Posts Tagged ‘Paracels’

South China Sea: US warship sails near islands China claims

October 11, 2017

Published: 7:50 pm, Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A US Navy destroyer has sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.

A US Navy destroyer has sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, even as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in reining in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The operation on Tuesday was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

But it was not as provocative as previous ones carried out since Trump took office in January.

Three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal manoeuvring operations that challenged ‘excessive maritime claims’ near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.

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USS Chafee

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged ‘stern representations’ with the United States, and reiterated that the Paracels were Chinese territory.

‘China immediately sent naval vessels and military jets to investigate and identify, as well as warn to the vessel and ask it to leave,’ she told a daily news briefing on Wednesday.

‘China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the US to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions.’

Next month, Trump makes his first visit to Asia as president, including a stop in China, which he has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea. China is North Korea’s neighbor and biggest trading partner.

Unlike in August, when a US Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, officials said the destroyer on Tuesday sailed close to but not within that range of the islands.

Twelve nautical miles mark internationally recognised territorial limits. Sailing within that range is meant to show the United States does not recognise territorial claims.

The Pentagon did not comment directly on the operation, but said the United States carried out regular freedom-of-navigation operations and would continue to do so.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $US5 trillion ($A6.4 trillion) in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Reuters

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

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Vietnam Protests Over Chinese Live-Fire Drills in South China Sea

September 5, 2017

HANOI — Vietnam on Tuesday issued a strong condemnation of Chinese military live-fire exercises in the disputed South China Sea, amid rising tension between the two countries.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China’s southern province of Hainan, which oversees the South China Sea, said last month there would be live fire drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, until September 2.

“Vietnam strongly objects this action by China and seriously requests China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

“Vietnam once again asserts that (we) will resolutely protect our sovereignty and our legitimate rights and interests in the East Sea (South China Sea) through peaceful measures that are suitable with international laws,” the statement said.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

Tension between China and neighboring Vietnam is at its highest in three years over the disputed waters.

Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China in July under pressure from Beijing.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea as well as at its growing defense relationships with the United States, Japan and India.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen)

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

South China Sea: China Is Here To Stay, Opens Cinema, Other Entertainment Venues

July 25, 2017

BEIJING — China has opened its southernmost cinema on a disputed island in the South China Sea, state media said, part on an on-going effort to build up civilian infrastructure and assert Beijing’s sovereignty.

The cinema is on Woody Island in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, and is equipped with the most advanced projection equipment, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

“The opening of the cinema is part of a plan by local cultural authorities to establish community services on islands under Sansha’s jurisdiction,” Xinhua said.

Woody Island is the seat of what China calls Sansha city that is its administrative center for the South China Sea.

China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with Vietnam.

Though China calls it a city, Sansha’s permanent population is no more than a few thousand, and many of the disputed islets and reefs in the sea are uninhabited.

That has not stopped China’s ambitious plans for the islands there, including building airfields and allowing Chinese tourists to access the area via cruise ships.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade a year.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Image result for map. woody Island, sansha

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2015/10/sansha-city-that-includes-almost-entire.html

Hypocrisy in the South China Sea — According to China’s rationalized perspective, the former Western colonies have been stealing its fish, oil and gas for a long time

July 23, 2017

Nationalism-fueled rationalizations are running rampant in the disputed region

BY 

There is a big difference between reasoning and rationalization. Reasoning is the use of facts and logic to derive a conclusion regarding a given issue. Rationalization is the use of reasoning to justify a preconceived conclusion. Many countries have rationalized their positions regarding their claims and actions in the South China Sea. Indeed there are no “innocents” — only degrees of rationalization.

For its policies and actions in the South China Sea, China has been accused of being aggressive; bullying other claimants; violating the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as well as international law and norms; militarizing the features it occupies; threatening freedom of navigation; damaging the environment and causing ASEAN disunity.

But China argues that what it calls the Nansha (the Spratlys) and their “adjacent waters” have been under its sovereignty since “time immemorial.” According to China’s rationalized perspective, the former Western colonies have been stealing its fish and oil and gas in collaboration with outside Western companies and powers.

Moreover, to China, other claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have committed similar transgressions. Indeed, in the 1970s and ’80s while the United States, Japan and Australia remained silent, they occupied features there that China considered its sovereign territory. They then altered the features by adding to them, built structures, ports and airstrips, and allowed access for their militaries. In China’s view they appropriated the largest and most useful features under spurious claims leaving only the dregs and submerged features.

In China’s rationalization of its more recent actions, it suffered by previously being relatively non-aggressive. When China tried to “catch up” by building on some of the only remaining unoccupied and low-tide features, the other claimants accused it of not exercising “self-restraint” and thus violating the 2002 DOC. But to China, other claimants have also violated the DOC’s self-restraint provision by continuing their reclamation and construction activities after the signing of the agreement. More significant to China, the Philippines — by filing a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague — violated what China considers the most important DOC provision of all — the commitment “to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.”

It is a violation of precedent-setting international arbitration rulings to undertake unilateral activities in disputed areas that change the nature of the area. When China does so or tries to prevent others from doing so it is called a “bully” by the smaller countries. But the reality is that this pejorative term is often used by less powerful countries to engender sympathy in their interactions with the more powerful ones — including with the U.S. For example, the U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) that use some of the world’s most lethal surface warships to publicly violate the national laws of less powerful countries are perceived by some as “bullying.”

China has rejected an international arbitration panel’s ruling adverse to its interests. The U.S. and Australia have criticized it for doing so. But the U.S. rejected the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when it ruled for Nicaragua against it. Also, Australia withdrew from ICJ jurisdiction rather than arbitrate boundary issues with East Timor. So what “international rules and norms” apply and who is and who is not in compliance with them are rationalized by many countries.

The U.S. accuses China of “militarizing” the South China Sea but fails to define the term. Critics of China’s actions like Vietnam and the Philippines reclaimed features and “militarized” them years ago — albeit on a lesser scale. Moreover, the Philippines used a naval vessel in a standoff with China at Scarborough Shoal — a clear threat of use of force and thus a violation of the U.N. Charter, UNCLOS and the DOC. More recently, the U.S. has maintained a studied silence regarding Taiwan’s decision to send more troops and possibly anti-aircraft missiles to Itu Aba.

But it is the U.S. itself that has perpetrated one of the most egregious examples of hypocrisy by increasingly militarizing the region with its forward deployed troops, assets and patrols as part of the “rebalance” of its defense forces — all the while condemning China’s militarization of the features it occupies.

The rival claimants have also echoed U.S. accusations that China is threatening commercial freedom of navigation. But the U.S. has over time deftly conflated freedom of commercial navigation with freedom of navigation for its warships and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) vessels and aircraft. In so doing it makes frequent reference to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which it has not ratified but claims to be implementing. Yet the U.S. is trying to pick and choose which provisions it will abide by and interpret them to its benefit. The U.S. rationalizes that it is abiding by its interpretation of this convention and others are not.

Vietnam supported the January 2016 USS Curtis Wilbur FONOP near Triton Island in the Paracels by proclaiming that it “respects the right of innocent passage through its territorial seas conducted in accordance with the relevant rules of the international community.” But Vietnam has both a territorial sea baseline and a prior notification regime for entry of warships into its territorial sea that have been the targets of U.S. FONOPs.

India also supports the U.S. position. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “countries must “respect and ensure freedom of navigation. …” But India has also been the target of U.S. FONOPs challenging its ban on military activities and maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without its permission. Malaysia and U.S. ally Thailand have similarly restrictive regimes for their EEZs. Indeed, Malaysia’s regime has been challenged by U.S. FONOPs. But it supports U.S. military probes in other countries’ waters by allowing U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes to refuel on its territory. All have presumably rationalized their seemingly contradictory behavior.

The Philippines accused China of wanton environmental damage in the Spratlys and the arbitration panel found it guilty as charged. But China is certainly not the first or only claimant to damage the environment of these atolls or to allow their military to use them. All claimants, including the Philippines, have undertaken “reclamation” and construction on features they now occupy that must have damaged coral reefs and the ecosystem they support.

Moreover, the Philippine government was relatively silent for years in the face of destructive “muro-ami” fishing in the Spratlys by Filipino boats and crews. Again these contradictions are rationalized by arguing that China’s transgressions were much more expansive.

In April 2016, Singapore criticized China for “meddling” in ASEAN’s internal affairs. Indeed, China has attempted with some success to garner support from Brunei, Cambodia and Laos for its position that the South China Sea disputes should be negotiated by the countries directly concerned. However, the U.S., by strongly supporting the Philippines and Vietnam’s positions against China, has contributed to ASEAN disunity on this critical issue as well. Singapore’s rationalization of this dichotomy is presumably in its “national interest.”

And so it goes.

The point is that we should realize that much of what we hear and read about countries’ claims and actions in the South China Sea is nationalism-fueled rationalization — not objective reasoning based on logical analysis of all the relevant facts.

Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China. A longer version of this piece first appeared in the IPP Review.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/07/21/commentary/world-commentary/hypocrisy-south-china-sea/#.WXS56IjyuUk

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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U.S. Navy Patrols Near Disputed Island in South China Sea — Washington seems to be showing displeasure with Beijing

July 3, 2017

Sea patrol follows week where Washington seemed to signal displeasure with Beijing

The U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, here docked in Shanghai in 2015, near Triton Island in the Paracel island chain in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, here docked in Shanghai in 2015, near Triton Island in the Paracel island chain in the South China Sea. PHOTO: CHEN FEI/ZUMA PRESS
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Updated July 3, 2017 12:48 a.m. ET

The U.S. conducted a naval patrol close to a China-controlled island in the South China Sea on Sunday—the second such operation confirmed by American officials in less than six weeks—following several recent moves that appear to signal Washington’s displeasure with Beijing.

The U.S. Navy on Sunday sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem near Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, according to U.S. officials. The warship came to within 12 nautical miles of Triton, indicating the patrol was meant as a freedom-of-navigation operation and represented a challenge to what the U.S. sees as excessive maritime claims.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam all lay claim to the island, which is smaller than a square mile and serves as a Chinese outpost. Beijing has controlled it since seizing the Paracel from Vietnamese forces in 1974.

U.S. military officials said operations such as that on Sunday are typically planned weeks, if not months, ahead of time and that the patrol wasn’t linked to the other recent actions taken by Washington.

The timing of the operation, nonetheless, is likely to cause concern in Beijing. It comes days before President Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at a

The U.S. Navy on Sunday sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem near Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, according to U.S. officials. The warship came to within 12 nautical miles of Triton, indicating the patrol was meant as a freedom-of-navigation operation and represented a challenge to what the U.S. sees as excessive maritime claims.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam all lay claim to the island, which is smaller than a square mile and serves as a Chinese outpost. Beijing has controlled it since seizing the Paracels from Vietnamese forces in 1974.

U.S. military officials said operations such as that on Sunday are typically planned weeks, if not months, ahead of time and that the patrol wasn’t linked to the other recent actions taken by Washington.

The timing of the operation, nonetheless, is likely to cause concern in Beijing. It comes days before President Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Mr. Trump spoke by phone with Mr. Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday night, the White House said. During the calls, Mr. Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula with China and America’s willingness to stand with Japan to respond to any threat from North Korea, the White House said.

The administration said that “a range” of other issues of mutual interest had been discussed with each man, though the naval operation wasn’t explicitly described as a topic of either conversation.

The White House said “a range” of other issues of mutual interest had been discussed with Mr. Xi and Mr. Abe, though the naval operation wasn’t explicitly described as a topic of either conversation.

State-run China Central Television also avoided mentioning the sea patrol in its report on Mr. Xi’s telephone call with President Trump, although it said the Chinese leader had discussed some “negative factors” in relations.

CCTV said that the two leaders had discussed the Korean Peninsula and that Mr. Trump had reaffirmed his commitment to the “one China” policy, whereby Washington forgoes formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also said the two men agreed to meet in Hamburg.

The operation comes after signals emerged of mounting White House impatience with Beijing after Mr. Trump had pushed Mr. Xi to pressure North Korea’s on its missile and nuclear programs. The U.S. no longer seems willing to placate China to get it to do so.

That suggestion was seemingly made clear with a June 20 tweet from Mr. Trump.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

On Thursday, the White House approved a $1.42 billion arms sale to Taiwan, including radar, missiles and torpedoes. That angered Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. Also on Thursday, the White House announced sanctions on four Chinese entities over dealings with North Korea. The entities included a bank the Treasury Department alleged provided access to the U.S. financial system for companies connected to North Korea’s weapons program.

Earlier last week, China registered concerns about a bill approved by a U.S. Senate panel that would allow U.S. warships to make regular port visits to Taiwan.

The moves contrasted with the approach toward Beijing earlier in Mr. Trump’s tenure, when he indicated he wanted to engage with Beijing even after criticizing China during the presidential campaign on trade and other issues. Less than three months after taking office, Mr. Trump met with Mr. Xi at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach, Fla., and Mr. Trump held off naming China a currency manipulator in part because he wanted China’s help on pressuring North Korea.

The freedom-of-navigation operation Sunday is the second to be publicly confirmed since Mr. Trump took office in January. The Navy destroyer the USS Dewey conducted an operation May 24 around Mischief Reef in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, according to U.S. officials. That one came to within 12 miles of Mischief.

Under international maritime law, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from nations’ coastlines.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser on Asia for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, said she thought the “back-to-back” naval operations were significant because it showed the Trump administration is willing to be more assertive in the South China Sea.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. undertook such freedom-of-navigation missions only after weeks or months of multiple policy reviews, defense officials have said.

“It does suggest that the Trump administration is willing to give the Pacific Command a little more leeway,” she said.

After the U.S. patrol near the Spratlys, Beijing vowed to build up its military capabilities and accused the U.S. of destabilizing the region. China also protested after a similar U.S. operation near Triton in January 2016.

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

After the Stethem’s operation near Triton Island on Sunday, China’s foreign ministry issued a written statement saying the destroyer “trespassed China’s territorial islands.”

China dispatched military ships and fighter aircraft in response to “warn off the U.S. vessel,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in the statement, which used the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.

“The Xisha Islands are an inherent part of the Chinese territory,” the statement said noting that the U.S. had conducted the operation without first getting approval from Beijing.

“The U.S., who deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea, is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development,” the statement said.

The Paracels are considered less of a potential flashpoint than the Spratlys, where China has built seven fortified artificial islands in the last three years or so. China has also conducted substantial upgrades of military infrastructure in the Paracels, including a helipad on Triton Island, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Over the course of fiscal 2016, the U.S. conducted freedom-of-navigation operations challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 coastal states, including allies and partners, said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet.

“We conduct routine and regular [freedom-of-navigation operations], as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future.”

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 3, 2017, print edition as ‘U.S. Patrol Raises Stakes for Beijing.’

 

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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.

U.S. Navy Patrols Near Disputed Island in South China Sea

July 2, 2017

Sea patrol follows week where Washington seemed to signal displeasure with Beijing

The U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, here docked in Shanghai in 2015, near Triton Island in the Paracel island chain in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, here docked in Shanghai in 2015, near Triton Island in the Paracel island chain in the South China Sea. PHOTO: CHEN FEI/ZUMA PRESS
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July 2, 2017 5:03 a.m. ET

The Trump administration conducted a second sea patrol close to a China-controlled island in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said, following a series of moves in recent days that appear to signal Washington’s displeasure with Beijing.

The U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem near Triton Island in the Paracel island chain in the South China Sea on Sunday, according to U.S. officials. The warship came to within 12 nautical miles of Triton, indicating that the patrol was meant as a freedom-of-navigation operation, challenging what the U.S. sees as excessive maritime claims.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam all lay claim to the island, which is smaller than a square mile. Beijing has controlled it since seizing the Paracels from Vietnamese forces in 1974.

A U.S. defense official said the ship passed through those waters on the basis of “innocent passage,” challenging all three claimants’ requirement for foreign military ships to seek permission before transiting their territorial waters. Under international maritime law, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from nations’ territory.

“U.S. forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet.

“All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe.”

China’s foreign and defense ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Beijing vowed to build up its military capabilities and accused the U.S. of destabilizing the region after another U.S. Navy ship sailed close to an island in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago in May. China also protested after a similar U.S. operation near Triton in January 2016.

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The Paracels are considered less of a potential a flashpoint than the Spratlys, where China has built seven fortified artificial islands in the past three years or so. Beijing’s claims to the Spratlys overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Still, China has also conducted substantial upgrades of military infrastructure in the Paracels in recent years, including on Triton Island, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank.

Triton has had a small harbor for some years, but its facilities have recently been expanded, including with a helipad, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the think tank.

U.S. defense officials stressed that operations like the one on Sunday are typically planned weeks, if not months, ahead of time and said it wasn’t connected to the other actions taken by Washington in the past few days.

But the timing is likely to cause concern in Beijing, as it comes days before President Donald Trump is expected to meet China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for the second time, at a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

The U.S. operation around Triton also followed a series of moves in the past week that analysts and diplomats say reflect a hardening of U.S. policy toward Beijing.

U.S. officials have been disappointed by China’s response to U.S. appeals for it to use its economic leverage to persuade North Korea to rein in its missile and nuclear programs.

On Thursday, the White House approved an arms sale of $1.42 billion to Taiwan, including radar, missiles and torpedoes, angering Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.

Earlier in the week, China also registered concerns about a bill approved by a U.S. Senate panel this week that would allow U.S. warships to make regular port visits to Taiwan.

Also on Thursday, the White House announced sanctions on four Chinese entities over their dealings with North Korea, including a bank the Treasury Department alleged provided access to the U.S. financial system for companies connected to North Korea’s weapons program.

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

Mr. Trump had pinned his hopes on Beijing to use its influence over Pyongyang to get it to stop its nuclear and missile testing. But on June 20 Mr. Trump seemed to end that approach with a tweet: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

The freedom-of-navigation operation on Sunday is the second to be publicly confirmed since Mr. Trump took office in January. The Navy destroyer the USS Dewey conducted another operation May 24 around Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. That one came to within 12 miles of Mischief.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump signaled that his Pentagon would be more assertive in the South China Sea, but in recent months his administration has sought to play down the significance of freedom-of-navigation operations, also known as fonops.

Freedom-of-navigation operations, “are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements,” said Lt. Cmdr. Knight, adding that in the 2016 fiscal year, the U.S. conducted such operations challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 coastal states, including allies and partners.

“We conduct routine and regular fonops, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future.”

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com

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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.

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From The Daily Mail

For the second time in just over two months, the US has challenged China‘s claim to the South China Sea and a number of disputed islands within it.

On Sunday the Pentagon sent a destroyer, the USS Stethem, to sail close to the shore of Triton Island – one of a number in the Paracel Island chain that China claims ownership of.

In response, China trailed the US destroyer with one of its own warships, two US defense officials told Fox News.

Voyage: On Sunday the USS Stethem (pictured) a US destroyer, sailed within 12 miles of an island claimed by China in the South China Sea, to establish its waters as international

Voyage: On Sunday the USS Stethem (pictured) a US destroyer, sailed within 12 miles of an island claimed by China in the South China Sea, to establish its waters as international

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Denied: Triton Island (pictured) is claimed by China (which has built a base, far left). By sailing through the waters it claims to own, the US denied the country's ownership of the island

Denied: Triton Island (pictured) is claimed by China (which has built a base, far left). By sailing through the waters it claims to own, the US denied the country’s ownership of the island

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According to international law, countries’ territories extend 12 miles out from their shores.

So by sailing within that distance of Triton, the Stethem dismissed China’s claim to both the island and the waters around it.

The US calls these voyages ‘freedom of navigation operations’ or FONOPS, because they are intended to reinforce the territories as international waters.

Although China has constructed a base on the island to reinforce its claim, both Taiwan and the Philippines say they are the rightful owners of the island.

The Pentagon said that it was challenging those countries’ claims to the island too. Washington is particularly concerned about China placing ground-to-air missiles on the chain.

Lt Cmdr Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, would not confirm the operation.

But he did say: ‘We conduct routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future.’

Disputed: Triton Island is located in the South China Sea and its ownership is disputed as it is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The US said it was denying all claims to the island

Disputed: Triton Island is located in the South China Sea and its ownership is disputed as it is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The US said it was denying all claims to the island

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Triton is a naturally occurring island, and not one of the several manufactured islands built by China in the area to lay claim to the seas there.

This is the second FONOP to be conducted under the Trump administration.

In May the USS Dewey, another destroyer, sailed six miles from one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

It made the unusual decision to stop within that water and conduct a ‘man overboard’ training exercise.

That was a bolder move than in previous missions, in which the ships had sailed past without stopping.

Sunday’s operation comes at a difficult time in America-Sino relations. The US had been talking to China about trying to curb North Korea’s nuclear development, but Trump tweeted that effort had failed last month.

On Friday the US unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank that had been trading with North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move was not a punishment for China’s failure to rein in North Korea, and was focused on a single bank.

Tough times: The US and China have a difficult relationship at the moment. Last month Donald Trump tweeted that China had failed to curb North Korean missile development
Sanctions: Last week the US placed sanctions on a bank dealing with North Korea but denied that it was punishing China. Pictured: China's president, Xi Jinping

Tough times: The US and China have a difficult relationship at the moment. Last month Donald Trump tweeted that China had failed to curb North Korean missile development.

.Last week the US placed sanctions on a bank dealing with North Korea but denied that it was punishing China

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The day before, America confirmed a $1.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan, which has opposing claims to a number of South China Sea islands, and also claims that it is the rightful government of mainland China.

China’s claim to Triton Island was previously challenged just over a year ago, on January 30, 2016, when the USS Curtis Wilbur, another destroyer, was sent within 12 miles of the island.

The Pentagon again said the mission was done to secure the sea around the island as international waters.

China denounced the voyage as ‘intentionally provocative’ and ‘irresponsible and extremely dangerous,’ and said it had taken ‘relevant measures including monitoring and admonishments.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4658970/Pentagon-challenges-China-s-claim-disputed-island.html#ixzz4lgXKDqPH
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Chinese General’s Unexplained Early Exit From Vietnam Visit Raises Concern Over Rift

June 22, 2017

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

A Chinese coast guard ship (L) uses a water cannon on a Vietnamese ship in disputed waters in the South China Sea, May 2, 2014.

AFP/Vietnamese Foreign Ministry

A truncated visit this week by a Chinese military officer to neighboring Vietnam has raised eyebrows among foreign affairs analysts who are questioning whether the incident could indicate an about-face in relations between the two communist allies who are embroiled in a territorial dispute.

Chinese General Fan Changlong, who is part of the delegation visiting the capital Hanoi this week, abruptly left Vietnam on Tuesday after a private meeting with Vietnamese defense officials.

Public and private accounts of the incident vary. Chinese and Vietnamese state media report that defense relations are going well and that the parties reached an agreement on personnel training between their defense ministries.

But analysts, citing government sources, said a discussion over disputed territory in the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands and military infrastructure, may have prompted a row leading to Fan’s early departure, which caused him to skip a cross-border exchange program.

They cited Vietnam’s efforts to form strategic military partnerships with the United States and Japan, and a recent move by Vietnam to allow a foreign company to exploit oil in the Vanguard Bank area of the South China Sea where a Chinese fishing vessel cut a Vietnamese boat’s cable in May 2011, triggering street protests in Hanoi.

Vietnam has long claimed Vanguard Bank is part of its continental shelf, and not part of the disputed territory with China. The two countries, however, have agreed not to explore or exploit oil in disputed areas of the sea.

Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore and an international relations scholar at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, said he could only speculate on the matter since there is no official information about it.

“In the past, Vietnam has been under pressure to maintain its growth rate, so it has had discussions on enhancing oil exploration on the South China Sea,” he said.

“Vietnam’s activities in the South China Sea have touched China’s interests, and as usual, China will find ways to discourage the country from pursing them,” he said.

“It is therefore not difficult to understand if the conflict in the South China Sea is related to the exploitation of marine resources,” he said. “And perhaps this is the reason why Fan Changlong cut short his visit to Vietnam.”

Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert based in Australia who has taught at several defense universities, said it is likely that Fan asked Vietnam to stop the oil exploitation in Vanguard Bank, which indicates that the country has not complied with an agreement with China not to explore and exploit oil reserves in the disputed area.

Le Hong Hiep agreed with Thayer’s assessment and said China wants to put pressure on Vietnam to stop its activities and to comply with the two parties’ agreement so as to not complicate the situation.

This also depends on each side’s interpretation of the agreement, he said.

“Vietnam’s exploration and exploitation of oil on its continental shelf does not complicate the situation, because Vietnam has sovereignty over that region,” Hiep said. “However, China sees it as a disputed area, so actions such as unilateral oil exploration and exploitation may be a complication.”

Possible miliary clash

Thayer, who noted that China is deploying 40 ships and several Y-8GX6 turboprop anti-submarine warfare aircraft to the area, raised the possibility that a military clash between China and Vietnam could occur during the next few days.

Hiep, however, declined to forecast the outcome, but added that if hostilities did occur, they would pose a major challenge to the countries’ bilateral relations, which could have the same or even a greater effect than did the oil rig crisis of May 2014.

In that crisis, China deployed a giant oil-drilling rig in the South China Sea about 120 miles from Vietnam’s coast near islands claimed by both countries and within Hanoi’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone set by international law.

The event sparked a bitter bilateral row, with both sides accusing the other of ramming ships patrolling the area.

Thayer also said that Fan’s rumored cancellation of activities in connection with the fourth Vietnam-China friendly border exchange in Lai Chau and Yunnan provinces on June 20-22 would be the “most significant setback in bilateral relations” since the 2014 incident.

“This setback would also be a sign that China is being more assertive in response to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visits to Washington and Tokyo in order to curtail the development of Vietnam’s defense and security relations with these two countries,” he said.

Phuc and high-raking delegations visited the U.S. in May, and Japan in early June.

“If true, this would be a clumsy and counterproductive act by China,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/chinese-generals-unexplained-early-exit-from-vietnam-visit-raises-concern-over-rift-06212017162614.html

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FILE 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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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

 

After A Break, Beijing Must Fear The U.S. Again Over South China Sea Expansion

June 21, 2017

By Ralph Jennings
Forbes Contributor

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives to testify on the Defense Department budget at a House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 15, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump gave China a break in April on its tightening of control over Asia’s most hotly disputed sea. But the leeway that has allowed China and the United States to work together on containing North Korea shows signs of expiring. The two superpowers may still tag-team over North Korea for a while, but Trump is expected to start upping pressure against Beijing so it stops assuming it can take full rein over the South China Sea.

China’s claims to the resource-rich, 3.5 million-square-kilometer tract of water off its south coast overlap those of militarily weaker Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Some of those governments looked to the United States for help under former-president Barack Obama. But now Washington is more distant, and those countries are tilting toward China, which has consecrated its maritime power partly by offering them aid, trade and investment in exchange for muting any protest, per the view of political scientists. China is almost done landfilling a series of pivotal islets so it can park combat aircraft and radar systems, as well, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under U.S. think tank Center for Strategic and Investment Studies.

When U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis meet Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi for an initial security dialogue Wednesday in Washington, the two sides are expected at least to touch on the issue.

“The South China Sea will be an issue high on the agenda, or at least from the U.S. perspective,” says Yun Sun, senior associate with the East Asia Program under Washington-based think tank the Stimson Center. “China is likely to see the South China Sea as less of a problem today given its improved relations with Manila, but it remains a key concern for Washington.”

A file photograph showing an island that China built on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Manila handed Washington a classic case of how China has turned Southeast Asia to its favor. The Philippines asked a world arbitration court in 2015 to rule against China, and in July last year it did: Beijing, it said, lacks a legal basis for its claims to some 90% of the sea. Since then, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made friends with China, putting the maritime sovereignty dispute on hold as Manila receives aid and investment from the other side. The Philippines for its part is on a push to improve infrastructure and China’s good at that.

The United States doesn’t want China to get too much of a hold over Southeast Asia. An expansionist Beijing goes against the long-standing U.S. interest in keeping at least a geopolitical balance between the two powers (China would say the same for the United States). Washington wants the South China Sea open for free commercial navigation, too. About $5 trillion worth of trade passes through its shipping lanes every year.

A so-called “freedom of navigation operation” passage in late May by a U.S. naval vessel in the South China Sea came despite Chinese objections as one sign that the U.S. government is raising pressure. Earlier this month Mattis said he anticipated friction between China and the United States. “The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways,” the Department of Defense quotes him saying June 3. “This includes the nature of its militarization, China’s disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations’ interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues.”

The USS Carl Vinson (pictured here in May, 2017) leads a significant U.S. military presence in Asia. (Photo by Z.A. Landers/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

What about North Korea? You might expect Trump’s people to keep downplaying the South China Sea matter so Beijing stays happy and works with them on throttling the mysterious and potentially dangerous Kim Jong-un regime. North Korea will inevitably come up at this week’s dialogue, a process established in April when Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, analysts say. This dialogue, as a first in a potential series, will probably be more pro forma than substantive, observers say. But once the two sides dive deeper, cooperation might be nuked into a standoff. U.S. officials worry for one thing that China is letting North Korea get around economic sanctions by using its own procurement supply chain to get financing from Chinese banks, I have reported.

“There might be some general commitment to Korean denuclearization, but Beijing won’t do anything consequential on that front, as it wants to keep North Korea around more than it disapproves of Pyongyang’s nukes,” says Sean King, senior vice president of New York political consultancy Park Strategies. “Hopefully, (the U.S. government) has put Xi on notice that we’re moving toward secondary sanctions against the mainland Chinese entities and banks that are fronting for North Korea if he doesn’t take real action.”

With that bold new approach to China over North Korea, Trump has little to lose by adding pressure on Beijing over the South China Sea.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/06/19/after-a-break-beijing-must-fear-the-u-s-again-over-south-china-sea-expansion/#4745d68d76b5

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FILE 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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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Vietnam urges China to act responsibly in South China Sea

June 16, 2017
/ 06:09 PM June 15, 2017
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Image may contain: 8 people

Filipinos, together with Vietnamese expatriates, display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest China’s island-building and deployment of surface-to-air missile system at the disputed Paracel Islands off South China Sea, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 in the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines. The protesters, who were also joined by students from the ASEAN countries, are urging the international community to join unified efforts in calling for peace, stability and development in the ASEAN region. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam is urging China to take responsible and constructive actions in the disputed South China Sea following a Pentagon report that highlighted Beijing military’s buildup in the strategic waters.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters that her government has legal basis and historical evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea and that acts by foreign countries on the islands without Vietnam’s permission were illegal.

Vietnam, along with China and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claims parts of or all the Spratly islands, which are believed to sit on rich natural resources and occupy one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/158022/vietnam-urges-china-act-responsibly-south-china-sea#ixzz4kAFzIn9u
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FILE 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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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check

May 15, 2017

Reuters

China and Vietnam will manage and properly control their maritime disputes, avoiding actions to complicate or widen them, so as to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the two nations said in a joint communique China released on Monday.

Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.

After what China said were “positive” talks on the South China Sea last week between President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the joint statement stressed the need to control differences.

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Both countries agreed to “manage and properly control maritime disputes, not take any actions to complicate the situation or expand the dispute, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea”, it added.

The document, released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said both had a “candid and deep” exchange of views on maritime issues, and agreed to use an existing border talks mechanism to look for a lasting resolution.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Besides Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about $5 trillion of trade passes each year.

Last year, tension between Beijing and Hanoi rose after Taiwan and U.S. officials said China had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracels archipelago it controls.

Vietnam called China’s actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels.

In 2014, tension between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.

Relations have gradually improved since, with exchanges of high-level visits, though the regional military buildup continues, including China’s construction of airstrips on man-made islands in the busy waterway.

Quang arrived in Beijing last week for a state visit and to attend a two-day conference ending Monday on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond, through massive infrastructure investment.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)