Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Shoal’

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

February 18, 2018

 

US Navy

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

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

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

Philippine Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop in Vietnam?

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

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

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

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

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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

Gunboat diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)
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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base
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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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

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

February 15, 2018

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

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

South China Morning Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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

China seeks to name sea features in Philippine Rise — Did China Swindle The Philippines?

February 7, 2018
 
The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor. Namria graphic

MANILA, Philippines — Why is China interested in conducting research in the Philippine Rise, an area in the Western Pacific where it has no maritime territorial claim?

One possible answer, according to official sources: Beijing is seeking naming rights for seven or eight submarine mountains or seamounts and ridges in Benham or Philippine Rise and the surrounding Philippine Sea.

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The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor.

The first edition of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, based on about 20,000 soundings, came out in 1904, but the map is a work in progress. A GEBCO Digital Atlas was published in 1994.

Experts estimate that it will take 200 years to complete mapping of the planet’s entire ocean floor, so research contributions from various countries are accepted by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO.

Those who “discover” ocean features with the required supporting research get to name them.

The Chinese Navy Hydrographic Office submitted to the GEBCO Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names proposed names for undersea features including a seamount that it wants to call Jujiu in Benham Rise and other parts of the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific.

All are in the Philippine Basin and within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The IHO-IOC website, in its record of China’s undersea feature name proposals, shows one filed for a ridge in the Philippine Basin that Beijing says a Chinese vessel called Li Siguang Hao “discovered” in September 2004 following a survey from July to September of the same year.

Beijing reportedly converted the naval vessel into a fishery law enforcement ship called Yuzheng 203 sometime in 2012.

The China Navy Hydrographic Office submitted the undersea feature name proposal, together with bathymetric maps, to the IHO-IOC on April 17 last year, seeking to name the feature Shouyang Ridge.

“Shouyang,” according to the application, is “another name for Chinese lunar January, i.e. the beginning of the spring when the grim cold air gives way to the all encompassing warmth imperceptibly. The poetic and pictorial inspiring appellation, created by associating month, climate and the changes of great nature, manifests the wisdom and temperament of people living in the ancient world.”

China’s so-called nine-dash-line claim over nearly all of the South China Sea does not extend to the Pacific Ocean. The entire Chinese maritime claim was invalidated by the UN-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague in 2016.

President Duterte ordered all foreign research activities in the area stopped the other day, for still unspecified reasons. A Chinese vessel, however, has completed its research in the area.

Explaining the President’s order, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said “we simply have to regulate what is within our sovereign rights” even if “we have to share with humanity, with other nations what is in there.” Foreign groups wishing to conduct research or exploration in Philippine Rise are required to get clearance from Esperon.

He stressed the Philippines would like to assert its sovereign rights over waters within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. “It simply means that we value also what we have,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/08/1785645/china-seeks-name-sea-features-philippine-rise

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

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

History lessons for Duterte and Cayetano on China’s respect for Philippine waters

February 7, 2018

With 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Two decades of bilateral talks, negotiations, and deadends, starting from 1995. Then, in 2016, an overwhelming legal victory for the Philippines in an arbitration case that was novel and historic in a number of ways—but a decision that China refuses to abide by. In sum, that’s our country’s difficult relationship with the regional hegemon in resolving our dispute over parts of the South China Sea.

All these happened not so far back in our history, while President Rodrigo Duterte was Davao City mayor and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano a local politician who later became congressman and senator. Tensions with China over scattered rocks, reefs, and islands in what is now called the West Philippine Sea may have been far removed from these two men’s consciousness. But as the country’s leaders, they have a responsibility to protect the national interest, with history as their guide.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Sure, Benham Rise is not disputed territory. The 13-million-hectare area off the coasts of the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, larger than Luzon, is unambiguously part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, as declared by the United Nations in 2012.

But letting China conduct maritime research there, while allowing it to ignore our country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and militarily dominate the area, is deplorable. It is Stockholm Syndrome at its fullest: the more the Philippines is abused, the more it gives in to China.

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

To refresh the memories of our leaders, here’s a short timeline:

  • 1988 – China occupied Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef), Cuarteron Reef (Calderon Reef), and Subi Reef (Zamora Reef). Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef have been transformed into military bases, while a high-frequency radar installation was built on Cuarteron Reef.
  • 1995 – China grabbed Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) and built certain structures which, they said, were shelters for their fishermen. Look how Mischief Reef is today: it is a military base complete with underground storage for ammunition.
  • 2004-2005 – The Philippines and China entered into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) to do a 3-year research of petroleum resources in parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam protested this controversial deal so it became a trilateral agreement. China, which used its ship, collected the data, and Vietnam supposedly processed it, and the Philippines interpreted it. The survey results, some of which were blurred, have remained confidential. China, it is said, controlled the process. A case questioning the constitutionality of the JMSU is pending with the Supreme Court.
  • 2011 – China stopped the Philippines from exploring for oil and gas in Reed Bank.
  • 2012 – China took control of Scarborough Shoal.
  • 2013-2014 – China attempted to prevent Philippine ships from delivering supplies to and rotating personnel in Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines as of February 2018

Sneaking into Benham Rise

Recently, in another part of the Philippines, a Chinese survey vessel hovered in Benham Rise for 3 months, a fact Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed last year. The DFA, then under Secretary Enrique Manalo, said China had not been issued any permit to research. Why then was China there and what was it doing?

Despite this breach, which happened on Duterte’s watch, Cayetano has blithely given the go signal to China to survey the country’s coral-rich eastern seaboard. The DFA, however, has not released details of the permit given to the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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The approval process was likewise not transparent. Usually, it is a multi-agency team – including the DFA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture (particularly the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) – that reviews research requests such as this.

Damage to coral reefs

Forgotten is this race to study Benham Rise is China’s plunder of the coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea and the massive damage it has done to the marine biodiversity of the area. The construction of artificial islands in features that China had occupied, turning these into fortified military bases, had impacted reefs on a “scale unprecedented in the region” and which will take decades to centuries to recover.

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The international tribunal that heard the Philippine maritime case versus China ruled overwhelmingly against China on environmental issues. Among others, the judges said China engaged in – and tolerated – the harvesting of endangered species on a significant scale and in a manner that was destructive of the coral reefs. Its land reclamation has caused irreparable harm to the environment. Studies by experts proved this.

While China’s intentions in Benham Rise, as the scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) explain, has everything to do with ocean currents and understanding climate change, there is concern that China will collect information on the marine wealth and eventually use it to exploit the area, just like it did in the West Philippine Sea.

Filipino scientists from UP-MSI are reportedly on board China’s ship, Ke Xue Hao, to participate in the research, a requirement for any foreign country doing marine scientific research in Philippine waters. Their presence may serve as check on the Chinese.

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

But with 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down. This is not just about science. It is also about trust. – Rappler.com

The author, editor at large of Rappler, is writing a book on how the Philippines won its maritime case versus China.

https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/195289-benham-rise-history-lessons-duterte-cayetano

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

More Photos:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5360751/Chinas-militarisation-South-China-Sea-revealed.html

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

Philippines Finds Previously Unknown Increased Chinese Presence at Scarborough Shoal — At Least Nine Chinese Vessels Inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone

January 31, 2018

 

The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.  File

MANILA, Philippines — On its maiden patrol mission in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a Philippine Navy aircraft donated by Japan has monitored increased presence of Chinese vessels in the area now under China’s control despite being within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.

It was the second such mission to be launched within a two-week period at Panatag Shoal by the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) amid growing concerns over Chinese military buildup in the West Philippine Sea.

Wielding de facto control over Panatag, the Chinese might build an island on the shoal just like it did on other land features in the disputed waters so that it could strengthen its hold on a seized territory, security experts say.

Flying 800 feet above the rich fishing ground, the Navy surveillance plane reported the presence of nine Chinese vessels – four coast guard vessels, four unmarked Chinese ships and a Chinese fishing vessel.

Last week, a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C295 plane also circled over Panatag and spotted four Chinese coast guard ships and a fishing vessel in the area. Filipino fishing boasts were also present.

The Chinese ships in Panatag did not challenge the Filipino patrols.

Located 120 nautical miles from mainland Zambales, Panatag Shoal used to be a target range for live fire exercise of the US and Philippine militaries in 1970s to 1980s.

The dismantling of the US bases in the country in the early ‘90s, observers say, may have given China opportunity to assert its South China Sea nine-dash line maritime claim, initially by establishing its presence in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan in 1995.

Meanwhile, a Japanese destroyer is set to arrive in Manila tomorrow for a three-day goodwill visit. The destroyer JS AMAGIRI (DD-154), which has a DH-60J patrol helicopter, will dock at Pier 13 in South Harbor.

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JS Amagiri

The visit is part of the continuing initiatives of the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to further improve relations.

In November 2017, an anti-submarine destroyer of the JMSDF also made a goodwill port call in Manila.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/01/1783462/increased-chinese-presence-monitored-scarborough-shoal

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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.

China Signaling it May Finally ‘Militarize’ the South China Sea Officially — China has Already Built Up Seven Land Formations With or Able To House Chinese Military Installations

January 29, 2018

China may be getting ready to overtly “militarize” its island bases in the South China Sea. After years of counter-accusing the United States of militarizing the region while maintaining that its man-made islands were “necessary defense facilities,” Chinese officials are using a recent transit by a U.S. warship to lay the groundwork for deploying real force projection capabilities to its outposts.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that a U.S. Navy destroyer violated its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the disputed feature in the South China Sea on January 17th. In an unusual step, China was the first to reveal that the transit occurred and may be using it to signal future military deployments to the bases it has built on reclaimed islands in the Spratly Islands.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. ship’s passage gravely threatened the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel in the area, but did not elaborate how. He went on to say that China would take “necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by both China and the Philippines. Starting in 2012, China effectively occupied the shoal, using maritime law enforcement and paramilitary Maritime Militia vessels to evict Filipino fishermen. In early 2016 the United States apparently believed that China might attempt to begin land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal as a prelude to constructing military facilities similar to what it has done in the Spratly Islands, prompting the head of the U.S. Navy to voice rare public concern over China’s impending moves. Analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies speculated that China’s intended reclamation efforts were only stymied following intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy and deterrent signaling.

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A Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal last year.

Since there are no structures on Scarborough Shoal to support the deployment of military equipment, unless China again tries to build an artificial island on the shoal those “necessary measures” probably just mean a heavier Chinese maritime presence in the area. But other Chinese commentary points to the possibility that China may use the Hopper’s transit as pretext for militarization elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Militarization is a sensitive topic in the strategic waters of the South China Sea. To quell concern about its robust island-construction campaign, China’s President Xi Jinping said that China “did not intend” to militarize the Spratly Islands in 2015 remarks at the White House. Those reclaimed islands are now home to extensive communications and sensor facilities, long runways, and hardened hangars and ammunition storage bunkers. Chinese officials have long explained away this construction as “necessary defense facilities” but not militarization.

As early as 2016, U.S. intelligence assessed that China’s Spratlys bases could, or could shortly, host forces like fighters, bombers, and long range anti-ship or land-attack missiles that were capable of projecting power far beyond any defensive requirements. But to date, China has only deployed short-range missiles and point-defense weapons that cannot project control over the seas or skies around the islands, allowing Chinese officials to sustain a thinly plausible claim to be staying within President Xi’s promise that China would not militarize them. But Chinese officials now appear to be laying the narrative foundation to claim that the strategic situation in the South China Sea will force China to deploy the more robust military capabilities those Spratlys bases can accommodate.

Chinese officials have floated the premise that the United States was forcing it to deploy increasing military capabilities to the region for defensive purposes before. In 2016, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman invoked this explanation when he responded to a U.S. think tank report revealing new defensive weapons on China’s Spratlys bases by saying that “If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?”

China’s recent statements signal that deployments could be more imminent.

Following the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comments, the official People’s Daily newspaper published an editorial saying that the U.S. presence in the South China Sea would “hit a brick wall.” It went on to warn that the United States activities would force China to “strengthen and speed up” its buildup of capabilities in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region. An editorial in the Global Times tabloid claimed even more explicitly that China had exercised restraint in its responses to the United States’ military presence in the South China Sea and that eventually China would “militarize the islands.”

Claims that U.S. freedom of navigation represents a threat to its islands is more plausibly pretext for militarization. The United States excels at over-the-horizon strike, using long range missiles to hit targets from beyond ranges that they would be subject to easy counterattack. If the United States was going to attack China’s built-up facilities in the South China Sea, there is little reason that its warships or bombers would close within visual range of the islands to do so.

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USS Hopper

It is doubtful, then, that the Hopper’s transit had any effect on China’s plans. China has been building up its islands’ capabilities for some time, with deployments perhaps restrained only by a desire to mitigate backlash from the United States and other countries in the region. It’s also possible that the United States’ 2016 assessments were optimistic about the islands’ readiness to accommodate sustained deployments.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently released a report revealing China completed over 70 acres of new construction and facility improvement on its bases in the South China Sea, last year. That construction provides some context to recent reports from Chinese official media about the special facilities and preparationsrequired to support a deployment of fighter jets to the Paracel islands last year. Details on the special accommodations the Chinese military had to make for the tropical conditions in the South China Sea like sealed, thermostabilized airplane hangars, suggests that its bases in the Spratlys are only now reaching a level of completion that can confidently support advanced combat forces, and all China needs now is an excuse to justify the deployments.

https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/china-signaling-it-may-finally-militarize-the-south-china-sea-officially/

China built artificial islands in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs

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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.

 

China vows action after US warship sails near South China Sea island — Who “owns” the sea?

January 21, 2018

 

Beijing claims passage of destroyer USS Hopper in disputed water violates sovereignty but Pentagon says operations are routine

China has vowed to take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty after a US navy destroyer sailed near a disputed shoal claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea this week.

China’s foreign ministry said the missile destroyer USS Hopper came within 12 nautical miles – an internationally recognised territorial limit – of Huangyan Island, which is also known as Scarborough Shoal and subject to a rival claim by the Philippines. Two US officials confirmed it.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the patrol was in line with international law and was an “innocent passage”, in which a warship effectively recognises a territorial sea by crossing it quickly, without stopping.

The US military says it carries out “freedom of navigation” operations throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and that they are separate from political considerations.

The Pentagon did not directly comment on the latest patrol but said such operations were routine.

“All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Christopher Logan said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the USS Hopper violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, and threatened the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel. Lu said the Chinese navy ordered the vessel to withdraw after determining its identity.

The incident was the latest US naval operation challenging extensive Chinese claims in the South China Sea. The United States has criticised China for constructing islands and military installations in the sea, saying they could be used to restrict free movement in a critical global trade route.

Lu said China “firmly opposes” efforts to use freedom of navigation as an excuse to hurt its sovereignty and urged the United States to “correct its mistakes”.

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China’s defence ministry said the repeated dispatch of US warships to the region was “undermining regional peace and stability” and hurting bilateral relations.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Pentagon appeared determined to keep up regular freedom of navigation patrols in the sea, with one every six weeks or so, in spite of Chinese objections.

“The last made public was in October, but we should expect that there was at least one other in the interim,” he said. “The only time word is getting out these days is if Beijing makes an issue of it.”

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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

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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.

China Accuses U.S. Navy of Encroachment in South China Sea

January 20, 2018

U.S. warship sailed near disputed Scarborough Shoal, damaging Chinese sovereignty, Beijing says

BEIJING—China criticized the U.S. Navy for sailing a guided-missile destroyer close to a disputed outcrop in the South China Sea, adding to tensions between the two governments already strained over trade and North Korea.

China’s foreign and defense ministries, in separate statements Saturday, criticized the USS Hopper for encroaching on what Beijing regards as Chinese territory, saying the ship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal on Wednesday without permission.

The Chinese frigate Yellow Mountain identified the U.S. vessel, warned it to leave and then drove it from the area, the Defense Ministry said.

“The U.S. ship’s actions damaged Chinese sovereignty and security interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement. He said China would take “necessary action” to safeguard Chinese territory.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet declined to comment specifically on the USS Hopper but said the U.S. conducts routine “freedom-of-navigation operations” designed to challenge excessive maritime claims. The spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, said the operations “are designed to comply with international law and not threaten the lawful security interest of coastal States.”

Scarborough Shoal, which is also claimed by the Philippines, is a collection of rocks, sandbars and coral reefs roughly 120 nautical miles from the Philippines that sits near valuable fishing grounds and is a flashpoint for contesting claims. China seized control of Scarborough Shoal, also known as Huangyan Island, from the Philippines in 2012—one of a series of maneuvers by Beijing to assert its control and sovereignty claims over the South China Sea.

As a consequence, the U.S. military mounted periodic operations to sail or fly near the disputed areas to challenge what the U.S. sees as China’s excessive claims in strategically and commercially vital seas.

In 2016, the Philippines won an international arbitration case that effectively invalidated Chinese claims to all of the South China Sea. Beijing rejected the ruling, but also moved to cool tensions with Southeast Asian nations, seizing an opportunity after a new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he would put the ruling aside to pursue better relations.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, while continuing military operations in the South China Sea, has shifted the focus with China to the trade imbalance and to enlisting Beijing’s help in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons.

More

  • As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters (Dec. 14)
  • Japan Is Building Missile Bases to Confront Rising Threat From China (Dec. 20)
  • Philippines’ Duterte Says He Will Raise South China Sea Dispute With Beijing (Nov. 8)
  • China, Asean to Test Waters on South China Sea Talks (Aug. 6)
  • Philippines’ Duterte Says Chinese Leader Raised Threat of War Over South China Sea (May 20)

The specific purpose of the Hopper’s sail-by this week wasn’t clear. The destroyer entered the Asia-Pacific region, overseen by the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, on Jan. 4, according to a Navy press release.

China respects freedom of navigation in the South China Sea but rejects violations of its sovereignty in the name of freedom of navigation, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

“We strongly urge the U.S. to rectify its mistake immediately and cease this kind of provocation so as not to harm Sino-U.S. relations and regional peace and stability,” the statement quoted him as saying.

Write to Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-accuses-u-s-navy-of-encroachment-in-south-china-sea-1516459241

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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 says US warship ‘violated’ its sovereignty at Scarborough Shoal

January 20, 2018
© NAVY NEWS PHOTO FILES/AFP/File | The USS Hopper recently entered the US Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations
BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing on Saturday said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the disputed South China Sea.The USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Island on the night of January 17 without alerting Beijing, the foreign ministry said, referring to the shoal by its Chinese name.

Also known as Scarborough Shoal, the ring of reefs lies about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s claims are hotly contested by other nations.

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A Chinese bomber flies near Scarborough Shoal last year

The US vessel “violated China’s sovereignty and security interests”, and put the safety of nearby Chinese vessels “under grave threat”, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

China’s defence ministry said in a separate statement that a Chinese frigate “immediately took actions to identify and verify the US ship and drove it away by warning” it.

The USS Hopper recently entered the US Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations, where the ship is on an “independent deployment”, according to a statement released earlier this month on the Navy’s website.

Its mission in Asia involves “security cooperation, building partner capacity, and performing routine operations within the area”.

News of the encounter follows Friday’s release of a new US national defence strategy that says America is facing “growing threats” from China and Russia.

China is a “strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea”, the document says.

China’s defence ministry dismissed those claims on Saturday, saying “the situation in the South China Sea has steadily stabilised,” in comments attributed to spokesman Wu Qian.

But it added, “the United States has repeatedly sent warships illegally into the adjacent waters of the South China Sea islands and reefs.”

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea despite rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbours and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a brief stand-off with the Philippine navy. The shoal is also claimed by Taiwan.

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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.

Philippines: Duterte’s deflecting skills will soon not be enough

December 21, 2017

The year 2017 was a particularly auspicious one for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in many ways.

The controversial Filipino leader, who was elected just a year ago (mid-2016), leveraged Manila’s turn as the Asean chair to project himself as a regional power broker.

He enthusiastically hobnobbed with global superpowers, proudly overseeing multilateral responses to brewing conflicts from the South China Sea to the Korean peninsula.

Despite heavy criticism of his human rights record, he managed to deepen personal relations with world leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, while maintaining high approval ratings at home.

Yet, the tough-talking Philippine President faces major challenges in the coming years, both on the domestic and international fronts.

It must be said that Mr Duterte’s greatest achievement this year was his uncanny ability to translate outright disasters into political dividends.

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When Duterte became president in June 2016, he appointed Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa as his national police chief. They are both from Davao. Here, the two men are pictured together at the presidential palace in Manila in January 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

For instance, the siege of Marawi city by ISIS -affiliated groups called into question what were supposed to be his special strengths as a leader. After all, Mr Duterte’s ascent to presidency was partly driven by his promise to bring about peace and prosperity to his home island.

Over the years, he has consistently portrayed himself not only as a capable “law-and-order” leader, but also as a sincere peacemaker with deep ethno-religious ties to both the Christian majority as well as the Muslim “Moro” minority in the country.

 

Yet, ironically, under the leadership of the country’s first president from the conflict-ridden island of Mindanao, the Philippines found itself fighting to break the grip of the vicious Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist group over a part of its territory.

Far from undermining his authority, however, the crisis in Marawi provided Mr Duterte the perfect pretext to experiment with draconian emergency measures.

He immediately declared martial law across Mindanao with no clear deadline as to when it might be lifted. It proved popular. He has threatened to extend it across the country if and when he deems it necessary. Despite the shock setback in his own backyard, Mr Duterte managed to turn chaos into a ladder for further political consolidation.

Meanwhile, he also leveraged global concerns over the spectre of the ISIS in South-east Asia to solicit international support. Not only traditional partners such as the United States and Australia, but also regional powers such as China and Russia provided direct military assistance to the Philippines during the months-long siege of Marawi.

Expanded counter-terrorism cooperation also served as a springboard to repair frayed ties with America, with the Trump administration deliberately toning down its criticisms of Mr Duterte’s bloody drug war in order to focus on the ISIS threat.

By emphasising the threat of transnational terrorism, Mr Duterte, as the chairman of Asean, effectively sidelined earlier concerns over human rights and democracy issues in the Philippines and the broader South-east Asian region.

He displayed a similar level of political adaptability vis-a-vis domestic political shocks, particularly the growing opposition to his scorched-earth campaign against illegal drugs.

Mr Duterte was forced to suspend his violent campaign on two occasions, particularly after the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo (in January) and teenager Kian de los Santos (in August), both allegedly at the hands of Philippine police forces.

Yet, as soon as public backlash subsided, he resumed the anti-drug campaign without suffering any significant drop in his still-high (80 per cent) approval ratings. No officials were held to account.

Surveys suggest that a majority of Filipinos disapprove of extrajudicial killings, yet seven out of 10 Filipinos still support Mr Duterte’s drug war. They may not appreciate his methods, but they applaud his political will.

Despite Beijing’s continued reclamation activities in Philippines-claimed areas in the South China Sea, the Philippine President has also managed to keep critics of his China policy at bay.

If anything, according to a recent Pew survey, he has gradually convinced a growing number of Filipinos to support his decision to soft-pedal on territorial disputes with China in favour of economic benefits from the Asian powerhouse.

Since Mr Duterte’s ascent to power, the number of Filipinos who favour closer economic relations with China has increased from 43 per cent to 67 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of those who favour confrontation with China over territorial disputes dropped from around 41 per cent to only 28 per cent.

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Nonetheless, Mr Duterte faces a tough year ahead.

On the domestic front, he will have to address public clamour for more effective governance.

Inflation control, poverty alleviation, better public infrastructure and employment generation – these are the most urgent issues in the eyes of Filipinos.

He will also have to transcend his almost single-minded obsession with the drug war in favour of a more diversified national economic agenda. Otherwise, he risks alienating not only his passionate base, which clamours for an overhaul of the country’s broken political system and elite-dominated economy, but also the silent majority, which awaits actual results on the ground beyond tough talk alone.

One must also keep in mind the fact that President Duterte, who is limited to six years in office, is still in his political honeymoon period, which usually lasts two to three years. But as years go by, the public is expected to adopt an increasingly critical view of his performance, and have less patience for empty rhetoric and incompetence. His supporters seek nothing short of a full transformation of the Philippines into a vibrant economy, which can deliver basic public services and ensure law and order beyond the mere crackdown on illegal drugs.

Internationally, any major clashes or incidents in disputed areas could also force him to abandon his rapprochement with China, which is yet to show any sign of constraint in its maritime ambitions.

The Philippines is also yet to benefit from any major big-ticket Chinese investments despite back-to-back announcements of a “golden age” in bilateral relations.

If China were to build structures on the Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal, or forcibly squeeze out Philippine troops and personnel from disputed land features, it will likely provoke a major backlash among the Filipino public and defence establishment.

More broadly, deepening Sino-American rivalry in the region will also make it increasingly difficult for Mr Duterte to play one superpower against the other. He had a good start but as time goes by, the Philippine strongman may discover the limits of his power in shaping his country’s destiny by pure personal whim.

  • The writer is Political science professor at De La Salle University in the Philippines; a non-resident fellow at Stratbase ADR Institute and author of The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy.
  • S.E.A. View is a weekly column on South-east Asian affairs.