Posts Tagged ‘Paracels’

Facebook apologizes for map that violates Vietnam’s sovereignty

July 6, 2018
Facebook apologizes for map that violates Vietnam's sovereignty

Facebook said it remains neutral on territorial disputes and thus its map now does not include Paracel and Spratly Islands as either part of China or Vietnam.

Faulty map showing Paracel and Spratly Islands as part of China was stated to be a technical error.

Facebook has issued an apology to its Vietnamese users for an incident involving a wrongful depiction of the country’s sovereignty on a map used by the company.

In a press release issued Thursday, the social networking giant said that the issue with a map used for the Facebook advertising tool was a technical error and a patch to fix it was being deployed globally.

Facebook then apologized for the mistake and said that the company had explained itself to the Vietnamese government and fixed the issue as requested.

The mistake was discovered after Vietnamese users using Facebook’s advertising tool found that the tool’s map did not include Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands as part of Vietnam.

The map however showed the islands as part of China, and a live version of the map displayed the name “Sansha” over the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea. “Sansha” is the name of a city China unilaterally established in the disputed waters that includes Vietnam’s Paracel and Spratly Islands, as well as the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines.

These wrongful depictions of Vietnam’s sovereignty reportedly outraged many people in Vietnam, where Facebook is the most popular network with more than 58 million active accounts.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications then issued a request for Facebook to take immediate actions to correct the map last Sunday, prompting the social networking giant to patch it on Monday.

In a statement on the fix issued Tuesday, Facebook said it had removed the wrongful depictions of the islands and the mention of “Sansha.” As the company said it remains neutral on territorial disputes, the islands were completely removed from the map instead of being added to Vietnam.

Facebook also stated that all its maps were provided by third-party companies such as OpenStreetMap and HERE Maps.

Vietnam has consistently affirmed that it has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has been illegally occupying a number of reefs in the Spratly Islands since 1988.


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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 


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Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.


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Vietnam protests Facebook map of South China Sea

July 3, 2018

The Vietnamese government has complained to Facebook after discovering the platform’s ad manager tool provided a map marking disputed South China Sea islands as Chinese, state media reports.

A spokesperson from Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications told the Tuoi Tre newspaper the complaint was lodged when it was shown that the Spratly and Paracel archipelagoes were marked as Chinese territory on Facebook’s Boost Page feature.

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The Paracels, previously controlled by the old South Vietnamese government, were invaded by China in 1974. Control of the Spratlys is divided among Vietnam, China and the Philippines, all of which claim the entire island chain.

Vietnam and China most recently fought over the Spratly islands in 1988, when a naval battle at Johnson Reef left 64 Vietnamese sailors dead and the reef in Chinese hands.

Facebook acknowledged it had used a “wrong” map and would fix the issue, reported Tuoi Tre.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, including waters claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

South China Sea: US warns of capacity to ‘blow apart’ China’s artificial islands

June 5, 2018


Satellite imagery shows that China deployed new weapons, including likely missile systems, and J-11 fighter jets to Woody Island in the Paracels for live fire military exercises in May.

CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – June 1, 2018 – 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following Beijing’s deployment of new weapons to its outposts in the South China Sea, a Pentagon official warned that Washington has the capacity to take down these man-made islands.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., US Department of Defense joint staff director, said that the US has experience in taking down small isolated islands during World War II.

“I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands,” MacKenzie said in a press briefing Thursday.

MacKenzie, however, clarified that he was not trying to send a message to China but only stating a fact.

“That’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he said.

Echoing US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ statement earlier this week, MacKenzie stressed that the United States would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the region.

China, meanwhile, accused the United States of “playing up” the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted that US military presence in the region exceeds China’s military strength.

“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Hua said in a press briefing.

Earlier this week, the Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed that it has deployed warships to warn US Navy warships sailing near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The US Navy’s USS Antietam and USS Higgins reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of four islands in the Paracels while conducting freedom of navigation operations.

“China firmly opposes this. The Chinese army is determined to strengthen the preparations for sea and air combat readiness, raise the level of defense, defend national sovereignty and security, and maintain the determination of regional peace and stability,” Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian said.

The Pentagon had disinvited the Chinese Navy from this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercises as an “initial response” to Beijing’s recent actions in the South China Sea.

The US said it has strong evidence that China deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to its bases on the Spratly Islands. Washington also expressed concern over Beijing’s landing of an H-6K bomber aircraft on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracel Islands.


U.S. weighs more South China Sea patrols to confront ‘new reality’ of China

June 3, 2018

The United States is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s growing militarization of the waterway, actions that could further raise the stakes in one of the world’s most volatile areas.

The Pentagon is weighing a more assertive program of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs, two U.S. officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to discussions said.

The officials declined to say how close they were to finalizing a decision.

Such moves could involve longer patrols, ones involving larger numbers of ships or operations involving closer surveillance of Chinese facilities in the area, which now include electronic jamming equipment and advanced military radars.

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A map of the South China Sea showing Chinese claims and disputed islands

U.S. officials are also pushing international allies and partners to increase their own naval deployments through the vital trade route as China strengthens its military capabilities on both the Paracel and Spratly islands, the diplomats said, even if they stopped short of directly challenging Chinese holdings.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is just the start, significantly more is being planned,” said one Western diplomat, referring to a freedom of navigation patrol late last month that used two U.S. ships for the first time.

“There is a real sense more needs to be done.”

The Pentagon does not comment on future operations but a spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, said “we will continue to work with our friends, partners, and allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

A more assertive Pentagon approach already appears to have started. Reuters first reported the patrol last month in which two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China, even as President Donald Trump sought Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

While the operation had been planned months in advance, and similar operations have become routine, it is believed to be the first time where two U.S. warships have been used for a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon also withdrew an invitation for Chinese forces to join large multi-country exercises off Hawaii later in the year.

Critics have said the patrols have little impact on Chinese behavior and mask the lack of a broader strategy to deal with China’s growing dominance of the area.


U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned in Singapore on Saturday that China’s militarization of the South China Sea was now a “reality” but that Beijing would face unspecified consequences.

Questioned during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference over whether it was too late to stop China, Mattis said: “Eventually these (actions) do not pay off.”

Last month, China’s air force landed bombers on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel archipelago as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody, while anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were also placed on its largest bases in the Spratlys.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore conference, He Lei, of the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, said China had every right to continue to militarize its South China Sea holdings.

“It is China’s sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there. We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs,” He said.

Regional military attaches say they are now bracing for China’s next moves, which some fear could be the first deployment of jet fighters to the Spratlys or an attempt to enforce an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) similar to one Beijing created off its eastern coast in 2013.

Vietnamese military officers say they are particularly concerned by the prospect of an ADIZ, saying it could threaten the integrity of Vietnamese airspace.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Hai, head of the Vietnamese military’s Institute of Strategic Studies, said that while Vietnam had long sought peaceful settlements to disputes, “all options are on the table from our side to safeguard our sovereignty and territory.”

“The ADIZ establishment is one option we have thought of and also have plans to deal with.”

Satellite image of Woody Island

Beijing has been turning islands into military bases. Reuters photo

Vietnam is the most active challengers to China’s sweeping claims to much of the South China Sea, with Hanoi claiming the Paracels and the Spratlys in their entirety.

Malaysia and the Philippines hold some Spratlys features while Brunei claims waters straddled by China’s so-called nine-dash line claim. Taiwan claims the same area as China.

Singapore-based security expert Tim Huxley said while increased pressure might slow China’s militarization efforts, they would be difficult to stop.

“China has created a new reality down there, and it is not going to be rolled back,” Huxley told Reuters.

“They are not doing this to poke America or their neighbors in the eye but they are almost certainly doing this to serve their long-term strategic objectives, whether that is projecting their military power or securing energy supplies.”

Reporting by Greg Torode and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan


Can The Philippines Ever Have Its Own Foreign Policy Again?

April 20, 2018

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 / 05:36 AM April 20, 2018

To hear Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano talk about Philippine-Chinese relations is to hear the whiny sound of surrender and subservience. In Cayetano’s view, the landmark arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016 that gave the Philippines a sweeping legal victory over China over disputed parts of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea is not a sign of strength but, rather, a source of weakness.

After all, what does the following statement, from the former senator with a reputation for articulate rhetoric, really mean, but that smoother relations with China are a higher priority than defending Philippine sovereign rights? “As of now, if we compare the Aquino administration strategy and the Duterte strategy, we simply are making do with a bad situation but we have stopped the bleeding.” Only someone who sees the strain in bilateral relations because of the filing and the winning of the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration as more important than the actual legal victory itself would think that the Philippines was in “a bad situation” post-July 12, 2016.

The exact opposite is true: Our side in the dispute with China was never stronger than on the day the arbitral tribunal issued an award that was an almost complete vindication of Philippine claims. Only someone who thinks that pleasing China meets a greater public interest than enforcing the legal victory so painstakingly won at The Hague would say that, today, “we have stopped the bleeding.” There is a term for this, and it is appeasement.

The foreign secretary makes the situation worse, undermines even further the Philippine position regarding its own rights to the West Philippine Sea and its jurisdiction over parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, by adopting the Chinese perspective hook, line, and sinker. “Yes, we want to fight for what is ours but we don’t want a war. And no one in our region wants a war because no one will win.” This is the Chinese view, that the only alternative to settling the disputes is through a war. This is simply not true; it is also, essentially, un-Filipino. Which makes us ask: Whose interests does the Honorable Alan Peter Cayetano, secretary of foreign affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, really represent?

There is an alternative to war, and that is the process which the Philippines helped set up: a regime of international law governing maritime and territorial disputes. That is the process  which the Philippines won, despite China’s bullying and its demonization of the international law system. That is the process which allows smaller countries an almost equal footing with the great powers. And that is the process which, unaccountably, this administration’s lawyers shortchange, subvert, sell out.

Consider these words of wisdom from Cayetano: “China has not asked us, and I can tell you this very honestly whether closed door or in open, they have never asked us to give up our claims. They have simply asked us to put some order in how we will discuss these claims and where we should discuss these claims.” He speaks, not as a public servant of the Filipino people, but the servant of the Chinese government.

Assume for the sake of argument that what Cayetano said is in fact the case; why should we follow China’s proposed order in discussing our rights? Indeed, why should our foreign secretary mindlessly repeat the Chinese line that our claims are still in dispute—when the arbitral tribunal has already and convincingly ruled in our favor? (Let Beijing say these are mere claims; Manila should assert them as vindicated rights.) Even more to the point: Why privilege what China wants (“China has not asked us …”)? The real question is: What does the Philippines ask, when it meets with China?

If it’s only money, through expensive loans or dubious investments, then we really should all worry that Beijing has landed military cargo aircraft on Mischief or Panganiban Reef. We are trading our sovereign rights, inch by inch, for the proverbial filthy lucre.

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South China Sea: China Deploys Military Aircraft to Philippine-Claimed Mischief Reef — “This fits a steady pattern of escalation.”

April 20, 2018
Experts: No break of precedent in Chinese deployment of planes in Mischief Reef

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – April 20, 2018 – 5:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing’s deployment of transport military planes on Mischief Reef on the Spratly Islands show a steady pattern of escalation, according to maritime analysts.

Despite the Philippines mulling to file a protest over China’s reported landing of military claims on the Manila-claimed reef, this development would not have a great impact on the overall situation in the South China Sea, according to RAND Senior Policy Analyst Lyle Morris.

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

Landing a transport military plane on Mischief Reef would not cross a new threshold of militarization in the Spratly Islands but fighter jets would, Morris said on Twitter.

China had already deployed a military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef, another Manila-claimed feature in the Spratlys, in April 2016. Beijing had also deployed a number of planes on Woody Island in the Paracels.

“Because of the dual-use nature of military transport aircraft, the move does not cross an unambiguous threshold of offensive militarization of Chinese-occupied features in the Spratlys the same way that fighter jets would, for example,” Morris told

Mischief Reef, however, would be more significant for the Philippines as it is a low tide elevation within the country’s exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf.

The Philippines has exclusive rights of use to Mischief Reef, where China had also reportedly installed military jamming equipment.

“Therefore I would expect the Philippines government to protest this move as being unnecessarily destabilizing and a breach of Philippines sovereignty,” Morris said.

The latest developments in the Spratly Islands, however, extends the geographical envelope of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, according to Euhan Graham, director of the Lowy Institute International Security Program.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first PLAAF combat jet deployment occur to the Spratlys later this year. China can always find an excuse to dress up as a “provocation” if it needs one,” Graham told

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

The landing of Chinese transport aircraft might simply be delivering equipment and personnel to support ground-based military from the artificial island, the Lowy Institute director said.

Graham warned that China may consider another American freedom of operation and navigation operation or even the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US as a “provocation.”

“Ultimately, the PLA has a plan to use the Spratlys for their custom-built purpose – to extend the envelope of China’s air and seapower throughout the South China Sea. The only debatable issue there is sooner, or later,” Graham said.

Greogory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), said that China’s deployment of military planes on its outposts did not come as a surprise.

“This fits a steady pattern of escalation,” Poling told, adding that this individual deployment should not necessarily be a cause for alarm.

Echoing the analysis of Morris, Poling said that the real alarm should be when the first fighter jets land in the Spratlys “and all evidence is that they will sooner or later.”

The latest developments should be a cause for skepticism of China’s intentions.

“Combined with the recent deployment of jammers to the islands, and its ongoing construction of military facilities, this does not paint the picture of a party willing to forego military force and pursue negotiations in good faith,” Poling said.

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the Philippine government is on top of the situation, assuring the public that the agency is taking all diplomatic actions needed to protect the country’s claims.

“In fact, we know much more than what is published in the newspapers or released by US think tanks because we see the bigger picture,” Cayetano said in a press briefing.

RELATED: Cayetano: Government has more info on South China Sea than in media reports




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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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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.

Four Powerful Countries Plan Resistance To China in the South China Sea

February 5, 2018
By Ralph Jennings
U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Harris, left, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Navy Vice Adm. David Johnston take part in a ceremony marking the start of Talisman Saber 2017, a biennial joint military exercise.

U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Harris, left, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Navy Vice Adm. David Johnston take part in a ceremony marking the start of Talisman Saber 2017, a biennial joint military exercise.

A bloc of four powerful, Western-allied nations, intent on keeping the South China Sea open for international use despite growing Chinese control, will probably issue stern statements, help China’s maritime rivals and hold joint naval exercises near the contested waterway this year, analysts say.

Australia, India, Japan and the United States, a group known as the quad, are most likely to take those measures rather than directly challenging Chinese claims such as its military installations among the sea’s 500 small islets.

“Number one, presence is probably going be driven by the U.S.,” said Stuart Orr, professor of strategic management at Deakin University in Australia. “If I were to take a guess, I would say probably follow that by India, with Japan taking a little bit more of the same role as Australia does, at providing high-level logistical support.”

The quad countries want to keep the 3.5 million-square-kilometer, resource-rich sea open while protecting their own economic ties with Beijing, say experts who follow the issue. Multiple countries ship, fish and explore for oil in the South China Sea today.

Cautionary pronouncements

Heads of state from the four-way alliance met in Manila in November to discuss keeping the sea open. Australia and Japan separately called then for “rules-based order” and “respect for international law” in the sea.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders from 10 Southeast Asian countries, including four that compete with China for maritime sovereignty, January 26 that India was committed to working together more on maritime matters.

Expect more statements designed to keep China on guard, analysts say.

“I think the most concrete thing they can do is to issue some statements on the South China Sea dispute, and even then I believe that China might not even be explicitly named in such a statement,” said Ben Ho, senior analyst with the Military Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

World leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines.

World leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines.

China calls about 90 percent of the sea its own. Chinese expansion since 2010 has irritated rival claimants Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Those governments, all militarily weaker than Beijing, bristle when China fortifies disputed islets for military use and passes coast guard ships through contested waters.

Beijing says historical records prove its claim to the sea, an argument rejected in 2016 by a world arbitration court.

Joint military exercises

Combinations of the four countries might pass naval vessels through the South China Sea, especially along its perimeters or the coastal waters of smaller countries that want help resisting Chinese vessels, experts say.

The United States, the world’s top military power, has sent naval vessels to the South China Sea five times under President Donald Trump, extending a practice under his predecessor to assert Washington’s view that the sea should allow freedom of navigation.

Japan may follow as it tries to “break out of its self-imposed restraints,” said Oh Ei Sun, international studies instructor at Singapore Nanyang University.

Tokyo passed a helicopter carrier through the disputed sea in June 2017. Japan vies with China over tracts of the East China Sea, as well. Leaders are in Tokyo are studying constitutional changes to give the armed forces more power.

“You will see Japan trying to make more frequent port calls and indeed join military exercises, providing training and so on to these nations,” Oh said.

India and Australia would support any military movement aimed at warning China, analysts say. Australia could become a place to monitor “what’s going on” and become a platform for any follow-up, Orr said.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd arrives off the coast of India in preparation for Malabar 2017, a series of exercises between the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd arrives off the coast of India in preparation for Malabar 2017, a series of exercises between the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy.

India will make port calls and join any naval patrols with other countries, said Sameer Lalwani, deputy director for U.S. think tank The Stimson Center’s South Asia program. India vies with China for geopolitical control in south and central Asia.

“India could also enhance the number of military exercises, both national and joint with other countries to improve proficiency, enhance cooperation, and signal capabilities,” Lalwani said. “Obviously more visible cooperation with the United States would send an even stronger message.”

Arms supplies

Japan will “continue to bolster the capacities” of allied Asian countries, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor in politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo.

Expect military training, new equipment and two naval destroyer visits this year to Vietnam “as a message that their relations are deepening,” he said.

Vietnam has been the most aggressive South China Sea claimant aside from China. In January 2017 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to provide six patrol boats for Vietnam’s coast guard. The U.S. government is also planning to let one of its aircraft carriers visit the Southeast Asian country this year.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, waves to reporters at a meeting during the ASEAN Summit at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Nov. 13, 2017.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, waves to reporters at a meeting during the ASEAN Summit at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Nov. 13, 2017.

“With the U.S. sending ships as well, Vietnam and other countries are being courted for more security partnerships,” Nagy said.

India has previously helped Vietnam explore the sea for oil. It may look to the quad for chances to grow its economy, technology and foreign relations, experts believe.

Chinese reaction

China is expected to react to the quad one act at a time. If they make statements, China will use words in return, Ho said. If the other countries hold military exercises, China might double down on fortifying the islets it holds now in the Paracel and Spratly chains.

India and Japan are unlikely to push too hard overall as they grapple with their own disputes involving China, Ho said. India and China contest two tracts of their mountainous land border.

China’s chief deterrent for the quad players may be its economic might. Australia, for example, counts China as its No. 1 trade partner, with a 27 percent increase in exports in 2016 and 2017, official Australian data show. A naval drill is unlikely, Ho said.

“I think Canberra has too much at stake in terms of economic links with Beijing to take such a drastic measure,” he said. “After all China is Australia’s top trading partner, both in terms of imports and exports, and Canberra will not do anything drastic to damage its relationship.”



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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.

China to bring 4G+ telecom services on man-made islands in South China Sea

February 3, 2018
Aerial photos aired by China Central Television show the completed construction of facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. CCTV via Asia Times

MANILA, Philippines — China’s navy and telecommunication corporations are reportedly working to improve communications system in Chinese-occupied features in the disputed South China Sea by bringing 4G+ services in the area.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

On Friday, state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the Chinese navy has signed an agreement with Beijing’s three largest telecom operators to “comprehensively upgrade” civil communication system on Chinese reefs in Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) islands.

The project is targeted to be completed in May.

“The project will greatly increase the number of telecommunication base stations on some islands and reefs, such as Yongxing (Woody), Yongshu (Kagitingan), and Meiji (Panganiban),” Xinhua reported.

“The operators also promised more affordable service packages for users,” it added.

“In addition to improvements in the living conditions for civilians and military on the islands and reefs, the upgrade is also expected to provide support for fishery, emergency response, maritime search and rescue, and humanitarian relief efforts in nearby waters.”

In a report dated December 14, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s CSIS identified all permanent facilities that can be used for military purposes that China completed or began work since the start of 2017.

AMTI said Beijing had done “smaller scale” construction at its bases in the Paracel islands, which are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Although there was no substantial new construction at the island last year, Woody island, China’s military and administrative headquarters in the disputed sea, saw two first-time air deployments that “hint at things to come at the three Spratly Island airbases farther south.”

READ: Analyst: China continues expansion in South China Sea as int’l focus ‘shifts away’

China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who courted the Asian power for billion dollars’ worth of investments.

RELATED: US think tank expert: South China Sea diplomatic breakthrough ‘unlikely’

China exploration of Benham Rise: Trust, but verify — Philippines assisting China in future submarine war? –Could the “China Dream” become a Philippine Nightmare?

February 1, 2018
Technical divers went down to a maximum depth of 63 meters, with a bottom time of 30 minutes during the 2016 Benham Rise expedition. Oceana

“Trust, but verify.” This was one of the most poignant quotes from former American president Ronald Reagan, specifically in the context of geopolitics. Ironically, it was originally a Russian proverb, which the American president deftly deployed to deal with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Those were, however, more than just wise words, but instead a valuable strategic dictum, which served as the foundation of Reagan’s years-long chess-like negotiations with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev.

Reagan believed in cooperation and confidence-building measures with even the most bitter and existential rivals – but, crucially, from a position of strength and with eyes wide-open. In many ways, the Philippines faces a similar dilemma vis-à-vis China, particularly in the South China Sea and over the past year or so in the Benham Rise.

Most Filipinos are somehow familiar with the nature of the disputes in the South China Sea and more specifically, the West Philippine Sea, which pertains to areas that fall within our Exclusive Economic Zone in the area.

Yet, it behooves us to understand what is at stake in the Behnam Rise, which falls in the Western Pacific and within the Philippine Sea. We have to keep in mind that what we are talking about here is neither an island, rock nor a low-tide elevation similar to the land features we claim and occupy in the South China Sea, but instead a volcanic ridge, which is part of our extended continental shelf.

Thus, in the Benham Rise we do have “sovereign rights”— rather than “sovereignty,” since we’re not talking about a full-fledged island or land formation — based on Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which makes it clear that a coastal state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of “exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.”

Crucially, those rights are “exclusive,” meaning other states can only do so with our express permission. The distinction between “sovereign rights” and “sovereignty” is not a major categorical difference. They are both manifestations of exclusive rights of a coastal state along a broad spectrum of jurisdictional regime.

Yes, we can’t claim the whole body of water above the ridge as our “territory” per se, but we have full and exclusive sovereign rights over “mineral and other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil together with living organisms belonging to sedentary species” in the area. This was affirmed by a 2012 United Nations ruling, which, per UNCLOS Art. 76 no. 8, is “final” and “binding” on all signatories to the Convention.

Other states are certainly correct to emphasize their rights to freedom of navigation (FON) and overflight (FOO) in the area per UNCLOS, but that’s very rich when it comes from a country like China, which rejects an UNCLOS-based arbitration ruling as a “piece of trash paper” and claims the whole South China Sea as its own “blue nation soil” — not to mention impedes FON and FOO through massive reclamation and militarization in the Spratlys and Paracels.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with allowing other countries to conduct Maritime Scientific Research (MSR) in the Benham Rise so long as they meet our qualification criteria. And we should indeed cooperate with neighboring states such as China for confidence-building purposes as well as absolute gains of cooperation with better-endowed nations. Flatly rejecting any form of scientific cooperation with China is shortsighted.

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Chinese ocean research ship Ke Xue

Much has been said about the Philippines’ collaboration with institutions from the United States, Japan and other countries in the Benham Rise, which is rich in seabed resources, but any MSR agreement with a country like China stands out precisely because of the fact that the emerging superpower has a long-term strategy of dominating its adjacent waters.

Under its own version of the so-called “Island Chain Strategy,” China seeks naval dominance in both the East and South China Seas, part of the so-called “first island chain,” as well as the Western Pacific, specifically parts of the so-called “second island chain.”

In China’s view, the best way to defend itself from external threats, particularly the U.S., is through domination of adjacent waters – creating a maritime buffer zone as a perimeter of defense, especially for its own burgeoning maritime interests and naval capabilities, including state-of-the-art submarine bases in Hainan.

Year after year, Chinese applications for MSR in the Benham Rise have been rejected, precisely because they have refused to even accommodate, per our requirements, a single Filipino scientist to do onboard monitoring during their research. We simply don’t know the exact nature of their reported presence in the area in recent years.

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This year, they have reportedly fulfilled our requirements (though it seems not in the case of a far more reputable French institution). The MSR between Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, its local partner, is supposed to focus on studying climate-driving ocean currents. This looks all fine and innocuous, if not commendable.

But the question remains: What is the ultimate goal of China? Many defense experts fear that MSRs are just a convenient cover for more robust security goals, namely monitoring of American naval assets in the area through placement of sensors and other surveillance equipment.  We will never know for sure what are China’s intentions, but it’s important for us to cooperate yet with eyes wide open. As Reagan put it, trust but verify.

RELATED: China: Philippines can’t claim Benham Rise | China: We respect Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise

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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.

China seen using its muscle and money to push states to withdraw South China Sea claims — Other countries might ‘give in’ like Philippines did

January 10, 2018
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – January 10, 2018 – 3:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing might keep other claimant states away from the South China Sea as it seeks greater control over the region in the long run, maritime security analysts said.

Experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said China may have a different goal than when they first started their island-building activities in the South China Sea a few years back.

“We see a much more confident China now than we did just five years ago… My guess is that China wants greater control in the South China Sea, I don’t think that’s surprised anyone,” CSIS expert Zack Cooper said in a podcast hosted by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Cooper, however, said China might try to exclude other countries from conducting freedom of navigation and overflight in the region as that would pose a threat to Beijing’s trade in the region.

Over the long term, Beijing might use its artificial islands, which have been installed with military facilities, in the Spratlys and Paracels to “press other countries out of the region.”

“I wouldn’t be shocked at all if we see China trying to stop fishing in portions of the South China Sea or pushing other claimants off of their claims in the region… I think we have to expect that if China grows stronger that is quite likely to have much more expansive aims that it has now,” Cooper said.

‘China will expect countries to advance its interests’

Agreeing with Cooper, CSIS expert Bonnie Glaser said that China’s policies will be driven by their capabilities and how other countries see them.

“The Chinese, I think, want every country in the region to avoid taking steps that would take Chinese interests and maybe in the future that will progress to a point where China will expect countries to implement some policies in order to help, expand and advance Chinese interests,” Glaser said in the podcast.

Glaser also expressed concern over the remarks of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October, where he highlighted the “steady progress” of construction in the disputed waters.

“‘Steady progress’ in Chinese, as well as in English and other languages, implies to me that China has not yet achieved its goal, that it’s continuing down this path it is making gains and it is going to continue to work on ways to advance its objective,” Glaser said.

She added that Beijing’s goals in the future might include establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone and maybe even dredging in the South China Sea.

Other countries might ‘give in’ like Philippines did

Cooper, on the other hand, warned that other claimant states might readily give up their claims when faced with China’s overwhelming strength given its maritime militia.

“We’ll see other countries in the region do what… the Philippines has done which is try and think through… if they’re gonna lose some of these claims anyway, maybe they can get something for it,” Cooper said.

One tactic for Beijing would be paying a certain amount or offering assistance to smaller claimant states to the point that they would withdraw from their claims.

“I think that’s a real danger unless we can stop the momentum that we’ve seen in the last few years,” Cooper added.

AMTI director Gregory Poling, meanwhile, noted that tensions in the disputed South China Sea have cooled down since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump.

‘Win-win’ and delaying tactics

The Chinese have resorted to two possible strategies — reaching out diplomatically to Southeast Asian nations to reach a “win-win” solution or employing delaying tactics such as the negotiations in on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“The continued construction, for instance, the military facilities in the Spratlys implies that China has an access to change anything about its fundamental goals. All it’s doing is tactically reaching out in the hopes that it has in fact suggested to some Southeast Asians on the side to cut and run, which is true,” Poling said.

Despite insisting that they will not give up a single inch of the country’s territory, the Philippine government appears to be doing otherwise.

Following reports that China had transformed Fiery Cross or Kagitingin Reef into a fortified airbase, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the government continues to rely on Beijing’s commitment of “good faith” that they will not embark on new reclamation activities.

“From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases so the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I am concerned, is not new,” Roque said in a televised press briefing.

RELATED: Palace defends China’s ‘good faith’ in South China Sea






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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.