Posts Tagged ‘Reclamation’

South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

Updated 11:32 PM ET, Mon August 14, 2017

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN)When it comes to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s leaders must feel very lonely these days.

Their fellow Southeast Asian claimants have either reversed course after years of escalating tensions with Beijing, or are keeping their heads down and letting Hanoi take up the fight.
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In June, the Vietnamese government refused a Chinese demand to halt drilling by a subsidiary of Spanish company Repsol in an oil and gas block on Vanguard Bank—an area of the seabed that, as far as international law is concerned, is undisputedly Vietnam’s.
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Now Vietnam could be on the hook to Repsol for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will have a hard time convincing other companies that any of its offshore contracts are a smart bet.
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Repsol didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said its oil and gas activities take place in waters entirely within its sovereign rights.
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Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html
Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea 03:29

Deafening silence

How did Vietnam’s neighbors and the international community respond to this act of bullying by China? With deafening silence.
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After pushing back against Chinese coercion for years, the Philippines has turned defeatist under the year-old government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Manila now appears eager to trade silence regarding its maritime claims for economic carrots from Beijing.
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Malaysia, whose government is embroiled in corruption allegations and is barreling toward political crisis in the next general election, has little appetite for confrontation with China, an important benefactor.
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And Indonesia is happy to occupy a middle ground, resisting at the margins when it comes to Chinese fishing encroachments in its waters, but uninterested in taking a more active role in the disputes.
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Even Singapore, which remains deeply skeptical of China’s long-term intentions, is keeping its head down after being made a diplomatic punching bag by Beijing for its perceived support of the Philippines’ international arbitration victory last July.
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Divisions on display

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The divisions within Southeast Asia were on full display during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Minister’s Meeting earlier this month.
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The Philippines, which hosted the summit, and Cambodia wanted to strip out anything that could irritate China. But Vietnam, smarting from the Vanguard Bank incident and convinced that China’s diplomatic softening over the previous year was just a delaying tactic, argued for stronger language.
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Its tactics got it singled out in a China Daily editorial, which slammed Hanoi for “hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building.”
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Late on Sunday, the group reached a compromise that reinserted several points from previous ASEAN statements, including concern over recent land reclamation and militarization.
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The comprise language in the communique was weaker that some previous statements, particularly the Sunnylands Declaration signed by ASEAN leaders and President Barack Obama in 2016.
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But it was stronger than the group’s last statement, issued by Duterte following the ASEAN Summit in April, and helped avoid a repeat of the group’s 2012 debacle when then-host Cambodia blocked the release of any statement at all.
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Modest victory

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Still, Vietnam had won a modest victory and received a measure of support, even if grudgingly, from its neighbors. But the victory was short-lived.
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The next day, Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sided with China, telling the press,“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. So why will you put it again this year?”
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It was a surprising break for an organization built on consensus. Here was the group’s chair publicly airing disagreements with the supposed consensus and appearing to back an outside power over a fellow ASEAN member.
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China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Manila on August 5, 2017 to attend the ASEAN meeting, where Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

One-two punch

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The one-two punch of China’s successful coercion over Vanguard Bank and ASEAN’s tattered consensus in Manila has left Hanoi exposed.
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That isolation, which has been building for months, helps explain why Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich arranged a visit to Washington on the heels of the ASEAN meetings.
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Following his meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon announced that the two had “agreed to deepen defense cooperation, including by expanding maritime cooperation.” They even confirmed plans for a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in the future—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
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Hanoi remains convinced that China’s new charm offensive in the South China Sea is mostly smoke and mirrors—a conclusion strengthened by its recent experiences—and that sooner or later its neighbors will figure it out too. In the meantime, it will look for support wherever it can find it.

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Includes video:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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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 chose to ignore international law.

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The Philippines Chinese News Service

August 12, 2017
 / 05:28 AM August 11, 2017

The Philippine News Agency, the government news wire service run by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, made an outrageous mistake over the weekend: It published a commentary from Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news operation, that criticized the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines against China. After a belated storm surge of criticism, the opinion piece by a Chinese commentator was taken down on Wednesday.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar then took PNA to task, issuing a memo directing agency officials “to explain in writing why they should not be held liable for any administrative charges.” He added: “We will take appropriate action against liable PNA officials and/or staff if they are found to commit negligence in carrying out their duties and responsibilities.”

The negligence angle is based on the assumption that the posting of the commentary was essentially an editing error—a failure to catch, and then remove, the anti-Philippine passages in the piece. Andanar himself suggested as much: “Most commentaries of Xinhua News Agency reflect China’s position on certain issues,” he said. “Thus, all reposts from Xinhua and all other partner news agencies for that matter should undergo scrutiny and must be subject to discernment by PNA prior to reposting them.”

This lack of due scrutiny, this failure of discernment, resulted in the disturbing spectacle of an official Philippine government institution allowing the government of another country, its adversary in an important case in international law, to undermine the landmark legal victory achieved by the Philippines.

The part of the commentary that proved most offensive to Filipinos worried about Chinese aggression in the South China Sea was this paragraph: “More than one year after an ill-founded award at a South China Sea arbitration unilaterally delivered by an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and improved thanks to the wisdom and sincerity of China and the parties concerned.”

This is wrong on so many levels. The ruling, or “award,” was not in fact ill-founded but very carefully considered; the case was “unilateral” (China did not take part in the process—this is what the commenter must have meant) only because the Chinese conducted a long-term campaign, even though they were in fact signatories to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which provided for arbitration, to delegitimize the arbitral tribunal. The tribunal was “ad hoc” in the sense that it was constituted specifically for the case (because the rules required it), but it worked according to established protocols and discharged the duty of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The situation in the South China Sea is not “stabilized”—it has only reached a condition, with continuing reclamation and construction and the increased presence of the Chinese coast guard, that is favorable to the Chinese. The very “sincerity” of China is disputed, including by diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; the “wisdom” of small countries entering into bilateral negotiations with the largest economic and military power in the region is under question.

But does negligence in fact explain the publication of the offensive commentary? A closer read reveals that the controversial passage reflects the stated or implied policy of the Duterte administration to the issue of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea. As far as we can tell, the administration has not yet called the very nature of the ruling ill-founded. But everything else in that paragraph has been announced or suggested by the President or either of his two foreign secretaries. In fact, at the close of the Asean ministerial meeting this week, Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano declared that the Chinese had stopped their reclamation and construction projects in the disputed areas. The evidence says otherwise.

The question then: Did the PNA website inadvertently speak for the adversary in an ongoing dispute, or did it in fact, wittingly or unwittingly, reflect official government policy?

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106258/speaking-for-the-adversary#ixzz4pWpPCUiP
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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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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 chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: China Continues to Build Up Islands — “This is turning into a situation of no trust.”

August 10, 2017

Photos disprove China’s claim of halting land reclamation

China has reclaimed new land at the southern end of North Island and has begun to construct new facilities on it. CSIS AMTI via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — In response to the joint communique of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers issued last Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing has completed its land-filling two years ago.

The statement noted “concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence.”

Wang insisted that China is definitely not carrying out reclamation and accused Vietnam of being the only country reclaiming land in the South China Sea.

“Thus, if such phenomenon of sea-filling for land-reclamation still exists, it will never happen in China,” Wang said on Monday.

Vietnam led the push for a stronger statement on the South China Sea despite objections from Cambodia and the Philippines.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano himself admitted that he did not want to mention “land reclamation” and “militarizations” in the joint communique.

“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore,” Cayetano said earlier this week.

READ: Philippines admits wanting land reclamation, militarization out of ASEAN communique

On the other hand, satellite imagery obtained by Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) showed that China’s reclamation activities did not stop in mid-2015, contrary to Wang’s claims.

“Beijing continues to reclaim land farther north, in the Paracel Islands. The two most recent examples of this are at Tree Island and North Island in the Amphitrite Group,” the AMTI reported.

AMTI’s report in February showed that Beijing completed a new helipad and installed wind turbines and two photovoltaic solar arrays on Tree Island.

Tree Island has seen substantial upgrades in the last year. China has dredged a new harbor off the southwest end of the islet, considerably expanding its land area in the process CSIS AMTI via DigitalGlobe

In 2016, China started its reclamation to connect North Island with neighboring Middle Island in the Paracel Islands. The land bridge was washed out by a typhoon in October 2016 but China has started additional reclamation on the southern end of North Island, building a retaining wall to prevent erosion.

The Washington-based think tank also documented Vietnam’s activities in the Spratly Islands including dredging and reclamation work at several islets.

The think tank stressed that the South China Sea does not only include the Spratly Islands. For Vietnam, China’s activities in the Paracel Islands are just as destabilizing.

“Vietnam and all the Southeast Asian claimants also have an interest in deterring future island-building, for instance at Scarborough Shoal,” the report read.

Both China and Vietnam have conducted dredging and reclamation work as early as 2017 but neither approaches the scale of Beijing’s activities from late 2013 to mid-2015.

AMTI, however, noted that such work is “environmentally destructive, undermines regional stability, and warrants mention in diplomatic statements.”

READ: ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

A Vietnamese diplomat who was in manila for the ASEAN conference told Peace and Freedom, “This is turning into a situation of no trust.”

Related:

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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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 chose to ignore international law.

 

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
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MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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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 chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Did ASEAN Make Life Tougher For China?

August 8, 2017

Commentary

 / 05:20 AM August 08, 2017
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At last. Departing from a string of weak statements that glossed over or altogether avoided any mention of China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, the joint communiqué issued on Sunday by the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila was notable for addressing not only China’s seizure and reclamation of islands in the disputed waters but also the militarization of the area.

“We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of 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,” the statement read in part.

Further: “We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”

For a while, it had looked like the 10-member regional bloc would once again succumb to pressure from China — through Cambodia, its closest ally in the group — to finesse its statement and avoid language that could be seen as chiding Beijing. Although five Asean member-nations — Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines — have claims on waters and islets in the South China Sea, almost all of which China claims as its own on the basis of a nine-dash map that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has declared as without legal basis, reaching consensus on stronger language and a united front has been a contentious process.

The Philippines, which is this year’s Asean chair and which had won an important legal victory over China with the arbitral ruling, itself chose to avoid reference to China’s island reclamation or to the ruling itself in the Asean Chairman’s Statement released last April, on the back of President Duterte’s conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

This time, the bloc failed to release its joint communiqué on Saturday evening as scheduled, reportedly deadlocked on essentially the same issue.

Vietnam, which has had clashes with China over fishing and exploitation rights in its own claimed waters, was reported to have wanted tougher wording to directly address the elephant in the room, but Cambodia stood squarely against it. (In July 2012, with Cambodia as chair, the meeting of foreign ministers was marked by conflict and failed to produce a joint communiqué.)

The impasse threatened to produce another oblique statement intended to somehow placate all parties — even China, which is strictly not a party in the grouping, but whose economic and military might figures heavily in the region’s calculations.

But Vietnam’s position appeared to have prevailed. In an 11 o’clock turnaround, the foreign ministers finally hammered out a communiqué that, for a change, unmistakably called Beijing out for its island-grabbing, and the rapid transformation of these islands into military outposts.

China has built seven islands so far in the disputed waters; three of these are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars, according to a Reuters report.

The ministerial meeting also announced the adoption of a negotiating framework that would advance a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement that has largely been ignored, especially by China.

Now Beijing appears to have rediscovered interest in the code, pushing for talks on an outline for its implementation—though far short of what Vietnam wants, which is to make the document legally binding on all claimant-nations, including China.

Observers fear it’s a ploy for something else: to simply buy China more time to solidify its grip on this vital area. Asean might want to wise up to its giant neighbor’s long game.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106191/turnaround-in-asean#ixzz4pB18EscY
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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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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 chose to ignore international law.

China Cancels Vietnam Meeting Over South China Sea Dispute — China threatened to attack Vietnamese bases

August 8, 2017
August 7, 2017, 5:13 AM EDT
  • China objected to wording of Asean communique released Sunday
  • Tensions between China and Vietnam have risen over oil and gas

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi canceled a scheduled one-on-one meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart in Manila at the last minute on Monday due to a spat over the South China Sea, according to people familiar with the situation.

China was upset over the wording of a communique released by foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday night that expressed concern over land reclamation on disputed islands, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. China saw Vietnam as pushing for that language to be included in the statement, they said.

The statement said that some of Asean’s 10 foreign ministers expressed concern “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.” Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh is among top diplomats from more than 20 countries attending meetings in Manila this week.

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Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh speaks about Vietnam’s problems with China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. POOL photo

A spokesman with the Chinese delegation suggested that the one-on-one meeting wasn’t the only opportunity where the ministers could’ve had discussions. The two both participated in other multilateral meetings in Manila, including one between China and the 10 Asean ministers.

Rising Tensions

“The two have already met,” said the spokesman, without making further comment. Vietnam’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions about the meeting.

Tensions between China and Vietnam have increased in recent months over disputed territory in areas of the South China Sea that are rich in oil and gas. In June, a Spanish oil company reportedly stopped drilling off of Vietnam’s coast after threats from China.

China’s efforts to assert its dominance over the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes that carries more than $5 trillion in annual trade, have in the past angered Southeast Asian nations with competing claims such as Vietnam and the Philippines. The waterway has become a flash-point in a broader tussle for regional influence between China and the U.S. in Asia.

China has used land reclamation to build up islands and construct airports to back its claim of much of the waters off its coast. In 2016, an international court rejected China’s bid to secure rights to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea.

The BBC reported last month that Vietnam had ordered Repsol SA, a Madrid-based oil-and-gas company, to halt activities in the South China Sea after China threatened to attack Vietnamese bases in the Spratly Islands. The company confirmed last week that it had suspended drilling in Vietnam, without providing further details.

In a July 29 statement, Vietnam asked parties to respect its petroleum rights in the South China Sea. Asked whether China had ever pressured Vietnam to stop drilling, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and urged against unilateral actions in the area.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-07/china-said-to-cancel-vietnam-meeting-over-south-china-sea-spat

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

July 23, 2017

Nationalism-fueled rationalizations are running rampant in the disputed region

BY 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it goes.

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

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

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

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 (Contains links to several more related articles)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

 

South China Sea: Philippines seeks gentleman’s agreement on sea code

May 20, 2017

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions. File

 

MANILA, Philippines – With no legally binding mechanism to enforce any deal on the South China Sea dispute, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may, in the meantime, settle for a “gentleman’s agreement” to prevent war or at least keep the situation in the region stable.

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions.

“Many countries want it to be legally binding. But what I’m saying is, let’s start with it being binding, gentleman’s agreement,” Cayetano said, referring to the absence in the draft framework of a clause specifying that a code should be legally binding.

“We have a community of nations that signed it,” he added.

He explained that legally binding means there is a court or tribunal to which parties can turn if another party reneges on the agreement.

“So, let me say this: definitely, it should be binding. Now, the question is, if it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that don’t comply, will they respect that court? We’re all trying to avoid not only war, but instability,” Cayetano told reporters during a visit to the DFA Office of Consular Affairs on Macapagal Avenue on his first day as DFA chief. He was replying to a question on whether Manila should insist on a legally binding COC.

He admitted there is a need for a mechanism that would help resolve issues if some parties fail or refuse to comply with the code.

“I’m telling you the practical reality of negotiations in international agreement. So, do most or all of the countries want it to be legally binding? Yes. But will the language include that? We don’t know. Because if one or two do not approve of that, they don’t believe that there can be an independent court, will we go for nothing, no Code of Conduct?” Cayetano said. “Or will we agree to a code of conduct that will be enforced only by the community of nations who signed it?” he said.

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Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the resource-rich waters, aside from China and the Philippines.

Arbitral ruling

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea in a case filed against Beijing by the previous Aquino administration.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs and other land features to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has also been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

President Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing the code could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when US policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, an expert on the South China Sea issue. “Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

What green light?

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, rebutted yesterday the claims of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that President Duterte had given a green light to China’s further reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Abella explained Duterte maintains a two-track approach to keep a stable relationship with China.

“One, to grow our healthy economic, trade and investment relationships, and to ensure that our arbitral rights in the West Philippine Sea are not compromised, more so now through the newly established bilateral consultation mechanism to manage disputes in the area,” he said.

“The Philippines engaged (China) in a frank discussion on possible oil explorations in the WPS,” Abella said in a separate statement yesterday.

“President Duterte was forthright about its economic rights awarded by the Arbitral Court in The Hague, a claim the Chinese leader said they would vigorously contest given their historic claims to the area,” he added.

He stressed the President would never stop exploring peaceful ways of resolving the country’s maritime dispute with China.

“Given this complexity, both parties agreed to pursue a more peaceful resolution to the matter that satisfies both our sovereign and economic rights,” he added.

Abella echoed Duterte’s chastising the United States for not directly confronting China over its island building activities in the West Philippine Sea.  He said the US chose to remain on the sidelines despite having in its possession satellite images of Chinese activities in disputed waters.

“With all due respect to the Senior Associate Justice, Chinese island-building and military deployment activities on certain features in the West Philippine Sea have been ongoing for some years now,” Abella added.

“The disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea are not the sum total of our relations with China, but we are cognizant of the warmer relationships we have in the region.”

Old issue

Duterte on Friday took Carpio and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario to task for criticizing him over his decision to cozy up to China and separate from the US, a long-time ally.

He said Carpio and Del Rosario have had no basis to claim that he had totally disregarded the arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines’ position.

It was in the same remarks – delivered at the Philippine Coast Guard’s 333rd anniversary celebration in Davao City – that Duterte revealed that China’s President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines would force the issue of the arbitration ruling.

A senior security official, who declined to be named, said China was just bluffing. “China could just be exploiting our weaknesses using all elements within its national power,” he said.

“This is a very difficult issue but if push comes to shove, let it be known to all that we are determined, as protector of the people and state, to defend what is ours,” another official said.

Last Thursday, Carpio said Duterte had practically allowed China to continue its reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea when he did not mention the territorial dispute in his ASEAN chairman’s statement.

“In 2017 we were the host (of the ASEAN Summit), the President was responsible for the chairman’s statement (and made) no mention of reclamation or militarization. For the Chinese this is a green light,” Carpio said.

Reports said that ASEAN leaders revised the final statement and removed any reference to the arbitration ruling. The revision reportedly happened after intense debates and lobbying among ASEAN leaders.

Carpio was a member of the country’s legal team that argued the Philippines’ case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The magistrate said even the 2016 chairman’s statement in Cambodia mentioned China’s land reclamation activities.

“That statement was very good despite the fact that we were not happy. It was strong, it mentioned land reclamation, expressing concern about land reclamation, about land militarization. It was directed at China – do not reclaim further – especially Scarborough Shoal,” he said.

Carpio earlier cautioned that it would be “game over” for the Philippines if China succeeds in reclaiming Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude 

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/21/1701969/philippines-seeks-gentlemans-agreement-sea-code

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China is preparing for the reclamation and construction on Scarborough Shoal

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

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Duterte: China warned the Philippines of war over South China Sea

May 19, 2017
Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2017 07:21 PM | Updated as of May 19 2017 07:48 PM

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. Ng Han Guan, Reuters (FILE)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday bared that China warned his administration of war if Manila would insist on its ownership of the disputed South China Sea.

Duterte said the Chinese side issued the warning after he expressed the Philippines’ intent to drill oil in the resource-rich waters.

It was unclear who issued the warning and when.

But Duterte said he asserted the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The president held bilateral talks with Xi on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last week.

“I said, Mr. Xi Jinping, I will insist that it is ours and we will drill oil,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.

“Sinabi ko talaga harap-harapan, that is ours and we intend to drill oil there. My view is I can drill the oil. Ang sagot sa akin, ‘Well we are friends. We don’t want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain warm relationship, but if you force the issue we will go to war.’”

China’s military is one of the world’s most powerful.

Duterte made this revelation just as representatives from the two sides met Friday in Guiyang, China for inaugural bilateral discussions on the dispute.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have also finished drafting the framework for the code of conduct in the South China Sea.

The binding code of conduct, which shall replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, will lay down the rules for all claimant states.

Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has pursued warmer ties with Beijing despite the sea dispute, aiming to boost economic ties with one of the world’s largest economies.

At his debut hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the concluding leaders’ statement was silent on China’s militarization and island-building activities in the South China Sea.

The statement also did not mention the Philippines’ landmark arbitral victory over China, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the waters.

Four ASEAN members- the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei- have partial claims in the resource-rich waters, overlapping with China’s sweeping claims.

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Philippines Calls for ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ Between ASEAN, China on Sea Code — “No need for a legally binding contract.”

May 19, 2017

MANILA — Southeast Asian nations and China should start with a “gentleman’s agreement” on the busy South China Sea waterway because no mechanism exists to legally enforce any deal, the Philippine foreign minister said on Friday.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on Thursday finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct, despite regional scepticism whether Beijing will commit to rules likely to restrain its maritime ambitions.

Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code. It was unclear if that was mentioned in the framework draft, which has not been made public.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano played down the importance of a legally binding contract.

“If it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?” he asked reporters.

“Let’s start with it being binding, gentlemen’s agreement. We have a community of nations that signed it.”

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2qyBNpf for graphic on overlapping claims in the South China Sea

Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, in a case filed on maritime boundaries filed by the previous Philippine government in 2013.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has unfinished business there and has been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing it could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when U.S. policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source, who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, a Philippine academic and expert on the South China Sea.

“Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2pSNmZq for graphic on Turf war on the South China Sea

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

************************************

The Associated Press

BEIJING  — China and the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations have agreed on the rough outline of a legally binding code of conduct designed to prevent clashes in the strategic South China Sea, officials said.

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Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was quoted in state media Friday as saying the agreement laid a “solid foundation” for further negotiations.
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“All parties have vowed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations” toward the early conclusion of the code of conduct, Liu was quoted as telling Xinhua News Agency following Thursday’s meeting in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang.
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The Philippines welcomed the finalization of the draft of the framework. It contains elements that the parties agreed upon and will be presented to Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers in August for consideration, the statement from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.
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Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong said the sides hoped that would produce needed “political support” from the ministers.
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No details were given and Liu said the text of the framework agreement would remain secret for now. No date was given for the adoption of a full code of conduct.
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Also Friday, Liu and the Philippines ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago “Chito” Santa Romana were to meet separately to discuss an agenda for future talks on their dispute over islands and waters in the eastern portion of the South China Sea.
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China was enraged by a ruling last year from a Hague tribunal invalidating most of its South China Sea claims in a case brought by the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed that ruling as part of his push for a broad improvement in relations between the sides since taking office in June that has cast a shadow over Manila’s ties to its longtime ally, the United States.
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Despite the thaw in relations, China protested a visit last month by Manila’s defense and military chiefs to a disputed island in the South China Sea. The Philippine government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.
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At a briefing in Beijing earlier this week, Romana said the sides had “turned a new page” on dealing with their South China Sea issues.
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“Generally, the situation has eased in terms of tensions between the Philippines and China,” he said, citing regained access by Philippine fishermen to Scarborough Shoal after years of being blocked by Chinese ships.
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“It does not mean the differences have disappeared. As (Duterte) told President Xi (Jinping), there will still be problems, but we are willing to discuss the issues with the Chinese side and he is optimistic that the bilateral negotiations and bilateral dialogue is the way to go,” Romana said.
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China and the members of ASEAN committed 15 years ago to signing a code of conduct, but progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety.
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In the absence of such an agreement, they have followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, which among other provisions, commits the parties to “exploring ways for building trust and confidence … on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
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Along with the Philippines, ASEAN members Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea that overlap with those of China and Taiwan.
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An estimated $5 trillion in global trade annually passes through the South China Sea, which is also home to rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources.
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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.