Posts Tagged ‘South China Sea’

China Is Confronting New U.S. Hostility. But Is It Ready for the Fight?

September 24, 2018

The Chinese leader, wearing a dark Mao suit, and the American president, in a black tuxedo, stood side by side with arms aloftat the Kennedy Center. Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter smiled broadly as the orchestra played “Getting to Know You,” signaling the dawn of a new era of friendship and cooperation between their two nations.

Over the next 40 years, China and the United States built the most important economic relationship in the world and worked together on issues such as regional security, counterterrorism and climate change. Taking Mr. Deng’s lead, China played the junior partner, if not always deferential then at least soft-pedaling its ambitions and avoiding conflict with the much stronger United States.

Now, faster than many in either nation expected, that has all changed.

By  Jane Perlez
The New York Times

On Monday, the United States will begin taxing $200 billion in imports from China, the biggest round of tariffs to take effect yet in an escalating trade war. President Trump says the measures are necessary to fight an economic model that requires American companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access and provides state subsidies to Chinese competitors.

China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping, presiding over an economy gaining quickly on the United States, has openly challenged American leadership abroad while dashing hopes of any political thaw at home. During this time, both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have turned on Beijing, accusing it of imperial ambitions in Asia, aggression in disputed waterspersecution of ethnic minorities and unscrupulous trade policies aimed at dominating the industries of the future.

In a fundamental shift, the Trump administration has formally described China as a “revisionist power” and “strategic competitor” in the past year. China has been saying similar things about the United States for even longer. But as relations have deteriorated in recent months, many Chinese are now asking if their country is really prepared to take on the world’s most powerful nation.

China has abruptly canceled not only trade talks that were planned this week in Washington but also military-to-military talks scheduled to begin Tuesday. The latter move was made to protest American sanctions imposed last week on a Chinese military department for buying warplanes and missile equipment from Russia.

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Donad Trump and Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, April 6, 2017. Reuters file photo

In a sign of Beijing’s growing international influence, though, the Vatican and the Chinese government said Saturday that they had reached a breakthrough agreement on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China, taking a step toward normalizing relations.

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As the acrimony and rivalry with the United States have intensified, the immediate worry in Beijing is how the Chinese public, accustomed to a fast-expanding economy, will handle the trade war, and what impact it might have on the ruling Communist Party’s overriding concern of domestic stability.

The government has sought to project confidence.

“Maybe the growth rate will slow 1 percent. We can accept it. That’s not terrible for us,” said Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of The Global Times, a state-run newspaper known for its nationalist tone. He added that Washington would soon realize that its mobile phone and auto manufacturers could not survive without Chinese customers.

Chinese workers at the entrance to a tunnel they are building for the China-Laos railway project near Vang Vieng, Laos, last year. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

“As long as our market is expanding economically and growing, China will win the trade war,” he said.

Charles S. Y. Liu, a private equity investor who sometimes advises the government, said the Chinese people were prepared to endure a protracted trade conflict.

“The Chinese are more tolerant of pain because we have been poor for so long,” he said. “Wealth has only arrived in the last decade.”

But many others are worried, and some have urged the Chinese leadership to seize the moment and shift the economy even further toward open markets and private enterprise rather than allowing an inefficient state sector to dig in.

“A closed approach will lead to a decline in the rate of national competitiveness,” wrote Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, in a recent paper. He warned that China risked returning to the stagnation it suffered in isolation during the Mao era.

“When Trump adopts a protectionist strategy, China should have an open door and force the state-owned enterprises to reform,” Professor Yan added in an interview. But he said his advice was being ignored. “I get no reaction. Nobody listens to me.”

Other Chinese are arguing that the spike in hostility from the United States could have been avoided if President Xi had continued the policy of “hiding strength, biding time” followed by his predecessors and originally set by Mr. Deng.

Mr. Xi instead has flaunted two ambitious programs: the global infrastructure plan known as the Belt and Road Initiative and the effort to dominate advanced industries known as Made in China 2025, both of which have drawn criticism by the Trump administration.

“The same things can be done without such arrogance,” said Yun Sun, an analyst at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington. “I believe the Chinese policy community does wish to see more actions and more assertiveness but Xi went too far.”

President Xi and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa attending a summit meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing this month. Credit Pool photo by Lintao Zhang

The party has sought to censor criticism of Mr. Xi but there have been glimpses of anxiety online about the potential impact of the trade war as well as anger at the Belt and Road Initiative, which has earmarked hundreds of billions of dollars for overseas projects intended to lift China’s clout abroad.

Echoing a popular opinion on social media, a retired economics professor, Sun Wenguang, has argued that it is wrong to spend so much money in other countries given the problems that China faces at home.

“Some are too poor to see a doctor, some are too poor to have pensions after retirement, and some too poor to go to school,” Professor Sun said in an interview on the Voice of America last month. “Under such circumstances, if you still choose to throw money at other countries, domestic backlash is almost guaranteed.”

As he was speaking, the police entered his home and forced him off the phone.

Professor Sun’s criticism reflects a broader concern in China about the government’s efforts to win over allies. The subject is important because the United States has long touted its alliances as key to its national strength generally and its ability to counter China’s rise in Asia in particular.

China enjoys significant advantages in the region. It is the largest trading partner of almost every country in Asia while President Trump has strained relations with allies around the world. Even Japan, America’s most important ally in Asia, appears to be drifting closer to China as Mr. Trump threatens the nation with tariffs.

In a rapprochement between the two Asian rivals, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to travel to Beijing next month, the first visit to China by a Japanese leader since 2011.

“Trump said recently, ‘Japan, you’re next for tariffs,’” said Mr. Liu, the private equity manager. “Thank you, Donald Trump.”

But some say China is fumbling the opportunity presented by the Trump administration and alienating neighbors by throwing its weight around too aggressively. There has been a backlash in several countries against Belt and Road projects that have left governments in deep debt, created few jobs for local residents or damaged the environment. Others have raised an alarm about Chinese efforts to interfere in politics of smaller nations.

In an essay that has been widely shared on Chinese social media, a prominent Communist Party scholar warned against national arrogance and overreach, noting the fate of rising powers that succumbed to “recklessness and impetuousness” in the 20th century: Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union.

Workers from Sungrow connecting solar panels to custom-made buoys on the banks of a lake in a flooded coal mine in Liulong Village, China, last year. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

“I recall a topic hotly debated on line by young internet users: Who is really China’s enemy? Is it America? Japan? Russia?” wrote the scholar, Luo Jianbo, head of the China Foreign Policy Center at the Central Party School. “If we think about things coolly, perhaps none of them are. China’s enemy is itself.”

In many ways, the Chinese political elite has been caught off guard by how quickly relations have deteriorated with the United States, which has long been a source of envy and inspiration for many Chinese as well as a leading destination for education and immigration.

Chinese scholars often observe that new American presidents usually take a hard line against China but seek cooperation after realizing how the two nations need each other. President Trump has stunned them by defying that pattern.

“I personally feel surprised by the fact that Trump is taking such radical measures,” said Mr. Hu, the newspaper editor. “I initially thought it was a joke, but it turns out to be a real policy, putting tariffs on all these products.”

Some Chinese analysts have sought to explain the escalating conflict with the United States by focusing on the personal qualities of the nation’s two leaders. Mr. Trump is a viewed as a fickle, transactional businessman who may retreat after the midterm elections in November. They note he has repeatedly spoken out against China’s trade practices but said little about human rights or military issues.

Mr. Xi, on the other hand, is said to have invested too much politically in his signature programs to back down under foreign pressure.

“Personality matters in this relationship,” said Wu Xinbo, the director of the American Studies Center at Fudan University. “The biggest problem is Trump’s credibility.”

Though Beijing devotes tremendous resources to studying the United States, there seems to be little understanding that the hostility against China in Washington is bipartisan and extends beyond trade, and that many frustrated business leaders, once defenders of good ties with China, now favor tougher measures against it as well.

Teng Jianqun, director of American studies at the China Institute for International Studies, said the government needed to accept the new reality and tell the Chinese public that the coming struggle could be the beginning of a long fight for the country’s survival as a great power.

“We should let our people fully know that this trade war is not a short-term contest,” he said, “but a contest that will determine the future of the Chinese nation.”

Luz Ding contributed research.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: China, Facing U.S. Hostility, Vows to Come Out Swinging.
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China Demands U.S. Withdraw Sanctions Imposed Over Military Purchases From Russia

September 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — Chinese officials have summoned the United States ambassador in Beijing to denounce the United States for imposing economic sanctions this past week on a Chinese military organization for buying equipment from Russia, according to Chinese state news reports on Saturday.

The Chinese military also recalled a Chinese naval commander, Shen Jinlong, who was in the United States attending a naval conference, and it postponed a September meeting on joint staff communications between the two nations.

The United States ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, with President Xi Jinping of China last year. Beijing is said to have summoned the ambassador to protest economic sanctions imposed by the United States.  Credit Lintao Zhang/Reuters

The moves are aimed at pressuring the United States to withdraw the sanctions. The sanctions are “a flagrant breach of basic rules of international relations” and “a stark show of hegemonism,” said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The diplomatic dispute adds to rising tensions between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

By Edward Wong
The New York Times

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Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian [File photo]

Foreign Ministry officials raised objections to the United States ambassador, Terry Branstad, according to People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

The State Department confirmed on Saturday that Mr. Branstad met with Chinese officials, but declined to comment further.

On Thursday, the State Department said that it was imposing sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission and its top official for “engaging in significant transactions” with a group in the Russian defense sector that is on a list of blacklisted entities.

The transactions involved the purchase of Russian Su-35 combat aircraft and equipment related to the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the State Department said.

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Russian Su-35

The Chinese received the aircraft in December 2017 and an initial batch of the missile equipment in 2018, the department said. Both were the result of deals negotiated before August 2017 between the Chinese military organization and Rosoboronexport, a state organization that is the main arms exporter of Russia.

Such military cooperation between the countries was normal, and in line with international law, said Mr. Wu, the military spokesman, according to the Xinhua report.

The State Department said it was imposing the sanctions against Russian and Chinese officials for violating a law enacted by the American government last year to punish Iran, North Korea and Russia for what American officials called hostile behavior. In the case of Russia, the act is intended to punish its military actions in Ukraine and Syria and cyberinterference in the American presidential election of 2016, among other things.

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated over a trade war that President Trump and his economic advisers started over the summer. Mr. Trump announced tariffs last week on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China, prompting China to retaliate by promising to impose similar tariffs on $60 billion worth of goods from the United States. China also canceled trade talks that had been scheduled for this week in Washington.

Relations between the countries have grown strained on other fronts. Trump administration officials have scolded China for not doing enough to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program; criticized what they call Chinese military expansionism in the Pacific and Indian Oceans; and are weighing sanctions against Chinese officials for the repression of ethnic Uighurs in the region of Xinjiang, where up to one million Uighurs are being detained in re-education camps.

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Uighur children

As well, American officials are anxious about Chinese influence in Latin America. This month, the State Department recalled its three chiefs of mission in Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador as a rebuke to those nations, which recently chose to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of recognizing China. The United States has recognized China since 1979, but wants the handful of small countries that recognize Taiwan to continue doing so as a hedge against Chinese power.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Beijing Denounces U.S. Sanctions Over Russian Deals

South China Sea: Vietnam re-states its position on freedom of navigation, sovereignty in Paracel and Spratly islands

September 23, 2018

Vietnam respects navigation freedom conferred by international laws, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Thursday.

She said at a press conference that Vietnam’s position on freedom of navigation in the East Sea, internationally known as South China Sea, has been consistent.

“Vietnam respects the rights to freedom of navigation and overflight of other countries in the East Sea in accordance with international laws, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” she said.

Hang also reiterated that Vietnam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands in accordance with international laws. She called for other countries to contribute “practically and responsibly” to the maintenance of order, peace and the rule of law in the East Sea.

Hang was responding to questions regarding recent activities by the British and Japanese navies in the waters.

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The British Royal Navy fleet flagship, HMS Albion, which sailed close to China-claimed Paracel Islands before arriving in Ho Chi Minh City on September 3, 2018. Photo by Reuters

The British Royal Navy’s amphibious warship HMS Albion sailed close to the Paracel Islands on its way to Saigon Port in Ho Chi Minh City for a visit on September 3, as part of a freedom of navigation operation to challenge China’s “excessive claims” in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been illegally occupying the archipelago. Its claims virtually the entire waterway, including waters close to Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s submarine JS Kuroshio also took part in a naval drill in the South China Sea last week, before docking at Cam Ranh Port in central Vietnam on Monday for a four-day visit.

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Japanese submarine Kuroshio docks at Cam Ranh Port in central Vietnam. Photo by the Vietnam News Agency

“Japan is responding to Chinese assertiveness by pushing back,” Carl Thayer, an Australia-based longtime analyst of regional security, told VnExpress International in an email.This marked the first time a Japanese submarine has taken part in a drill in the waters, and is part of the Japanese fleet’s month-long trip to other Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

He said all maritime powers have a national interest in the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight over the high seas, and the sea lanes that pass through the South China Sea are vital to sustain the global economy. Some $3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes the waters each year.

“The Japanese submarine is an important demonstration of naval power and adds risk and uncertainty to China’s military posture in the South China Sea,” he said.

https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/vietnam-reiterates-stance-after-british-japanese-south-china-sea-drills-3812868.html

China summons US ambassador over military sanctions

September 22, 2018

 

China summoned the US ambassador on Saturday to lodge an official protest over sanctions imposed by the United States against a Chinese military organisation for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles, state media said.

The announcement came a day after China called on the United States to withdraw the sanctions or “bear the consequences”.

The spat adds to tensions between the two global powers over trade, China’s treatment of religious groups and the Asian country’s claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

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Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet

Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned Ambassador Terry Branstad and “lodged solemn representations over US sanctions against (the) Chinese military,” the People’s Daily said in a brief report online.

On Thursday, Washington placed financial sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Defence Ministry, and its top administrator, for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

Officials said it was the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russia, and signalled the Trump administration’s willingness to risk relations with other countries in its campaign against Moscow.

Russia also lashed out at the US sanctions, accusing Washington of playing unfairly and using new measures to squeeze Moscow out of the global arms market.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that “Washington’s continued sanctions hysterics” dealt a new blow to US-Russia ties but could not immediately say if Moscow would retaliate, or how.

The Chinese military expressed “strong indignation and resolute opposition” to the sanctions, the defence ministry said Saturday, echoing a foreign ministry statement the previous day.

Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the US move was a “a flagrant breach of basic rules of international relations” and “a stark show of hegemonism” that severely damages relations between the two countries and their militaries, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

United in their resentment of America’s global influence, China and Russia have sought in recent years to tighten up their ties and this month conducted week-long joint military drills in Moscow’s largest ever war games.

US officials said that the US could consider similar action against other countries taking delivery of Russian fighter jets and missiles.

The State Department also placed 33 Russian intelligence and military-linked actors on its sanctions blacklist.

All of them — defence related firms, officers of the GRU military intelligence agency, and people associated with the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency disinformation group — have been on previous US sanctions lists.

A senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted the ultimate target was Russia and not “the defence capabilities” of third countries.

CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was passed in 2017 as a tool that gives Washington more ways to target Russia, Iran and North Korea with economic and political sanctions.

AFP

Philippines: Duterte admin’s appeasement policy on China causing a crisis?

September 22, 2018

Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte conveyed to his countrymen that he expected China to be fair on the South China Sea dispute and that they should accept Beijing as a good neighbor.

“I am sure that in the end, China will be fair and the equity will be distributed,” he said. He predicted that “in the days to come, we would realize that China… is really a good neighbor.”

Renato Cruz De Castro (philstar.com) – September 22, 2018 – 12:29pm
Commentary
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua

Duterte’s (misplaced) good faith on China is consistent with his administration’s appeasement policy, which is in turn embodied by his and his foreign affairs and defense officials’ concerted efforts to foster closer relations with the rising superpower, alongside calculated moves to pivot away from the United States and its allies (Japan and Australia), over the South China Sea disputes, in particular, and in other international issues, in general.

The Philippine public, however, does not share Duterte’s benign and patronizing view of China. Opposition figures and left-wing organizations have criticized the Duterte administration for not publicly raising alarm and indignation over Chinese efforts to militarize the land features it occupies in the South China.

Two prominent American analysts rightly observed that “expert and media commentaries in the Philippines tend to highlight the dangers and obstacles regarding his infatuation with China and animosity towards the U.S.”

A fragile rapprochement? 

The Duterte administration’s appeasement policy is based on a quid pro quo with China and would result in the unraveling of his predecessor’s balancing policy on China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea. This was in exchange for Chinese moderation in their actions vis-à-vis the Philippines and, more significantly, the infusion of Chinese investment and aid for the Duterte administration’s massive infrastructure program called “Build, Build, Build.”

The siege of Marawi City in 2017 and the revelation of the Philippine military’s weakness vis-à-vis the Islamic militants provided the United States an opportunity to bring the Philippines back “onside, rather than pushing [it] further to China’s embrace.”

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The U.S. supported the Philippines in the two countries’ mutual interests of counter-terrorism and Humanitarian Assistance and Risk Reduction.

Consequently, the U.S. assistance to the Philippines during and after the siege of Marawi City strengthened the pro-American elements in the government and military, providing them opportunities to mitigate Duterte’s efforts to separate from Washington and to gravitate closer to China.

In early June, the Philippine government issued a formal demand for China to ask its Coast Guard to stay away from the Philippines’ traditional fishing grounds around the Scarborough Shoal and stop the harassment of Filipino fishermen off the shoal. This action was triggered by TV news reports of Chinese Coast Guard personnel boarding Filipino fishing vessels, inspecting the fishermen’s catch, and then confiscating their best catch.

In late July, the Philippine government expressed concern over the increase in offensive Chinese radio warnings against Philippine aircraft and ships flying and sailing near reclaimed and fortified islands in the South China Sea.

An  internal Armed Forces of the Philippines report leaked to the Associated Press revealed that Philippine Air Force planes patrolling the South China Sea have received at least 46 warnings from Chinese naval outpost in the artificial islands, where more powerful communications and surveillance equipment have been installed along with weapons such as anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.

China is also withholding the funds it promised Duterte when he visited Beijing in October 2016. During that visit, he collected US$24 billion in investment pledges to finance his administration’s ambitious five-year infrastructure agenda.

However, according to a study by Alvin A. Camba of Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., of the US$24-billion pledges made in 2016, US$15 billion were negotiated between private businessmen that were eventually modified or canceled. The rest of the projects have been stalled because they are hard to implement such as rail networks and irrigation dams.

In mid-August, a delegation of Filipino ranking officials led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez went to Beijing to discuss China’s funding of several infrastructure projects under the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

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Both sides agreed on a two-stage funding program (first and second baskets) for Chinese loan financing. This means that while Chinese funds would be available to finance the administration’s infrastructure projects, the money will be disbursed on a staggered basis and on Beijing’s terms.

Crisis in the appeasement policy on China?  

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has affirmed the Duterte administration’s goal for the Philippines and China to agree on a joint development arrangement that will enable the two disputing states to come up with a scheme to utilize the natural resources in the South China Sea for mutual benefits.

However, stung by the Filipino public’s negative view on the government’s appeasement policy and by China’s refusal to keep its end of the bargain, Cayetano revealed that the Philippines has informed China of four “red lines” in the two countries’ territorial disputes. He also threatened to resign from office if the Philippines will lose additional territory to China under his watch as foreign secretary.

On 15 August, Duterte openly criticized China for its island-building activities and called on it to temper its behavior in the South China Sea. This was his strongest comment on China since he pursued an appeasement policy in late 2016.

China, however, sharply rebuffed him by asserting that it “has a right to take the neces-sary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into air and waters near China’s relevant islands.”

Philippine-China relations in the twenty-first century has undergone periods of ups and downs. It experienced a golden age during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term. The relationship became problematic and toxic during President Benigno Aquino’s presidency. These recent developments indicate that Philippine-China relations under the Duterte administration might again undergo this cycle of ups and downs.

As one Chinese pundit observes: “As for China, the periodic swing of Sino-Philippine relations means China should remain cautiously optimistic. On the one hand, China should take advantage of this chance to bolster relations with Manila. On the other hand, Beijing should remain wary of historic fluctuations in the relationship.”

 

Dr. Renato Cruz de Castro is a trustee and convenor of the National Security and East Asian Affairs Program of the Stratbase ADR Institute, a partner of Philstar.com.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/other-sections/news-feature/2018/09/22/1853726/commentary-there-crisis-duterte-admins-appeasement-policy-china#fROWXRifyWpt4Gcl.99

Related:

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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. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

South China Sea: Philippines Wants To Reaffirm U.S. Defense Relationship

September 20, 2018

China’s expanding militarization in the disputed South China Sea was on the agenda in Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Lorenzana met with the US top diplomat in Washington to reaffirm the decades-long defense relationship between the two countries.

In a readout released Thursday (Manila time), US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauart said Lorenzana and Pompeo discussed mutual defense and security challenges.

US Secretary Michael R. Pompeo meets with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, at the Department of State, September 19, 2018.

State Department Photo by Michael Gross

“Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Lorenzana discussed cooperation on addressing regional security challenges, including the militarization of the South China Sea and the threats posed by terrorism and efforts to achieve denuclearization in North Korea,” Nauert said.

Beijing has installed anti-cruise ship missiles, surface-to-air missile system and electronic jamming equipment on its artificial islands in the South China Sea. China has been claiming that its weapons are not directed at any country.

Commitment to Mutual Defense Treaty reaffirmed

The two secretaries also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with Manila.

Aside from the MDT, the Philippines has two more military agreements with the US — the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Pompeo also expressed Washington’s readiness to extend support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

US assistance vs terrorism

Lorenzana also met with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss defense issues, including the two countries’ commitment to combat terrorism.

The US Department of Defense or the Pentagon said Mattis reaffirmed US military advisory support to assist the Philippines in its operations against ISIS and other violent extremist groups.

“Secretary Mattis thanked Secretary Lorenzana for his country’s contribution to maritime security through its trilateral air and maritime patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia in the Sulu and Celebes Seas,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

‘Ompong’ relief

Meanwhile, Pompeo expressed sympathies to Lorenzana after the Typhoon “Ompong” (international name Mangkhut) pummeled into the country over the weekend.

“Secretary Pompeo also expressed condolences for the destruction and loss of life cause by Typhoon Ompong and offered US assistance in humanitarian relief efforts,” Nauert said.

The US Embassy in Manila already announced that it will be providing hygiene supplies to the 5,500 people affected by the typhoon in Cagayan.

The US Agency for International Development, in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, will also be transporting 1,000 metric tons of food to families affected by Ompong.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/09/20/1853168/lorenzana-pompeo-talk-south-china-sea-militarization#3pI3KlS10rVlvt6C.99

Why China Is Brutally Suppressing Muslims

September 18, 2018

The assault on the Uighurs serves Beijing’s imperial ambitions, which require stable land borders.

Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017.
Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
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The repression of the Turkic Uighur Muslim community in western China—including the reported internment of up to a million people in secret camps—is a key part of Beijing’s new imperial policy. Only by understanding the dynamics of Chinese empire can one grasp this brutal campaign.

Xinjiang, a province home to millions of Uighurs, translates to “New Dominion.” The area has been historically and geographically known as East Turkestan. Though the Chinese state has existed for more than 3,500 years, Xinjiang first became part of China’s Qing Dynasty only in the mid-18th century. Since then it has often been in a condition the British explorer Fitzroy Maclean labeled as “sustained turbulence.”

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When I first traveled through Xinjiang and interviewed Uighurs in 1994, their hatred of what they considered ethnic Han Chinese occupiers was complete. “This is Turkestan, not China. Chinese don’t learn our language, and many of us don’t learn theirs. Even on a personal level, relations are bad,” one young Uighur man told me.

Relations have worsened since. A deep, unspoken reason why China has never liberalized is its authoritarian leadership fears ethnic rebellion. Uprisings of this sort happened in the outer reaches of the Soviet Union after it liberalized in the 1980s. So China has kept its political system closed, while simultaneously pushing into Central Asia through diplomacy and economic interventions. It is building vast infrastructure projects in the region to ally with the Turkic Muslims of the former Soviet Union and deny China’s own Muslims a friendly rear base for future rebellion. China’s push beyond its borders ultimately has to do with demons within.

Because China historically has never been secure on land, particularly in this western region, it has not had the luxury of going to sea. Except for the Indian Ocean exploits of Adm. Zheng He during the early Ming Dynasty, China has had a demonstrably weak naval tradition. Yet China, mostly secure on land today, aims to posses the world’s largest navy. The intensifying suppression of the Uighur Muslims is the final act in this process. The Belt and Road Initiative—forging transportation corridors by land and sea across Eurasia—requires the complete subjugation of the Uighur population.

The heart of this 21st-century Silk Route is Central Asia. By building roads, railways and energy pipelines across the former Soviet Turkic republics, China will connect with Iran. A Chinese-Iranian economic and infrastructure alliance has the potential to dominate Eurasia, sidelining Russia. But this requires a compliant Uighur population, since all these road and energy pathways between coastal China and the Middle East must pass through Xinjiang.

The Chinese plan is to dilute traditional Uighur culture by forcing people into regimented apartment blocks and modernizing folkloric markets. They also seek to connect towns with new highways and high-speed rail, as I saw on a return visit to Xinjiang in 2015. And they are placing many thousands of Uighurs in internment camps while raising living standards for others—classic carrot-and-stick tactics. All this is designed to end Uighur Muslim culture as it exists today, to complete the Han Chinese domination of its most contentious borderland.

The media have focused on China drowning countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka in debt, so that it is awarded control of the ports and highways it builds there. Undercovered is the ethnic dimension of Chinese grand strategy across Eurasia. It deserves more attention: The desert home of the Uighur is the potential weak link in China’s Silk Route nexus.

Don’t underestimate national pride and resentment in this process. Hong Kong and Macao have been taken back from the European colonialists, formally ending an era of humiliating foreign intrusion in China’s core. Outer Mongolia’s sovereignty has been undermined significantly by Chinese economic interests. Tibet has been subjugated. Xinjiang now looms as the last holdout before Greater China is truly realized on land, allowing China to concentrate fully on dominating the East and South China seas. In turn this will open up the Indian Ocean, where China has been building and helping develop new ports between Myanmar and Djibouti. Who says that the age of empire has passed?

Because the U.S. is located half a world away, it is at a distinct disadvantage in thwarting this new imperial rise. Washington still has a geopolitical interest in making sure no individual state holds sway over the Eastern Hemisphere as the U.S. once influenced the Western Hemisphere. A Chinese Silk Route that runs through Iran and beyond, with a naval presence over the navigable southern rimland of Eurasia, would do that.

A policy of zero-sum bilateralism—the current American approach—forfeits the strongest asset the U.S. has in this struggle: a system of alliances undergirded by the American ideals of free markets, civil society and human rights. In this competition, holding China to account for its human-rights violations against the Uighurs is a component in a realist approach that also seeks to limit the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Just as China’s suppression of the Uighurs is part of its grand strategy, America’s commitment to human rights in China should be part of its own approach.

Mr. Kaplan is author of “The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century” (Random House, 2018). He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a senior adviser at Eurasia Group.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-china-is-brutally-suppressing-muslims-1537129695?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=contextual&cx_artPos=4#cxrecs_s

China expands its control in South China Sea

September 17, 2018

As China consolidates its hold in South China Sea and wields its military, economic and diplomatic leverage, smaller countries see no credible option but to work with Beijing, even if that means furthering Chinese objectives. Manila, for example, seems willing to accede to Beijing’s demand for joint development of hydrocarbon resources in the Philippines’ own exclusive economic zone.

The plain fact is that U.S. inaction under successive administrations has allowed China to gain effective control over a strategic sea that is more than twice the size of the Gulf of Mexico and 50 percent bigger than the Mediterranean Sea. Australia’s Kevin Rudd, who is still fending off accusations that he was “a slavish pro-China prime minister,” has acknowledged that “Chinese policy has not yet been challenged in the South China Sea by the United States to any significant extent.”

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The U.S., even at the risk of fostering Philippine helplessness against Chinese expansionism, has refused to clarify whether its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with Manila would apply to an attack on Philippine troops or vessels in the South China Sea. This refusal stands in contrast to Washington’s commitment to the defense of the Japanese-administered but Chinese-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. U.S. President Donald Trump, in his joint statement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April, said that “Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the Senkaku Islands.”

In the South China Sea, China has astounded the world with the speed and scale of its creation of artificial islands and military infrastructure. The first Chinese dredger arrived in the region in December 2013. Less than five years later, China has largely completed building most of its forward military bases. It is now ramping up its military assets in the South China Sea.

Yet China has incurred no international costs for pushing its borders far out into international waters. In fact, China stepped up the expansion of its frontiers after an international arbitration tribunal invalidated its expansive claims in the South China Sea through a 2016 ruling in a case instituted by the Philippines.

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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. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently called out China for its “intimidation and coercion” of smaller nations in the region. His criticism of the Chinese strategy in the South China Sea followed American action to disinvite China from this summer’s Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, known as RIMPAC.

This might suggest that the U.S. is taking a tough line. In reality, America’s response to China’s expansionism in the South China Sea has remained muted. The U.S. has focused its concern merely on safeguarding freedom of navigation through the South China Sea.

In fact, the U.S. has refused to take sides in the territorial disputes between China and the other claimant-states in the South China Sea. The Trump administration stayed silent even when Chinese military threats forced Vietnam in March, for the second time in less than nine months, to halt oil and gas drilling on its own continental shelf.

The U.S. has similarly stayed neutral on disputes elsewhere between China and its neighbors. For example, President Barack Obama publicly said that “we don’t take a position on the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands” and advised Tokyo and Beijing to sort out their dispute peacefully. This line has not changed under Trump, despite his reassurance that the Japan-U.S. security treaty covers the Senkakus.

Growing Asian anxieties over China have helped the U.S. to return to Asia’s center-stage by strengthening old alliances, such as with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and building new strategic partnerships with India, Vietnam and Indonesia. It has also befriended the former pariah state of Myanmar.

Yet, despite this diplomatic windfall, the U.S. has been reluctant to draw a line on Beijing’s salami-style actions to change facts on the ground.

To be sure, the Trump-led U.S. has stepped up the so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. But these operations neither reassure the smaller states nor deter China, whose actions continue to violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

In the East China Sea, China established an air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) in 2013 covering territories, like the Senkakus, that it claims but does not control. This action set a dangerous precedent in international relations.

In the South China Sea, rather than openly declare an ADIZ, China will likely seek to enforce one by gradually establishing concentric circles of air control — but only after it has deployed sufficient military assets there and further consolidated its hold.

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It has already set up an interconnected array of radar, electronic-attack facilities, missile batteries and airfields on the disputed Spratly Islands. And by turning artificial islands into military bases, it has virtually established permanent aircraft carriers whose role extends to the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.

China’s strategy poses a serious challenge to its neighbors, which face a deepening dilemma over how to deal with its creeping aggression.

The U.S., while seeking to protect its military freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, has effectively turned a blind eye to the broader Chinese assault on the freedom of the seas, including restricting the rights of other states to natural resources on their own continental shelves.

Unless the U.S. shifts its focus from freedom of navigation to freedom of the seas, China will have its way, including forcing its smaller neighbors to share their legitimate resources with it.

The Philippines, for example, is at serious risk of wilting under Chinese pressure. Prevented by Chinese military threats from tapping energy resources in an area of seabed known as Reed Bank, which is located close the Philippine coast, Manila seems willing to enter into a deal with Beijing to equally share the output from a joint gas project there.

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China has built seven military bases near the Philippines.

Under the international arbitration ruling, the Philippines have exclusive rights to Reed Bank. But with China trashing the ruling in the absence of an international enforcement mechanism, the message to Manila is that might makes right.

Left with no other option, Manila appears ready to offer Beijing half of the gas production, but no sovereign rights. The logic behind such a prospective offer is that any Western oil giant, if it developed Reed Bank, would take about 50 percent of the output as its share. So the choice is between a Western oil company like Exxon Mobil and a Chinese state-run giant, such as the China National Offshore Oil Corp.

But such a Philippine deal would encourage China to seek similar concessions with other claimant-states, effectively blocking out Western oil firms from the South China Sea.

Make no mistake: Chinese territorial and maritime revisionism has made the South China Sea the world’s most critical hot spot. In fact, the South China Sea has become central to the wider geopolitics, balance of power and maritime order.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and the author of nine books, including the award-winning “Water: Asia’s New Battleground.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/09/17/commentary/world-commentary/china-expands-control-south-china-sea/#.W590m-hKhaQ

Related:

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Banners declaring the Philippines a province of China appeared in various parts of Metro Manila on July 12. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the apparent prank.(Contributed photo)

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Wang Yi

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  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

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Japanese Submarine Conducted Exercise in South China Sea Last Week

September 17, 2018

Submarine Kuroshio and three other ships participated in exercise on Sept. 13, in a challenge to China

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Friday. His government has taken steps to change the country’s defense posture.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Friday. His government has taken steps to change the country’s defense posture. PHOTO:EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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TOKYO—A Japanese submarine held a military exercise in the South China Sea, Japan’s Defense Ministry said Monday, in a challenge to China, which has made broad territorial claims in the region.

The ministry said the exercise took place Sept. 13 and involved the Japanese submarine Kuroshio, as well as three Japanese destroyers and five Japanese aircraft.

A Defense Ministry official said Kuroshio was en route to visit Vietnamese naval forces at the Cam Ranh Bay naval base in Vietnam, the first time a Japanese submarine has gone there.

The ministry said it was the first time it had announced an exercise by a Japanese submarine in the South China Sea. The Asahi newspaper earlier reported the exercise.

China has stepped up activity in the South China Sea by building bases and deploying missiles. That is part of a broader push by President Xi Jinping to assert control over long-claimed territory and extend China’s defensive perimeter farther into the Pacific.

As much as a third of global trade passes annually through the 1.35 million square miles of ocean, which is also thought to be rich in natural resources including oil and natural gas. China says it has historical claims to almost the entire area and that it has the right to defend those claims.

Japan and the U.S. have raised concerns about the militarization of the South China Sea.

Write to Chieko Tsuneoka at chieko.Tsuneoka@dowjones.com and Peter Landers at peter.landers@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/japanese-submarine-conducted-exercise-in-south-china-sea-last-week-1537158243

Top Chinese general attends joint forum with U.S. military, despite tensions

September 17, 2018

A top Chinese general attended the opening on Monday of a regional armed forces health forum organized by the Chinese and U.S. militaries, as the two sides set aside friction over trade and territorial issues such as the South China Sea.

This week’s Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange in the western city of Xian, best known as the home of the Terracotta Army, has about 600 participants, with military officials from 28 countries, including U.S. allies like Japan and Australia, attending.

General Song Puxuan, head of China’s Central Military Commission’s Logistics Support Department, posed for pictures with Terry M. Rauch, acting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, at the opening ceremony in one of Xian’s upmarket hotels.

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General Song Puxuan (front R), head of China’s Central Military Commission’s Logistics Support Department and Terry M. Rauch (front C), acting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense stand before a photo shoot during the opening ceremony of the Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange 2018, in Xian, Shaanxi province, China September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard

Song, whose attendance was not previously publicly announced, did not address the conference. Military sources say he is close to President Xi Jinping and was previously head of the military’s northern command, having risen rapidly up the ranks since Xi took office six years ago.

China has been keen to highlight its cooperation with the U.S. military, despite a bitter trade war and Chinese suspicion at both U.S. support for self-ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and U.S. involvement in the disputed South China Sea.

Song’s colleague, Chen Jingyuan, head of health at the Logistics Support Department, said the conference had improved relationships between the doctors and militaries of different nations.

“This is the first exchange between the Chinese and U.S. militaries on military health for the Asia Pacific, and has attracted high attention from Asia Pacific nations,” Chen said.

Rear Admiral Louis C. Tripoli, Command Surgeon of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, thanked the People’s Liberation Army for its efforts in arranging the conference.

“We hope that you feel how important it is for us to be here,” Tripoli said.

At the event, which features mostly technical discussions on preventing disease and treating injuries, China’s armed forces will show off new equipment used for medical purposes, such as aircraft and vehicles.

China was angered in May when the United States withdrew an invitation to a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and cooperation.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise and held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Still, China’s navy chief Shen Jinlong plans to pay a working visit to the United States later this month, during which he will attend an international naval forum.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Reuters