Posts Tagged ‘South China Sea’

Pence says South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation

November 16, 2018

The South China Sea does not belong to any one nation and the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday, in a challenge to China which claims the waterway.


Li Keqiang, from left, Vladimir Putin, Lee Hsien Loong, Prayuth Chan-Ocha and Mike Pence.  Photographer: Alexei Druzhinin/TASS via Getty Images


The United States has conducted a series of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the contested South China Sea, angering China, which says the patrols threaten its sovereignty.

“The South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation, and you can be sure: The United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, all have claims in the South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year.

Pence on Thursday told leaders of Southeast Asian nations there was no place for “empire and aggression” in the Indo-Pacific region, a comment that could be interpreted as a reference to China’s rise.

Speaking to a regional summit, Pence directly criticized China’s action in the South China Sea, according to a transcript of his remarks.

“Let me be clear: China’s militarization and territorial expansion in the South China Sea is illegal and dangerous. It threatens the sovereignty of many nations and endangers the prosperity of the world,” he said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said no country, including the United States, had ever provided any evidence of problems with freedom of navigation or overflight in the South China Sea.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“May I trouble you to remind Mr Pence, that the United States has yet to ratify the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS),” Hua told a daily news briefing.

“If the United States can at an early date ratify and abide by UNCLOS, then I think this will benefit even more the protection of peace and stability in the South China Sea area.”

The 1982 convention defines how coastal states are allowed to establish sovereignty over territorial seas and exclusive economic zones. China has signed and ratified it.

Pence’s comments follow a major speech in October in which he flagged a tougher U.S. approach toward China, accusing it of “malign” efforts to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

Reporting by John Geddie; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel



See also:

Without Trump, U.S. Gives Way to Putin in Asian Summit Line-Up


Philippine President Duterte: ‘South China Sea is Possessed by China’

November 16, 2018

“China is already in possession of the South China Sea. It’s now in their hands.”

With Beijing already in possession of vast areas in the South China Sea, the United States and other countries should just accept this “reality” and avoid creating “friction” that could lead to full-scale military confrontation, President Duterte said yesterday.

Duterte at the 2017 ASEAN China meeting

“And in all of these things, China is there. That’s a reality and America and everybody should realize that they are there,” Duterte told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit here.

“So if you just keep on creating friction, little friction, one day a bad miscalculation could turn things… Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong,” he said.

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He stressed military drills could spark hostilities in the region “because I said China is already in possession. It’s now in their hands.”

He said military exercises could be seen as provocation that could “prompt a response from China.”

The Chief Executive explained he was actually protecting national sovereignty in taking a more peaceful approach to dealing with China.

“I do not mind everybody going to war, except that the Philippines is just beside those islands. And if there’s a shooting there, my country will be the first to suffer,” he said.

“That’s my only – that is my only national interest there. Nothing else,” Duterte added.

As the country-coordinator of ASEAN-China dialog, Duterte reiterated he would try his best to facilitate the release of a code of conduct (COC) on South China Sea in three years.

“I will try my best. I made a very strong statement about the urgent need for a COC so that everybody will know,” he said. “Because when you claim an ocean, the whole of it, then that is a new development in today’s world,” he added.

Duterte noted there might be a need to review or even make radical changes in international laws, particularly on the right of innocent passage.

“So, any sense, it would also change – radical changes in the laws of governing international waters, particularly the right of free passage or the right of innocent passage,” he said.

Under the principle of innocent passage, vessels are allowed to pass through territorial waters of other states subject to certain restrictions.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a passage is “innocent” if it is “not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.”


Amid Duterte’s call for the US and other nations to avoid provocative actions in the South China Sea, ASEAN members reiterated the need for self-restraint in the conduct of activities in disputed waters.

“We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.

“We reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” Lee said.

“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” he added.

Lee underscored the importance of a full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety.

In the same statement, Lee also underscored the ASEAN and China’s dialogue on the South China Sea issue.

“We warmly welcomed the continued improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on a mutually-agreed timeline,” he maintained.

“We noted that ASEAN member-states and China had agreed on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text,” Lee pointed out.

In this regard, Lee emphasized the need for maintaining an environment conducive to COC negotiations.

“We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence-building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties,” the prime minister said.

Sovereignty protected

Foreign affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr., who was part of the presidential delegation to Singapore, reiterated the Philippines’ strong position against giving up even an “inch or iota” of its sovereignty.

Locsin was mum on Duterte’s earlier remarks that China is already in possession of some areas not its own in the South China Sea.

Asked about reactions to ASEAN’s or Duterte’s call for restraint, Locsin said China for one did not say anything.

“But the President was very clear: Let’s exercise restraint and there was no response, which is you can interpret it as you want but it was rather bold of our President to bring it up. The use of the word restraint,” Locsin said.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo, for his part, welcomed the formal announcement of the designation of the Philippines as the new country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.

“With the President’s pragmatic, transparent and diplomatic orientation in his foreign policies, our country’s designation will significantly play a pivotal role in bridging a more solid partnership between ASEAN and China,” Panelo said.

He also lashed out at critics for questioning Duterte’s move to consult China on the creation of the COC.

“He is the one irresponsible because he is not even understanding what the President was saying,” Panelo said, referring to Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, an opposition lawmaker.

“What the President was saying is he wants to know exactly the sentiments of China so he can relay them to the members of the ASEAN because he is supposed to be the coordinator,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) warned Duterte is dragging the country to a potential armed conflict between the US and China.

“His double-sided betrayal of the country’s national sovereignty puts the country at great risk of getting caught right in between a likely outbreak of armed hostilities between the American and Chinese imperialists,” CPP said.

“Duterte’s shameless subservience to the US, sell-out of Philippine sovereignty to China and inability to pursue a policy of active peace has led to his failure to oppose the militarization of the SCS by both powers.”




Congressional commission cites ‘crisis of national security,’ concludes task of rebuilding US military far from complete

November 15, 2018

After two years of full funding for the Pentagon, President Trump has essentially declared victory, and is ready to reverse the trend of ever-rising defense budgets. Last month Trump gave the Pentagon a surprise order to slash upcoming defense spending from $733 billion to $700 billion. From the president’s point of view, the last two defense budget hikes have largely solved the military’s woes, which included aircraft unfit to fly, units unprepared to deploy and stressed troops. “We’re rebuilding our military. We just had approved $716 billion. The year before that, we had $700 billion. So, we’re almost completely rebuilding our military with the latest and the greatest,” Trump said while in France over the weekend.

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NOT SO FAST: The first shot in the looming battle over next year’s defense budget was fired yesterday by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, who suggested that he will oppose Trump’s order to cut planned spending by tens of billions of dollars. The Oklahoma Republican insisted that top line for the Pentagon, overseas wars, and the nuclear arsenal should be at least $733 billion in 2019. That “should be considered a floor, not a ceiling, for funding our troops,” said Inhofe, who will return in January as Senate Armed Services chairman after Republicans held the chamber. Once inflation is factored, that would keep Pentagon funding at current levels with no new growth.

COMMISSION’S ‘CRISIS’ REPORT: Lawmakers now have new ammunition in the fight for a bigger budget. Inhofe was responding to a newly released report, “Providing for the Common Defense,” ordered up by Congress, which paints a grim picture of the Pentagon in crisis. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” the National Defense Strategy Commission writes in one of its key findings.

The commission, co-chaired by Ambassador Eric Edelman and retired Adm. Gary Roughead, was created by Congress in 2017, and mainly tasked with reviewing Trump’s National Defense Strategy. “We are concerned that the NDS too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world,” the report said. It’s the latest in a series of recent reviews covering U.S. defense strategy over the past eight years, all of them bleak.

“In the 2010 report, we concluded that budget cuts and an increasingly complex international environment were leading to a potential train wreck. In 2014, the aftermath of the Budget Control Act, we said that the BCA was a strategic misstep that was disabling the U.S. because it was facing greater challenges around the world. In this report, I think, what we had to wrestle with was the consequences of all those warnings having been ignored,” Edelman said during a podcast this week with Michael Morell, former acting CIA director and a member of the commission.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was a leading force behind the past two years of defense budget hikes as House Armed Services chairman, said the commission’s report makes clear that Congress should not let BCA spending caps dictate U.S. strategy. “It also echoes some of my own concerns; that we are falling behind on key capabilities, that Congress is not reliably providing appropriate resources, and that we face difficult choices if we are going to provide the country with the defense it deserves,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

IS MONEY REALLY THE ANSWER? Both Edelman and Roughead are set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee later this month about their findings, which are likely to set the tone of the debate for now. But not everybody is taking them at face value. “Obviously if we’re vastly outspending Russia and China and we’re losing our competitive edge, our problem is not spending,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight.

The findings may be used to justify a third year of defense hikes, but the Pentagon should instead complete its ongoing and first-ever full financial audit to see how its money is being spent, argues Grazier. “This report is in the grand tradition of Washington buck-passing. Whenever elected political officials do not want to have to take responsibility for what they anticipate being unpopular political positions, you assign a blue-ribbon task force to do a study and then the blue-ribbon task force comes back with the unpopular policy discussions,” he said.

BULLET POINTS: The Commission report is replete with nightmare scenarios and dire warnings that America’s military advantage has been eroded by years of budget cuts at home and “authoritarian competitors” abroad — especially China and Russia — who are pursuing determined military buildups aimed at neutralizing U.S. strengths. Here are some key conclusions:

  • Due to political dysfunction and decisions made by both major political parties — and particularly due to the effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 along with years of failing to enact timely appropriations — America has significantly weakened its own defense.
  • The convergence of these trends has created a crisis of national security for the United States — what some leading voices in the U.S. national security community have termed an emergency.
  • These trends are undermining deterrence of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict.
  • The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.
  • If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat. These two nations possess precision-strike capabilities, integrated air defenses, cruise and ballistic missiles, advanced cyber warfare and anti-satellite capabilities, significant air, and naval forces, and nuclear weapons — a suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.
  • The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.


US criticises China’s ‘empire and aggression’ in Asia

November 15, 2018

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Pence takes veiled swipe at Beijing’s regional ambitions ahead of Trump-Xi meeting at G20 Mike Pence: ‘Empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific’ — Photo: ASEAN leaders with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (5L) pose for a photograph

By Stefania Palma in Singapore

Mike Pence, US vice-president, has condemned “empire and aggression” in Asia in a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence across the region, fuelling tensions ahead of a meeting between the two countries’ leaders at the G20 summit later this month.

The rhetoric marks one of Washington’s strongest attacks on Beijing’s growing sway in the region, and comes amid a trade war that has seen the world’s two biggest economies slap duties on more than $350bn worth of trade, rattling global financial markets.

“We all agree that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Pence told a gathering of Asian leaders at the Asean summit in Singapore. “In all that we do, the United States seeks collaboration, not control. And we are proud to call Asean our strategic partner.”

The US delegation has used the Singapore meetings to reassert its commitment to Asean — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — from which the White House seeks support to push back against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and to urge North Korea towards denuclearisation.

Mr Pence’s speech highlighted the tensions dominating Sino-US relations ahead of a key meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi in Buenos Aires later this month, the scheduling of which had signalled a potential breakthrough in the countries’ escalating trade dispute.

Wang Qishan, Chinese vice-president and close confidant of Mr Xi, last week said that Beijing was ready to talk with Washington to resolve the trade dispute, while the US and China held high-level talks in Washington that included a meeting between John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, and Yang Jiechi, a Chinese state councillor with responsibility for foreign affairs.

The stakes of the meeting in Argentina are high.

These “significant” talks will cover a wide range of issues including trade and “will help give [the two presidents’] senior advisers guidance as to how to proceed going forward,” Mr Bolton told journalists at the Asean summit.

If no deal is reached, the most likely scenario is that the tariff rate on most of the $250bn of targeted Chinese exports to the US will rise from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in January. Mr Trump could then proceed to what US officials describe as phase three of the trade confrontation with Beijing, imposing tariffs on all US imports from China.

Mr Pence on Thursday said that the US’s vision of the Indo-Pacific “excludes no nation. It only requires that every nation treat their neighbours with respect, that they respect the sovereignty of our nations and the international rules of order.”

Recommended China’s Belt & Road Initiative Beijing insists BRI is no Marshall plan

Washington has accused China of military intimidation and economic coercion of other countries in the region.

It argues that Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea has effectively robbed rival claimants of fair access.

Washington also says that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the foreign policy framework that builds Chinese influence through massive infrastructure projects, forces less powerful countries into dangerous dependence.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Papua New Guinea this weekend, Mr Pence is due to unveil details of America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, aimed at providing an alternative to China’s BRI.

The US plan “stands in sharp contrast to the dangerous debt diplomacy that China has been engaging in throughout the region and has led several countries . . . to have serious debt problems from accepting loans that are not transparent”, a senior US administration official told reporters in Singapore.

China ‘on track to meet American military challenge’ in Indo-Pacific

November 15, 2018

China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035 – if not before, according to a commission that advises the US Congress on the national security implications of the US-China trade and economic relationship.

— PLA is already able to contest US ground, air, maritime and information operations in some strategic areas, report says

— The report also warns that as Beijing’s confidence in its army grows, there is a danger that it ‘will use force as a regional hegemon’

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:49am
 China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035, according to a US report. Photo: Xinhua

In a report to be delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China could already contest US operations in the ground, air, maritime and information domains within the “second island chain”.

The second island chain is a strategic defence line for the United States formed by the Ogasawara Islands, Japan’s Volcano Islands, the Mariana Islands and Palau.

That military capacity presented fundamental challenges to the US armed forces’ long-standing assumption of supremacy in these areas in the post-cold war era, the report said.

The conclusions were based on classified and unclassified hearings with witnesses from government, academia and the private sector, as well as research trips to Taiwan and Japan. Commission members were not granted visas to visit China to conduct research.

The report said that under the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had significantly accelerated its military modernisation.

“As military modernisation progresses and Beijing’s confidence in the People’s Liberation Army increases, the danger will grow that [US] deterrence will fail and China will use force as a regional hegemon,” it said.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force, a unit established in late 2015, poses a fundamental challenge to the US ability to operate effectively in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the report.

And after years of development, China’s missiles also presented “serious strategic and operational challenges for the US and its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific”, the report said.

China’s coastguard had also removed all civilian functions and helped Beijing advance its maritime interests, it said.

Beijing has ramped up development and upgrades weapons across all military services, from unmanned underwater vehicles and amphibious aircraft to laser guns and supersonic fighter jets.

In addition, China has built several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, installing missiles and constructing airstrips in a challenge to the US presence in the region.

China’s DF and HN series missiles have a range of up to 15,000km, putting the entire United States within their reach.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US warship in the disputed waters after making what the Americans described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre in an attempt to warn it to leave the area.

And in late October, Xi ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to assess the situation it faced and boost its capabilities so it could handle any emergency.

Xi Jinping Visit to The Philippines Will Speed Implementation of China-Financed Infrastructure Projects

November 14, 2018

The Philippines on Wednesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila next week will likely hasten the implementation of China-financed infrastructure projects, amid growing concerns the Duterte administration’s pivot to Beijing is not paying off.

President Rodrigo Duterte secured a pledge for $9-billion official development assistance, or ODA, during his trip to Beijing in 2016 — which highlighted his “separation” from the Philippines’ only treaty ally, the US, while he cozies up to China.

Of the 10 big-ticket projects in the pipeline that China promised to finance, the Philippines has so far completed only one loan agreement — the $62.09 million Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

In this Oct. 20, 2016 photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shows the way to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

AP/Ng Han Guan, File


“This visit of the head of state of China will put pressure on the speed of implementation of all these projects,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told a press conference.

“I think with his visit this will actually speed up. We’re very optimistic… their head of state will pressure their bureaucracy to speed up the process,” Diokno added.

To date, the Philippines and China have signed four grant agreements totalling about $198.77 million, data from the Department of Finance show. Last July, two bridges across Pasig River to be bankrolled with Chinese grants broke ground.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier admitted there had been “roadblocks” on the flow of Chinese aid, particularly Beijing’s hesitation to co-finance certain projects with other lenders and use renminbi in aid disbursement instead of US dollars. These issues had been resolved already during the visit of Philippine economic officials to Beijing last August, he said.

According to the Department of Transportation, the contract and loan agreement for the PNR South Long Haul Line are scheduled to be signed during Xi’s trip to the Philippines this month.

Meanwhile, the commercial agreement for the $947.64-billion cargo train connecting Subic to Clark was supposed to be sealed during Xi’s visit here, but the signing has been moved to a later date, the DOTr added.

Despite Duterte’s warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it as the two countries continue to spar over the resource-rich South China Sea. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral


US security and economy ‘undoubtedly put at risk’ by China

November 14, 2018

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Belt and Road masks use of Asian ports by Chinese navy, congressional panel warns

Members of China’s military carry the nation’s flag during the opening ceremony in October of the China-ASEAN Maritime Exercise.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON — China’s hegemonic ambitions pose certain risk to U.S. security and economic interests, a bipartisan congressional panel said in a report released on Wednesday.

The 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission criticizes Beijing’s attempt to turn Asian seaports into military supply bases.

It also warned that the country may steal information from U.S. corporations by taking advantage of key technologies for data distribution.

“Many aspects of China’s attempts to seize leadership have undoubtedly put at risk the national security and economic interests of the United States, its allies and partners,” the report states.

The commission, whose members include former government officials and China experts, wields a great deal of influence over congressional policies.

The annual report specifically says China is developing and operating seaports under its Belt and Road Initiative — ostensibly aimed at creating a vast economic bloc — but in fact is using them as fuel and supply bases for its navy. The report continues, saying China uses protection of infrastructure needed for development as the pretext for deploying its naval forces overseas.

It also raises concerns that China’s aggressive spending on next-generation defense technologies may eclipse U.S. military supremacy in the medium to long term.

Regarding denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the report said China appears to have started to relax its sanctions against North Korea, weakening the U.S. policy of applying maximum pressure on Pyongyang. It also says China places a low priority on the denuclearization issue.

“Beijing appears to have already started to loose enforcement of sanctions on North Korea, undermining the U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ campaign,” it said.

The report notes that China is aggressively supporting development of devices related to the internet of things, technology that connects objects online to each other. As these devices find their way into America’s infrastructure, they may give China covert access to personal and corporate data.

In trade and investment, China is demanding that U.S. companies transfer technology in exchange for access to its vast market, according to the report. It may not be efficient, the report says, to use multilateral trade frameworks, such as the World Trade Organization, to resolve issues arising from China’s commercial practices.


China advances ‘code of conduct’ for South China Sea

November 14, 2018

China’s premier has hailed progress on an agreement that would “ensure peace and stability” in the strategic sea. Beijing has continued to fill a void as US influence in the region wanes under Donald Trump.

Chinese warships in the western Pacific

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Wednesday said Beijing and countries with stakes in the South China Sea are closer than ever before to a “code of conduct” for the strategic thoroughfare.

Ahead of a meeting between China and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Li said the recent adoption of a draft text for the pact was a major breakthrough.

“The single draft negotiating text is not merely a technical term, but an indication that China and ASEAN have reached consensus on ensure peace and stability, freedom of overflight and navigation in the South China Sea,” Li said. “We have found the way to properly manage and defuse differences.”

Filipino protesters set fire to a Chinese flagTensions in some ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, have prompted protests against Chinese military maneuvers in the South China Sea


While China maintains it has a historical right over the South China Sea, ASEAN members such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also claim land features in the area.

In 2016, an international tribunal found in favor of the Philippines in a territorial complaint, saying China had no historical rights to resources within its so-called “nine-dash line.” The ruling further strained relations between Beijing and Manila.

Since then, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has attempted to defuse tensions, in part to attract infrastructure funding and increased trade and investment from Beijing. Duterte said on Wednesday that ASEAN countries have seen significant progress in relations with China.

“Everything’s been excellent between China and the rest of ASEAN except for the fact that there’s friction between the Western nations and China,” Duterte said.

Read more: Southeast Asian nations ‘want to control China’s behavior’

Map showing China's demarcation of South China Sea territory

Peace via free trade

Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Li noted that Beijing will continue to push for free trade in the region at a moment when ASEAN leaders have started to sound the alarm about US protectionist policies.

“Free trade has, in some aspects, prevented war effectively,” Li said in a speech on Tuesday in Singapore. “We are willing to negotiate with all sides to push ahead with free trade internationally, and we’re also willing to discuss a fairer system.”

Li is expected to rally support this week for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade accord that would comprise more than a third of the world gross domestic product (GDP).

Beijing has stepped in to fill the void left when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China hopes to secure its own version by 2019.

ls/rt (AP, dpa)


Philippines: Duterte to reiterate ‘principled position’ on South China Sea at ASEAN Summit

November 13, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte will reiterate the Philippines’ “principled position” on the South China Sea issue, Malacañang said Tuesday, ahead of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and meetings with leaders of powerhouse nations in the Asia Pacific in Singapore.

Duterte will participate in the ASEAN plenary session later Tuesday and the 10-member regional bloc’s separate engagements with its dialogue partners including China, Russia, Japan and the United States set for Wednesday and Thursday.

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“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and transboundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” Malacañang said in a statement.

The Palace did not elaborate on the points to be tackled by Duterte about the tensions in the South China Sea as Beijing continued to face scrutiny over its reported deployment of military aircraft and installation of anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and weather observation facilities on Manila-claimed reefs.

Duterte has chosen to seek stronger economic and trade ties with China, the world’s second biggest economy, instead of flaunting Manila’s victory over Beijing in the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 which declared as illegal China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.

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The President, however, promised to raise the ruling with China during his term which ends in June 2022.

ASEAN and China are still negotiating for a code of conduct in the disputed waterway, a process Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hoped would be completed in three years, and that such a deal would bolster free trade.

During the summits, the Palace said the Philippines is also looking forward to “exchanging views on ASEAN community-building as well as discussions on regional and global developments that impact regional peace, security and stability.”

After Singapore, Duterte will fly to Papua New Guinea to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for the 19th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting on November 17 to 18.

At APEC, the Palace said the President will work with the leaders of the 21-nation grouping to affirm the multilateral trading system and uphold the role of APEC as the forum for addressing issues, leveraging on the region’s economic growth and pursuing open markets.

Duterte will also rally support for micro, small and medium enterprises through continued development and facilitating their access to the global marketplace.

The President will also meet with the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea.

“In the Philippines’ engagements with ASEAN and APEC, the President will continue to strive to pursue goals and aspirations shared with stakeholders in the region and beyond to secure for our peoples a better quality of life, and for our nations, a more productive partnership,” Malacañang said. — Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News

Philippines President to reaffirm the Philippines’ stand on the South China Sea — “Non-militarization” — “Self-restraint” — “Subservient to China”

November 13, 2018

In his forthcoming meeting with other Southeast Asian leaders, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to reaffirm the Philippines’ stand on the South China Sea.

In a statement released Monday, Malacañang said the president would engage leaders of ASEAN dialogue partners to “further enrich partnership in key areas of cooperation.”

“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and transboundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” Malacañang said.

In this November 6 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte holds a Cabinet meeting at Malacañang Palace. The president will be attending the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore this week.

STAR/Joven Cagande


Duterte arrived in Singapore on Monday evening to attend the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits from November 12 to 15.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States Vice President Mike Pence will also attend the ASEAN summit in Singapore.

During the ASEAN summit in Manila last year, the 10-nation regional bloc and China have agreed to start the negotiations for the text of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

China and several ASEAN member-states, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims in the disputed waterway.

In July 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a landmark ruling invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship in 2017, made no mention of China’s expansive island-building activities in the contested waterway.

The chairman statement merely emphasized “non-militarization” and “self-restraint” among claimant states.