Posts Tagged ‘PLA’

China trying to ‘outflank’ India’s positions with road in Doklam?

March 20, 2018
NEW DELHI: China’s road and other military infrastructure construction in the Doklam area near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction continues to cause concern in the Indian security establishment, with People’s Liberation Army now trying to circumvent Indian troop positions with an road axis in the region.

Sources say PLA troops are “trying to work around or outflank” the Indian Doka La military outpost, which is located on the ridge that dominates Doklam, by constructing a new 1.3-km long road and “communication trenches” around 4-km away from the spot.

This alternative axis could allow them access towards the Jampheri Ridge in south Doklam, as the PLA had earlier wanted before the 73-day troop stand-off last year .

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But Indian security establishment officials on being contacted on Monday, refused to say anything on the matter. India is “highly sensitive” about the Jampheri Ridge because it overlooks its militarily-vulnerable Siliguri Corridor or the so called “Chicken’s Neck” area.

Officials say China remains keen to usurp Doklam or the Dolam Plateau, disputed between Beijing and Thimpu, to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in like a dagger between Sikkim and Bhutan.

India in the past had never objected to PLA patrols in Doklam but was forced to intervene in mid-June last year when the PLA troops attempted to disrupt the status quo by constructing the road towards the Jampheri Ridge.

Indian soldiers from their Doka La post had then stepped down just around 100 metres ahead to physically block PLA troops from extending the road. It had led to the 73-day face-off between the two armies before troop disengagement from the actual faceoff site on August 28 after extensive diplomatic parleys.

But the PLA had constructed military infrastructure and helipads as well as deployed around 1,600 troops in north Doklam (separated from south Doklam by the Torsa Nala rivulet) throughout the winter for the first time after the disengagement, as was earlier reported by TOI.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself recently admitted in Parliament that the PLA had undertaken “construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads” near the face-off site, while her junior minister Subhash Bhamre had also said that the situation had the potential to escalate in the coming months.

In Video: Satellite images reveal massive Chinese mobilisation in Doklam


U.S. Intelligence Chief Warns of China Spending to Boost Influence — Wary of reported North Korea offer for talks

March 6, 2018

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U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned on Tuesday that China is spending “an extraordinary amount of money” to increase its international standing, worrying its neighbors and threatening U.S. influence.

“A report was recently released, an unclassified version, that China will spend about $8 billion in 68 different nations establishing its geostrategic positioning, not only for economic purposes and trade purposes, but also for use of military facilities,” Coats told a U.S. Senate hearing on “Worldwide Threats.”

China on Monday unveiled its largest defense spending increase in three years, setting an 8.1 percent growth target this year, fueling an ambitious military modernization program.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed the largest military budget since 2011, focused on beefing up the United States’ nuclear defenses and countering the growing strength of China and Russia.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Walsh; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Tuesday that Washington would have to know far more before assessing North Korea’s reported willingness to hold talks with the United States on denuclearization.

“Hope springs eternal but we need to learn a lot more relative to these talks. And we will. And the IC (intelligence community) will continue to do every possible collection and assessment we can relative to the situation in North Korea. I know we’ll be talking about that issue,” Coats told a U.S. Senate Armed Services hearing on worldwide threats.

North Korea is willing to hold talks with the United States on denuclearization and will suspend nuclear tests while those talks are under way, South Korea said on Tuesday after a delegation returned from the North where it met leader Kim Jong Un.

The director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, told the same Senate hearing that he did not share a sense of optimism about the report and wanted to know more.

“Right now I don’t share your optimism,” Ashley said in response to a question from a senator. “That’s kind of a ‘show me,’ and so we’ll see how this plays out,” Ashley added.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Will Dunham

China defends hike in military spending as proportionate and low

March 6, 2018


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s increase in military spending for 2018, the biggest rise in three years, was proportionate and low, and Beijing had not been goaded into an arms race with the United States, state media said on Tuesday.

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army get ready for the military parade.

Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) get ready for the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS

China on Monday unveiled an 8.1 percent rise in defense spending at the opening of parliament, fuelling an ambitious military modernization program and making its neighbors, particularly Japan and self-ruled Taiwan, nervous.

In an editorial, the official China Daily said the figure had prompted “finger-pointing from the usual suspects”.

“China’s defense budget is neither the largest in size – it accounts for just one-fourth of the military spending of the United States – nor does it have the fastest growth rate,” the English-language newspaper said.

“And if calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries.”

The defense spending figure is closely watched worldwide for clues to China’s strategic intentions as it develops new military capabilities, including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

Commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet Admiral Scott Swift described China’s lack of transparency as “troubling.”

“There are a lot of questions on the minds of countries in the region and extending beyond the region of what exactly does this mean. People shouldn’t be left guessing as to exactly what the objective of these increases is,” he said at a press roundtable in Tokyo where he is meeting Japanese officials.

China insists its military spending is transparent and that it poses a threat to nobody, simply needing to update old equipment and defend its legitimate interests, even as it is increasingly assertive over disputes in the East and South China Seas and on self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims.

In the East and South China Seas, China is simply trying to stand up for itself, the China Daily said.

“The country has seen its maritime interests being increasingly infringed upon in recent years, and thus seeking a stronger military is natural for it to safeguard its interests and counter any threat that may materialize from the aggressive posturing of others upset by its rise.”

China has seen the United States as its biggest potential security threat, alarming Beijing with freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea the United States calling China a strategic competitor.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed the largest military budget since 2011, focused on beefing up the United States’ nuclear defenses and countering the growing strength of China and Russia.

Official Chinese defense spending is about one-quarter that of the United States, though many foreign analysts and diplomats say China under-reports the figure.

Widely-read Chinese tabloid the Global Times said if China really wanted to expand militarily, the defense budget should really be rising 20 to 30 percent.

“China has obviously not fallen into the mind-set of engaging in an arms race with the U.S. Otherwise it could totally realize double-digit increases in its defense expenditure,” the paper said in its editorial.

U.S. provocations in the South China Sea, tension in the Taiwan Strait and the United States, Japan, Australia and India forming alliances demand a rise in spending, it added.

“But Beijing has stuck to its own template and was not disturbed by external factors.”

Still, China has made no secret of its broader military ambitions, with President Xi Jinping promising last year to make China’s armed forces world-class by the middle of the century.

Xu Qiliang, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which runs the armed forces and Xi heads, told military delegates to parliament that China needed to “fully strengthen troop training and war preparedness and raise the ability to win”, state news agency Xinhua said late on Monday.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, additional reporting by Tim Kelly in TOKYO; Editing by Michael Perry

South China Sea turning into signals hub for Chinese military

February 21, 2018

Throughout the ages, wars have been waged over territory. From nation states and warring factions, to gangs and real estate developers everyone knows location is key.  The more land you control, the more territory you lord over – the more power you wield.

Generally the acreage and borders  in question are based on the land as nature intended it to be. But what if your strategic interests required creating land out of thin air, or in this case, deep blue ocean?  Enter the People’s Republic of China and their man-made islands in the Spratly island chain, in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The United States and its allies have been watching the construction of these man made islands for some time. China began the projects under the auspices of navigational necessity but analysis of their chosen locations quickly revealed there was another strategic motivation at work. In fact, they were building new military bases.

In early 2017 the DC based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)released a report– having analyzed recent satellite photos –and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters had either been finished or were nearing completion.

The report also stated that the satellite images appeared to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to bolster its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs–bases that will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with efficiency across the disputed region.

The U.S. and its allies raised ref flags and held press conferences to express disapproval but effectively the Chinese continued their projects unabated.

Fast forward to February 2018, when new satellite imagery shows China’s new military lily pads in the South China Sea may have an even more nefarious purpose in the form of full on intelligence communications nodes. On Saturday CSIS released another report, this time comparing its own satellite images and aerial photos released by the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this month.

CSIS says the photos add more detail than previously available but do not show new capabilities so much as reinforcing their earlier point that “these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.”

The report finds the northeastern corner of Fiery Cross Reef is now equipped with a communications or sensor array bigger than those found on other artificial islands in the Spratlys. Fiery Cross is one of the seven reefs Beijing turned into islands in the Spratlys. It is the smallest and the southermost of the “Big Three”, which also includes Subi, or Zhubi in Chinese, and Mischief, or Meiji.

Construction on Fiery Cross Reef:

Image courtesy of CSIS/Philippine Inquirer

Specific construction on Fiery Cross according the CSIS:

  1. The northern end of the base’s 3,000-meter runway, which was completed in late 2015.
  2. Hangars to accommodate four combat aircraft. Hangar space for another 20 combat aircraft and four larger hangars, capable of housing bombers, refueling tankers, and large transport aircraft, have been built farther south along the runway. All the hangars were completed in early 2017.
  3. A tall tower housing a sensor/communications facility topped by a radome, completed in late 2016.
  4. A field of upright poles erected in 2017. The original notations on the aerial photos identify this only as a communication facility, but it is most likely a high frequency radar array like the one built on Cuarteron Reef two years earlier.
  5. One of the four point defense facilities built around the base in 2016. Similar point defenses exist on all of China’s artificial islands, sporting a combination of large guns (identified in one of the aerial photos of Johnson Reef as having 100-mm barrels) and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS) emplacements.
  6. A large communications/sensor array completed during 2017. None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area.
  7. Three towers housing sensor/communications facilities topped by radomes, completed in 2017.

Additional Construction of Concern

Subi Reef, just 12 nautical miles from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island: China has built a large lighthouse, a 3,000-metre airstrip, a high-frequency radar array and underground storage tunnels that could be used for ammunition.


Mischief Reef: Three towers housing sensor or communications facilities topped by a dome to protect radar equipment were completed in 2017.

Gaven Reef: a solar panel array was built in 2015, along with other facilities such as wind turbines, a tall tower housing a communications facility and an administrative center.

Fiery Cross was the site of the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering an estimated 100,000 square metres (27 acres).

What Say you China?

Beijing has been accused of militarizing the South China Sea, which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam but has repeatedly rejected those accusations. Their actions continue to say otherwise.

In order to wield power over this region–to create a sphere of influence–China needs to dissuade all others concerned from any further resistance. Strategic locations like Fiery Cross have been talked about as potential command and control centers for Chinese activity in the Spratlys since the early 1980’s – it appears once again that while the world was involved in other things, the Chinese made their plans into reality.


China’s Xi stresses military modernization in pre-new year visit — China should take the initiative in international competition — Create more “Chinese miracles”

February 13, 2018


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China stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed military modernization and technological advances during meetings with servicemen and women ahead of the Lunar New Year, state media said.

Chinese leaders generally use the time around the festival to make inspection trips around the country where they flag important policy initiatives or areas of concern for the year ahead.

The weeklong holiday starts Thursday, the eve of the new year. It is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel to their hometowns, many for the only time in the year.

Xi has made the upgrading of China’s armed forces a key policy plank, investing in a range of new technologies including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles.

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On a visit to a satellite launch site in southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Saturday, Xi told senior officers they should work with more commitment and be steadfast in building China’s strength in aerospace to create more “Chinese miracles,” the official Xinhua News Agency said late Monday.

Xi stressed “military training under combat conditions to build the country’s military into a world-class one and improve the country’s strength in aerospace,” the report added.

“Noting that technology was a core combat capability, Xi called for intensified work to make breakthroughs in core and key technologies so that China could take the initiative in international competition,” the news agency said.

Xi also chatted by video conference with soldiers stationed at an island in the Paracels, in the disputed South China Sea, asking them how they were preparing to celebrate the new year, Xinhua said.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

China claims a large swath of the South China Sea and has been ramping up its military deployments there, including reclaiming land on reefs and atolls to build military infrastructure such as air bases.

Xi is expected to visit to other parts of the country before and possibly during the holiday.


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

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

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



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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.

What China’s military air crashes really signal

February 12, 2018

Experts say rising incident rate shows China flexing military might, flying more missions

The deadly crash of a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) military plane in Guizhou province last month during a training exercise has raised questions about whether China’s relentless push for military modernisation has outpaced its actual capabilities.

The incident, which claimed the lives of at least 12 crew members onboard, has severely hit air force morale, as it happened just weeks after the crash of a J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jet, a source told the South China Morning Post.

“We must recognise that in China, there is a fatal gap between the air force’s combat-ready training and its imperfect aircraft development,” the source said.

Despite engine and aircraft design problems, pilots have been pushed to fly the warplanes “because there is this political mission to build a combat-ready fighting force”, explained the source.

The crashes are the latest in what appears to be a growing string of often-fatal accidents involving China’s military planes.

While the PLA does not openly report such incidents, there were at least seven known crashes in the last two years, including one last November that killed Ms Yu Xu, one of China’s first female fighter pilots.

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A J-15 fighter jet landing on the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning last year. China had more than 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimates.PHOTO: XINHUA

But rather than a sign of deteriorating capabilities, military experts told The Straits Times the accident rate shows a strengthening of PLAAF and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force.


The PLA’s air programmes face significant challenges, not least because most of its warplanes are cloned from foreign designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge jet engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The J-15 fighter jet, for instance, is based on Russia’s Su-33. The new J-20 and J-31 stealth planes closely resemble America’s F-22 fighter jet and F-35 joint strike fighter, prompting United States lawmakers to accuse Beijing of stealing US designs.

While China may have succeeded in cracking design secrets and technical aspects of foreign jets, it is still grappling with cutting-edge engine production which requires high-precision manufacturing and deep materials engineering know-how, which China lacks, said analysts.

The use of ageing aircraft, such as the 1990s-era Tu-154, for long-distance maritime missions also shows a lack of confidence in the new models when it comes to longer missions, said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies research fellow Wu Shang-Su.

A more deep-seated problem is the PLA’s graft-riddled past, which has likely compromised the quality of its fighter jet programmes.

Former PLA chief Guo Boxiong was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 for having amassed a fortune in bribes.

“As vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission over the past decade, Guo was in charge of R&D (research and development) and reports were that he took ‘tremendous bribes’ from the defence industry,” said PLA expert Arthur Ding of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies.

“If that’s the case, the technology and quality of platforms like jet fighters may not meet the PLA’s demands, and this can partially explain why they are suffering this kind of incident rate.”


But experts agreed that the biggest contributor to the PLA’s rising accident rate is that it has been tasked to take on more varied and demanding missions, alongside a vast expansion in its hardware and numbers. Since last year, the Chinese air force has conducted “island encirclement patrols” around Taiwan involving its fighter jets, bombers and surveillance planes. Such flights are the “new normal”, a PLAAF spokesman said in December.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV in recent months also shows Beijing wants to regularise deployments of combat aircraft in the South China Sea, through the air and naval facilities it has built on disputed islands there, such as on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys and Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

To support the greater range and number of missions, the PLA’s air assets have been significantly boosted over the past decade. China had over 700 fourth-generation fighter jets last year, compared to 24 in 1996, the US-based Rand Corporation estimated in a report. The PLA today has almost 3,000 aircraft, about the same number as that of Japan and South Korea combined, said Global Firepower, an index of countries’ military strength.

“More aircraft, more personnel, more missions, more training and a higher profile – these are all major factors that account for the incident rate,” said Mr Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence industry analyst for military publication IHS Jane. “One of the outcomes of the increase in these factors is unfortunately more accidents, but that holds true for all militaries around the world.”

More accidents in the short term also indicate President Xi Jinping’s effort to get the PLA to change its culture is succeeding, said Dr Ding.

Since he took office, Mr Xi has pushed to transform the PLA into a modern military “capable of fighting and winning” a 21st-century war.

Dr Ding noted that in the old days, PLAAF commanders would conduct highly scripted training scenarios that had minimal risk of casualties, unlike real combat scenarios, as casualty rates directly affected promotion prospects. Today’s exercises are much more complex, combat-realistic and integrated. Just last month, China conducted a series of training exercises involving the spectrum of its air assets – from the new J-20 fighter to the H-6K bomber and Y-20 transport aircraft.

“My impression is that (President Xi) has encouraged the top brass to face the reality that rigorous training will mean greater likelihood of incidents, and for the PLA, this mindset shift is probably a good one,” he said.

But this also means that countries in the region should be prepared for a more formidable Chinese air force in the coming years – one that is able to project air power far beyond China’s borders. “It’s probably not so good for China’s neighbours, because down the road, in the long term, it means China’s real combat and operations capability will be substantially improved.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline ‘What PLA air crashes really signal’.

China: Displays of military might and talk of ‘not fearing death’ are becoming more frequent but that doesn’t mean a war is on the horizon

January 19, 2018


South China Morning Post

Is China going to war any time soon?

That is the question on the minds of more and more people outside China over the past few months.

The People’s Liberation Army, the world’s biggest armed forces, over the past year or so, has featured prominently in the mainland Chinese newspapers, television reports, and other publications, with increasing regularity, highlighting their military drills and latest weaponry. The country’s most modern fighters and bombers, and warships have also made regular long-range exercises close to the sensitive areas such as the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.

Why a stronger Xi Jinping is taking a gentler approach in China’s foreign affairs

President Xi Jinping, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the PLA’s highest command, has made frequent inspections of army, navy and air force units, each time placing great emphasis on urging the rank and file to strengthen training and improve its war-winning capability.

On an icy morning of January 3, Xi, dressed in military fatigues, presided over a grand display of military strength at the country’s first mobilisation meeting for the whole armed forces.

Grand displays have been a feature of China’s military over the past year. Photo: Xinhua

More than 7,000 armed officers and soldiers were present, along with about 300 tanks and other armaments, to hear Xi’s calls for real combat training and firmly grasping the might to win wars, Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, the live broadcast was beamed to 4,000 other venues of army, navy, and air forces units throughout the country.

As Xi also called for a fighting spirt that fears neither hardship nor death, this gave many overseas media a haunting headline that “Xi tells army not to fear death ….”

In fact, the phrase of “fearing neither hardship nor death” has been the PLA’s motto throughout its 90-year history.

Still, the PLA’s rising public profile and Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness have stirred up nationalistic feelings at home and raised concerns abroad about China’s intentions.

China’s grand military display signals Xi is here to stay

There are several reasons behind the increasing display of military might even though the prospects of war are very remote.

First of all, as reverse thinking has proved to be one effective tool to read tea leaves of China’s developments, Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness could literally mean that PLA is sorely lacking combat readiness.

President Xi Jinping has told his soldiers ’not to fear death’. Photo: Xinhua via AP

Indeed, China may boast the world’s largest armed forces and have achieved significant breakthroughs in weaponry and military technology, but most of its officers and soldiers have had little experience in real combat. The last war China fought was its military conflict with Vietnam in 1979. Although China claimed the final victory, its armed forces suffered heavy losses at the hands of battle-hardened Vietnamese soldiers.

China’s aircraft carrier impresses, but PLA corruption is a bigger battle

Secondly, before Xi was set to overhaul the PLA five years ago, China’s armed forces were corrupt to the core under the reins of his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

As a rule, officers would have to bribe their superiors to get promotions as there were reportedly price tags for every military rank from the lower level to the top generals, which had demoralised the entire armed forces and rendered them free of any fighting spirit required for a solider or an officer.

General Fang Fenghui, right, is accused of giving bribes to obtain his rank. Photo: AP

Over the past five years, Xi’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign has brought down seven full generals including Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two former deputy CMC chairmen who were effectively in charge of PLA in the 10 years until their retirement in 2012.

On Tuesday, China confirmed the arrest of the seventh general, Fang Fenghui, who was the chief of staff until August last year. One of his alleged crimes was giving bribes, indicating that he bought his way to the key position in the armed forces.

At least 13,000 military officers involved in corruption had been punished over the past five years, The PLA Daily reported in October.

China’s paramilitary troops train in freezing temperatures, but are they ready for battle? Photo: Reuters

Thirdly, as Xi completely overhauled the military, he has tried to bolster his standing in the armed forces through display of military strength and campaigns to instil the rank and file’s personal allegiance to himself as the commander in chief. Songs have been written to encourage military personnel to become “Chairman Xi’s good soldiers”, evoking the memories of the era of Mao Zedong’s ironclad command of the armed forces.

China’s military is stronger than ever, but is it strong enough?

Broadly speaking, as Xi has declared China has entered a new era and has made no bones about the country taking centre-stage as a new world power, it needs to create an elite combat force to protect not only the homeland but its growing interests abroad.

Meanwhile, Xi’s repeated calls for combat readiness, along with the frequent display of military strength, have also come at a time when US President Donald Trump has voiced threats to use military means to take out North Korea’s nuclear facilities. The other hotspots, such as the tensions over the South China Sea and border disputes with India, and the need to signal Beijing’s resolute opposition to the perceived pro-independence movement in Taiwan, should also provide the backdrop.




Philippines Seeks Dialogue With China Over South China Sea Construction, Militarization — “The Philippines will not be giving up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea.” (Unless it’s it too late)

January 5, 2018
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – January 5, 2018 – 5:46pm

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


MANILA, Philippines — Following recent reports that one of the Manila-claimed features in the South China Sea has been transformed into a fortified airbase, the Philippine government insists on pursuing dialogue with China.

“The Philippines pursues cordial but frank dialogue with concerned parties on the issue of the South China Sea through various bilateral and multilateral platforms,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television recently aired aerial photos of Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands, which is now a 2.8-square kilometer airbase.

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

Hong Kong-based Asia Times reported that the island contains a runway long enough for H-6K strategic bombers to land. The artificial island also has a hospital and military installations.

Fiery Cross Reef, reportedly the third largest island in the contested waters, has become a logistics hub in support of Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the South China Sea, according to the report.

The DFA, however, reiterated that the Philippines will not give up its territory in the disputed region as stated by Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano before.

“Nevertheless, Secretary Cayetano has stated several times that the Philippines will not be giving up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea,” the DFA added.

In its July 2016 ruling, the United Nations-backed tribunal agreed that Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef are rocks. This means that the three features appear during high tide but cannot sustain habitation or economic life. They are allowed a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.

The tribunal also ruled that China violated its obligations under the UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment with its island-building activities at Fiery Cross Reef.

RELATED: Palawan within range of China’s jets, missiles in South China Sea





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

South China Sea: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

January 4, 2018
Aerial photos aired by China Central Television show the completed construction of facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. CCTV via Asia Times

MANILA, Philippines — Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, has been transformed into a fortified airbase complete with military installations.

A yearend feature aired by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showed an aerial shot of Fiery Cross Reef which has transformed into a big island.

Hong Kong-based news site Asia Times reported that the island now features a 3,125-meter runway for 6K strategic bombers to land.

 This image provided by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe shows a satellite image of Fiery Cross ...This image provided by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe shows a satellite image of Fiery Cross Reef in Spratly island chain in the South China Sea, annotated by the source to show areas where China has conducted construction work above ground during 2017. Photo: AP

The island also has a hospital and military facilities including early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems. More than 200 soldiers are also stationed on Fiery Cross, according to the report.

Telecommunications provider China Mobile and China Unicom have base stations on the island to provide 4.5G communications.

One of China’s “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, Manila-claimed Fiery Cross Reef is now reportedly the third largest island in the contested waters.

In June 2015, Chinese online news agency Sina first released photos from the Fiery Cross Reef showing vegetable gardens, animals and female soldiers in a bid to assert dominance in the maritime area. The slideshow did not show photos of military structures and radar captured in satellite photos prior to the release of Beijing’s projects in the artificial island.

Beijing first test-landed two civilian aircraft in January 2016. The first visitors of the reef were wives and children of garrison soldiers and officers there.

Since then, the island has become a logistics hub for China.

In April 2016, China’s navy dispatched a military plane to Fiery Cross Reef to pick up injured construction workers.

The Department of Defense then said that China’s efforts of landing a military aircraft on the island were provocative. This occurred before the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a ruling on the Philippines’ arbitration against China, which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

RELATED: More Chinese island-building? Rody relies on ‘good faith’




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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.

Taiwan demands immediate halt to new China flight routes

January 4, 2018

Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei since Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016. (AFP)

TAIPEI: Taiwan on Thursday demanded China immediately close new flight routes launched close to the island, calling it a “reckless” and politically motivated move.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced Thursday that it is opening four routes to help ease congestion in its airspace over the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.
But Taipei said Beijing had not consulted it over the move which “ignores flight safety and disrespects Taiwan.”
“We believe … this is purposefully using civil aviation as a cover for improper intentions regarding Taiwan politics and even military affairs,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.
Critics say that the main route in the dispute, M503, runs too close to the island’s airspace.
China’s first attempt to open the route in 2015 sparked protests that prompted Beijing to move it closer to the mainland and use it only for north-to-south flights.
“The rapid growth of flights in western Taiwan Strait airspace in recent years has caused increasingly serious delays,” CAAC said Thursday.
The M503 can now be used for south-to-north flights too, it announced, adding the four new routes are only for civilian flights and that China will maintain technical communications with Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Thursday that the military will intercept, warn and repel if necessary any planes that cross into Taiwanese airspace and threaten the island’s security.
China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949 and the island has been self-ruled since. But Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory to be brought back into its fold — by force if necessary.
Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei since Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016, as it does not trust her traditionally pro-independence party.
Beijing has also exerted military pressure on Taiwan’s airspace by stepping up drills around the island.