Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Shoal’

Chinese air force holds drills in ‘new routes and areas’ near Korean peninsula

December 7, 2017

Date and exact location of exercise isn’t revealed but announcement said to be aimed at sending a message to Washington and Seoul

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 9:36am

China’s air force recently staged drills involving various aircraft through “routes and areas it has never flown before” over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean peninsula.

at an airport in northern China on Monday – the same day the United States and South Korea began their biggest joint air force exercise, and days after Pyongyang launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date.

Without specifying the date or exact location of the drills, Shen said warplanes had ventured into unknown areas, adding that this kind of training would become a regular feature as the air force worked to strengthen its capabilities so that it was ready to safeguard China’s strategic interests.

The exercise involved aircraft including reconnaissance planes, fighter jets, an early warning and control aircraft, and a joint operation with surface-to-air missile units, he said.

 A US EA-18G Growler fighter jet prepares to land at the Osan US Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on Monday. Photo: AP

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the drills were intended to show that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was making strides in joint operations, which are an important part of modern warfare.

He added that Monday’s announcement was also aimed at sending a message to the United States and South Korea.

“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li said.

Although the specific location of the drills was not revealed, military affairs specialist Song Zhongping said the air force may have flown over sensitive areas of China’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea that overlaps with Japanese and South Korean airspace.

China set up that ADIZ, its first such zone, in late 2011.

 China’s Y-9 transport aircraft has completed its first long-distance exercise over the South China Sea. Photo: Weibo

Song, a commentator on Phoenix Satellite Television in Hong Kong, added that the PLA’s surveillance aircraft involved in the exercise would have helped Beijing to collect intelligence about the latest military deployments on the Korean peninsula.

The exercise also reflected a training push for aircraft stationed inland to fly to coastal areas and over seas in the region, according to Zhou Chenming, a military expert in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the US and South Korea’s five-day joint exercise, known as Vigilant Ace, was labelled by North Korea as an “all-out provocation”. Some 230 aircraft are involved in the drills – including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters and tens of thousands of troops – which began on Monday morning, South Korea’s air force said.

Pyongyang over the weekend condemned the joint exercise, accusing US President Donald’s Trump’s administration of “begging for nuclear war”.

Separately, China’s air force on Saturday said its home-grown Y-9 transport aircraft had completed its first long-distance exercise over the South China Sea.

It said the Y-9 had flown thousands of kilometres from an air force base in Sichuan to simulate an airdrop over an island in the contested waters before returning the same day.

Additional reporting by Liu Zhen

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FILE Photo: China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines


Beijing sends bombers over disputed South China Sea as part of training ‘to win a potential war’

November 24, 2017

Beijing sends bombers over disputed South China Sea as part of training ‘to win a potential war’

An airstrip, structures and buildings on China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea are seen from a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane in April. | AP



 NOV 24, 2017

China’s air force has again flown heavy bombers for a “combat air patrol” over the contested South China sea, part of what it calls “routine” flights in the strategic waterway.

A team of H-6K bombers from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted the drills in recent days and completed the exercises Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted spokesman Shen Jinke as saying.

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Shen said the South China Sea exercises were intended to “improve maritime real combat capabilities and forge the forces’ battle methods.”

The air force began training with an aim of “honing their ability to win a potential war” after the Communist Party wrapped up its twice-a-decade congress at the end of October, Shen added.

Xinhua said Thursday that Chinese bombers and warplanes had also conducted training exercises in recent days over the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from China, and the Miyako Strait near Okinawa Prefecture. The report did not specify the date, but said the H-6K bombers had taken off from an inland airport in northern China.

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FILE Photo — China H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

The Xinhua report quoted a PLA Air Force commander as telling reporters at the key party congress that “planes circling the island of Taiwan would become routine during their training.”

China has stepped up its moves in the South and East China Seas, as well as near Taiwan, as it modernizes its military and seeks to project power farther from its shores.

Beijing is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Tokyo over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which are known as the Diaoyus in China. Taiwan also claims the tiny islets in the East China Sea.

Beijing’s moves near Japanese territory have unnerved Tokyo, which has sought to raise the issue of China’s growing maritime assertiveness with like-minded nations.

China also claims most of the South China Sea, through which $3 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the waters.

Beijing has come under fire for building what a U.S. admiral called a “great wall of sand” in the waters, including seven man-made islands in the Spratly chain, where it has fortified those outposts, constructing military-grade airfields and installing what it says is “defensive” weaponry.

The South China Sea flight came after Japan’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that Beijing had sent bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft over international airspace through the Miyako Strait.

Japan scrambled fighters in response, though no violation of Japanese airspace was detected.

Four H-6 bombers and two intelligence-gathering aircraft flew a route that took them through the Miyako Strait and back. It was unclear if this was the same flight reported Thursday.

Sunday’s flight was believed to be the first through the passageway since August, when six Chinese bombers flew near Kansai’s Kii Peninsula for the first time.

China, under powerful President Xi Jinping, has embarked on a large-scale campaign of bolstering its military — especially its air force and navy.

In a speech at last month’s party congress, Xi said China was aiming to become a “world-class” force that safeguards the country’s “territorial integrity.”

Philippines Navy Stopped Patrolling Scarborough Shoal in January 2016 in Part of Great Giveaway To China — Philippines’ government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights

November 21, 2017
“The AFP was ordered to desist from conducting aerial patrols over Panatag Shoal. However, the AFP insisted otherwise,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said., file

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy has stopped sending ships to patrol the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea for almost two years now, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said Tuesday.

This revelation came in response to the statement of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the government recently stopped sending Navy ships to Panatag Shoal.

The recent halt in Navy patrols was meant to ease tensions with China and prevent harassment from Chinese forces, according to Esperon

Alejano, meanwhile, claimed that he has received information that the Philippine Navy has not conducted a single mission to Panatag Shoal since January 2016.

“The frequent visits of Philippine Navy ships were noted in 2012 during a standoff with the Chinese Coast Guard. In the years that followed, very few patrols were conducted. In 2016, the government eventually ordered the complete halt of patrols in the area,” Alejano said.

The lawmaker added that Esperon’s statement attempts to hide the fact that the government has long ceased its efforts to strengthen the country’s claims on the disputed areas.

He also noted that there have been cases of Chinese harassment in the region since the Philippines reduced its presence in Panatag early last year.

“Instead of deterring incidence of harassment, Chinese forces have become more bold and fearless. In fact, some of our fishermen have opted not to venture anymore in Panatag for fear and worry of wasting their food and fuel just to be blocked by the Chinese,” Alejano said.

Alejano further claimed that the Philippine government ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stop aerial patrols over Panatag, which the military denied.

“It is extremely disheartening to see our own government limiting the AFP from performing its mandate,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

The lawmaker lamented that the government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea by acceding to pressure from China.

“The Duterte administration has bargained our claims in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for promised economic concessions,” he said.

On the other hand, the Philippine Coast Guard might be tasked to patrol the disputed waters after receiving three newly commissioned multi-role response vessels.

Esperon earlier hinted at making the Coast Guard a lead agency in patrol operations in the western seaboard, along with the Philippine Navy and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

South China Sea: Philippine Judge and Frequent Duterte Critic Likes Progress in Talking To China

November 19, 2017
By:  – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
 / November 18, 2017

Antonio Carpio

The Philippine government’s decision to negotiate with China on its own will not end the protracted territorial claims involving other nations in the South China Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Friday.

Nonetheless, Carpio said President Duterte’s policy shift to engage Beijing in bilateral talks was a “logical step” and a “positive development” in implementing the ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year.

Besides China and the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia are also insisting ownership over parts of the sea, said to be rich in energy reserves and marine resources.

“Clearly, the South China Sea dispute involves both bilateral and multilateral disputes,” Carpio said in an emailed statement to the Inquirer.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines can take up only the bilateral disputes between (both countries) … and not the multilateral disputes involving … other states,” he pointed out.

Carpio, who has been championing the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea—the part of the South China Sea within the country’s 327-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—noted that even nonmembers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) were interested in finding a final solution to the decadeslong sea row.

“The South China Sea dispute also affects nonclaimant states, both within (the) Asean (region) and outside (of it) … These nonclaimant states, which include the US, Japan and Australia, are worried how China’s expansive claim will affect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, for both commercial and military vessels and aircraft,” he said.

The magistrate noted that Beijing’s disputed nine-dash line asserted ownership of 85.7 percent of the strategic waterway where about $5 trillion in global trade transits every year.

The landmark decision of the international tribunal invalidated China’s nine-dash line and its argument that it had sovereign and historic rights over the disputed sea.

It also upheld the Philippines’ exclusive rights over its EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal, also called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

According to Carpio, the territorial row involving the Philippines and China is “intimately related to all the multilateral disputes and all the other bilateral disputes” as Beijing’s territorial claims are based on its nine-dash-line policy.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award will be a logical step as the award is binding only between China and the Philippines,” the magistrate said.

“However, this will not resolve the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines. Neither will it resolve the multilateral disputes involving China, the Philippines and other states,” he said.

Carpio, however, said that “any bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award is a positive development.”

On Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Mr. Duterte had “articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute” when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Vietnam last week.

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Philippine President Duterte says he hopes China will not build on Scarborough Shoal

November 8, 2017

By Carmela Fonbuena

Published 7:48 PM, November 07, 2017
Updated 8:55 PM, November 07, 2017

‘I wish he will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,’ says President Rodrigo Duterte

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes China will “honor” its commitment to not build on Scarborough Shoal, the rocky sandbar off Zambales province that China occupied in 2012.

The statement comes after a command conference where Duterte was briefed on the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), part of his preparation for his trip to Vietnam where he will meet with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit.

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Scarborough Shoal is one of the richest fishing ground remaining in Philippine waters after the Chinese takeover. A Chinese takeover here would make in next to impossible to challenge China in the South China Sea. According to military experts, “IF China takes Scarbourough, that slams shut the door on any military operations against China for a long time.”

It was a reiteration of a statement he made in Davao last October when he said he is holding on to China’s promise it wouldn’t build anything on Scarborough Shoal.

Duterte claimed China gave his government the assurance it “will not be building something in Scarborough Shoal.”

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“I wish he (President Xi Jinping) will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” Duterte said.

Renewed concerns are raised as China launched a massive dredger ship that can build artificial islands similar to what it had already built in the South China Sea.

International security observers fear that the “island-maker” could be deployed to construct facilities on Scarborough Shoal, which is widely believed to be a red line for the US.

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China unveils ‘magic island maker’ ship – The Straits Times

Duterte spoke about his administration’s friendship with China during the 67th anniversary of the Philippine Marines, the unit in the frontlines protecting Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Laro ito ng geopolitics (It’s a game of geopolitics),” Duterte told the Marines.

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A Chinese H-6 bomber circles Scarborough Shoal

Duterte hinted at another trip to China. “You will have to trust me. Pupunta ako doon (I’m going there) and I will assert something and I will try one day, we’ll put a stake on what we think is ours,” said Duterte.

In the same speech, Duterte said the Philippines remains the “best friend” of the US as the thanked the country’s ally for its assistance in fighting local armed groups in Marawi City. –


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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: Philippines monitors China’s biggest ocean dredge — “Magic island-maker may tell the world China’s next island-building move”

November 6, 2017
China unveiled the Tian Kun Hao cutter-suction dredger called ‘a magic island-maker’ by its designer and  considered as the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia. AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense is closely monitoring China’s launching of Tian Kun Hao, its biggest island-making vessel, amid mounting suspicions that the world’s biggest and most sophisticated dredger will be deployed in the South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that this development is causing some concerns as he pins his hope on the recently agreed protocol and mechanism on de-escalation of tension in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

“We have reports that they launched their big dredger, but we don’t know where it is going. We are constantly monitoring the movement of this ship,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of the 78th anniversary celebrations of the defense department.

China’s official media Xinhua earlier quoted a Beijing-based military expert as giving assurance that “China will abide by the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea… and won’t use the dredger to expand its artificial islands.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has troops in nine occupied territories in the Spratlys archipelago, two of which – Pag-asa island and Ayungin Shoal – are adjacent to China’s reclaimed islands over Subi and Panganiban reefs. Its Western Command (Wescom) also conducts regular maritime and air territorial patrol over the country’s Kalayaan Island Group.

“We have security there in Pag-asa, and we also have troops… in all the islands that we occupy, so we will know immediately if they are doing something there,” Lorenzana said.

Although he clarified that it might be too early to react as authorities still could not point where Tian Kun Hao is heading, he believes that this could become a subject of concern if the dredger will be seen in the Kalayaan group.

Described as a “magic island maker,” Tian Kun Hao has begun water tests at the coastal province of Jiangsu.

The South China Morning Post quoted maritime security experts as saying the vessel could raise concern among nations with rival claims on territories in the South China Sea since it suggests that Beijing is preparing to reassert its dominance in the disputed waters.




South China Sea: International law and the promises from China to the Philippines

November 3, 2017
In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat circles a Filipino fishing boat near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Renato Etac via AP, File photo

President Rodrigo Duterte has now returned from his second trip to Japan, which is the only return trip that he has made to any of the Philippines’ major partners. To recall, Duterte visited both China and Japan in October last year. Although his Cabinet officials have represented him abroad, the president himself has not yet made a return trip to Beijing. Now over a year in office, could the president be highlighting the other dimensions of his “independent” foreign policy?

The visit to Tokyo has crucial timing, as it comes very soon before the major ASEAN meetings that will be held in the middle of this month. Also in advance of those meetings, the Stratbase ADR Institute is hosting a conference entitled “ASEAN Leadership Amid a New World Order.”

The full morning of the conference will be talking about the Philippines and ASEAN’s political and security concerns. Speaking on ASEAN defense cooperation will be no less than Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, who will be accompanied by Professor Renato de Castro, ADRi Trustee; Professor Masashi Nishihara of the Research Institute for Peace and Security (Japan); Professor Christopher Roberts of the University of New South Wales (Australia); Professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines; Professor I Made Andi Arsana of Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia) and Gregory Poling of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The president’s visit to Japan in advance of the major ASEAN meetings may be an important sign of that country’s importance of Malacañang’s objectives. Japan’s new pledge of $9 billion in aid, in addition to the billions signed last year, is expected to be primarily channeled into the national infrastructure drive. Most encouragingly, the president committed to ensuring that our cooperation with Japan would be concretely implemented as soon as possible.

Just as importantly, the president confirmed that he discussed maritime security concerns, presumably including the situation in the West Philippine Sea, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Upon his return to the country, Duterte reiterated his desire for China to live up to its promises not to build on Sandy Cay or on Scarborough Shoal, both of which have strategic locations inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. As he put it, “China has put it on record that near Pag-asa where we also have our … the Scarborough island, China has committed to us not to build anything there and I hope that they would honor that commitment to us.”

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China H-6 bomber near Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

Above and beyond the immediate national security interests of our country, however, we also have the region’s interest to consider. By exercising restraint over the militarization of its existing facilities in addition to stopping its land reclamation activities, China would be showing its commitment to the general environment of trust in our region. As we already know, the South China Sea challenge has single-handedly complicated our country’s relationships with other Southeast Asian nations, with China, and with the United States. Rather than contribute to the building blocks of enduring trust, the continuing character of the problem weakens the security environment in Southeast Asia.

We should welcome Duterte’s statements holding China to its commitment. In addition, however, we should further encourage the Philippines to keep on this track and remind all countries of their obligations to their neighbors as enshrined in international law and their declarations with ASEAN. These documents, after all, are meant to reflect long-lasting commitments that reflect their shared principles and their shared understanding of what maintaining the region’s peace entails.

Just as there is no getting away from international law, there should be no getting away from the Philippines’ recently-won ruling from the international legal tribunal, which arguably provided all the clarity that we needed over our rights in our Exclusive Economic Zone. The international tribunal’s decision an essential piece of the puzzle in fostering the maritime security that we desire in Southeast Asia. The case not only showed that disputes can be resolved without recourse to force and in accordance with law, it has become an example for the region to lean on in understanding their own rights and responsibilities.

Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of



People in the Philippines Ask Nagging Questions on China

August 27, 2017

By  – @inquirerdotnet

 / 05:16 AM August 26, 2017

Question: What is the similarity between China and the Caloocan police?

Answer: China claimed that it had stopped reclamation work on the disputed islands in the South China Sea since 2015 (Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano supported the claim); the Caloocan police claimed that Kian delos Santos was shot and killed because he shot at them first. Both claims were belied by pictures: In China’s case, satellite images showed its reclamation activities in late 2016; in the Caloocan case, CCTV footage showed the policemen dragging Kian off…

In short, both are bare-faced liars, caught red-handed by modern-day technology.

Q: How far do Filipinos trust China vs. America?

A: The Social Weather Stations survey in September 2016 showed that Filipinos trusted America the most (+66) and China the least (-33), among the countries surveyed. The SWS also reported that since 1994, when the question was first asked, America has always showed positive ratings, its lowest being +18 and its highest +82; China has showed positive trust ratings only 7 times out of 40, and its highest trust rating was +17 (lower than America’s lowest), while its lowest was -46.

In short, Filipinos don’t trust China any further than they can throw it (and China, a giant, can’t be thrown very far).

Q: So why does President Duterte trust China so much and distrust America?

A: No hard evidence on which to base an answer. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told me in an interview (you can catch it on Monday) that the President “listens.” Well, yes, he “listened” to the outraged cry against Kian’s murder, but he obviously hasn’t “listened” to the Filipino distrust of China (Filipinos have dealt with Chinese since pre-Hispanic times).

All these make up background for the current issue relating to China’s bare-faced lies or its treachery vis-à-vis the Philippines, which are well-documented in Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s book, “The South China Sea Disputes” (downloadable, free).

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While vowing eternal friendship with us and offering billions of dollars in “aid” (we should look that gift horse in the mouth, given the offerer’s predilection for mendacity), China has sent two frigates (warships), a coast guard vessel and two militia maritime fishing boats, to guard Sandy Cay (which is Philippine territory, being within 12 nautical miles from Pagasa). Moreover, it has prevented a Philippine government vessel from approaching.

Q: Why should Filipinos be worried?

A: Because it is the same strategy that China employed to gain control of Scarborough Shoal (Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc) off Zambales in 2012. More, after the United States brokered a deal under which Chinese and Philippine ships were to leave the area, China reneged on what it had agreed to; the Philippines left, in good faith. Nadenggoy tayo. Which is why we went to The Hague, and won our case.

The effect of Sandy Cay’s occupation by China is enormous, according to Justice Carpio. It will reduce Pagasa’s territorial sea by a third or more, and it will prevent us from claiming Subi Reef. “By any yardstick, this is a seizure of Philippine territory.” And he demanded that the Philippines take active diplomatic and legal measures on record.

Q: What is the Duterte administration doing about it?

A: The reaction is such that one would think it was lawyering for China. To wit: 1) What ships? (It denied their existence, although they were caught on satellite); 2) The ships are just exercising the right of innocent passage. (Carpio: Innocent passage requires no stopping, or loitering. The ships have been there since Aug. 12—again caught on satellite); 3) AMTI-CSIS, the think tank that provided the pictures, is American, therefore it is there to promote US interests. (Me: What? Do we think they photoshopped the whole thing?); 4) We are not going to war over a sandbar. (Me: Nobody suggested going to war. Moreover, that sandbar, since it has high-tide elevation, is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it, more than twice the land area of Metro Manila).

And lastly, Q: This issue is one where we need the best and brightest to decide on strategy. Why isn’t Justice Carpio in the loop?

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Deepsea Metro I

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

South China Sea: China 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.”


 (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.


Philippines and Vietnam Have Legal Claims in the South China Sea; China Does Not — Philippine Supreme Court Senior Justice Has a Way To Follow The Law

August 4, 2017
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War never is an option. Diplomacy can fortify the UN ruling on Manila’s row with Beijing. Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio enumerates some diplomatic initiatives, in a presentation to the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute. Third of four parts:

There is no world policeman or sheriff to enforce the arbitral ruling. However, states that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea expressly bound themselves to comply in good faith with decisions of arbitral tribunals created under UNCLOS. China is reneging on this treaty obligation.

The option for the Philippines is not “talk or go to war with China.” This is a false option, and shows a dismal lack of understanding of international law and relations.

First, the Philippine Constitution prohibits war as instrument of national policy. Second, the UN Charter has outlawed war as a means of settling disputes between states. In resolving the SCS dispute, war is not and has never been an option. That is precisely why the Philippines filed the arbitration case against China.

If the Philippines starts a war against China, it would surely lose, and lose badly. If the Philippines is the aggressor, that will violate the Constitution and the UN Charter. The Philippines cannot invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty because the treaty is only for defense, not for aggression. President Duterte’s oft-repeated question – whether the US will support and join the Philippines if we go to war against China – is a misguided question because the US is not bound by the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty to support any act of aggression by the Philippines. If the US joins the Philippines in a war of aggression, the US will also be in breach of the UN Charter.

China itself does not want to start a war because war will give the US an excuse to intervene in the SCS dispute, since to defend itself the Philippines will certainly invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. China’s strategy is to control the SCS without firing a shot. Those who raise the issue of war with China either do not understand the Three Warfares Strategy of China, or are scaring the Filipino people to submit to China’s designs in the SCS.

The real and practical option for the Philippines is to “talk with China while taking measures to fortify the arbitral ruling.” We should talk with China on the COC, on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) for naval and coast guard vessels, on conservation of fish stocks, on preservation of maritime environment, and on how our fishermen can fish in Scarborough Shoal. There are many other things to talk with China on the SCS dispute even if China refuses to discuss the arbitral ruling.

As we talk with China, we can fortify the ruling in many ways:

(1) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Vietnam on our overlapping Extended Continental Shelves in the Spratlys, based on the ruling of the tribunal that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such an agreement implements part of the arbitral ruling by state practice.

(2) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Malaysia on our overlapping EEZ and ECS in the Spratlys, again based on the ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such agreement also implements part of the ruling by state practice.

(3) The Philippines can file an ECS claim beyond our 200 NM EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon. If China does not oppose, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) will award the ECS to the Philippines, similar to our ECS claim in Benham Rise where there was no opposition. If China opposes our ECS claim, it will have a dilemma on what ground to invoke. If China invokes the nine-dashed lines again, the UNCLCS will reject the opposition because the UNCLCS is bound by the ruling of the arbitral tribunal which, like the UNCLCS, was created under UNCLOS. If China claims an overlapping ECS, then China will be admitting that the Philippines has a 200 NM EEZ from Luzon that negates the nine-dashed lines.

(4) The arbitral tribunal has ruled that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. The Philippines can initiate an agreement among all ASEAN disputant states – Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines – declaring that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generate an EEZ that could overlap with their respective EEZs. Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them, leaving only the territorial disputes. This will isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratlys.

(5) The Philippines can claim damages before an UNCLOS tribunal for the “severe, permanent harm” to the marine environment, as ruled by the arbitral tribunal, that China caused within Philippine EEZ in the Spratlys because of China’s dredging and its failure to stop Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered species.

(6) In case China shows signs of reclaiming Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines can file a new case before an UNCLOS arbitral tribunal to stop the reclamation because any reclamation in Scarborough Shoal will destroy the traditional fishing ground common to fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and China as ruled by the tribunal.

The ruling involves only maritime, not territorial issues. Enforcing it does not mean forcibly evicting China from the islands and high-tide elevations it occupies in the SCS, as occupation of these geologic features is a territorial issue. There are still many commentators in media who fail to distinguish between territorial and maritime disputes, and thus wrongly conclude that enforcing the ruling means going to war with China on the territorial dispute. (More on Monday)

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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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