Posts Tagged ‘Permanent Court of Arbitration’

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

February 18, 2018

 

US Navy

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

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

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

Philippine Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop in Vietnam?

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

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

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

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

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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

Gunboat diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Philippines ‘aggressively’ pursuing joint exploration in South China Sea — China is there and building but has no leagal rights in the South China Sea

February 16, 2018

 

China’s construction activities on Subi Reef is seen from Philippine-controled Pagasa Island in the South China Sea off Palawan province on April 21, 2017. AP, File photo

AP, File photo
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – February 16, 2018 – 3:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government is consulting international experts in its bid to pursue joint exploration with China in disputed areas in the South China Sea, the Philippines’ top diplomat said Friday.

The possibility of joint exploration was among the agenda in the recently concluded second meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea in Manila.

Pursuing joint exploration in disputed areas would entail talks with other claimant countries, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a press conference.

 

“I can tell you that we’re pursuing it aggressively because we need it,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano revealed that the Philippine government is currently discussing joint exploration first to ensure that it is in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

RELATED: ‘Joint venture with China on South China Sea violates Charter’ l China seen to push states to withdraw South China Sea claims

The DFA secretary said that the Philippines cannot explore undisputed areas alone due to financial concerns.

“Unless we can do it by ourselves without starting a war or worse without a massacre, it will be prudent to do it in partnership without violating our sovereignty,” he said.

International legal experts who have handled contracts on legal framework of disputed areas and who have dealt with sovereign rights will be consulted regarding a possible joint exploration with China.

The Chinese government, on the other hand, will be forming their own technical working group while consulting with the DFA, the Department of National Defense and the security cluster.

“We will find a legal framework if it is possible under the Constitution that will allow joint exploration. Once there’s results, we will report it to the Filipino public,” Cayetano said.

“If they find deposits commercially viable to help development, then we will have to file a framework,” he added.

Cayetano noted that the Philippines and China are only discussing joint exploration first and not joint development.

“We’re discussing exploration muna cause what’s the use of a debate whether or not allowed sa Constitution ang joint development kung hindi natin alam ano ang nandyan na pwedeng i-harvest without damaging the environment,” he said.

Experts had warned that a joint development in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China does not guarantee better relations and that the failure of such may spark another conflict.

RELATED: ‘South China Sea claimants will suffer if harsh to China’

“The feasibility of joint development is directly correlated with the state of relations between the parties,” UP Law professor Jay Batongbacal said in a forum last year.

In July 2016, the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China’s historic nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Philippines, however, pushed aside the landmark ruling as President Rodrigo Duterte is pursuing “friendly” relations with China.

Read more at https://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/16/1788467/philippines-aggressively-pursuing-joint-exploration-south-china-sea#TcbLfWfzOqzEap6u.99

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

China has built seven new military bases in South China Sea, US navy commander says

February 15, 2018

Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in disputed waterway is ‘coordinated, methodical and strategic’, Admiral Harry Harris says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm

South China Morning Post

The commander of the United States Pacific Command on Wednesday warned of China’s growing military might, saying Beijing had unilaterally built seven new military bases in the South China Sea.

“China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarising its man-made bases,” Admiral Harry Harris said in a congressional hearing.

Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the new facilities included “aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements [and] 10,000-foot runways”.

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than a third of all global trade passes.

Harris said he saw Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas as “coordinated, methodical and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order”.

In the East China Sea, Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in an attempt to undermine Tokyo’s administration of the uninhabited islets.

Harris said the US alliance with Japan “has never been stronger” and that Washington’s alliance with South Korea was “ironclad”.

Harris, who is set to become the next US ambassador to Australia, also hailed the Washington-Canberra alliance, saying bilateral military ties were “terrific” and that Australia was “one of the keys to a rules-based international order”.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2133483/china-has-built-seven-new-military-bases-south-china

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines objects to China’s naming of undersea features — “Good Deals” from China are never what they seem…

February 14, 2018

Above, a Philippine Coast Guard ship sails along Benham Rise, off the east coast of the main island of Luzon. (Department of Agriculture-Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division via AFP)
MANILA: The Philippine government rejects Chinese names given to some undersea features in a vast offshore region where the Philippines has undisputed sovereign rights, the presidential spokesman said Wednesday in a new tiff despite the Asian neighbors’ mended ties.
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The Philippines has already raised its concern to China over its naming of the undersea features in Benham Rise and may officially notify the international hydrographic body that lists such records, spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
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China proposed the names for the features in 2015 and 2017, he said.
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Benham Rise lies on the other side of the Philippine archipelago from the South China Sea, where Manila, Beijing and four other governments have been locked in territorial disputes.
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Critics have questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration allowed a group from China to undertake scientific research in the waters given Manila’s long-simmering territorial conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.
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China has defied and refuses to comply with an international arbitration ruling that invalidated its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea on historical grounds.
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“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Roque said in a statement, using the name given by the Duterte administration to Benham Rise.
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Duterte ordered an end last week to all foreign scientific research missions in Benham Rise after officials said the Philippines’ undisputed sovereign rights in the potentially oil- and gas-endowed body of water off its northeastern coast came under question.
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The president followed up with a warning that he will order the navy to fire if other countries extract resources from within his country’s exclusive economic zone, a 200-nautical mile stretch of sea where a coastal state has internationally recognized exclusive rights to exploit resources under a 1982 UN treaty.
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Foreign ships can pass but cannot fish or extract oil and gas from the under the seabed.
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There were no immediate comments from Chinese Embassy officials.
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Chinese and Philippine officials met Tuesday in Manila and discussed proposed joint projects in the South China Sea. They said China and Southeast Asian nations would begin negotiations early next month on a “code of conduct” aimed at reducing the risks of armed confrontations in the contested territories.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

ASEAN’s Growing Unease With China In The South China Sea —

February 11, 2018

Asean needs to resolve complex and pressing issues before nations can agree on rules to help ease maritime disputes in the South China Sea, writes Collin Koh

By Collin Koh
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:18am

The chairman’s press statement at the latest Asean foreign ministers retreat held in Singapore could hardly be more timely where it concerns disputes in the South China Sea.

Paragraph 11 of the four-page document dedicates substantial attention to the disputes. Its wording in part borrows much of the standard phrases from past documents and is largely conciliatory in tone, including ministers embracing “practical measures” aimed at building confidence to help ease disputes.

Yet, at the same time, the statement flagged the bloc’s collective unease over ongoing developments in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

It noted the “concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.

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China has now built at least seven South China Sea military fortifications.

The proposed solution it suggested would not come as any surprise to observers of Asean and matters relating to the South China Sea.

The ministers duly “reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation”.

It went on to say that all sides should “pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].”

Without a doubt, the key initiative aimed at managing, if not resolving, these disputes is the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, for which a framework was adopted last August.

 Asean foreign ministers pose for a photograph at their retreat in Singapore on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo

Amid the bonhomie between Asean and China, reducing tensions evident before a UN panel ruled on the legitimacy of China’s claims to the waters in July 2016, the underlying problems still remain up for deeper discussion between Beijing and the 10-member regional bloc.

Now that the “honeymoon” is over following the adoption of the code of conduct framework, the real work begins to iron out the details. Through this latest statement, Asean foreign ministers sought to work towards “an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline”.

This timeline is, however, tenuous at best.

In recent years, a number of South China Sea observers have pointed out that it is by no means certain that a code of conduct will eventually materialise. That is a pessimistic scenario for sure, but let us assume that the code will eventually be promulgated, perhaps not without some potholes encountered in the arduous journey of formal negotiations.

The issue is how exactly how effective it will be.

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China’s military infrastructure on its South China Sea bases is elaborate

Expediting the negotiations can be motivated in a few ways – either because all parties truly commit to the code out of goodwill, or because some tumultuous events arise unexpectedly in the South China Sea, compelling the parties in a knee-jerk reaction to produce a code, more for consumption by the international community, notwithstanding how suboptimal the document may be.

The latter “reactive” scenario is a plausible one.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Talks about the code started only after a major incident happened in the Mischief Reef back in the 1990s, despite the fact that prior to the event there had been disturbing actions undertaken by the claimants and that Asean and China did not conclude that a code was in fact necessary. But as reactive it may be, ultimately having a code serves the interest of both Asean and China. For the regional bloc, the code could be held up as a shining example of the continued relevance of Asean in the regional security architecture. Beijing would also want the code to justify its rejection of external interference in South China Sea disputes.

All parties converge essentially on one common objective, which is to demonstrate to the international community that they could, on their own accord, manage, if not settle, South China Sea disputes. However, there is no way to exclude parties outside the region from operating in the South China Sea, given that this semi-enclosed maritime domain serves some of the most critical arteries for global economic well-being. Ensuring good order in the waters of the South China Sea is not just the responsibility of surrounding governments, but the international community writ large.

Given this reality, it becomes questionable whether the code could be effective if signatories to any document decide not to desist from responding to actions undertaken by those non-signatory parties outside the region.

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It is difficult to envisage that the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations would cease because of the code, or that other players such as Australia, India and Japan would not engage in their usual naval outreaches to the region, engaging their Southeast Asian partners in bolstering maritime security ties. In such a context, any of the South China Sea claimants could choose to undertake measures in the name of “self defence”, including further sprucing up existing infrastructure, even if no additional land reclamation is carried out.

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China’s miitary bases near the Philippines

All such activities could be arbitrarily deemed “provocative” by any of the parties and other stakeholders in the South China Sea. Such a problem could be anticipated in deeper discussions on the code. The devil lies in the definition of militarisation, besides other pertinent issues related to whether the code should be binding (legally or otherwise), the geographical scope of coverage and also the prospect of opening the code for participation by other countries, which is likely to encounter significant differences between the negotiating parties.

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Given the commitment to the process, all parties should aim to take as long as required to iron out differences over these issues, as well as anticipated problems related to compliance, verification and enforcement, to produce a truly effective code to every party’s satisfaction. Failing that, if for political expediency the code is rushed for promulgation, a suboptimal document will be all that remains, further undermining the common objective of demonstrating the ability of Asean and China to effectively manage maritime disputes.

Swee Lean Collin Koh is a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2132854/troubled-waters-ahead-code-conduct-south-china-sea

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See also:

How South China Sea is fast turning into Beijing’s military outpost

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/how-south-china-sea-is-fast-turning-into-beijings-military-outpost/articleshow/62859413.cms

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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.

Text of Hague court ruling affirming Philippines rights over Mischief Reef — Duterte Government “Gave Away” Islands To China

February 8, 2018

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‘Mischief Reef… fall within areas where only the Philippines possesses possible entitlements to maritime zones under the Convention…. Accordingly, the Philippines – and not China – possesses sovereign rights with respect to resources in these areas,’ reads the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016

Mischief Reef, Spratly Islands.png

Mischief Reef before any Chinese activity

Published 7:05 PM, February 06, 2018
Updated 7:05 PM, February 06, 2018
Rappler

2016 PHOTO. Structures seen on a satellite image of Mischief Reef on November 15, 2016, released December 13, 2016. Image courtesy of CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

2016 PHOTO. Structures seen on a satellite image of Mischief Reef on November 15, 2016, released December 13, 2016. Image courtesy of CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines – Panganiban (Mischief) Reef belongs to the Philippines. It is not disputed.

It is one of the 7 maritime features that China reclaimed in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Photos taken last year show China built a runway, two hangars, and two radomes for radar equipment, among other facilities, on the reef.

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The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in July 2016 that the Philippines has sovereign rights over Mischief Reef.

It is a “low tide elevation” inside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines – located about about 130 nautical miles from mainland Palawan – that does not overlap with other maritime entitlements in the area.

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Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef is a clear violation of the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the maritime feature, according to the court based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The same ruling declared nearby Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank as part of the Philippine EEZ.

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Below are the sections of the ruling on Mischief Reef:

697. …the Tribunal has found that Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, the GSEC101 block, Area 3, Area 4, or the SC58 block all fall within areas where only the Philippines possesses possible entitlements to maritime zones under the Convention. The relevant areas can only constitute the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines. Accordingly, the Philippines – and not China – possesses sovereign rights with respect to resources in these areas.

757. China has, through the operation of its marine surveillance vessels in tolerating and failing to exercise due diligence to prevent fishing by Chinese flagged vessels at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal in May 2013, failed to exhibit due regard for the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to fisheries in its exclusive economic zone. Accordingly, China has breached its obligations under Article 58(3) of the Convention.

1037: China’s activities at Mischief Reef have since evolved into the creation of an artificial island. China has elevated what was originally a reef platform that submerged at high tide into an island that is permanently exposed. Such an island is undoubtedly “artificial” for the purposes of Article 60. It is equally clear that China has proceeded without receiving, or even seeking, the permission of the Philippines. Indeed, China’s conduct has taken place in the face of the Philippines’ protests. Article 60 is unequivocal in permitting only the coastal State to construct or authorise such artificial islands.

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1043. …the Tribunal finds that China has, through its construction of installations and artificial islands at Mischief Reef without the authorization of the Philippines, breached Articles 60 and 80 of the Convention with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The Tribunal further finds that, as a low-tide elevation, Mischief Reef is not capable of appropriation.

The Philippines told the court China has prevented Filipino fishermen near Mischief Reef since 1995. It was the same year China started building “typhoon shelters” on the reef. By 1999, there were mutli-storey structions, communication equipment there, and a helipad.

Reclamation on Mischief Reef was reported in 2014, a year after the Philippines filed its case against China.

The international court said it doesn’t have jurisdiction to rule which state has sovereignty or sovereign rights over most of the other maritime features. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/195387-hague-court-ruling-mischief-reef-south-china-sea

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines — 2018

“Someday Philippines will thank China for reef structures”

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

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

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

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Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Roque reiterated there was nothing new in the developments.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/163916/someday-ph-will-thank-china-reef-structures-roque#ixzz56Ru2FS56
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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  Or Did Duterte Swindle The Filipino People?

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mischief Reef radomes

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

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

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

WITHIN PHILIPPINES’ EEZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

MILITARY SHIPS

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

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

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Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class missile frigate

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

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

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

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

STATUS QUO DEAL IGNORED

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

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

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

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

ROQUE: NO LONGER NEWS

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

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

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

DON’T TRUST A THIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARBITRAL RULING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLAIMANTS DISUNITED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S AT STAKE

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

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

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

 http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/new-photos-show-china-is-nearly-done-with-its-militarisation-of-south-china-sea
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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.

Philippines government on China buildup on PH reef: What do you want us to do? — Malacañang portrays itself as helpless in the face of China — Not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.” — Really? — Something is fishy…

February 5, 2018

(UPDATED) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque again downplays continued militarization by China of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea

Published 3:05 PM, February 05, 2018
Updated 3:39 PM, February 05, 2018

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang, on Monday, February 5, portrayed itself as helpless in the face of China’s continued construction on Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), a reef that belongs to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do they want us to do?” asked Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a Palace news briefing.

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 Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

He was asked what the Philippine government intends to do about the new structures built by China on the reef located in the Spratlys which the Permanent Court of Arbitration, through a landmark ruling, affirmed belongs to the Philippines.

Photos show the reclaimed reef now has a concrete runway, two radomes for radar equipment, two hangars, and a control tower.

Roque said the reclamation of the reefs in the Spratlys began during the administration of Benigno Aquino III and that the government had already known then of China’s plan to build military structures on them.

“I think whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases. So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” said President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.

Asked if the Philippines intends to file a diplomatic protest against China, Roque was evasive.

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China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, shows Chinese military construction

“In the first place, it did not happen overnight. I think the previous administration must have filed also a protest, when it became apparent that they were going to be used as military bases,” he said.

Roque insisted that the only red flag for Malacañang is if China creates more artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

This despite Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying a month ago that even just military buildup on existing artificial islands is a violation of China’s promise.

“I know for a fact that the Chinese government said some time ago that they are not going to militarize those reclaimed islands,” said Lorenzana last January 8.

If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and weapons, then it will be a violation of what they said,” he added.

Asked to explain the discrepancy between his remarks and that of the defense chief, Roque said he can only speak for Duterte and not for other Cabinet members.

Options outside of war

This is the second time Roque has downplayed new Chinese construction in the West Philippine Sea. In early January, he also said the transformation of Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) into a Chinese air base was not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.”

During the Monday briefing, Roque wondered out loud what else the Duterte administration could do in the face of China’s continued construction on reclaimed reefs. He even asked reporters present for suggestions since declaring war against China is “impossible.”

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had previously outlined 5 steps the Duterte administration could take to deter China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea without going to war.

One of these steps is to file a diplomatic protest. Another is to send the Philippine Navy to patrol features in the EEZ.

Carpio also said the Philippines could ask for the assistance of the United States, possibly in the form of joint naval patrols. He also advised the government to avoid any act or statement that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Why Justice Carpio wants China to read his e-book)

Asked about Carpio’s criticism of the Duterte administration’s decision to trust China’s word on its activities in the West Philippine Sea, Roque said it would be better for Carpio to write a relevant court decision or to run for a post in government.

“He could run [for] an elective, legislative position if he wants to make policy for government,” said Roque. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/195287-malacanang-china-buildup-mischief-reef-west-philippine-sea

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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.

India ready to help boost Asean maritime security

February 4, 2018
A peaceful, very prosperous maritime neighborhood is very important to India
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A peaceful, very prosperous maritime neighborhood is very important to India, 40 percent of whose commerce relies on unimpeded passage through international waters in the Indo-Pacific region including the South China Sea, according to East External Affairs Minister Preeti Saran. (Image from Google Maps)

DELHI, India — The Indian government has expressed readiness to help strengthen maritime security in Southeast Asia, particularly in ensuring that peace will prevail in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

But Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a think tank based in New Delhi, said that any assistance that the Indian government would extend to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would depend on the comfort level of every country, apparently referring to each one’s ties with China.

A peaceful, very prosperous maritime neighborhood is very important to India, 40 percent of whose commerce relies on unimpeded passage through international waters in the Indo-Pacific region including the South China Sea, according to East External Affairs Minister Preeti Saran.

“We remain very committed to Asean’s centrality in the regional architecture,” Saran said. “We supported Asean for freedom of navigation in the important stages of communication. We remain committed to a rules-based system, respect for international law and that there should be no threat or use of force by any entity in these waters which are the global commons.”

“If there are disputes or territorial disputes of some the Asean countries with some other neighbors, we believe that all disputes should be resolved peacefully in keeping with international laws, notably the UNCLOS,” she added.

Preeti Saran

India’sEast External Affairs Minister Preeti Saran (Photo from her Facebook page)

UNCLOS – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

‘Issues-free relationship’ with Asean

“We have a very strong defense cooperation with some of the Asean countries,” Saran said. “But what is the beauty about our relations with Asean and each of the Asean countries is that it is without any problems. It is an issues-free relationship. There are no irritants in our relationship. In fact there is a greater desire on the part of each of the Asean countries and Asean as a regional grouping to do more business with India.”

She was referring to the recent India-Asean commemorative summit last Jan. 26, which coincided with India’s Republic Day. It was attended by all Asean heads of state, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Saran said that the partnership between India and Asean encompasses political, security, defense, maritime, economic and cultural cooperation.

With India being one of the fastest growing world economies, growing at 7.5 percent this year and expected to grow by 8 percent in 2019, the country provides an opportunity for Asean countries to access goods and services.

“As far as India is concerned, we feel that the Asean region is our natural partner,” Saran said. “There is a lot of dynamism in the Asean region itself. Individually each of your countries are doing exceedingly well economically and we feel there are complementarities in our economies.”

“The Asean way of doing business is of consensus,” she added. “We are aware that Asean is deeply committed to peace and prosperity in the region and we feel that India is a natural partner for Asean in this desire for attaining peace and prosperity in our region which is why we remain very hopeful that our relations will only improve and issues-free that we see elements positive in our economic growth that there is a greater desire [among] Asean countries for India to be more active and actively participating, not just in economic activities but also in security cooperation.”

Common challenges

She said that India and Asean face common challenges of terrorism, piracy, maritime terrorism, extremism, and natural disasters which “come straight out of over exploitation of maritime resources, of our natural resources.”

India has developed standard operating procedures on providing humanitarian assistance in responding to natural disasters as well as disaster risk reduction management, looking at natural calamities as a cause of concern and an important area of cooperation with the Asean-member states along with the development of the so-called blue economy.

The blue economy involves the fisheries and aqua-culture sectors as well as the use of maritime resources, including oil and gas.

It was, she assured, without spoiling the environment, “because India remains very strongly committed to sustainable development.”

“We feel that  if we have to grow, to provide decent standards of living to our people, our 1.2 billion people, we cannot do so at the risk of damaging our environment,” she said. “Our growth is not at the expense of somebody else’s exploitation.”

“We are very mindful and remain very sensitive to concerns relating to sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she added.

Among areas in maritime cooperation that India hopes to explore with Asean is disaster risk reduction and management, joint patrols and exercises, and other maritime capacity-building activities.

She said India and the Asean countries, individually and collectively, could make arrangements on intelligence sharing to combat piracy at sea, terrorism, and sea-based human smuggling as well as narcotics trafficking.

Security cooperation important for India and Asean

For its part, the Vivekananda International Foundation said that it would be vital for India and Asean to explore areas of security cooperation, particularly where the “lack of order in the South China Sea” is concerned.

“Our security, prosperity, development, everything depends upon the order of the sea,” VIF senior fellow Anil Wadhwa said. “It is very important that India and Asean should begin to look at security cooperation.”

“It is not a new idea. It is an idea that has been incrementally gaining ground but we also notice that there has been hesitation on the part of some Asean countries, because of obvious reasons, to take this cooperation farther,” he added.

He assured that India would ready to have a serious security cooperation – particularly through maritime joint exercises – with Asean, individually and collectively, but any arrangement would have to be within the level of comfort of the Asean-member states.

But Wadhwa stressed that any arrangement should not be viewed as moves to oppose any country.

VIF senior fellow and research coordinator Vinod Anand observed a wavering Philippine stance on its claim to territories in the South China Sea despite securing a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

In the July 2016 ruling, the court found that the Philippines had exclusive sovereign rights over certain areas in the West Philippine Sea and that China had no historic rights to resources within the areas falling within its nine-dash line map, which has been invalidated.

Without invoking the arbitral ruling, the Philippines has since pushed for the drafting of a code of conduct in the South China Sea involving China and all other claimant-countries.

Nevertheless, Anand pointed out: “India supports freedom of navigation or flight and unimpeded commerce and international law, the UNCLOS. Any dispute should be resolved through peaceful means without threat or force… The Indian position is quite clear.”

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/163796/india-ready-help-boost-asean-maritime-security#ixzz568kznKiV
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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.