Posts Tagged ‘Sunnylands’

Deficiencies in Obama’s Pivot to Asia — China Stands Firmly in The Way

March 16, 2016

There are fundamental flaws in US foreign policy towards Asia. This is the first part of a two-part long form

Refayat Mosaowir Haque

Last month, President Obama hosted ASEAN leaders in Sunnylands, California. The venue is emblematic of his administration’s attempt to disclose the commensurate value of ASEAN with China; he hosted President Xi at the same estate in 2013.

This summit was more of a goodwill gesture and an avenue for heads of states to hold candid. Deliverables or plans of action were not to be expected from this gathering, however, a joint communique was issued at its conclusion.

It mostly included idealistic banalities like promoting rule of law, good governance, and accountability. Thankfully, the burgeoning maritime security crises were intimated, with a few lines expressing commitment to protecting the “rights of freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the seas.” There were no explicit references to the South China Sea.

While some might deem this summit successful in galvanising support from ASEAN to co-operate with the US in its “pivot to Asia,” there are fundamental flaws in US foreign policy towards Asia that act as serious hindrances. Such oversights remain primarily in the areas of aid, security, and trade.

The communique’s omission of language unequivocally detailing the South China Sea issue is inextricably linked to aid. Vietnam and the Philippines, both currently involved in rows with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, strongly advocated for the inclusion of text outlining maritime security challenges specific to China and its incursions into the Paracel and Spratly Islands chain. However, Cambodia and Laos vetoed Vietnam and the Philippines’ request fearing retribution from Beijing, their largest aid donor.

The GDP disparity between Cambodia and Laos and its other more prosperous ASEAN partners is stark, displeasing their “big brother” China could further widen the gap. These two nations also blocked the Philippines’ call to include “arbitration” as a means for settling disputes, Manila’s plea was predicated on their ongoing case at the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, the case concerning China’s territorial claim violations of the Spratly Islands chain under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

This rift within the US-ASEAN bloc enervates consensus-building efforts, and is extant largely due to Beijing. Cambodia relies on foreign aid for close to 40% of its fiscal budget, and increasing portions are coming from China. Chinese aid is most preferred, as it allows relevant ministries to manage funds without much supervision from the issuer.

In 2012, China provided $376 million in infrastructure aid, while in 2014 US foreign assistance to Cambodia stood at a paltry $77.6m. The Obama administration ought to repackage its aid to Cambodia if it is to counter Beijing. In fact, loan-based Chinese aid commands high interest rates, which makes servicing them difficult. The US could offer similar loans but with lower borrowing costs.

China’s grip over Laos is formidable as well. In 2013, it contributed 77% of total FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and close to $80m in aid, both grant and interest-free loans. Washington ought to evaluate the feasibility of large-scale financial support akin to the 1948 Marshall Plan, which sought to distance fragile European states from Communist orbit. Whereas this time, it will be in South East Asia to empower developing countries to resist Beijing’s clout. Looks like the “domino theory” is germane again.

Obama’s security component of the “Pivot to Asia” is being led by a revised deployment of the US navy in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pentagon initiated the process of dispatching 60% of the navy’s warships to this region — this reorganisation is likely to be completed by 2019.

Vice-Admiral of the navy’s Seventh Fleet, Joseph Aucoin, recently delineated the augmentation of the Asia-Pacific armada by revealing an additional 21 warships. According to Aucoin, the remobilisation will focus on intensifying patrols in the South China Sea to better respond to China’s swift military escalations. Chinese adventurism endlessly induces alarm across the region and seeks to destabilise the American engineered, and regulated, balance of power in Asia.

Notwithstanding the addition to the fleet, the problem herein lies with the number of vessels under the vice-admiral’s purview. The Seventh Fleet is 80 to 100 ship and submarine strong, encompassing an enormous swathe of water from the Japanese Pacific to the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, Beijing’s dedicated South Sea fleet currently operates 116 naval vessels and upwards of 200 coast guard ships, all guarding the South China Seas. China’s naval saturation in the South China Sea, combined with its navy’s larger size compared to the Seventh Fleet, gifts it a “preponderance of power,” or hegemony, in the region in question.

Sadly, the Seventh Fleet’s tribulations do not end there; China’s expansive naval support system has manifested itself on the contested reefs. The Paracel and the Spratly chains are being reclaimed vigorously by China, and now domiciles a myriad of military installations ranging from harbors, airstrips, surveillance, and satellite communication facilities.

The Seventh Fleet remains comparatively vulnerable with only a handful of naval bases in Japan; one in Korea and one in Singapore. Moreover, it lacks the kind of support network China is now establishing in the South China Sea.

A few days after the summit, news erupted of HQ-9 SAM (surface-to-air missiles) batteries appearing on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Chain a few hundred kilometers east of Vietnam. These missiles, with a range of 200km, will gravely endanger the stability of the region. Shortly following this revelation was news of possible installation of a high frequency radar system on Cuarteron reef in the Spratly chain.

HF radars have a far-reaching operating radius, making them effective instruments for China to position in its southernmost “territory.” This southernmost location provides an unprecedented advantage, affording China an early warning mechanism to confront, and ward off incoming ships and planes from the Strait of Malacca or Southern zones close to Singapore.

To put this into perspective, 25% of world goods and oil traded pass through the Strait. This HF radar installation would prove essential in sustaining Chinese anti-access area denial strategy, limiting the US navy’s operating autonomy in the region.

China’s hurried intensification of military presence in the South China Sea raises concern over the Seventh Fleet’s efficacy in reacting to future Northeast Asia crises. Success in responding to conflicts in Northeast Asia will remain contingent upon whether the Seventh Fleet is largely concentrated in Northeast Asia, or spread evenly across the entire continent.

Voicing dissatisfaction, or reverberating sentiments of ASEAN parties affected will not be the only solution for the Obama administration’s South China Sea troubles. Optimists at this point will resort to the $250m Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative, designed to improve naval capabilities of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

But like the analogous National Defense Authorisation Act, enacted to assist a handful of ASEAN nations and Taiwan boost their maritime security and domain awareness in the South China Sea, the security initiative remains elusive and unproven.

The concluding part of this long form will be published tomorrow. 

http://www.dhakatribune.com/long-form/2016/mar/16/deficiencies-obamas-pivot-asia

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Tensions ratchet up in the South China Sea as Beijing sends fighter jets to join anti-aircraft missiles

February 24, 2016

By GIANLUCA MEZZOFIORE and SIMON TOMLINSON FOR MAILONLINE and ASSOCIATED PRESS
PUBLISHED: 11:23 EST, 23 February 2016 | UPDATED: 02:50 EST, 24 February 2016

China has deployed fighter jets to the same contested island in the South China Sea to which it also has sent surface-to-air missiles, US officials said Tuesday.

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Citing two unnamed US officials, Fox News said US intelligence services had spotted Chinese Shenyang J-11 and Xian JH-7 warplanes on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel Islands chain over the past few days.
Navy Captain Darryn James, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, confirmed the report but noted that Chinese fighter jets have previously used the island.

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Woody Island, which is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, has had an operational airfield since the 1990s but it was upgraded last year to accommodate the J-11.

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‘We are still concerned that the Chinese continue to put advanced arms systems on this disputed territory,’ James said.

A satellite image released by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies shows construction of possible radar tower facilities in the Spratly Islands

Recent satellite images show China may be installing a high-frequency radar system in the Spratly Islands that could significantly boost its ability control the disputed South China Sea

Recent satellite images show China may be installing a high-frequency radar system in the Spratly Islands that could significantly boost its ability control the disputed South China Sea

The images were provided by a third party and Reuters is unable to verify if these are the exact locations of the radar towers, but it is likely these highlighted areas are the newly built towers

The images were provided by a third party and Reuters is unable to verify if these are the exact locations of the radar towers, but it is likely these highlighted areas are the newly built towers

The images show several different locations of the radar towers on the Chinese man-made islands 

The images show several different locations of the radar towers on the Chinese man-made islands

The move was reported as US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Washington.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3460472/China-setting-radars-man-islands-help-establish-control-sea-air-space-disputed-region.html#ixzz415Jd4cqE
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The images show several different locations of the radar towers on the Chinese man-made islands

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The move was reported as US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Washington.

China also appears to be building military-grade radar facilities on some of the home-made islands it constructed in the South China Sea.

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Satellite images show high frequency radar, communication towers and observation posts being developed on Cuarteron Reef, the southern of a chain of seven disputed islands in the South China Sea.

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The images were released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which says the radars ‘speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China – one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea’.

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CSIS highlighted what look like two radar towers, a bunker and a lighthouse in the north of the 200,000 sq m island; several 20m radar poles and communications equipment in the south; a quay with loading crane in the west and a helipad in the island’s centre.

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The Spratly Islands are also claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines.

The report also cited satellite images taken between late January and mid-February of this year that appear to show radar towers on four artificial islands in the Spratlys.

The report comes after allegations that China deployed surface-to-air missiles on another disputed island in the South China Sea.

Taiwan’s defence ministry confirmed the existence of the facility after reports that missile launchers could be seen on the images on Woody Island, part of the Paracels chain.

A U.S. defence official also confirmed the ‘apparent deployment’ of the missiles, believed to have arrived in the past week.

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The Spratly Islands are also claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam but China hopes to control them

Tensions in the sea: One-third of the world's oil passes through the area and tensions have increased in recent months after China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly islands further south into artificial islands

Since the man-made islands are capable of hosting military bases, other countries have grown testy

Land grab: An aerial view shows construction work by China on the Mabini in the disputed Spratly Islands

Land grab: An aerial view shows construction work by China on the Mabini in the disputed Spratly Islands

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3460472/China-setting-radars-man-islands-help-establish-control-sea-air-space-disputed-region.html#ixzz415KkYwWu
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China has controlled all of the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, since the mid-1970s and the end of the Vietnam War.

But tensions in the sea – through which one-third of the world’s oil passes – have mounted in recent months after China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly islands further south into artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.

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Washington says the move threatens free passage in a strategically vital area and has sent warships close to the disputed islands to assert freedom of navigation, raising fears of escalation.
Australian military aircraft also regularly overfly the area.

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These satellite images released by ImageSat International claim to show that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. The missiles appeared to be the HQ-9 air defence system, with a range of about 200km (125 miles)

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A Taiwan defence ministry spokesman told AFP news agency: ‘The defence ministry has learned of an air defence missile system deployed by the Chinese communists on Yongxing Island.’

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The ministry would give no further detail on when it had become aware of the installation, saying only that it had known about it ‘for a while’.

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Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi described the reports as ‘an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories’.

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He did not explicitly deny the deployment, but said the press should ‘turn your attention more to the lighthouses we have built on some of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea’.

He added: ‘Self-defence facilities that China has built on the islands are consistent with the right to self-preservation and self-protection that China is entitled to under international law, so there should be no question about that.’

Australian military aircraft also regularly overfly the area.

These satellite images released by ImageSat International claim to show that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. The missiles appeared to be the HQ-9 air defence system, with a range of about 200km (125 miles)

These satellite images released by ImageSat International claim to show that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. The missiles appeared to be the HQ-9 air defence system, with a range of about 200km (125 miles)

Proof? A U.S. defence official also confirmed the 'apparent deployment' of the missiles, believed to have arrived in the past week. These images suggest they arrived on a beach between February 3 and February 14

Proof? A U.S. defence official also confirmed the ‘apparent deployment’ of the missiles, believed to have arrived in the past week. These images suggest they arrived on a beach between February 3 and February 14

Experts said the long-range missiles, said be positioned on a beach in the area marked above, could be used to target enemy aircraft, heightening tensions in the region and potentially prompting US intervention

Experts said the long-range missiles, said be positioned on a beach in the area marked above, could be used to target enemy aircraft, heightening tensions in the region and potentially prompting US intervention

The images showed two batteries of eight missile launchers and a radar system had arrived on the main island, Woody.

A Taiwan defence ministry spokesman told AFP news agency: ‘The defence ministry has learned of an air defence missile system deployed by the Chinese communists on Yongxing Island.’

The ministry would give no further detail on when it had become aware of the installation, saying only that it had known about it ‘for a while’.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi described the reports as ‘an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories’.

He did not explicitly deny the deployment, but said the press should ‘turn your attention more to the lighthouses we have built on some of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea’.

China has reportedly deployed surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Woody Island (seen above in 2012) in the South China Sea, ratcheting up tensions in the area, through which one-third of the world's oil passes

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3460472/China-setting-radars-man-islands-help-establish-control-sea-air-space-disputed-region.html#ixzz415LHk4rz
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The Fox News report was based on pictures from ImageSat International, which earlier this week released images said to show reclamation work in the Paracels.

The missiles appeared to be the HQ-9 air defence system, with a range of about 200km (125 miles), according to reports.

HQ-9 air defence

Experts said the long-range missiles, said be positioned on a beach, could be used to target enemy aircraft, heightening tensions in the region and potentially prompting US intervention.

‘The long-range HQ-9… could exacerbate the nerves of neighbouring countries, particularly Vietnam,’ said Kevin Cheng, editor-in-chief of the Taipei-based Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine.

‘The military deployment could be seen to violate the US call for free navigation in the area and allow it more excuse to interfere in affairs there.’

Man-made: Fiery Cross reef in the Spratly Islands chain is claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines

Man-made: Fiery Cross reef in the Spratly Islands chain is claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3460472/China-setting-radars-man-islands-help-establish-control-sea-air-space-disputed-region.html#ixzz415Ly2Nnx
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The report on the missile batteries came as Obama wrapped up a two-day Southeast Asian summit in California where leaders voiced concern over Beijing’s military build-up in the strategic and resource-rich area.

‘We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions,’ Obama said, calling for ‘a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarisation of disputed areas.’

The Pentagon declined to confirm the Chinese missile deployment.

But China’s increasingly muscular actions in the vital waterway featured heavily at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) talks at Sunnylands, a sprawling California desert retreat.

In a joint statement, Obama and the 10 ASEAN leaders demanded the ‘peaceful resolution’ of a myriad of competing territorial claims over islands, atolls and reefs.

Obama has tried to muster an informal coalition of Pacific allies to demand that Beijing respect the rule of law, hoping that China will want to avoid being painted as a regional bully.

But in Beijing, Australian foreign minister Bishop downplayed reports that Canberra was considering participating in such a grouping, saying that the country was ‘enhancing its strategic and defence relationship with a number of countries in the region, including China’.

China has asserted its claim to almost all of the South China Sea by rapidly building artificial islands including airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets

China has asserted its claim to almost all of the South China Sea by rapidly building artificial islands including airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3460472/China-setting-radars-man-islands-help-establish-control-sea-air-space-disputed-region.html#ixzz415JBucK3
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Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. Xi told President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that China would not militarize the South China Sea.

 (Washington Post)

 (Reuters)

Chinese HQ-9 System

Commentary & Propaganda: Hyping China’s maneuvers in South China Sea will not hide U.S. role as top destabilizer

February 24, 2016

WASHINGTON D.C., Feb. 23, 2016 (Xinhua) — U.S. Secretary of States John Kerry (R) meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington D.C., the United States, Feb. 23, 2016. Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has not been a problem and demilitarization in the region needs efforts of all parties related, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)

BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — The recent U.S. hype about alleged Chinese military maneuvers in South China Sea, however sensational, will not hide the fact that Washington is now the top contributor of tension in the region.

In the lead-up to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the United States, some U.S. media organizations played up China’s deployment of a surface-to-air missile system on Yongxing Island, depicting the move as escalating tension in the South China Sea.

And right after Wang’s joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry on Tuesday, Fox News reported that the U.S. intelligence had seen activities of fighter jets on the same island.

The hype about so-called militarization of the South China Sea by China may sound alarming since those reports often cite hawkish military officials, but it fails to give due attention to the fact that deployment of defense measures has been going on for decades on the island, home to the municipal government of China’s southernmost city of Sansha.

China has repeatedly made clear that it has no intention to militarize the region. Its activities are mainly for maintenance purposes, improving the living conditions for the stationed personnel there and providing more public goods in the region.

With trillions of dollars’ worth of goods traversing the patch of water every year, the South China Sea is vital both to global trade and to China’s development. Beijing has no reason to disrupt one of its own crucial arteries of trade.

As a matter of fact, the United States, which has become fixated on the South China Sea since it announced a pivot to the Asia-Pacific, has been the primary source of destabilization in the area.

It has conducted a slew of naval and air patrol trips in the vicinity of the China-owned islands in clear violation of China’s sovereignty, not to mention international law.

It has also reopened military bases in the Philippines, in a move widely interpreted as stirring up tension in the region.

Furthermore, some countries in the region are taking more provocative measures to press for illegitimate territorial claims ever since the United States put the South China Sea on its radar.

If there were a ranking for destabilizers in the South China Sea, there’s no doubt Washington would top the list.

China’s practices in the region are defensive in nature, and it sees direct talks between rival claimants rather than military means as the best way to resolve any dispute.

Washington, which presents itself as an upholder of justice in the South China Sea issue, as in other issues across the world, has in the past few months wrongly accused China of being the sole troublemaker in the region, while conniving at China’s rival claimants in the South China Sea territorial disputes to take bolder moves.

The reality has shown that the U.S. interference only makes the issue more complicated. For the South China Sea waters to be calm, Washington should first stop its ugly practice of smearing China and avoid any move that stirs up tension in the region.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-02/24/c_135126785.htm

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Freedom of navigation in South China Sea not a problem: Chinese FM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) — Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has not been a problem and demilitarization in the region needs efforts of all parties related, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here on Tuesday.Full Story

Commentary: U.S. should reflect on its own militarization in the South China Sea

BEIJING, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) — China’s alleged deployment of a missile system on its Yongxing Island in the South China Sea has been met with frantic overreaction from the United States, which has accused China of “militarizing” the region.

“We see no indication that […] this militarization effort, has stopped. And it’s doing nothing […] to make the situation there more stable and more secure,” U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday as commercial satellite imagery reportedly indicated the “very recent” placement of missiles on Yongxing Island.Full Story

Commentary: U.S. has hard time justifying criticism of China’s actions in South China Sea

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — The U.S. government is recently struggling hard to justify its criticism of China’s defensive moves in the South China Sea, because it is clear that it is the United States, not China, that is the real source of militarization of the region.Full Story

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Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. Xi told President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that China would not militarize the South China Sea.

 (Washington Post)

 (Reuters)

ASEAN, with its timid stance on the South China Sea, risks irrelevance and Chinese dominance

February 24, 2016
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China and its neighbors have competing claims to sections of the South China Sea. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has long trusted that regional diplomacy might resolve the overlapping claims and, in the meantime, the United States would keep China in check. But China has been more assertive in recent years, building up small islands and adding military installations. The hope for meaningful negotiations may be but an illusion, suggests Donald K. Emmerson, who heads the Southeast Asia Program at Stanford University. ASEAN leaders met with President Barack Obama in Rancho Mirage, California, and released a summit declaration that conveys commitment to freedom of navigation and endorses the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Such principles may not change behavior, and Emmerson concludes, “ASEAN’s faith in its own centrality and the validation of that credence in Rancho Mirage reinforce passivity and complacence in Southeast Asia, including the idea that because ASEAN is indispensable, it need not be united, proactive, or original.” – YaleGlobal
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By Donald K. Emmerson
YaleGlobal, 23 February 2016
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STANFORD: It was meant to be a sunny summit. Welcoming ASEAN’s leaders at the Sunnylands estate, President Obama said he had invited them to southern California, not cold and snowy Washington, to reciprocate the warm welcomes he had received in their own countries on his seven presidential trips to Southeast Asia. Appreciative laughter ensued.

Naturally Obama ignored the futility implied by the name of the city where Sunnylands sits: Rancho Mirage. But as a metaphor for ASEAN’s hopes of moderating China’s behavior in the South China Sea, and the summit’s efficacy in that regard, the name of the city is more apt than that of the estate. Rancho Mirage lies in the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert. In the driver’s seat on a desert road in the shimmering heat, ASEAN might be fooled into seeing a geopolitical oasis – a meaningful agreement with China on the South China Sea – finally near and achievable with continuing patience and faith in the “ASEAN Way” of regional diplomacy by consensus and declaration.

Top: President Obama josted ASEAN leaders in the United States for their most recent meeting last week. Below, Chinese HQ-9 surface to air missile launcher

The Sunnylands Declaration, released on 16 February at the end of the two-day summit, lays out 17 principles to guide US-ASEAN cooperation going forward. The fifth of these reaffirms “respect and support for ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN-led mechanisms in the evolving regional architecture of the Asia-Pacific.”

On the day the declaration was announced, news broke that China had just deployed surface-to-air missile batteries on a land feature in the South China Sea controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan – Woody Island in the Paracels. So much for the efficacy of the declaration’s eighth principle of “shared commitment” to “non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities.”

After “activities,” the Sunnyland drafters could not even agree to add “in the South China Sea,” let alone mention China, its encompassing “nine-dash line,” or the dredging, up-building, and runway-laying that Beijing has being doing at a breakneck, unilateral, mind-your-own-business pace on the contested features that it controls. Missile launchers on Woody? Score another point for the “PRC Way” of creating lethal facts while the “ASEAN Way” drafts wishful norms.

To its credit, the summit did convey “shared commitment” to “freedom of navigation and overflight” in and above the South China Sea, and twice endorsed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. But those phrases will not soften China’s refusal to allow international rules to restrain its maritime ambitions.

The notion that announcing principles will change behavior is the main mirage that gained false credibility in Rancho Mirage, at least among Southeast Asians who are disposed to value lowest-common-denominator diplomacy. They hope that China will be influenced by ASEAN-propagated norms to moderate its maritime ambition and behavior.

More than a few of Obama’s guests at Sunnylands retain faith in a single should-be, will-be solution: a Code of Conduct, or COC, in the South China Sea. The declaration does not refer to this illusion. But allegiance to such a code was evident in conversations among participants at the summit and in interviews afterwards.

For well over a decade in Southeast Asia and beyond, diplomats have been discussing the need for a – still non-existent – COC. In 2002 China and the ASEAN governments did sign a Document on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC  But its hortatory spirit and provisions were violated almost from the outset by nearly all six claimants – Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. China’s placement of missile launchers on Woody Island, cheekily on the eve of the Sunnylands summit, was but the latest nail in the DOC’s coffin.

China and the ASEAN states undertook in the DOC “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability” in the South China Sea. China’s leaders could have observed this principle. Instead they chose to bully Manila and Hanoi, respectively, by seizing Scarborough Shoal and stationing a huge oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. They chose to harass and expel Southeast Asians from a vast nine-sided fishing zone unilaterally drawn and appropriated for China’s own priority use. They chose to complicate and escalate disputes, damage peace, and cause instability by unilaterally enlarging, outfitting, and militarizing land features under Beijing’s contested control in a manner that dwarfs in scale and lethality the up-building efforts of other claimants.

It is not in China’s expansionist interest to implement a mere declaration, the DOC. Still less attractive in Beijing’s eyes is a code with teeth – a COC whose enforcing mechanism might actually punish violations. To encourage delay, Beijing insists that the DOC must be implemented first, before a COC can be drawn up and signed. To avoid commitment and to maximize the divide et impera asymmetry of separate bilateral talks between China and each Southeast Asian claimant, Beijing calls the discussions with ASEAN “consultations,” not “negotiations.”

In 2004 China did agree with the ASEAN states to establish a Joint Working Group on the Implementation of the DOC. In October 2015 in Chengdu, China, the group met for the 15th time. Afterwards, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman assured listeners that the participants had reaffirmed “their commitment to fully and effectively implementing the DOC” and their readiness “to “work toward the early conclusion of a COC on the basis of consensus” [emphasis added].
ASEAN’s faith in its own centrality and the validation of that credence in Rancho Mirage reinforce passivity and complacence in Southeast Asia, including the idea that because ASEAN is indispensable, it need not be united, proactive, or original.In Southeast Asia, views of China’s behavior range from acquiescence (Cambodia, Laos) to antipathy (the Philippines, Vietnam). Manipulating this dissensus helps China ensure that the mirage of a COC remains in sight, motivating ASEAN, but continues to recede, protecting China.

Southeast Asian officials and analysts who excuse ASEAN’s inertia argue that the grouping isn’t a government; China’s not that much of a threat; and geography has, after all, put China permanently next door. Coaxing the four Southeast Asian claimants to settle their own overlapping claims, some say, is just too hard to do. Brainstorming alleviations and ameliorations, let alone solutions, for the South China Sea? That’s too daunting as well. Isn’t the problem really a Sino-American struggle for power? Why get involved? Why not prolong the happy combination of American ships for deterrence and Chinese markets for profit? China’s leaders at least say that they want an eventual COC. Why not keep believing in that and them and avoid rocking the boat?

By its actions, China is signaling its intent to dominate some, most, or all of the South China Sea – the heartwater of Southeast Asia. If and when China manages to coopt and cow the ASEAN states into deference and resignation, Beijing will likely “disinvite” the US Navy from accessing what China controls. If this happens, the “Centrality” of ASEAN that was lauded in Rancho Mirage will have merited that city’s name, and China’s centrality will be all too real.

Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Program at Stanford University. His publications include, as editor, Hard Choices: Security, Democracy, and Regionalism in Southeast Asia.

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/sunnylands-or-rancho-mirage-asean-and-south-china-sea

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 (Washington Post)

 (Reuters)

South China Sea: China sends surface-to-air missiles to contested island in provocative move

February 16, 2016

By

Published February 16, 2016
Fox News

Images of the Woody Island beach on Feb. 14 (left) and Feb. 3.

Images of the Woody Island beach on Feb. 14 (left) and Feb. 3. (ImageSat International)

The Chinese military has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea according to civilian satellite imagery exclusively obtained by Fox News, more evidence that China is increasingly “militarizing” its islands in the South China Sea and ramping up tensions in the region.

The imagery from ImageSat International (ISI) shows two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.

It is the same island chain where a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed close to another contested island a few weeks ago. China at the time vowed “consequences” for the action.

Woody Island is also claimed by the Republic of China (Taiwan) and by Vietnam.

The missiles arrived over the past week. According to the images, a beach on the island was empty on Feb. 3, but the missiles were visible by Feb. 14.

A U.S. official confirmed the accuracy of the photos. The official said the imagery viewed appears to show the HQ-9 air defense system, which closely resembles Russia’s S-300 missile system. The HQ-9 has a range of 125 miles, which would pose a threat to any airplanes, civilians or military, flying close by.

This comes as President Obama hosts 10 Asian leaders in Palm Springs, many of those leaders concerned over China’s recent activity in the South China Sea. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Obama said Tuesday.

The Pentagon was watching the developments closely, a defense official told Fox News. “The United States continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” the official said.

In the past two years, China has built over 3,000 acres of territory atop seven reefs in the area. There are a total of three runways built on three of the artificial islands.

This development comes weeks after the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.

The incident drew strong condemnation from China’s defense ministry who vowed there would be consequences.

Chinese HQ-9 Air Defense System

A Chinese military spokesman said the U.S. warship “violated Chinese law” and was a “deliberate provocation.” The Chinese issued warnings to the U.S. ship and “expelled it swiftly,” according to a statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. The U.S. Navy denied that any warnings took place.

The statement from the Chinese defense ministry warned sailing that close to the island “may cause extremely dangerous consequences.”

The incident in the South China Sea in late January came days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing to discuss regional issues including China’s contested islands in the South China Sea.

During a press conference in Beijing with Kerry, China’s foreign minister pledged not to “militarize” the disputed islands.

“China has given a commitment of not engaging in so-called militarization, and we will honor that commitment. And we cannot accept the allegation that China’s words are not being matched by actions,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

But Wang left himself some diplomatic space for the deployment of weapons to protect the islands. “There are some necessary facilities for self-defense,” he added.

Kerry said the United States “does not take sides on the sovereignty questions underlying the territorial disputes.”

But his Chinese counterpart was less ambiguous.

“I pointed out to Secretary Kerry that the South China Sea Islands have historically been China’s territory. China has a right to protect its own territorial sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

In early January, China tested one of the runways by landing two civilian airliners on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly island chain of islands. Pentagon officials are concerned that military aircraft could be next.

Monday, the commander of the Navy’s 7th fleet, responsible for the waters of the western Pacific, told reporters, “We are unsure where they are taking us,” and urged Beijing to be more open with its military operations.

It could relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing,” Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said, pledging that the U.S. military would continue to conduct freedom of operations missions close to the contested Chinese islands, including flying aircraft overhead.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/02/16/exclusive-china-sends-suface-to-air-missiles-to-contested-island-in-provocative-move.html

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AT THE SUMMIT US President Barack Obama delivers opening remarks at the two-day summit with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Rancho Mirage, California. With Obama are (from left) President Aquino, Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. AP


China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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Obama Sees United ASEAN Facing China

February 16, 2016

February 17th, 2016

INQUIRER.net –

AT THE SUMMIT US President Barack Obama delivers opening remarks at the two-day summit with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Rancho Mirage, California. With Obama are (from left) President Aquino, Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. AP

RANCHO MIRAGE, California—In hosting the first ever summit between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on American soil, US President Barack Obama wants to send a strong message to China as he hopes to form with the 10-nation bloc a united front against the Asian giant’s territorial ambitions.

“We do believe that it is important to send a message that we support rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region in which disputes are resolved peacefully and the escalation of tension is avoided,” Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser, told Southeast Asian journalists in a press briefing.

On Monday afternoon, Obama cited the central role of Southeast Asia in the US strategy in the Asia-Pacific region as he welcomed the Asean leaders to the unprecedented two-day summit at Sunnylands, a 200-hectare secluded retreat at Rancho Mirage in the middle of the California desert.
“Early in my presidency, I decided that the United States, as a Pacific nation, would rebalance its foreign policy and play a larger and long-term role in the Asia-Pacific,” he told the Asean leaders.

“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means,” he added.

Common response

Obama and Asean leaders will discuss on Tuesday a common response to a key UN court ruling on China’s island-building in the disputed South China Sea.

Four Asean members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia—and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the 3.5-million-square-kilometer strategic waterway that China claims in its entirety.

Washington, reckoning that Beijing does not want to be seen as a regional bully, has mustered an informal coalition of Asia-Pacific allies to demand that the latter respect the rule of law. Obama is seeking to secure a united front against China’s territorial ambitions.

A collective US-Asean endorsement of the UN court’s verdict—whatever the outcome—would heap pressure on China, which refuses to recognize the court. The UN court is expected to decide in April or May whether China’s claim to a vast expanse of sea inside a “nine-dash line” has legal merit

Working dinner

The United States and Asean “hope, if not immediately, then over time, the Chinese will not want to be isolated as an international pariah, a country that doesn’t agree with international law,” said Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During the working dinner on Monday, US and Southeast Asian leaders were one in voicing concern over the continued militarization in the South China Sea, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The leaders also expressed worry over “China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region through island building, construction activities and test flights,” the DFA reported. “In this regard, the crucial importance of freedom of navigation and overflight was highlighted.”

China’s moves in the South China Sea have prompted Manila to file a case challenging Beijing’s maritime claims in the UN court. China also has increased its military presence in these areas subject to myriad territorial claims.

The United States has been stressing respect for freedom of navigation in the region. Last month, the USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 22.2 kilometers (12 nautical miles) off a disputed island chain, with a US official saying it was a “freedom of navigation operation” and intended to “challenge excessive maritime claims of parties.”

Strong pushback

The summit comes as US and Asean officials report increasingly strong pushback from Beijing, which is using diplomatic and economic muscle to weaken criticism.
.

Officials say Cambodia and Laos—two Asean countries that have no claim in the South China Sea—are coming under particular pressure to break ranks. The two countries are the destination for large flows of Chinese investment.

“The message is ‘fall in line, or else,’” said one Southeast Asian diplomat. “China has leverage.”

But some analysts see signs that Chinese pressure is beginning to backfire—forcing Asean countries to turn further toward the United States. That is something Obama will hope to capitalize on at Sunnylands.

Even so, an editorial in the influential Chinese tabloid, Global Times, on Tuesday said the California summit was the wrong place to discuss South China Sea issues and that it would not yield “striking geopolitical decisions.”

“Asean countries have no such desire, and the US knows it is not able to do so,” the Global Times said, repeating Beijing’s stance that disputes in the sea should be handled bilaterally. With reports from the wires

Read more:http://globalnation.inquirer.net/136627/obama-eyes-us-asean-united-front-vs-china#ixzz40N9G3est
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U.S.-ASEAN Summit: South China Sea Discussion on Day Two

February 16, 2016
Tue Feb 16, 2016 8:19am EST

Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama looks up during the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California February 15, 2016.
REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

U.S. President Barack Obama and allies from Southeast Asia will turn their attention to China on Tuesday on the second day of a summit intended to improve commercial links and provide a united front on maritime disputes with Beijing.

After a first day focused on trade and economic issues, Obama and his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will try to arrive at a common position on the South China Sea during a second day of talks at Sunnylands, a California resort.

China and several ASEAN states have conflicting and overlapping claims in the South China Sea, but not all the Southeast Asian nations agree on how to handle them.

U.S. officials want the summit to produce a statement calling for China to follow international law and handle disputes peacefully.

“We will be continuing to work with our ASEAN partners on a potential statement that we might issue together,” White House national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters on Monday.

“We obviously have issued such statements in the past with ASEAN, and in it we consistently underscore our shared commitment to a peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of commerce and navigation, the rule of law, and the necessity of disputes being resolved through peaceful, legal means.”

Obama is expected to address the issue during a news conference at the conclusion of the summit around 1:30 PST (2100 GMT.)

Though China dominated the summit, the White House emphasized non-China related aspects, such as strengthening commercial ties. The chief executives of IBM, Microsoft and Cisco were brought into Monday’s private sessions with the leaders to help make the point.

“The potential for deepening our economic engagement is tremendous,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. Monday’s discussions with the “private sector partners” ranged from the need for capital to creating an entrepreneurial culture in Asia that is prepared to tolerate business failure.

But even business leaders were watching the South China Sea issue.

“What keeps us up at night is that one of the big tension areas is the South China Sea,” said Alexander Feldman, president of the U.S. ASEAN Business Council.

“We would like as a business community to see those differences and overlapping claims be addressed in a way that is done though discussion rather than military confrontation.”

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by Larry King)

Related:

China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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Part of China’s fishing fleet

Anti-China protest in the Philippines

Top Philippine Government Leaders in U.S. for ASEAN Summit

February 16, 2016
President Barack Obama greets Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, at a meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Obama and the leaders of the Southeast Asian nations are gathering for two days of talks on economic and security issues and on forging deeper ties amid China’s assertive presence in the region. AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III and members of his Cabinet arrived in California on Monday morning (Tuesday afternoon Manila time) for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – US Summit hosted by US President Barack Obama.

The Philippine delegation consists of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr., Economic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Climate Change Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman.

A senior protocol from the US State Department, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. and Consul General Leo Herrera Lim welcomed Aquino and his delegation at the airport.

Aquino is scheduled to attend the first retreat session of the ASEAN-US Summit this afternoon. The first session bears the the theme “Promoting an Innovative, Entrepreneurial ASEAN Economic Community.”

The president will then attend the working dinner that Obama will be hosting.

READ: Obama welcomes Southeast Asian leaders to US for talks

The second retreat session on the following day will revolve around “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific.” After the second session, the leaders will pose for their official family photo opportunity.

The summit is the first standalone meeting between the US and Southeast Asian nations held in the United States. It will be held at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage.

Aquino will head to Los Angeles for a working visit after the summit. He is set to address the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the Intercontinental Hotel.

The president will also meet with the top executives of three big Los Angeles-based companies during his working visit. He will meet with officials of Walt Disney International, Western Digital Corporation, and AECOM’s Enterprise Growth Solutions.

The Filipino community in Los Angeles is looking forward to Aquino’s visit in the area.

“Our kababayans in the US and I are looking forward to welcoming him once more to the United States. We’d like to wish him a successful visit,” Cuisia said in an interview with Radio Television Malacañang.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/02/16/1553654/aquino-cabinet-members-arrive-california-asean-us-summit

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South China Sea takes center stage at U.S.-ASEAN summit

February 16, 2016

Reuters

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, off shore of Vietnam in this May 14, 2014 file photo. Photo: Reuters/Nguyen Minh/

U.S. President Barack Obama and allies from Southeast Asia will turn their attention to China on Tuesday on the second day of a summit intended to improve commercial links and provide a united front on maritime disputes with Beijing.

.
After a first day focused on trade and economic issues, Obama and his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will try to arrive at a common position on the South China Sea during a second day of talks at Sunnylands, a California resort.

.
China and several ASEAN states have conflicting and overlapping claims in the South China Sea, but not all the Southeast Asian nations agree on how to handle them.

.
U.S. officials want the summit to produce a statement calling for China to follow international law and handle disputes peacefully.

.
“We will be continuing to work with our ASEAN partners on a potential statement that we might issue together,” White House national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters on Monday.

.
“We obviously have issued such statements in the past with ASEAN, and in it we consistently underscore our shared commitment to a peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of commerce and navigation, the rule of law, and the necessity of disputes being resolved through peaceful, legal means.”

.
Obama is expected to address the issue during a news conference at the conclusion of the summit around 1:30 PST (2100 GMT.)

.
Though China dominated the summit, the White House emphasized non-China related aspects, such as strengthening commercial ties. The chief executives of IBM, Microsoft and Cisco were brought into Monday’s private sessions with the leaders to help make the point.

.
“The potential for deepening our economic engagement is tremendous,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. Monday’s discussions with the “private sector partners” ranged from the need for capital to creating an entrepreneurial culture in Asia that is prepared to tolerate business failure.

.
But even business leaders were watching the South China Sea issue.

.
“What keeps us up at night is that one of the big tension areas is the South China Sea,” said Alexander Feldman, president of the U.S. ASEAN Business Council.

.
“We would like as a business community to see those differences and overlapping claims be addressed in a way that is done though discussion rather than military confrontation.”

Related:

China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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.
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Part of China’s fishing fleet

Anti-China protest in the Philippines

U.S. Concerned by Non-Navy Chinese Boats in South China Sea

February 16, 2016

By  

Bloomberg

China’s increased reliance on non-naval ships to assert its claims in the South China Sea is complicating U.S. efforts to avoid a clash in the disputed waters, according to 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin.

While the U.S. and Chinese navies are working more closely under an agreed code for unplanned encounters at sea, the deployment of coast guard and other non-naval vessels in the area is “a concern of mine,” Aucoin told reporters on Monday in Singapore. He plans to take the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the 7th Fleet, to China later in the summer.

“We have all types of senior level engagements with the Chinese PLAN, that we meet pretty routinely,” Aucoin said, referring to China’s navy. He said he had a “greater fear” about other actors, “whether it’s coast guard or what we refer to as white shipping or cabbage ships, not sure about their professionalism.”

 
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin

Aucoin made his comments hours before a two-day summit in California between President Barack Obama and leaders from Southeast Asian nations, as the U.S. seeks to build a unified approach to China’s growing military clout. Southeast Asian countries generally welcome China’s investment and economic muscle, even as some have expressed concern about its expanding naval reach.

“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means,” Obama said in his welcoming address at the  estate in California on Monday.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with fellow claimants including Vietnam and the Philippines in a body of water that annually hosts $5 trillion in shipping. In the past two years, China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres in the Spratly archipelago east of the Philippines and is building military facilities there.

New Construction

China is also building on features in the Paracel islands to the north east of the Spratlys, according to images posted on The Diplomat website last week. They showed dredging and filling at two new sites in the Chinese-held island chain. China has made greater use of fishing and maritime surveillance boats to warn off other vessels in the area, blurring the lines between its navy and coast guard.

Last month the U.S. sent a warship into waters contested by China, Vietnam and Taiwan to challenge the “excessive” maritime claims of all three. It was the second time in less than six months the U.S. has challenged China with a freedom-of-navigation voyage. During the first operation by the USS Lassen, where it passed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly island chain, it was shadowed and warned by Chinese boats including non-naval vessels.

‘Being Controlled’

“During the Lassen one it was apparent that they were being controlled, that they weren’t operating independently, and that is something that is in our calculus now,” Aucoin said of the Chinese boats. “How do we approach that when it is not gray hull versus another gray hull, it’s other types of ships. I think we’ll see more of that in the future.”

Navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli said in January that China had no plans to militarize the South China Sea. Still, the country would “never be defenseless,” Wu said. The degree of defensive facilities depends on how much China is under threat, he said.

The U.S.’s 7th Fleet has patrolled Asia’s waters since World War II. Its coverage area extends from Japan to India.

Aucoin said there were no formal talks to bring coast guards under the code for unplanned encounters at sea. “I know I am asking our coast guard to become more involved, to help us with these types of operations because it’s not simply gray hulls anymore,” he said. “I think having a code of conduct that would cover them would be a good thing.”

China has nearly finished a giant coast guard ship and will probably deploy it armed with machine guns and shells in the South China Sea, the Global Times reported in January, dubbing the vessel “The Beast.” China Coast Guard vessel 3901, with a 12,000-ton displacement, will carry 76 millimeter rapid fire guns, two auxiliary guns and two anti-aircraft machine guns, the paper reported.

China Coast Guard 3901, with a displacement of 12,000 tons, is armed with one 76-millimeter naval cannon, two close-range defense guns and two anti-aircraft guns. China daily photo

China’s so-called white-hulled fleet previously involved ships armed at most with water canon and sirens. The ship now under construction is larger than some of the U.S. naval vessels that patrol the area.

It will be the second of China’s mega-cutters, which are the largest coast guard vessels in the world, according to the Global Times. A similar boat entered service last year in the East China Sea, where China is separately involved in a territorial dispute with Japan.

The country also said in January it had successfully completed test flights of civilian aircraft to a new airfield on Fiery Cross Reef, drawing protests from countries including Vietnam. Aucoin said flying fighter aircraft out of the area would have a destabilizing effect and could prompt a U.S. response.

“They do have an operational airfield but I don’t know when they will start flying fighter-type aircraft out of there,” Aucoin said. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, and that includes flying over that airspace.”

He called for greater transparency from China on its intentions generally in the South China Sea. “I think that would relieve some of the angst that we are now seeing, that we are unsure where they are taking this,” Aucoin said. “What has made China powerful, great, is being able to operate through these waters. We just want them to respect those rights so that we can all continue to prosper.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-15/u-s-concerned-by-china-using-non-navy-boats-in-south-china-sea

Related:

 (By Mark J. Valencia)

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Part of China’s fishing fleet

Anti-China protest in the Philippines