Posts Tagged ‘South China Sea’

USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship near Strait of Malacca — Ten sailors missing

August 21, 2017

BANGKOK — Ten Navy sailors were missing and five were injured on Monday after a United States destroyer collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, the Navy said, the second accident involving a Navy ship and a cargo vessel in recent months.

The guided-missile destroyer, the John S. McCain, was passing east of the Strait of Malacca on its way to a port visit in Singapore at 5:24 a.m. local time when it collided with the Alnic MC, a 600-foot vessel that transports oil and chemicals, the Navy said. The destroyer was damaged near the rear on its port, or left-hand, side.

Ten sailors on the ship were unaccounted for, and five others had minor injuries, a Navy official said. Ships with the Singapore Navy and helicopters from the assault ship America were searching the waters for survivors.

A photo of the destroyer showed a gaping hole in its side right at the waterline, but the ship did not appear to be listing.

The Navy said the destroyer was returning to port with assistance from tugboats. The Alnic is registered under a Liberian flag and was built in 2008, according to a marine registry.

The Strait of Malacca, between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is notoriously difficult to navigate because of congested traffic and episodes of piracy over the years.

“It’s always crowded, with ships entering Singapore and others passing by,” said Shigeru Kojima, adviser of the Japan Captains’ Association. “This is one of the top most difficult spots for ships going by.”

Bonji Ohara, a research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo, said that one recurring problem was that while naval ships tended to have live crews on watch, most commercial ships work on autopilot mode to reduce costs, which can lead to problems in busy sea lanes.

Nighttime duty on Navy ships like the John S. McCain is often in the hands of relatively young officers, between 22 and 24, according to a senior Navy officer. They are backed up by officers working the radar and looking out from the command center below the bridge. For the John S. McCain to have hit the Alnic MC, a handful of separate functions in the safety chain must have failed, the officer said.

Commercial tankers can be reluctant to shift their course because maneuvering requires turning off the autopilot and costs time and money, the officer added. The Alnic MC has a gross tonnage roughly three times that of the John S. McCain.

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic choke point between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Much of Asia’s oil imports transit through the channel and into the South China Sea, which is home to territorial disputes among China and various other claimants and is a flash point of military tensions between the United States and China.

China has transformed islets it controls in the South China Sea into fortified artificial islands, even as an international tribunal last year dismissed Beijing’s claims to much of the waterway.

President Trump, asked about the collision by reporters at the White House, said, “That’s too bad.” He later offered his “thoughts and prayers” to the sailors aboard the ship.

The Navy conducts periodic forays through contested waters. Earlier this month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the United States after the John S. McCain sailed by a disputed South China Sea island that China controls and has expanded through extensive reclamation.

The collision came two months after one of the Navy’s deadliest accidents in years, when another destroyer, the Fitzgerald, collided with a freighter off Japan. Seven people on the Fitzgerald were killed, and the Navy relieved the destroyer’s two top officers of their duties on Friday after an investigation into the collision. That freighter was 728 feet long.

In May, the Lake Champlain, a Navy cruiser, collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, but no injuries resulted from that crash. In February, another guided-missile cruiser, the Antietam, ran aground in Tokyo Bay, gushing more than 1,000 gallons of hydraulic fluid near the American naval base at Yokosuka, Japan.

The John S. McCain, the Antietam and the Fitzgerald are all in the Seventh Fleet and are based in Yokosuka. The ship involved in the collision on Monday is named after John S. McCain Sr., a Navy admiral during World War II, and his son, John S. McCain Jr., a Navy admiral in the Vietnam era. They are the grandfather and father of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who offered his prayers for the crew.

Correction: August 21, 2017 
An earlier version of this article misstated John S. McCain Sr.’s relationship to Senator John McCain of Arizona. John S. McCain Sr. was the senator’s grandfather, not his father. The article also described the source of the ship’s name incompletely. It is named after John S. McCain Sr. and John S. McCain Jr., not John S. McCain Sr. alone.

Some Philippine Leaders Herald a New Era of Cooperation with China, while Others Warn of a Buildup of Chinese Naval and Civilian Vessels

August 20, 2017

Satellite photograph showing Chinese ships near Thitu (Pag-asa) Island (Photo: AMTI)

The week began with signs that the détente between the Philippines and China was coming along smoothly. Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told a congressional hearing on Monday that China had promised to stop occupying new features in the South China Sea and to stop building new installations in the Scarborough Shoal. According to Lorenzana, the two countries had reached a “modus vivendi,” or a “way of getting along,” in the South China Sea that would involve an end of China’s building projects.

The next day, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told the Philippine House of Representatives that the government is considering working with China to develop petroleum resources in the disputed waters between the two countries. Cayetano said that the project, if confirmed, would not cede any Philippine territory or sovereignty to China – perhaps a response to earlier remarks by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio that an oil and gas joint venture in Philippine territory would endanger the country’s sovereignty. “I will assure you, any legal framework will conform with local laws and the Constitution,” Cayetano said.

But the very same day, Congressman Gary Alejano reported that a number of Chinese PLA Navy ships had been deployed near Thitu, or Pag-asa, Island, a large island in the Spratly Islands that the Philippines occupy. According to Alejano’s “military sources,” a pair of Chinese frigates, a coast guard ship, and some fishing ships affiliated with China’s maritime militia were located a few miles north of Thitu Island. In a press conference, the Congressman described the ships as “suspicious,” and said: “I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China.”

On Wednesday, Secretary Cayetano responded to Congressman Alejano’s report: he could not confirm the presence of the Chinese ships, but added that “[t]he presence of ships alone does not mean anything…the situation in the area is very stable.” Cayetano said that China was not an enemy and should not be treated as such. “It’s good we have people like Congressman Alejano who reminds us to monitor the situation,” he said. “But there’s a thin line between informing us and stirring up the situation.” Responding to Cayetano’s remarks, Alejano expressed dissatisfaction with Cayetano for “brushing aside the unusual and suspicious presence of several huge military and Chinese ships…in the vicinity of our largest island.”

Though neither Lorenzana or Cayetano confirmed the presence of the ships, Alejano released photographs of what he claimed were Chinese ships operating near Thitu Island.  The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released satellite images that seem to indicate that Chinese naval and civilian waters were indeed present in the area. According to AMTI’s report, “On that day, there were nine Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels visible near Thitu…with others possibly under cloud cover. It is impossible to know if any of those ships might be affiliated with the maritime militia, but at least two appear to be actively fishing…”  The report added that the flotilla’s presence was “highly provocative” and speculated that Beijing might have intended to “dissuade Manila from planned construction on Thitu.”

In Other News…

United States

On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrived in Beijing for talks with top Chinese military leaders.  At the opening of the dialogue, Gen. Dunford said that the two sides intended to discuss “difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspective,” but that they “shared a commitment to work through these difficulties.”

On Tuesday, Gen. Dunford met with PLA Gen. Fang Fenghui to sign an agreement announcing a new communication mechanism between the two militaries. Accordingto U.S. Joint Staff officials, the agreement would “enable us to communicate to reduce the risk of miscalculation” and to mitigate potential crises. The two sides agreed to work together to develop the framework, with the first meeting scheduled for November. Few details were released about how the mechanism would work or when it would be used, but both sides spoke of the need to develop trust and openness. Gen. Dunford said that crisis communications between the United States and China is critical, but that avoiding miscommunication was “the minimum standard.” Rather than simply working to avert a crisis, he said, “We should also try to see areas to cooperate.” Gen. Fang agreed, stating that the American and Chinese armies could work together to cooperate as partners.

Japan

Meanwhile, the United States was deepening its military ties with Japan as well. The two countries commenced a series of joint military operations on and around the Japanese island of Hokkaido on August 10. On Tuesday, the two countries’ air forces conducted drills near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan occupies but China and Taiwan claim. In a statement, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said, “These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

Vietnam

The Deepsea Metro I, a drilling ship contracted by Vietnam’s PetroVietnam and the Spanish firm Repsol to drill for oil in disputed waters claimed by China, arrived near the Malaysian port of Labuan on Monday. The ship was last reported at the drilling site on July 30. Vietnam canceled its plans to explore for petroleum in the disputed waters under intense pressure from China. Gregory Polling, the director of the AMTI, arguedthat the departure of the drilling ship signaled that Vietnam was unable to stand up to China without support from the United States or the regional powers of the South China Sea.

Taiwan

Taiwan placed its military on high alert after the Chinese air force conducted operations around – and sometimes within – Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the weekend and on Monday. Taiwanese Defense Ministry Spokesman Chen Chung-ji stated, “Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or airspace or even engaging in hostility.” The drills included bombers and surveillance aircraft and marked the eighth time that Chinese military aircraft have trained near Taiwan since July.

Analysis, Commentary, and Additional Information

Mark Valencia argues in the South China Morning Post that China and the United States should develop guidelines for naval operations off of each other’s’ shores. According to Valencia, the two sides have reached a sort of settled pattern in which the United States conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in Chinese-claimed waters, and Beijing expresses disapproval. However, he says, this status quo is not stable. For example, if China tried to interfere with the American patrols, or if Japanese naval forces joined the U.S. Navy’s FONOPs, a conflict could easily break out. To avoid this outcome, Valencia argues that the two sides should work together to establish norms and rules governing how their navies will operate in contested waters.

Writing in The Diplomat, Tuan N. Pham claims that China’s aggressive naval and air operations in the South China Sea are increasingly at odds with its own interpretations of international maritime law. He points out that Beijing regularly claims that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights conducted by the United States and other countries in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are unlawful, while the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) increasingly conducts similar operations in other countries’ EEZs. Pham predicts that “[a]s the PLAN continues to operate in distant waters and in proximity to other nations’ coastlines, Beijing may have no choice but to eventually address the inconsistency between policy and operations — and either pragmatically adjust its standing policy or continue to assert its untenable authority to regulate military activities in its EEZ. The former is more likely, while the latter carries more risks in terms of the legal validity of its own maritime sovereignty claims, international credibility, and world standing.”

Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council and James Przystup of the National Defense University argue in Foreign Policy that American politicians and commentators overstate the importance of the South China Sea to America’s national interests. They argue that America’s interests in the South China Sea have always been limited to freedom of navigation and freedom of maritime commerce. On the other hand, “Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea is political and strategic in nature,” key to both the legitimacy of the Communist Party and China’s overall security. Manning and Przystup conclude that the United States should acknowledge that, due to this “asymmetry of respective Chinese and U.S. geopolitical interests,” it must accept a larger Chinese role in the South China Sea.

Water Wars is our weekly roundup of the latest news, analysis, and opinions related to ongoing tensions in the South and East China Seas. Please email Sarah Grant with breaking news, relevant documents, or corrections

 https://lawfareblog.com/water-wars-suspicious-flotilla-may-not-mean-anything
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Armed Forces of the Philippines Concerned About Chinese Incursions in Philippine Waters of the South China Sea

August 19, 2017
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines – The military wants to bring Chinese incursions at sandbars in the West Philippine Sea before the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We will work to clarify all of these things and there is a mechanism that is built-in in our current relationship, which is called the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, that has already been initiated before,” Padilla said.

The BCM was formed by the Philippines and China to address concerns in the disputed seas.

The first BCM was held last May in Guiyang, China – the venue chosen by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Through the BCM, both parties can raise issues surrounding the maritime claims in a bid to avoid violent confrontation between the two countries.

“It would be best to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) what happened to this mechanism because this is the proper forum to address those issues,” Padilla said.

Earlier, the DFA reported that a second meeting is forthcoming within the year where the Philippines can further bring its concerns.

Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana has said the BCM is a good venue to talk about possible areas of cooperation aimed at building mutual trust and confidence between Philippines and China.

Padilla said the AFP is in the process of looking further into the report of Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano who exposed the presence of Chinese boats in the area.

“We did receive word from the camp of Congressman Alejano regarding the presence of Chinese ships. There have been a lot of fisherman from our side who have been fishing in our waters over there,” Padilla said.

“And I think the bone of contention was regarding the presence of some of our fisherman in some of those areas because the Chinese are there also,” he said.

Alejano claimed there are two Chinese naval vessels, two fishing ships and a Chinese Coast Guard ship operating around Pag-asa Island since Aug. 12.

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File Photo

He added the Chinese have a sinister plan to occupy the sandbars in the area.

Padilla however assured the public that the matter is now being addressed but he has yet to confirm the number of ships spotted in the area.

The AFP’s Western Mindanao Command has been tasked to check out the report to ensure the Filipino fisherman are “well and protected.”

“Now, we will file our ongoing and continuing protest for any of these movements, and the foreign affairs department will see to that,” Padilla added.

“We file diplomatic protest whenever we have sightings close to our areas. Especially this one,” he said.

As this developed, the US government is set to donate an unmanned radar blimp to the Philippine Navy to enhance its intelligence gathering and disaster response operations.

US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski will hand over the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) – a self-sustained, unmanned lighter-than-air systems – to Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado on Monday.

The turnover ceremony will be held at the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales.

In a statement, the US embassy said the radar is expected to enhance the Navy’s capability in maritime intelligence surveillance reconnaissance by effectively detecting maritime and air traffic within the country’s coastal waters using sensors.

It will also be utilized in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

The TARS also includes a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind, speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system. – Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude, Helen Flores

South China Sea: Vietnam Confirms Buying Anti-Ship Missiles from India — Will be seen by China as a defiant move by Vietnam

August 19, 2017

Missile signals Vietnam’s defending its claim to disputed South China Sea
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For the first time ever, the government of Vietnam today confirmed – albeit carefully – that it has acquired BrahMos anti-ship cruise missiles from India. At a time when Delhi and China are locked in their worst military confrontation in decades, sources in the Defence Ministry denied selling the missile systems to Vietnam, though they did not want to comment on record.

The acquisition of the BrahMos will be seen by China as a defiant move by Vietnam to protect its claim to the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims entirely as its own.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang, when asked a specific question on the acquisition of the BrahMos said earlier today, “The procurement of defence equipment by Vietnam is consistent with the policy of peace and self-defence and is the normal practice in national defence.” She added that the Vietnam-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which includes co-operation in defence has “been making a practical contribution to peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region.”

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India’s BrahMos missiles are considered one of the most advanced missiles of its type.

The Vietnamese government statement was widely interpreted by local media as confirmation that the BrahMos missile deal, discussed for years, has climaxed. Senior Vietnamese journalists indicated to NDTV that the first batch of missiles may have arrived a few days ago.

Co-developed by a Russian manufacturer and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, the BrahMos can accelerate to speeds of 2.8 times the speed of sound to strike enemy ships 300 km away. In the final phase of its flight, the missile undertakes a series of extreme manoeuvers to avoid interception by surface-to-air missiles which may be fired to prevent it from hitting its target. The Indian Army has also acquired a land-attack variant of the missile featuring a dive attack capability to enable the BrahMos to strike targets in mountainous areas with pinpoint accuracy.

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BrahMos missiles can undertake a series of extreme manoeuvres to avoid interception.

In April this year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Daily said, “The deployment of BrahMos missile is bound to increase the competition and antagonism in the China-India relations and will have a negative impact on the stability of the region.” The armies of both countries are in the midst of a lengthy standoff on the Doklam plateau, located over the Sikkim border. China says the region belongs to it; India and Bhutan agree it’s part of the tiny Himalayan kingdom. In June, Indian soldiers crossed over to stop the Chinese army from building a road that would give it strategic access to the “Chicken’s Neck” – the narrow sliver of land that connects the Northeast states with the rest of India.

Vietnam has deep concerns at Beijing’s rapid conversion of shoals and tiny islands into full-fledged military bases with runways for use by military aircraft. Several countries in the region in addition to the US, Japan and India have repeatedly said China should not in any way threaten or impede the free movement of shipping in what are international waterways. In 1979, both countries fought a brief but bloody war in which there were thousands of casualties with China being unable to prevent Vietnam’s involvement in neighbouring Cambodia.

India and Vietnam enjoy a very close military partnership. India has trained Vietnamese sailors in Visakhapatnam to operate Russian built ‘Kilo’-Class submarines which are operated by the Navies of both countries and has supplied patrol vessels. India has also been training Vietnamese soldiers at the School of Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare in Vairengte in Mizoram.

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South China Sea: Philippine Foreign Minister Defends Chinese Presence in Philippine Waters — Urges mutual trust with Beijing

August 16, 2017
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano gestures during a news conference following the conclusion of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and Related Meetings Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top diplomat justified the reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island in Palawan, stressing that the country should develop mutual trust with Beijing.

Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo earlier said that China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel and two large fishing vessels one to three nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island.

READ: China ships massing near Pag-asa sandbars?

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File photo

Pag-asa, a fifth class municipality in Palawan, is the second biggest island in the Spratly Islands next to the Taiwanese-occupied Itu Aba.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that China should not be regarded as an enemy.

“Why were we not concerned about the US doing freedom of navigation, ang lalaki ng ships nila. You know why? Kasi they’re our allies so if we keep looking at China as the enemy, every time na may movement sila masyado tayong nag-re-react,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano added that the Philippines should instead ask China for an explanation regarding their presence instead of being alarmed.

On the other hand, Alejano called on the Duterte administration to ask China to order their ships away from Pag-asa Island and file a diplomatic protest against China.

“I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China,” Alejano said.

The foreign ministers of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, under the leadership of Cayetano, earlier released a joint communique emphasizing the importance of self-restraint and non-militarization in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano, however, admitted that he did not want to initially include “land reclamation” in the statement as Beijing supposedly stopped its land-filling activities in the region.

RELATED: Photos disprove China’s claim of halting land reclamation

Related:

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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

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

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

 

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

South China Sea: Vietnam Forced To End Oil Drilling Due to China’s Pressure

August 16, 2017
THE drilling ship at the centre of a row between Vietnam and China over oil prospecting in disputed waters in the South China Sea has arrived in waters off the Malaysian port of Labuan, shipping data showed today.

PUBLISHED: 09:50, Mon, Aug 14, 2017 | UPDATED: 10:00, Mon, Aug 14, 2017

A tumultuous history of the South China Sea dispute

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Drilling by the Deepsea Metro I ship was suspended in Vietnam’s Block 136/3 last month after pressure from , which says the concession operated by Spain’s Repsol overlaps the vast majority of the waterway that it claims as its own.

The ship, used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd., was reported to be in Labuan at 9.17am (0117 GMT). It was last recorded at the drilling site on July 30.

Odfjell Drilling did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Xi Jinping, Vietnam flag and Deepsea Metro I shipGETTY/ODFJELL DRILLING

Drilling ship at centre of row between China and Vietnam has arrived at the Malaysian port of Labuan

The row over the drilling inflamed tensions between Vietnam and China, whose claims in the South China Sea are disputed by five Southeast Asian countries.

Repsol said last month that drilling had been suspended after the company spent $27 million on the well. Co-owners of the block are Vietnam’s state oil firm and Mubadala Development Co of the United Arab Emirates.

The block lies inside the U-shaped “nine-dash line” that marks the area that China claims in the sea.

China had urged a halt to the exploration work and a diplomatic source with direct knowledge of the situation said that the decision to suspend drilling was taken after a Vietnamese delegation visited Beijing.

Oil workersGETTY STOCK IMAGE

Drilling was suspended after pressure from China

Deepsea Metro I shipODFJELL DRILLING

Deepsea Metro I ship used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd

Vietnam has never confirmed that drilling started or that it was suspended, but last month defended its right to explore in the area.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, where more than $3 trillion in cargo passes every year, and China was also angered by Vietnam’s stand at a regional meeting last week.Vietnam held out for language that noted concern about island-building and criticised militarisation in South China Sea in the communique from foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/840774/china-vietnam-row-oil-ship-deepsea-metro-I-malaysia

Related:

Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Chinese H-6 bomber

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

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

 

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Best search terms: ,  

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

South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Deafening silence

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

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

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

One-two punch

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

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Includes video:

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

Related:

Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Chinese H-6 bomber

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

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

 

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

Top U.S. general says committed to working through difficulties with China

August 15, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 15, 2017 / 5:35 AM

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reviews a Chinese honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo – Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

BEIJING (Reuters) – There are many difficult issues between the United States and China but both share a commitment to work through them, the United States’ top general said on Tuesday during a visit to Beijing amid tension over nuclear-armed North Korea.

“I think we have to be honest. We have many, many difficult issues where we don’t necessarily share the same perspective,” Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army.

“We share a commitment to work through these difficult issues,” he added, without elaborating.

Fang said China attached great important to his visit and had arranged for him to observe a military exercise.

In a later statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the two discussed North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea and signed a framework agreement on a China-U.S. military dialogue mechanism, though it gave no details.

Fang said cooperation was the only correct choice for the two countries, and their two militaries could certainly become good cooperative partners, the ministry added.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Gen. Fang Fenghui shake hands after signing an agreement to strengthen communication between the two militaries amid tensions concerning North Korea at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China August 15, 2017.Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

“The Chinese military is willing to make efforts with the U.S. side to strengthen strategic communication, increase strategic mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, appropriately handle problems and disputes and effectively manage and control risks,” the ministry cited Fang as saying.

The United States has called on China to do more to rein in its isolated neighbor North Korea, while China has said it is Washington that needs to be making more efforts to lessen tensions and speak directly to Pyongyang.

 Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting, table and indoor
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, second left, speaks during a meeting with Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, not shown, at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

North Korea’s leader has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam while he watches U.S. actions a little longer, the North’s state media said on Tuesday, as South Korea’s president said Seoul would seek to prevent war by all means.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, say they are committed to having a stable military-to-military relationship, but there are deep fault lines.

China has been angered by U.S. freedom of navigation patrols near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea and U.S. arms sales and support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province.

The United States has expressed concern about what it calls unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft by the Chinese air force and a lack of transparency in China’s military spending, China being in the midst of an ambitious military modernization program.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel

Drilling ship leaves Vietnam oil block after China row

August 14, 2017

Reuters

HANOI (Reuters) – The drilling ship at the center of a row between Vietnam and China over oil prospecting in disputed waters in the South China Sea has arrived in waters off the Malaysian port of Labuan, shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon showed on Monday.

Drilling by the Deepsea Metro I ship was suspended in Vietnam’s Block 136/3 last month after pressure from China, which says the concession operated by Spain’s Repsol overlaps the vast majority of the waterway that it claims as its own.

The ship, used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd., was reported to be in Labuan at 9.17 a.m. (0117 GMT), according to shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon. It was last recorded at the drilling site on July 30.

Odfjell Drilling did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

The row over the drilling inflamed tensions between Vietnam and China, whose claims in the South China Sea are disputed by five Southeast Asian countries.

Repsol said last month that drilling had been suspended after the company spent $27 million on the well. Co-owners of the block are Vietnam’s state oil firm and Mubadala Development Co of the United Arab Emirates.

The block lies inside the U-shaped “nine-dash line” that marks the area that China claims in the sea.

China had urged a halt to the exploration work and a diplomatic source with direct knowledge of the situation said that the decision to suspend drilling was taken after a Vietnamese delegation visited Beijing.

Vietnam has never confirmed that drilling started or that it was suspended, but last month defended its right to explore in the area.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, where more than $3 trillion in cargo passes every year, and China was also angered by Vietnam’s stand at a regional meeting last week.

Vietnam held out for language that noted concern about island-building and criticized militarization in South China Sea in the communique from foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Reporting by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Richard Pullin

South China Sea: U.S. vows to challenge excessive sea claims

August 14, 2017
Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe. AP/Gregory Bull, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe.

In a recent press briefing in Washington, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, on a daily basis under a comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP).

She explained that the operations, conducted in accordance with international law, are meant to demonstrate that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”

“It’s true in the South China Sea; it’s true in other places around the world as well,” Nauert said.

A US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea.

The USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Slamming the FONOP, the Chinese armed forces immediately sent naval ships to identify and verify the US warship and warned it to leave.

The United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague had awarded the Philippines “sovereign rights” over Panganiban Reef off Palawan, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The court ruling last year also invalidated China’s entire “nine-dash-line” claims over nearly all of the South China Sea. Beijing has ignored the ruling despite having ratified UNCLOS.

“We have a comprehensive freedom of navigation operations program, under which the US forces challenge excessive maritime claims around the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. All nations —that is guaranteed to the United States and to other nations, as well,” Nauert added.

The FONOP, she said, is not about any one country and is not about making a political statement.

Last year, the US conducted these challenging excessive maritime claims in 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners.

“The United States does these operations – the freedom of navigation operations – all around the world, many times of year,” Nauert said. “But this is nothing new. We’ve done it before; we’ll continue to do that.”

The US acknowledged on Thursday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under “tremendous” pressure on the South China Sea issues during the meetings in Manila last week but the regional bloc still “held on to its principles,” defeating attempts to drop “militarization,” “self-restraint” and “land reclamation” from the joint communiqué at the end of the milestone gathering.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/14/1728684/us-vows-challenge-excessive-sea-claims

Related:

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

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

 

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Best search terms: ,  

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