Monday that Russia had delivered the first part of the S-300 missile system, providing technology that was blocked before Tehran signed a deal with world powers on its nuclear program.

Soleimani, the commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, flew to Moscow in July last year to help Russia plan its military intervention in Syria and forge an Iranian-Russian alliance to support Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

He helped reactivate the stalled S-300 deal, which Russia had put on ice in 2010 under pressure from the West.

Russia, despite withdrawing some of its fast jets, still maintains a significant military presence in Syria, providing air support, advice and training to the Syrian army.

A senior regional source told Reuters last year that Russia’s military intervention in Syria was set out in an agreement between Moscow and Tehran that said Russian air strikes would support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces.

Iran has committed troops to help prop up the Syrian army, sometimes sustaining heavy losses, and Soleimani has been reported to be spending time in Syria, where he is thought to have helped coordinate operations.

He remains subject to an international travel ban by the U.N. Security Council. Washington has also designated the Quds Force, the unit of the Revolutionary Guards that Soleimani leads, as a supporter of terrorism.

The U.N. ban remains in place despite implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that triggered sanctions relief for Tehran.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, David Brunnstrom and Mohammad Zargham in Washington; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Bill Rigby and Steve Orlofsky)


Welcome to The New World Order: In the South China Sea, new islands rising, ASEAN worried, China in residence

May 7, 2015

The Associated Press

The dispute over the strategic waterways of the South China Sea has intensified, pitting a rising China against its smaller and militarily weaker neighbors who all lay claim to a string of isles, coral reefs and lagoons known as the Spratly and the Paracel islands. Only about 45 of them are occupied. The area is the third-busiest global shipping lane, rich in fish and potentially gas and oil reserves, but has emerged as a possible flashpoint involving world powers and regional claimants.

FILE - In this April 20, 2015  file photo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, left, points to reveal recent...

In this April 20, 2015 file photo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, left, points to reveal recent images of China’s reclamation activities being done at the disputed islands in the South China Sea during a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. The dispute over the strategic waterways of the South China Sea has intensified, pitting a rising China against its smaller and militarily weaker neighbors who all lay claim to a string of isles, coral reefs and lagoons known as the Spratly and the Paracel islands. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

A look at some of the most recent key developments:



A series of high-resolution satellite images, the latest of which were taken in February and March and released by defense publication IHS Jane’s, show that China has intensified the construction of artificial islands by dredging sand from submerged coral reefs and building up land mass, sometimes doubling or tripling the size of existing features. Among at least half a dozen islands being reconstructed, work on Fiery Cross Reef has attracted most attention because of its speed and scale. According to Jane’s, the new island is already big enough for a 3,000-meter (9,500-foot) runway able to accommodate big military planes.

Landfill work on Subi Reef also reportedly includes a runway, and dredging activities on Mischief Reef could accommodate another runway, according to analysts.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear, says the construction provides ability for China to deploy, base and resupply ships and exert greater influence over the contested area.

China could also deploy long-range radars and advanced missile systems as a means of enforcing a future air defense zone over the area. Such a zone would require foreign aircraft to file flight plans, identify themselves and follow the instructions of Chinese flight controllers.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says the work is largely to improve living conditions for people in the area and help with weather forecasting and search and rescue work.

Although China says its sovereignty claim poses no barrier to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, its actions often speak differently, particularly when they involve the movements of foreign militaries.



The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations — which includes the Philippines and Vietnam, the most vocal critics of China — issued a statement condemned Beijing. After an annual summit hosted by Malaysia, ASEAN said that China’s landfill work “eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.” It said members instructed their foreign ministers to “urgently address this matter constructively.”

However, Malaysia said separately that ASEAN would avoid confrontation, after the Philippines urged the group to “stand up” to China and halt the reclamation work.

China responded by saying it was “severely concerned” over the statement. Spokesman Hong Lei said that reclamation and construction work was entirely legal and shouldn’t be questioned.



The Philippines says China’s military harassed its reconnaissance plane and fishermen. According to military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the Chinese radioed the Philippine pilot near Subi reef, saying, “‘ You’re entering Chinese territory, leave,'” and flashed powerful lights at the plane.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Philippine planes had “illegally flown over Chinese waters on numerous occasions recently” and that Chinese forces had issued a radio warning. He denied that any lights were used.



More than 11,500 American and Filipino troops held their largest exercises near the South China Sea, simulating an amphibious attack to retake an island.

The drills took place in Zambales province, which includes Scarborough Shoal, which was seized by China in 2012.



“If China were to successfully claim the entire South China Sea, which is what they do claim, and apply their interpretation of the rights of the country, then it would severely restrict the military operations of the United States, Japan, other countries. So it’s really unacceptable to the United States.” — Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, commander U.S. forces in the Pacific 1999-2002.


Associated Press writers Hrvoje Hranjski in Bangkok and Chris Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.


Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region

Disputed: China has built an airstrip (pictured) and what appears to be a military base on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region



All deals are meaningless as the ayatollahs continue to enrich uranium

November 25, 2013

The Daily Telegraph

Given the importance of the subject, I can fully appreciate the great sense of relief all those involved in negotiating a deal with Iran are feeling after the deal they agreed over the weekend in Geneva. In return for Iran scaling down its uranium enrichment programme, the West will ease the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

So far as halting Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons are concerned, this is undoubtedly, as I explain in today’s edition, a step in the right direction. For the past few years Iran has been enriching uranium to 20 per cent, well beyond the level required for peaceful nuclear activities, such as generating power.


In return America and the European Union have agreed to ease some of the sanctions imposed against Iran for its constant defiance of the UN Security Council, thus allowing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to honour his election pledge to revive the Iranian economy. So far, so good.

But as anyone who has followed this crisis over the past decade knows only too well, this is only one small step towards resolving a crisis which on several occasions has brought the world to the brink of war.

For, when you look at the way Iran has handled its nuclear programme in the past, so long as the ayatollahs continue to enrich uranium at any level it is hard to believe their intentions are peaceful.

If they really have no intention of building an atom bomb, then why did they find it necessary to build two massive uranium enrichment facilities – at Natanz and Fordow – but fail to declare their existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body responsible for monitoring such issues?

So far as the nuclear issue is concerned, deception has become Iran’s default position, and so long as the regime is producing any quantities of enriched uranium then we have every reason to suspect that they are working on something much more sinister than building nuclear power stations.

There is also the small matter of Iran’s numerous military programmes – missile systems, detonators etc – that are specifically geared to producing effective nuclear weapons. As one Western intelligence official involved in the Geneva negotiations told me: “It is hard to take the Iranians’ claims that they are not working on nuclear weapons seriously when you know they have a number of undisclosed military programmes that are being used for that purpose.”

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2012, file photo, released by an official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the worshippers before he delivers his Friday prayers sermon, at the Tehran University campus, Iran. The U.S. and Iran secretly engaged in high-level, face-to-face talks, at least three times over the past year, in a high stakes diplomatic gamble by the administration that paved the way for the historic deal aimed at slowing Iran's nuclear program. At President Barack Obama's direction, the U.S. began a tentative outreach to Iran shortly after his January 2009 inauguration. Obama and Khamenei exchanged letters but that first engagement yielded no results. (AP Photo/Office of the Supreme Leader, File)


Iran to Start Operating 5,000 New Centrifuges, Says Ahmadinejad - Reuters

Iran’s hardline former president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad at an Iranian nuclear facility. Reuters Photo




Then President Ahmadinejad of Iran, inspecting a nuclear processing facility in 2011.