Posts Tagged ‘Singapore Nanyang University’

China island expansion moves ahead in South China Sea

December 25, 2017


© AFP/File | In this photo taken on June 15, 2016 a vendor stands behind a map of China including an insert with red dotted lines showing China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea


China’s large-scale land reclamation around disputed reefs and shoals in the South China Sea is “moving ahead steadily”, state media has reported, and is on track to use giant “island-builders” to transform even more of the region.

Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment in the area where it has conflicting claims with neighbours.

“The course of construction is moving ahead steadily and a series of striking results have been achieved,” according to a report that appeared Friday on Haiwainet, a website under theHaiwainet’s flagship newspaper the People’s Daily.

The projects have “completely changed the face of the South China Sea’s islands and reefs”, the report said.

The aggressive campaign has been a source of contention with neighbouring countries. China’s sweeping claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

During 2017 China built 290,000 square meters (29 hectares) of facilities on South China Sea reefs and islands, including underground storage, administrative buildings and large radar installations, the report said.

“To improve the livelihood and work conditions of people living on the islands, and strengthen the necessary military defences of the South China Sea within China’s sovereignty, China has rationally expanded the area of its islands and reefs,” it said.

The sea is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and $5 trillion in annual trade passes through it.

The report noted that with last month’s introduction of the new super-dredger Tianjing, a “magical island building machine”, and other “magical machines” soon to come, “the area of the South China Sea’s islands and reefs will expand a step further”.

China is also building a floating nuclear power plant, the report said, to provide power for those living in the Sansha city area.

Sansha lies on Woody Island in the Paracel chain — which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan — and administers much of China’s claims in the South China Sea.

China established Sansha in 2012 by unilaterally awarding it two million square kilometres of sea and declaring it the country’s largest city.

Earlier this month a US think-tank released new satellite images showing deployment of radar and other equipment on the disputed islands.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said that over the course of 2017, China had been advancing the next phase of development with construction of infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as underground storage areas and large radar and sensor arrays.

“We believe that some individuals are making a fuss about this. They’re trying to hype it up,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang after the first report was published.


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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.


Study: China to Boost Military Muscle at Sea to Deter Foreign Powers

December 21, 2017

By Ralph Jennings
December 20, 2017 12:27 PM

FILE - Chinese structures are pictured on the disputed Spratlys island in South China Sea, April 21, 2017.

FILE – Chinese structures are pictured on the disputed Spratlys island in South China Sea, April 21, 2017.

China is widely forecast to bolster its military power next year in the South China Sea to resist Japan, India and the United States, as well as the Asian states that dispute Beijing’s maritime claims.
Scholars believe China will eventually enhance radar surveillance and let fighter jets use tiny islets for stopovers. Beijing might declare an air defense identification zone or other means of maritime control, too, they suggest.It probably hopes the United States, along with militarily powerful allies such as Japan and India, will stay out after they jumped into the dispute this year, according to Oh Ei Sun, international studies instructor at Singapore Nanyang University.”I don’t think they’re primarily offensive in nature, but of course with those installations in place, they will have more bargaining chips, they’re in a stronger position to say the U. S. should not perform [freedom of navigation operations] and such in the South China Sea,” Oh said.

New hardware

China this year added installations in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, said the Asia Maritime Transparency Institute of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In 2017, China built underground storage areas, administrative structures and “large radar and sensor arrays,” said the Washington-based research group. The construction covered about 290,000 square meters “of new real estate.”

FILE - Philippine military's images of China's reclamation in the Spratlys, Mabini (Johnson) Reef, March, 2015. (Armed Forces of the Philippines)

FILE – Philippine military’s images of China’s reclamation in the Spratlys, Mabini (Johnson) Reef, March, 2015. (Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Beijing built most actively at Fiery Cross reef in the Spratlys, it said, including work to finish tunnels that are likely for ammunition storage. High-frequency radar gear also appeared on the reef, it adds.

China is the most militarized of six governments that claim all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, which is valued for fisheries and fossil fuels. It has been building up islets since 2010.

China has enough installations to land fighter jets, refuel, rearm and let crews rest, said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

State-run China Central Television said earlier in the month the military had deployed jet fighters to Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

China may draw a line of control around its holdings in the Spratly Islands, contested by four Southeast Asian countries plus Taiwan, and consider an air defense identification zone, the initiative’s director Gregory Poling said.

China declared an air defense identification zone off its east coast, in a sea disputed by Japan, in 2013.

Outside influence

Analysts say China’s buildup is aimed at claimants Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam as well as powerful nations that do not claim ownership over the sea.

But the United States particularly irks China as a powerful arms supplier and military trainer for the Philippines. Washington sends naval vessels into the South China Sea periodically to back its position the waters are open to freedom of navigation.

“When the Chinese are suddenly trying to stop resupply of the Philippine forces at Pag-Asa or on the Sierra Madre [ship] at Second Thomas Shoal, then [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte is going to face an enormous amount of pressure to react strongly,” Poling said, referring to two Manila-held features in the Spratly chain.

“The only way the Philippines can possibly react, really, is to strengthen the defense relation with the U. S.,” he said.

India, a Western ally, upgraded its partnership with Vietnam last year year as part of its Act East policy, which analysts say is designed to check Chinese expansion.

Japan, an ally of the United States, passed a helicopter carrier through the sea in mid-2017, adding to repeated comments from Tokyo the waterway should be ruled by international law.

China bases its claim to about 90 percent of the sea on historical fishing records. It has eased the dispute through offers of aid and investment around Southeast Asia. Next year, it’s due to sign a code of conduct with regional countries to head off accidents at sea.

Deterrent effect

After appeals by other claimant countries a U. N. arbitration tribunal said China lacked a legal basis to much of its claim.

But China’s buildup has continued. It’s “like the Cold War,” when opponents stocked nuclear weapons to head off attacks, Oh said.

Some other countries see China’s current level of control as a “fact,” Koh said.

But in November, heads of state from Australia, India, Japan and the United States met in Manila to call for “free, open, prosperous and inclusive” Asian seas, according to an Indian external affairs ministry statement.

China, which resents the role of outside powers in the South China Sea, sees provocation from outside players as cause to keep strengthening its claims, Koh said.

“Now they are trying to demonstrate to the U. S. or allies like Japan and Australia that China is in to stay, and more importantly it’s not just purely staying power,” he added, “It’s the ability to sustain and project force in that area. ”





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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 Could Be The Winner

September 28, 2016

By Ralph Jennings

China fumed in July when a world arbitration court said the Communist leadership lacked a legal basis to claim 95% of a resource-rich, strategically valuable sea off its south coast. The international tribunal of the world’s Permanent Court of Arbitration had no jurisdiction to decide sovereignty over the South China Sea, Beijing had said in refusing to join the arbitration filed by the Philippines. China’s foreign minister called the July 12 verdict a “farce.”

Farcical or not, the outcome may ultimately favor China over four Southeast Asian countries that follow world court preferences by claiming just 200 nautical miles (370 km) exclusive economic zones extending from their coasts. Those zones overlap China’s, leading to periodic clashes since the 1970s and a fast escalation of tension since 2012 as China began reclaiming some of the sea’s islets and reinforcing its claims militarily.

Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos, 88, speaks to the press in Hong Kong on August 12, 2016. Ramos said on August 12 he had met with a senior Chinese official during a trip to Hong Kong aimed at improving ties between Manila and Beijing, hailing the trip a success. (ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

The world court ruling has prompted everyone to say let’s sit down and talk so things don’t get worse. Talks would help China. It can leverage a 10 trillion-dollar-plus economy, the world’s second largest, to invest and trade with the smaller Southeast Asian countries, whose leaders in turn would go easy on Beijing when it reclaims land, drills for undersea oil or flies military aircraft. This give-and-take is already happening in Malaysia, which might set an example for the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. China was Malaysia’s top trading partner and source of direct foreign investment in 2015. Malaysia’s sea claim involves reserves of 5 billion barrels of crude oil and 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, more than the other countries, the U.S.Energy Information Administration estimates.

“That would be a model that other countries could adopt,” says Oh Ei Sun, international studies teacher at Singapore Nanyang University. “(China) would like to see other disputants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, adopt a similar attitude.”

The Philippines is up next, according to widespread predictions. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sent an envoy to Hong Kong in August to break ice after relations had soured during the world court proceedings. He has also asked the United States, a de facto ally of the South China Sea’s smaller claimants, to quit doing joint sea patrols, though it’s unlikely Washington will actually quit the sea. The Philippines sees upwards of 80,000 Chinese tourists per month and counted China as its second largest trading partner in 2014, with 14% of imports and exports that year. It could use some boosts to roads, railways and ports as it tries to attract manufacturing, and China is good at providing those. That’s the point of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” strategy: send Chinese companies to lesser developed places and build stuff such as ports, railways and roads in exchange for long-term Chinese access to host’s economic and political scene. Southeast Asia is a component of that strategy and consistent with China’s longer-term efforts to help countries there build infrastructure.

Brunei has kept relatively quiet, as the 410,000-population country with a high per capita income would get nothing by riling China — an export market for its oil. Don’t expect a blow up if China passes ships near Brunei’s single South China Sea claim, Louisa Reef in the Spratly Island chain.

Vietnam is a tougher one to please. Resentment of China goes back centuries and people you meet there openly discuss their hostilities today. However, Vietnam buys raw materials from China, its No. 1 importer. China is also the second biggest taker of Vietnamese exports after the United States. This month Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met to see about easing the maritime dispute and work together on “infrastructure construction, production capacity, trade and investment,” per a report from China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool