Posts Tagged ‘South China Sea’

Is Gold Mine Next China-India Flash Point?

May 20, 2018
BEIJING: China has begun large-scale mining operations on its side of the border with Arunachal Pradesh where a huge trove of gold, silver and other precious minerals valued at about $60 billion has been found, a media report said on Sunday.

The mine project is being undertaken in Lhunze county under Chinese control adjacent to the Indian border, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet.

Projecting the mining operations as part of China’s move to take over Arunachal Pradesh, the report said “people familiar with the project say the mines are part of an ambitious plan by Beijing to reclaim South Tibet”.

  • China has discovered a huge trove of gold, silver and other precious minerals on its side of the border
  • The mines could lead to a situation akin to “another South China Sea”, a report said
  • Mining activities would also lead to a rapid and significant increase in the Chinese population in the Himalayas

“China’s moves to lay claim to the region’s natural resources while rapidly building up infrastructure could turn it into ‘another South China Sea’ they said,” it said.

The Post report, with inputs from local officials, Chinese geologists as well as strategic experts, comes less than a month after the first ever informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping that was aimed at cooling tensions to avert incidents like the Doklam military standoff last year.

The 73-day standoff marked a new low in bilateral ties.

Lhunze was in the news last October, just about two months after Doklam, when Xi in a rare gesture replied to correspondence from a herding family in Lhunze County underscoring Beijing’s claim to the area.

The family is based in Yumai, China’s smallest town in terms of population located close to Arunachal Pradesh.

Xi thanked the father and his two daughters for their loyalty and contributions to China, and also urged the people of Lhunze to “set down roots” to develop the area for the national interest.

The Post report said although mining has been going on in the world’s highest mountain range for thousands of years, the challenge of accessing the remote terrain and concerns about environmental damage had until now limited the extent of the activities.

But the unprecedented heavy investment by the Chinese government to build roads and other infrastructure in the area has made travel easy.

Most of the precious minerals which include rare earths used to make hi-tech products are hidden under Lhunze county, the report said.

By the end of last year, the scale of mining activity in Lhunze had surpassed that of all other areas in Tibet, it said.

People have poured into the area so fast that even local government officials could not provide a precise count for the current population, it said.

“Enormous, deep tunnels have been dug into the mountains along the military confrontation line, allowing thousands of tonnes of ore to be loaded and transported out by trucks daily, along roads built through every village,” it said.

Extensive power lines and communication networks have been established, while construction is under way on an airport that can handle passenger jets, it said.

With more mines being dug in Lhunze and surroundings, a county official told the Post that more than 80 per cent of the county government’s tax income came from mining.

The mines would also lead to a situation akin to “another South China Sea” arising out of the world’s highest mountain range, it said.

Zheng Youye, a professor at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing and the lead scientist for a Beijing-funded northern Himalayan minerals survey, confirmed to the Post that a series of discoveries in recent years put the potential value of ores under Lhunze and the nearby area at 370 billion yuan ($58 billion).

“This is just a preliminary estimate. More surveys are under way,” he said.

There could be more big discoveries as Chinese researchers learn more about the area. With strong financial backing from the government, they have already amassed extensive data on the region.

According to Zheng, the new-found ores could tip the balance of power between China and India in the Himalayas.

He said Chinese troops withdrew in the 1962 war from the areas in Arunachal Pradesh as they had no people to hold the territory.

The new mining activities would lead to a rapid and significant increase in the Chinese population in the Himalayas, Zheng said, which would provide stable, long-term support for any diplomatic or military operations aimed at gradually driving Indian forces out of territory claimed by China.

“This is similar to what has happened in the South China Sea” where Beijing has asserted its claim to much of the contested waters by building artificial islands and increasing its naval activity, he said.

Hao Xiaoguang, a researcher with the Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, Hubei who specialises in India-China issues said Beijing was likely to take the same approach to the Himalayas as in the South China Sea.

As China’s economic, geopolitical and military strength continues to increase, “it is only a matter of time before South Tibet returns to Chinese control,” Hao claimed.

“What China (has) achieved today in the South China Sea was almost unthinkable a decade ago. I am optimistic (about) what will happen in the Himalayas in the coming years because President Xi has made it clear that ‘not a single inch of our land will be or can be ceded from China’, which definitely includes South Tibet,” he said.

But Hao said the Lhunze mining boom would not be expanded to other areas due to environmental reasons. In Lhunze, some of the newcomers are still acclimatising. The area is already teeming with people from different parts of China.

Weng Qingzhen, who owns a Sichuan restaurant in the county, said she moved there less than two months ago after friends and relatives told her about the mining boom.

Bombers in the South China Sea: Beijing Grows its Military Presence on Disputed Islands

May 20, 2018

China landed a heavy bomber in the Paracels, its latest military buildup as the world focuses on North Korea

Chinese H-6 bomber patrols near Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines. Xinhua photo

China’s first-ever landing of a heavy bomber on a disputed island in the South China Sea punctuates a steady buildup of military assets that has solidified Beijing’s claims to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

On Friday, China’s air force disclosed it had landed an H-6K bomber on an island in the area, which would “help improve actual combat capabilities in responding to various security threats at sea.”

Experts who track China’s military moves said the landing was on Woody Island in the Paracels, an island chain where claims by Vietnam, China and Taiwan intersect.

The landing was the latest in a series of military moves that China has carried out while global attention has been focused on the standoff with North Korea. Earlier this month, China deployed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands off the coast of the Philippines for the first time.

Satellite imagery also shows Beijing has installed radars and communication-jamming equipment on the Paracels and Spratlys in recent months, and that Chinese navy ships and military aircraft have made frequent visits.

Together, the deployments give China an interconnected array of radar, missile batteries and airfields that will allow it to project power over hundreds of miles of ocean where the U.S. Navy’s dominance previously faced few serious challenges. “They crossed a big threshold,” said Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute.

The militarization of the South China Sea is part of a broader push by President Xi Jinping to assert control over long-claimed territory and extend China’s defensive perimeter further into the Pacific, moves that are popular at home. 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.

China staged its biggest military show of force in the South China Sea last month when it deployed dozens of navy vessels, including an aircraft carrier and nuclear-missile submarines, off its southern Hainan island.

The White House said this month that it has raised concerns with Beijing about the militarization of the South China Sea and warned there would be consequences. The new commander of U.S. Pacific naval forces, Adm. Philip Davidson, told a Senate committee in April that China had nearly completed military bases on its reclaimed South China Sea islands. “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.

The Pacific Command and China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Notes: Different countries refer to the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands by different names. China defines its claim as all waters within a ‘nine-dash’ line, based on a map issued by the Kuomintang government in 1947, but has never published coordinates for its precise location.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies (claim boundaries)

The international community has repeatedly called on China to refrain from militarization of the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy regularly challenges Chinese claims by sailing close to the disputed islands or flying over them. In 2016, the Philippines won an international arbitration that effectively invalidated Chinese claims to the sea, a ruling that China rejected.

The H-6K long-range strategic bomber deployed to Woody Island has a range that covers almost the entire South China Sea and many countries surrounding it, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a unit of the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The bomber’s deployment is an indication of China’s progress in outfitting the islands it has built up, said Zhu Feng, executive director of Nanjing University’s China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea.

“It’s a test of how capable the facility is,” he said.

Security analysts say the deployments on Woody Island are a blueprint for the Spratly Islands, where China’s claims are disputed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines, and which it occupied and developed more recently than the Paracels. China already has built large aircraft hangars there but hasn’t deployed military fighters or bombers.

The antiship missile deployments, reported early this month by CNBC, were the first in the Spratlys. When asked about the move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said “the relevant deployment targets no one,” adding that “the deployment of necessary national defense facilities are meant to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.”

Some claimants that depend on the South China Sea for trade and fishing have raised concerns about the unrelenting militarization. Vietnam this month called on China to withdraw military equipment and requested that Beijing “shows its responsibility in maintaining peace and stability.”

Other countries including the Philippines haven’t pressed their claims, arguing that they are unable to stand up to China’s military might. Foreign ministry officials in the Philippines and Vietnam didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“If the international community cannot get its act together, sooner or later we are going to see China get de facto control of a very important maritime highway,” said William Choong, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at and Eva Dou at


Chinese Bombers in the South China Sea

May 20, 2018
State-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily on Friday posted on its Twitter account a video of a long-range bomber landing in an island in the disputed waters.
China lands bombers on South China Sea isles
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – May 20, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The entire Philippines is now practically within striking distance of China following the deployment of bomber aircraft at a disputed island in the South China Sea.

State-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily on Friday posted on its Twitter account a video of a long-range bomber landing in an island in the disputed waters.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the video was taken at Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands that is also being claimed by Vietnam.

“Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area,” read the Twitter post by People’s Daily.

With its deployment in the Paracels, AMTI said the bombers could now reach almost the entire South China Sea.

“Nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers, including Manila and all five Philippine military bases earmarked for development under the US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” the AMTI said.

“An H-6K, with its technical upgrades giving it a combat radius of nearly 1,900 nautical miles, would dwarf this radius, putting all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island,” it added.

AMTI said China has also built large hangars that could accommodate bombers like the H-6 series at its “Big 3” outposts in the Spratlys, which is comprised of Philippine-claimed Zamora (Subi), Panganiban (Mischief) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.


“Future deployments to the Big 3 in the Spratlys would bring Singapore and much of Indonesia within range of even China’s lower-end bombers, while the H-6Ks could reach northern Australia or US defense facilities on Guam,” it said.

The deployment of the bombers came on the heels of the reported deployment of a missile system in a disputed island near the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on the deployment of the bomber.

Appeal to allies

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the development is the reason for the Philippines to be concerned about China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea.

Lacson said the Philippine government should seek help from its allies in order to exert pressure on the regional super power.

While the administration has been downplaying the reported incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea, Lacson said these actions should be taken seriously and the government cannot afford not to respond to this.

Since the Philippines on its own cannot confront China and expect a positive response, Lacson said the government should appeal to its allies.

He said the country has the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal to back up its claims in the West Philippine Sea so it has something to stand on when arguing its case against China’s incursions.

By tapping the help of its international allies, Lacson said there would be a greater chance to apply pressure on China and have a balance of power in the region.

“We cannot do anything on our own but with the help of the other countries, we can exert pressure on China,” Lacson said.

Sen. Leila de Lima, for her part, criticized President Duterte for opting to remain “meek and humble” in response to China’s incursions.

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Leila de Lima

“I often wonder what’s going on in the madman’s head. President Duterte said that if we will just remain meek and humble, China might be merciful and will give us a bigger share from the joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea,” De Lima said in a statement.

“In short, we have to ‘behave’ to gain more from the resources that rightfully belong to us in the first place as affirmed by the UN Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling in July 2016,” she added.

Just like Lacson, De Lima said the Philippines could join international calls to pressure China to stop its military build-up in the West Philippine Sea and to join efforts in finding a just and peaceful solution to the conflict over this area.

De Lima said what the country needs is a strong leader who would stand up against the countries who attempt to take over its territories.

“Turning a blind eye to China’s military expansion in our Exclusive Economic Zone over the West Philippine Sea and entering into a ‘joint exploration’ with them are nothing short of a betrayal of the Filipino people,” De Lima said. 

“No, this is not just failure to adopt an effective foreign policy, this is treason, definitely an impeachable offense,” she added. – With Marvin Sy, Jaime Laude



China Rejects U.S. Target for Narrowing Trade Gap

May 20, 2018

Beijing officials offer to step up purchases, but refuse to commit to Trump administration’s specific $200 billion cut from bilateral deficit

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, speaking at the White House on May 18, said China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by ‘at least $200 billion.’
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, speaking at the White House on May 18, said China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by ‘at least $200 billion.’ PHOTO: CAROLYN KASTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A last-ditch effort by the Trump administration failed to get China to accept its demand for a $200 billion cut in the U.S. bilateral trade deficit, as Chinese officials resisted committing to any specific targets after two days of contentious negotiations.

The two days of deliberations in Washington ended with both sides arguing all night on Friday over what to say in a joint statement, people briefed on the matter said. The Chinese had come willing to step up purchases of U.S. merchandise as a measure to narrow China’s $375 billion trade advantage. But U.S. negotiators pushed the Chinese delegates to approve a specific target of $200 billion in additional Chinese purchases. The Chinese refused any such target in specific dollar amounts, and the matter is now in the hands of President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping, the people said.

The two sides released a joint statement shortly after the Chinese delegation was scheduled to return home, but it made no reference to the specific purchasing amounts that the U.S. had wanted.

“Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports,” the statement said, adding that “the delegations also discussed expanding trade in manufactured goods and services. There was consensus on the need to create favorable conditions to increase trade in these areas.”

Chinese officials were wary of appearing to make concessions to Washington, and insisted the statement note that any Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and services are intended to “meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people.”

Beijing negotiators had come to Washington to settle a feud resulting from the Trump administration’s impatience with China’s large trade advantage. The U.S. side is also frustrated over allegations China pressures U.S. firms to transfer advanced technology and steals U.S. intellectual property. Washington has demanded China address these issues, under threat of U.S. tariffs on as much as $150 billion in Chinese goods. Should the U.S. make good on those threats, Beijing has promised to respond with its own tariffs on U.S. imports.

The procedural steps toward implementing the first tranche of threatened U.S. tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports could be completed by as early as next week, but in the joint statement, the two sides agreed to continue talking. New tariffs don’t appear imminent.

Liu He, the Chinese vice premier who led Beijing’s delegation, said “both sides agreed to avert a trade war and to stop imposing tariffs on each other,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Souring the mood among Chinese officials were some U.S. media reports that China had accepted a U.S. request that Beijing slash its vast merchandise trade surplus by $200 billion, an amount that would cut by more than half the U.S. trade deficit with China. The Chinese side saw those reports as a last-minute effort by Trump administration officials to pressure Beijing into a public agreement that would meet U.S. objectives.

Early Friday, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, had told reporters that China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by “at least $200 billion.” Mr. Kudlow also said “they are meeting many of our demands. There is no deal yet, to be sure.”

While Beijing has been wary of committing to numerical targets of specific purchase amounts, it has in general offered to buy more U.S.-made autos, energy and agricultural products as a way to ease the trade tensions between the two nations that have rattled global financial and commodities markets.

Mr. Liu, the head of the Chinese delegation, impressed Washington officials, Mr. Kudlow said in a Friday interview with White House reporters, adding that the vice premier is a “smart guy, a market guy.”

China on May 18 said it is dropping antidumping and antisubsidy investigations into imported U.S. sorghum.
China on May 18 said it is dropping antidumping and antisubsidy investigations into imported U.S. sorghum. PHOTO: SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of Washington’s central demands is that China reduce its merchandise trade surplus by at least $200 billion by the end of 2020, even though economists in both nations say the trade deficit is affected by investment and savings patterns in both nations—not trade policy. Beijing has rejected most U.S. demands in the past and has continued to hold firm.

The U.S. Agriculture Department recently asked agriculture companies to come up with a list of products whose production could be ramped up rapidly for export to China, a person following the talks said. At the same time, China put together a list of high-tech products that are barred by U.S. export controls for sale to China but are allowed by other nations.

Beijing argues that if the U.S. would ease the export controls on these items, it would purchase more from the U.S., the person briefed on the matters said. Even so, some U.S. officials believe, the additional Chinese purchases would only total $50 billion to $60 billion in the next year or two, far short of the U.S. goal.

One Chinese request is for a reprieve on China’s ZTE Corp. from crippling U.S. sanctions over its trade with Iran and North Korea. Mr. Trump said early last week that he would work with Mr. Xi to get the telecommunications-equipment maker “back into business,” defending such a move as part of a trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with China.

However, “there is no firm agreement on ZTE as of yet,” a person familiar with the discussions said. U.S. lawmakers from both parties have criticized any effort to ease restrictions on the company, calling ZTE a security threat, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tweeting on Saturday: “If we don’t wake up & start treating this as a national security issue, China is going to win again.”

China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is due in Washington this coming week and is expected to discuss the ZTE controversy, a person briefed on the issue said.

Settling the trade fight is taking on a degree of urgency as the tensions start hurting businesses in both countries. U.S. goods, including sorghum, soybeans and cars, have faced growing hurdles when entering China, while a U.S. order banning American companies from selling components to ZTE not only threatens the survival of the company but also that of other state-owned Chinese companies.

Responding to Mr. Trump’s promise of a reprieve for ZTE, Beijing has made a number of conciliatory gestures. China’s antitrust regulators had delayed for months U.S. private-equity firm Bain Capital’s $18 billion deal for Toshiba Corp.’s memory-chip unit, but on Thursday, the Japanese firm said regulators had allowed the deal to proceed. Chinese regulators also promised this week to restart their review of U.S. chip maker QualcommInc.’s bid for NXP Semiconductors NV.

China has also offered to hold back penalties on a variety of U.S. agricultural products it announced in early April as retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum exports. China is a top buyer of U.S. farm products. On Friday, China’s Commerce Ministry announced an end of its antidumping investigation into imported U.S. sorghum.

Write to Bob Davis at and Lingling Wei at

China’s Bombers in South China Sea Can Hit Any Target in The Philippines

May 19, 2018
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency and taken Friday, May 11, 2018, two Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber from the People’s Liberation Army air force fly in formation during patrol that included the Luzon Straits also known as Bashi Straits near Taiwan.

Han Chao/Xinhua via AP
Chinese bombers capable of hitting Philippines land on South China Sea reef
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – May 19, 2018 – 12:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — China on Friday announced it had landed strategic bombers on an outpost in the South China Sea for the first time, with a US-based think tank saying nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the strike aircraft.

In a social media post, state-owned People’s Daily tweeted a video  showing a long-range bomber landing and taking off from Woody Island—China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands.

The deployment of Chinese bombers came following reports that Beijing had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three Manila-claimed reefs in the sea, as the Asian power continues to increase its power projection capabilities in the strategic waterway.

Chinese H-6 bomber patrols near Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines. Xinhua photo

People’s Daily said among the warplanes that conducted take-off and landing training on the reef was the H-6K, a top-of-the-line nuclear-capable bomber.

Combat range

According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative,  the combat range of Chinese bombers can reach the Philippines, including the capital Manila and all five military bases earmarked for development under the US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The AMTI also warned of China’s future deployments to its “Big 3” outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands, noting the rapid construction of reinforced hangars at all three features that can accommodate bombers, as well as transport, patrol and refueling aircraft.

“The base H-6 aircraft’s combat radius of nearly 1000 nautical miles means even China’s basic bombers taking off from Woody Island could cover the entire South China Sea,” said AMTI, which is part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Image result for Woody Island, location

Woody Island is part of the Paracels group and is closer to Vietnam than the Philippines

“An H-6K, with its technical upgrades giving it a combat radius of nearly 1900 nautical miles, would dwarf this radius, putting all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island,” the think tank added.

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The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

Ties between China and the Philippines soured after the previous Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 with a United Nations-backed tribunal. The ruling, which favors Manila, was handed down a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

But China vehemently rejected the landmark decision, which Duterte put on the back burner in exchange for warmer ties and Chinese funding for his administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.

Early this week, Duterte said it’s pointless to protest Beijing’s deployment of its air assets to the contested waters and dared his critics to “go to war with China.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying earlier said China has been involved in peaceful construction in the islands, which includes “the deployment of necessary national defense facilities.”

In response, the White House warned Asia’s top economic power of “near-term and long-term consequences” over its growing militarization in the South China Sea. The US did not say what the consequences would be.




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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.



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Above: China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier

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 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water
The Philippines says it “owns” Mischief Reef, but there is not one known Filipinos living there. China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

China air force lands bombers on South China Sea island — Preparation for “the West Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea”.

May 19, 2018

China’s air force has landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region, it said in a statement.

“A division of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) recently organised multiple bombers such as the H-6K to conduct take-off and landing training on islands and reefs in the South China Sea in order to improve our ability to ‘reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions’,” it said in the statement issued on Friday (May 18).

Image result for H-6K Bomber photos


It said the pilot of the H-6K bomber conducted assault training on a designated sea target and then carried out take-offs and landings at an airport in the area, describing the exercise as preparation for “the West Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea”.

Image result for H-6K Bomber photos

The notice, published on the PLAAF’s Weibo microblogging account, did not provide the precise location of the exercise.

The United States has dispatched warships to disputed areas of the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s extensive sovereignty claims in the territory, which is subject to various claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

“The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan told Reuters.

“We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region.”

China’s Bulgaria Summit Will Bring Together 16 Central and Eastern European Countries

May 19, 2018

Bulgaria will host a summit between China and 16 central and eastern European countries, stoking fears of potential EU divisions over how to deal with Beijing.

Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s prime minister, said the so-called 16+1 group, which includes 11 EU members, would meet in Sofia in July, with China on the look out for unfinanced projects to back.

“Believe me, they are preparing very well for finding such projects,” Mr Borisov told reporters in Sofia on Friday. “Every day we welcome delegations from China — [at] ministerial level or heads of some of their largest companies. And they are touring all around the region.”

By Michael Peel in Sofia

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Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s prime minister

News of the heads of government summit is likely to dismay EU diplomats who fear the 16+1 could become a Trojan horse for China to shatter the bloc’s unity in sensitive areas ranging from the single market to foreign investment vetting.

It also appears to dash hopes of some in Brussels that Beijing would tone down the initiative and hold summits less frequently after the last gathering in Budapest in November.

One Bulgarian official said China would send a large business delegation and that Beijing wanted to time the meeting to take advantage of the momentum from Sofia’s rotating EU presidency, which ends on June 30.

Location of  Bulgaria  (dark green)– in Europe  (green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (green)  –  [Legend]

The 16+1 gathering is due to start the following week, the official added, which means it could pre-empt the EU’s own China summit scheduled provisionally for later in July.

The EU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 11 EU members of the 16+1 grouping include the Baltic states, Poland and Hungary. Both Warsaw and Budapest have clashed with Brussels over their allegedly autocratic governance. The China grouping also includes five western Balkans countries whose leaders met their EU counterparts in Sofia this week as part of their push to join the bloc.

Diplomats say other EU countries with good relations with China, notably Greece, might also join the group.

Beijing sees the 16+1 effort — which has been spearheaded by Li Keqiang, the Chinese prime minister — as a way to boost trade and investment ties with former socialist allies. The countries are a critical gateway to western Europe for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to win markets and diplomatic allies in 64 countries between Asia and Europe.

But some EU diplomats have grown increasing nervous about what they see as the expanding ambition of the 16+1. They fear the group has the potential to undermine single market rules in areas such as public procurement because of China’s push for guaranteed contracts for its companies.

The group’s activities could also affect debates on EU policies important to China, such as a proposed screening process for foreign investments in areas that include crucial infrastructure and military technology companies.

The 16+1 has fed broader worries in Brussels and some influential EU capitals about its impact on collective bloc foreign policy towards China, which requires unanimity. Disagreements among member states meant that the EU did not even mention China in a 2016 statement on an international court ruling that dismissed Beijing’s territorial claim to most of the South China Sea.

EU members who are in the 16+1 defended their participation by saying the group offers them not only project finance but also crucial access to Chinese leaders that Berlin, Paris and London take for granted.

Additional reporting by Kerin Hope in Athens

As Rosneft’s Vietnam unit drills in disputed area of South China Sea, Beijing issues warning

May 17, 2018

Only the the Chinese government can carry out oil and gas exploration or exploitation activities in waters under Chinese jurisdiction (which is just about all the South China Sea) the Chinese say….

Rosneft Vietnam BV, a unit of Russian state oil firm Rosneft, is concerned that its recent drilling in an area of the South China Sea that is claimed by China could upset Beijing, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

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A view shows JDC Hakuryu-5 deep water drilling platform in the South China Sea off the coast of Vung Tau, Vietnam April 29, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

Rosneft said on Tuesday its Vietnamese unit had started drilling at the LD-3P well, part of the Lan Do “Red Orchid” offshore gas field in Block 06.1, 370 kms (230 miles) southeast of Vietnam. The block is “within the area outlined by China’s nine-dash line,” according to energy consultancy and research firm Wood Mackenzie.

When asked about the Reuters report of the drilling, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said that no country, organisation, company or individual can, without the permission of the Chinese government, carry out oil and gas exploration or exploitation activities in waters under Chinese jurisdiction.

“We urge relevant parties to earnestly respect China’s sovereign and jurisdictional rights and not do anything that could impact bilateral relations or this region’s peace and stability,” the spokesman, Lu Kang, told a regular news briefing on Thursday.

China’s U-shaped “nine-dash line” marks a vast expanse of the South China Sea that it claims, including large swathes of Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Maps of the area indicate the block is around 85 kms (53 miles) inside the contested area.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Russia’s oil company Rosneft is pictured at the Rosneft Vietnam office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

A series of dashes, the line is not continuous making China’s claims often ambiguous. In recent years, though, China has increasingly patrolled and enforced the area, claiming historic rights to the resources and features within it.

In March, Vietnam halted an oil drilling project in the nearby “Red Emperor” block following pressure from China, sources told Reuters.

That block is licensed to Spanish energy firm Repsol, which has asked Vietnam to pay compensation over the issue.

The Vietnamese foreign ministry did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

Rosneft had no consultations with the Kremlin on drilling in the South China Sea, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

“As far as we know, the company has already made a statement that it works exactly in line with the obtained licenses,” Peskov told a regular conference call with reporters.

Fearing repercussions and pressure from China, Rosneft Vietnam had wanted to begin drilling with as little attention as possible, despite the statement by its parent company on Tuesday, the sources said.

On Thursday, its parent company said its drilling in the block was within Vietnam’s territorial waters, and in accordance with Vietnamese legislation.


Both Rosneft and Russia’s Gazprom have significant development projects in Vietnamese waters that fall within the area claimed by China, said Ian Storey, a regional security expert at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“Although Russian diplomats have privately expressed concerns to their U.S. counterparts that China may one day put pressure on Moscow to terminate those projects, so far Beijing has refrained from doing so because of the ever-closer strategic partnership between the two countries,” said Storey.

“It would be a serious blow to the burgeoning Sino-Russian entente if Beijing asked Moscow to end its energy projects in Vietnam.”

China has become Russia’s top destination for exports, largely because Russia is the largest supplier of oil and gas to China, mainly through pipelines.

The drilling in the “Red Orchid” gas field within the block will be undertaken using the “Hakuryu-5” equipment made by Japanese company Japan Drilling Co., Ltd, Rosneft said in that statement.

The Hakuryu-5 arrived in the disputed area on May 6, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon ship tracking data and was still recorded as being inside the block late on Wednesday.

The drilling is significant for Vietnam, which has been struggling to maintain its crude oil and gas output amid already declining production from its key fields and the continuing pressure from China in the disputed waters.

Vietnam already gets about 30 percent of its gas needs from block 06.1 because of oil and gas operations established there as long as 15 years ago.

It lies just south of blocks 05.3 and 05.2, where in 2007 British Petroleum suspended work following a threat of “economic consequences” from China, according to a September, 2007 U.S. State Department cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

In April, Vietnam’s state oil firm PetroVietnam said that maritime tensions with China will hurt its offshore exploration and production activities this year.

Hanoi and Beijing have long been embroiled in disputes over the maritime boundary, which is a politically sensitive issue in Vietnam.

Police in the central province of Khanh Hoa have launched an investigation into a group of Chinese tourists who were pictured in a local airport wearing T-shirts printed with a map showing the “nine-dash line”, state media reported on Wednesday.

Airport authorities asked the tourists, who arrived at Cam Ranh Airport on Sunday, to take off their T-shirts after going through customs, the Van Hoa (Culture) newspaper reported.

To view a graphic on Drilling in contested waters, click:

Additional reporting by Khanh Vu in HANOI, Greg Torode in HONG KONG, Christian Shepherd in BEIJING and Andrey Ostroukh in MOSCOW; Editing by Martin Howell


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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.

Taiwan Wants To Move Faster Toward Military Self-Sufficiency

May 16, 2018

The Ministry of National Defense sees the rapid build-up of the military’s operational capabilities as its top priority and would like to see efforts to create a self-sufficient defense industry receive more funding than the procurement of US arms, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa said in an interview with Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) staff reporters Aaron TuHuang Wei-chu and Lo Tien-pi

Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa gestures during an interview in Taipei on May 2.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): Has the country officially requested the US to sell F-35 jets and M1 tanks?

Yen De-fa (嚴德發): The air force’s operational requirements dictate that the next generation of fighters must possess stealth characteristics, be short take-off capable and be able to fight beyond visual range. The F-35 is a fine fighter and we are seeking it.

To answer the question as to whether we have formally requested the F-35 from the US, although we have been holding dialogues with US officials, they have not reached a definitive conclusion. US officials are evaluating it, and they might have their own concerns over its high cost or other considerations.

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However, I can confirm that negotiations are ongoing.

Our nation’s new strategic doctrine is strong defense and layered deterrence. Military history is clear in that land warfare continues to be the decisive form of combat. We need to re-establish our ability to deter on the ground. The combat power of tanks is crucial toward that end.

Outside critics have questioned whether tanks would be impeded by terrain factors. However, those concerns have already been more than adequately addressed by armed forces’ established procedure for the operational deployment of tanks.

After completing the evaluation of this procurement proposal, we will officially make a request to the US. Overall, our plan is to make arms sales and technological transfers pave the way toward achieving self-sufficiency in national defense.

For instance, the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology has developed the Thunderbolt-2000 multiple-launch rocket system and precision-guided munitions to provide asymmetric warfare capabilities. Arms sales should fill gaps in the capabilities of a nation’s defense industry; the rest of our weapons should be furnished via a self-sufficient national defense industry that is supplemented by technology transfers in key areas.

LT: The navy’s most important procurement objective is to have an indigenously designed and built submarine. What is the status of the project?

Yen: The US government’s decision to approve marketing licenses for submarine technology is a boon to our nation. It represents a major breakthrough and it has greatly aided our efforts toward integration.

As a result of this breakthrough, we estimate that the contract design phase for the submarine program will be completed by 2020. The program’s progress has been on track.

In addition, the navy’s other programs — entering the Tuo Jiang-class corvette into mass production and developing a next-generation guided missile frigate — are very beneficial to the goal of a self-sufficient defense industry.

The armed forces’ highest-priority policy is defense self-sufficiency. The policy is comprised of indigenous warships, indigenous jets and the creation of information and communications capabilities. We are pursuing those tasks with seriousness and vigor.

At the moment, defense self-sufficiency and arms sales claim about equal portions of the defense budget and resources. I hope to see the former exceed the later.

The aim of defense self-sufficiency is to avoid over-reliance on foreign military aid and to build our own strength. It does not behoove us to expect help from others in a crisis.

Another important objective for defense self-sufficiency is to stimulate domestic industries. As President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said, the defense industry is playing a crucial role in fueling the expansion of domestic demand.

For instance, defense technology transfers to the private sector are valued at an estimated NT$104.78 billion [US$3.52 billion at the current exchange rate] in 2016, and NT$101.64 billion in the following year, pulling ahead of program milestones.

In addition, the indigenous advanced jet trainer is scheduled to leavethe factory in September 2019 and make its maiden flight in June 2020. These programs are on track and we have the highest confidence in their continued success.

LT: Regarding enlistment for the all-volunteer force, the military this year fell short of its recruitment target by more than 17,000 enlistments. When will the military make up for this shortfall and what is the military doing to improve force retention?

Yen: The public is very concerned with the military’s ability to find recruits.

Actually, the armed forces do not have a shortage of troops. The military has met its recruitment goal of 15,000 volunteers every year since 2014; in fact, we exceeded our target last year.

There is nothing wrong with the program of enlisting volunteers. The great advantage of a volunteer force is that the troops serve for longer and have the ability to cultivate specialized skills at the intermediate or advanced level.

I have ordered all volunteer troops to gain proficiency in at least two specialist fields. For example, an infantry soldier should be a proficient sharpshooter with a rifle and a machinegun, but should also master the use of rocket weapons and mortars.

This system meets battlefield conditions more realistically. When a comrade becomes a casualty, soldiers are expected to step up and take their place immediately.

What armed forces do have a shortage of are junior-grade officers — lieutenants and captains.

For this reason, the ministry last year instituted career tracks for non-commissioned officers’ promotion into commissioned ranks, increased the recruitment of officer cadets and established volunteer officer reservists. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) has also been meeting its enlistment targets.

Through flexibility and expedience, we have gained officers in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Currently, 128 institutions of higher education are participating in the ROTC program.

We are confident that by the end of next year, the gap in junior officer enlistments will be closed.

More importantly, President Tsai’s authorization of extra pay for seven categories of troops and officers has been a boon to morale. The military is in the process of requesting the Executive Yuan to improve the salary of command sergeants.

Furthermore, President Tsai has given a lot of attention to improving the quality of life for military personnel. The military is about to renovate 159 older barracks, which will stimulate domestic demand, improve the quality of life for service members and benefit recruitment efforts.

LT: US President Donald Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. What progress has been made in Taiwan-US military cooperation? Are there any plans for high-level visits between the militaries of the two nations? What is our nation’s role in regional security?

Yen: The Taiwan-US Defense Business Forum and the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference are both organized by non-governmental entities. They are the platforms for the defense industries of the two nations to cooperate. We expect to see topics pertinent to defense industry cooperation discussed at these events.

The US-Taiwan Defense Business Forum is scheduled [this month] in Kaohsiung, the first time the event has been hosted in Taiwan.

The US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in the second half of this year is in fact a semi-official function. It provides our industries with the opportunity to followup on cooperation in the US. The conference will be productive for arms procurement and defense self-sufficiency.

The military will make the best use of this opportunity with the nation’s companies.

We welcome the passage into law of the US’ 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and Taiwan Travel Act. Military exchanges between the two nations are already very close and frequent.

We are discussing the types of activities our officials and armed forces will be able to participate in; they might include military exercises and humanitarian operations, or other types of drills related to humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, we are seeking to implement and improve joint activities that the governments have approved.

Regarding the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, our government has repeatedly emphasized to the US government that Taiwan should play a more active role in maintaining regional security. Freedom, democracy, openness and human rights are the core values of our nation.

None of our neighboring counties should overlook this fact. The virtuous are never alone; as we safeguard democratic values, we will gain the support of other nations.

As for the exchange of officials, if the US extends an invitation to us, I would absolutely go to the US. There is nothing to ponder here.

Anything that will strengthen the military capabilities of our nation, any form of exchange and cooperation, is a welcome development.

Translated by staff writer Jonathan Chin

China admits military exercises intended to threaten Taiwan — “It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces”

May 16, 2018

A Chinese government spokesman said Wednesday that the country’s military exercises around Taiwan are intended as a direct threat to the self-governing island’s government over moves Beijing sees as cementing its independence from the mainland.

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Two Chinese Air Force Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber fly in formation during a patrol near Taiwan on Friday. | AP

The message conveyed by the recent drills is “very clear,” spokesman for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office An Fengshan said at a biweekly news conference.

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An Fengshan

“It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces and their activities. It demonstrates our determination and capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” An said.

China has the “firm will, full confidence and sufficient capabilities” to block moves toward Taiwan’s formal independence, An said.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under control by force if necessary. A Japanese colony for 50 years, Taiwan was handed to China at the end of World War II but separated from the mainland in 1949 amid civil war.

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Chinese H-6 Bomber

Since her election in 2016, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused China’s demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That prompted Beijing to cut off contact with her government, step up military exercises and work to increase Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation.

Chinese state media have given heavy publicity to frequent missions by air force fighters, bombers and surveillance planes to circle Taiwan. China last month held drills on its side of the Taiwan Strait and has repeatedly sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier through the 160-km (100-mile)-wide waterway.

Despite Beijing’s threats and strong economic ties between the sides, surveys show few Taiwanese favor political unification with authoritarian, Communist Party-ruled China.

Associated Press

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