Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

China says it will not militarize the South China Sea — But satellite images show the real truth

October 18, 2017
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Construction is shown on Mischief Reef in this June 19, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to Reuters. (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout/Reuters)

BEIJING — China maintained it will not militarize the South China Sea despite persistent reports it has been constructing military structures in the disputed territory.

Yao Wen, deputy director general for policy planning of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Asian department, gave this assurance on Monday in an interview with Asian journalists covering the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress.

“China will never seek militarization of South China Sea,” Yao replied when asked if China could make a categorical statement that it would not use its military to assert claims in the disputed sea lanes.

He did admit that structures have been constructed on reclaimed reefs and islands “within China’s sovereignty.”

“Yes indeed, we have some construction works. There are some projects that are actually public structures, especially the lighthouse and hospitals … we believe the neighboring countries will benefit from in the future,” he said.

Yao reiterated China’s call to countries not directly involved in the territorial dispute to leave the resolution to the claimant countries, which include the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

He said stationing military vessels and aircraft near the disputed territory “is highly dangerous” as it could lead to misjudgment.

“We are worried about the so-called free navigation activities of non-relevant countries that come as far as near five to six nautical miles of the reefs where our staff are stationed,” Yao said, apparently referring to such operations by the United States and its allies in the region.

Yao said territorial disputes, particularly those surrounding China’s nine-dash line and historical rights claims, should be resolved peacefully through dialogues and negotiations among the affected countries.

China-Philippines relations hit a snag after The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ 2013 arbitration case to contest China’s nine-dash line claims.

But President Rodrigo Duterte, who has chosen to seek closer relations with China, has set aside the verdict.

“The disputes in the south China are always there but the important thing is how to manage those disputes and china and the Philippines have done groundbreaking work in this respect. The basic position of China is to resolve the differences for common development,” Yao said.

http://www.interaksyon.com/promise-no-militarization-of-south-china-sea-china/

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

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Confidence, control, paranoia mark Xi Jinping’s speech at China party congress

October 18, 2017

By Simon Denyer
The Washington Post


A Chinese People’s Liberation Army officer practices conducting a military band before the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 18, 2017. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
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 October 18 at 6:32 AM
 China’s President Xi Jinping set out his Communist Party’s far-reaching agenda on Wednesday, using his opening speech at a twice-a-decade leadership meeting to set out a vision of total control — with the party guiding not only the economy and the Internet but culture, religion and morals.China’s leadership already has a hand in just about every aspect of life. But Xi’s speech — three-and-a-half hours long — cast the net even wider.It was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military that increasingly has challenged U.S. influence in the Pacific.“Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle.

“It will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there,” he added. “Every one of us in the Party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal.”

Yet outside, the run-up to the 19th Party Congress has been most marked by the Communist Party’s particular brand of paranoia.

Dissidents been arrested or railroaded out of town, lest they disrupt the celebratory mood by saying anything remotely critical. Ordinary public gatherings — including a top-level soccer match — have been closed down or postponed.

Censorship of the Internet and controls on private chat groups have dramatically intensified, while massive lines built up at subway stations in the capital this week as security checks were stepped up. Volunteers with red armbands and security personnel patrol almost every street corner, while banners extolling the Party dominate almost every free space.

Every arm and level of the government has been straining for months to make sure nothing was left to chance, that nothing would spoil this, the big moment for China’s President Xi.

In a week’s time, Xi will be formally granted another five years in power as general secretary of China’s Communist Party.

On Wednesday, with a large illuminated red star gleaming in the ceiling 30 yards above his head, he painstakingly set out what he sees as his achievements over the past five years and his vision for the next five — a campaign speech with particularly Chinese characteristics, where the support of the entirety of the tiny, handpicked electorate is already guaranteed.

“For five years, our party has demonstrated tremendous political courage and a powerful sense of mission,” Xi said, boasting of having driven profound and fundamental change in China but also warning of many difficulties and challenges ahead.

His speech beamed around the nation on state television, China’s leader also set out his ideological contribution to the Party’s intellectual canon: ponderously named “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” One official later described it as the “third milestone” in the Party’s “ideological innovation”— after Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping theory.

The Congress may formally incorporate that ideology into the Party’s constitution next week — a step that could potentially elevate Xi to the ranks of the most powerful leaders in Party history.

Behind him, his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao listened attentively, his eyes mostly on the text of the speech. But 91-year-old Jiang Zemin, president from 1993 to 2003, seemed less captivated, only occasionally taking out a largely magnifying glass to gaze at the text, scratching his ear, yawning.

Other delegates took notes, or stared straight ahead, looking attentive, stern, impassive, dazed — or just tired, as Xi spoke on, and on. In the gallery, one diplomat dozed.

The theme of the Congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism, and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.

In bullet point after bullet point, Xi set out a vision of Party leadership and discipline, of reform and development, national security, and national pride, of ideological confidence and above all, of control.

“The party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country,” he said, the first sentence of the first bullet point of his ideological exposition.

Key challenges that strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy, he said — the contradiction between unbalanced development and people’s rising aspirations — as well as rampant corruption.

“Development is the underpinning and the key for solving all our country’s problems,” he said, adding later: “The people resent corruption the most; and corruption is the greatest threat our country faces.”

Indeed, Xi’s campaign against corruption has been one of his most popular initiatives with the general public, even if it has also been used to take down factional rivals, and may only have pushed graft slightly further underground rather than eliminated it.

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Xi told party members to resist vices including “pleasure seeking, inaction, sloth and problem avoidance.” In general society, he said the Party would launch a campaign to raise moral standards, enhance the work ethnic, and promote family values and personal integrity.

Under Xi, China has taken a more confident role on the world stage, as he was eager to point out, not only citing his “Belt and Road” infrastructure development project but also his controversial program of island-building in the disputed South China Sea. At the same time, the military would be further modernized and strengthened.

“A military is built to fight,” he said. “Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on.”

The speech was long on aspiration but largely devoid of concrete new policy measures. Much was devoted to the idea of keeping the Party’s ideology the center of public life.

“Culture is a country and a nation’s soul,” Xi said, before explaining how he wanted Chinese culture harnessed to the cause of socialism, and following the guidance of Marxism.

“Ideology determines the direction a culture should take and the path it should follow as it develops,”’ he said. Writers and artists should produce work that both thought-provoking but also extols “our Party, our country, our people and our heroes.”

“Erroneous” ideology must be opposed, he added, while religion must be “Chinese in orientation,” and guided by the Party to adapt to socialist society.

Those remarks would appear to pour cold water on talk of a formal rapprochement between the Chinese government and the Vatican, in a country where the Party does not recognize the Pope’s authority over a population of around 12 million Catholics.

In the run-up to the Congress, popular talk shows and costume dramas were taken off the air by order of the government, so the entertainment media could focus more wholeheartedly on propaganda and anti-Japanese war films.

Indeed state media has been in overdrive in its praise of Xi in recent weeks, gushing on Wednesday about thousands of foreign journalists were enthusiastically covering the Congress and how schoolchildren were inspired, happy and excited after watching Xi’s speech.

Less enthusiastic was anyone who has tried to stand up for the civil rights of the Chinese people or fight injustice.  Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 14 activists who were criminally detained and two cases of enforced disappearance in the run-up to the meeting. Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo — who died in Chinese custody this year — and who has herself been under house arrest since 2010, was also reportedly forced to leave Beijing by government agents.

Security was so tight that Airbnb abruptly announced it was suspending its service in central Beijing during the second half of October, as did a well-known online retailer of knives and scissors.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/confidence-control-paranoia-mark-xi-jinpings-speech-at-china-party-congress/2017/10/18/6e618694-b373-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.bb5b41156f36

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Vietnam braces for typhoon Khanun after floods kill 72

October 16, 2017

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam braced for typhoon Khanun on Monday after destructive floods battered the country’s north and center last week, killing 72 people, the disaster prevention agency said.

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Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Last week’s floods were the worst in years, the government and state-run Vietnam Television said, with thousands of homes submerged. Another 200 houses collapsed and several towns remain cut off by the floodwater.

The floods also damaged more than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice.

Vietnam is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee, although the floods have not affected the Southeast Asian nation’s coffee belt.

Eighteen people from the hardest-hit province of Hoa Binh in the north were buried by a landslide, but only thirteen bodies have been found, Vietnam’s disaster agency said.

The government has said it is fixing dykes, dams and roads damaged by last week’s flood and is preparing for typhoon Khanun, which is expected to cause heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam from Monday.

It has also warned ships and boats to avoid the approaching typhoon.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wreaked havoc across central provinces last month.

Floods have also affected nine out of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west. Three people had been killed in flooding since last Tuesday, Thailand’s disaster agency said on Monday.

The Thai capital, Bangkok, was hit by heavy rain at the weekend, with gridlocked traffic bringing parts of the city to a standstill. Bangkok has often been described as the “Venice of the East” because of its many waterways.

However, the floods prompted criticism of Bangkok’s city government, with some social media users accusing authorities of not managing water levels in canals properly.

The city government defended itself, saying it was working closely with the irrigation department. Thailand suffered its worst flood in five decades in 2011, with hundreds of people killed, industrial estates engulfed and key industries crippled.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait

Thousands evacuated in Vietnam as floods, landslides kill 46

October 12, 2017

By Mai Nguyen

Reuters

Image result for News for Hoa Binh hydroelectric power plant, photos

People watch as Hoa Binh hydroelectric power plant opens the flood gates after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Hoa Binh province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

HANOI (Reuters) – Heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam triggered floods and landslides that killed 46 people and 33 people were missing in the worst such disaster in years, the search and rescue committee said on Thursday.

Vietnam often suffers destructive storms and floods due to its long coastline. More than 200 people were killed in storms last year.

“In the past 10 years, we haven’t suffered from such severe and intense floods,” state-run Vietnam Television quoted agriculture minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong as saying.

A typhoon tore a destructive path across central Vietnam just last month, flooding and damaging homes and knocking out power lines.

The latest floods hit Vietnam on Monday.

“Our entire village has had sleepless nights…it’s impossible to fight against this water, it’s the strongest in years,” a resident in northwestern Hoa Binh province was quoted by VTV as saying.

Vietnam’s Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control said authorities were discharging water from dams to control water levels.

Some 317 homes had collapsed, while more than 34,000 other houses were submerged or had been damaged.

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People watch as Hoa Binh hydroelectric power plant opens the flood gates after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Hoa Binh province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Earlier reports said more than 8,000 hectares (19,800 acres) of rice had been damaged and around 40,000 animals were killed or washed away.

Hoa Binh province in the northwest declared a state of emergency and opened eight gates to discharge water at Hoa Binh dam, Vietnam’s largest hydroelectric dam, the first time it has done so in years, VTV reported.

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A soldier watches as Hoa Binh hydroelectric power plant opens the flood gates after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Hoa Binh province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited northern Ninh Binh province where water levels in the Hoang Long river are their highest since 1985.

Rising sea levels are also threatening Vietnam’s more than 3,260 km (2,000 mile) coastline, resulting in increased flooding of low lying coastal regions, erosion and salt water intrusion.

Floods have also affected seven of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on Thursday. More than 480,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of agricultural land have been hit, the department said.

Thailand is the world’s second-biggest exporter of rice.

“It is still too soon to tell whether there will be damage to rice crops because most of the rice has already been harvested,” Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters.

In 2011, Thailand was hit by its worst flooding in half a century. The floods killed hundreds and crippled industry, including the country’s key automotive sector.

Additional reporting by Mi Nguyen in HANOI and; Suphanida Thakral in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Neil Fullick and Nick Macfie

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Floods, landslides kill 37 in Vietnam, scores missing

October 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Tran Thi Minh Ha | Map showing where people are missing or dead in Vietnam after floods and landslides this week.

HANOI (AFP) – At least 37 people have died and another 40 are missing as floods and landslides ravage north and central Vietnam, destroying homes and leaving rescuers scrambling to find survivors, disaster officials said Thursday.Tens of thousands were evacuated after heavy rains lashed swathes of the country this week, as forecasters warned of more bad weather to come.

Northern Hoa Binh is the hardest hit with 11 dead and 21 missing, prompting a state of emergency to be declared.

“We are mobilising all forces to search for the missing,” a disaster official told AFP by phone, declining to be named.

Rescue efforts were hampered as water and mud submerged roads in several areas, including in Hoa Binh where eight died in an overnight landslide.

“People should be evacuated from dangerous areas, the safety of people and their belongings must be ensured,” deputy prime minister Trinh Dinh Dung said on state-run Vietnam television.

A terrified resident described severe flooding in another part of the province.

“The flash flood was terrible. Water poured down from the hill, like a surge three metres high. Traffic has been blocked because of the floods,” Phan Ba Dien told state-controlled VNExpress news site.

A journalist from Vietnam News Agency reporting on the storm was swept away along with four other people as an overflowing river demolished a bridge in northern Yen Bai province Wednesday.

One survived and authorities were still looking for the other four on Thursday.

– Rescue operations –

Images on state media showed people wading through knee-deep waters and tracts of forests that had been wiped out by landslides.

Road access was completely cut off in some areas.

“Water was just rushing downstream… it’s been a long time since I witnessed that kind of flooding in mountainous areas. I didn’t feel safe driving at night, it was scary,” Hanoi resident Nguyen Vu Ngoc, who was travelling in the north on Wednesday, told AFP.

The disaster has killed 37 people in six provinces, with more than 18,800 houses damaged or destroyed along with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland, Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said.

Officials said they were focused on rescuing dozens of missing people Thursday as rain subsided in most areas.

Residents desperately ferried furniture and other belongings over flooded roads in Son La province, where houses were demolished and electricity poles torn down.

At least 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain have swamped northern and central Vietnam since Sunday, the disaster agency said.

Vietnam is routinely hit with severe weather, with nearly 170 people killed or missing in disasters so far this year.

A massive typhoon slammed into the central coast last month, killing 11 people and devastating entire towns.

The country is routinely slammed by tropical storms in the May to October period. Last year, nearly 250 were killed or reported missing in weather-related disasters.

Forecasters said a tropical depression east of the Philippines is expected to enter the South China Sea and strengthen in the next few days as it heads toward Vietnam.

by Tran Thi Minh Ha

The Big Winner From China’s Foreign-Aid Frenzy: China

October 11, 2017

Beijing’s development assistance generally also lands deals for the country’s companies

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BEIJING—When Ghana sought to build a hydroelectric dam in the early 2000s, it failed to get World Bank backing. Then China stepped forward.

The Bui Dam was built through China’s brand of foreign aid: roughly half of the $600 million cost came as aid-like financing on favorable terms; the other half, commercial loans to be repaid with the proceeds from cocoa production.

China’s blurring of charity and business was examined in a new study from AidData, a research center based at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, which tallied 4,400 Chinese foreign-development projects from 2000 to 2014. AidData estimates one-fifth of the $362.1 billion took the form of Chinese government grants or other aid. Another one-fifth was too murky to determine whether it was aid or business. The remaining transactions were mostly commercial in nature.

China’s hybrid development model is playing a growing role, as Beijing begins its enormous “Belt and Road” infrastructure push across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. At $1 trillion, its projected cost is more than seven times that of America’s Marshall Plan for Europe’s post-World War II reconstruction, in today’s dollars.

Helping Hand? / China overseas development funding, 2000-2014. Source: AidData

Beijing’s ambition has funded pricey projects that might otherwise draw few backers, such as the Gwadar port in Pakistan and a data center in Djibouti, home to China’s first overseas naval base. But China has drawn criticism for financing authoritarian regimes and countries with unsustainable debt, such as Venezuela.

China has cast Belt and Road as a humanitarian effort, as well as a means to forge trade routes and strategic alliances. In May, China said it would spend 60 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) on assistance to Belt and Road countries in the next three years, including on emergency food aid and poverty alleviation.

The U.S. and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries define foreign aid, or “official development assistance,” as transactions that are at least 25% grant.

May 15: China is trying to build excitement around Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road’ plan to expand trade with roads, railways and ports. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

But for China, development assistance generally also lands business for its companies—a dual role that Beijing views as a win-win rather than a conflict, says Evan Ellis, a U.S. Army War College professor who studies China’s engagement in South America.

“The Chinese don’t just give loans,” he said. “They are almost all tied to using Chinese companies as subcontractors.”

China’s commerce ministry and the Export-Import Bank of China didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment. China has said its foreign assistance is based on mutual benefit and noninterference in the internal affairs of the recipient countries.

The U.S. and other member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based research body, agreed in 1978 to restrict the practice of requiring aid recipients to purchase goods and services, and to limit how aid can be mixed with commercial financing, said Brad Parks, AidData’s executive director. China isn’t a member of the OECD, so isn’t bound by the agreement.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—a political advisory body that includes some of China’s wealthiest businesspeople—and Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama cutting a ribbon at the opening of a gas project in the Ghanaian capital of Accra in April of 2016.Photo: Ju Peng/Zuma Press

“This practice has raised serious alarm among countries that do not blend their development finance and trade finance,” said Mr. Parks.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank warned in its annual competitiveness report this summer that the agreement may suffer from China’s use of “mixed credits,” which combine regular export credits with aid or aid-like loans.

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Bui Dam under construction

The result is financing packages that countries adhering to the OECD agreement can’t match, the report said.

Deborah Brautigam, director of the China Africa Research Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, said the U.S. had used foreign aid to boost exports for many years before unlinking the two areas.

China Reaches Out

  • Western Firms Bet Big on China’s Multibillion-Dollar Infrastructure Project (May 14, 2017)
  • Tightened Belt: China Skimps on Its Grand Trade Plan (May 9, 2017)
  • Beijing Spins a Web of Chinese Infrastructure (Jan. 16, 2017)
  • China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Takes to Space (Dec. 28, 2016)
  • China Builds First Overseas Military Outpost (Aug. 19, 2016)
  • Chinese-Pakistani Project Tries to Overcome Jihadists, Droughts and Doubts (April 10, 2016)
  • China Makes Multibillion-Dollar Down-Payment on Silk Road Plans (April 21, 2015)
  • China Readies $46 Billion for Pakistan Trade Route (April 16, 2015)

“We know these tricks,” said Ms. Brautigam. “These are all the same tricks that we had used.”

Defenders of China’s development model say countries gain valuable infrastructure that otherwise might not have been funded.

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When Ghana sought to build its first dam in the 1960s, the U.S. and World Bank mobilized for the project, fearing in those Cold War days that the mineral-rich area would fall under Soviet sway. But by the early 2000s, public opinion in the West had turned against dam-building, making the World Bank reluctant to take on new projects like Ghana’s second dam, said Julian Kirchherr, an assistant professor in sustainable development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

China’s Sinohydro Corp. completed Ghana’s Bui Dam in 2013. In August, the Ghana Cocoa Board told the country’s parliament it was in financial distress due to obligations that including servicing the Bui Dam loan.

—Xiao Xiao and Yang Jie contributed to this article.

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-it-comes-to-foreign-aid-chinas-taking-care-of-business-1507694463

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© AFP/File | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) during a welcoming ceremony on January 23, 2016 in the capital Tehran

 (Enslavement Project?)

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China is the nation gaining the most, so China should step up to pay for a greater share of the planned railway network, the Thai transport minister said less than a month agao

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

China leads the way: Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai inspecting a model at the launch of China High Speed Rail Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in December last year. It is undeniable that China garners the most support in the bid for the HSR project, beating countries such as Japan.

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South China Sea: US warship sails near islands China claims

October 11, 2017

Published: 7:50 pm, Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A US Navy destroyer has sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.

A US Navy destroyer has sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, even as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in reining in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The operation on Tuesday was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

But it was not as provocative as previous ones carried out since Trump took office in January.

Three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal manoeuvring operations that challenged ‘excessive maritime claims’ near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.

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USS Chafee

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged ‘stern representations’ with the United States, and reiterated that the Paracels were Chinese territory.

‘China immediately sent naval vessels and military jets to investigate and identify, as well as warn to the vessel and ask it to leave,’ she told a daily news briefing on Wednesday.

‘China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the US to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions.’

Next month, Trump makes his first visit to Asia as president, including a stop in China, which he has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea. China is North Korea’s neighbor and biggest trading partner.

Unlike in August, when a US Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, officials said the destroyer on Tuesday sailed close to but not within that range of the islands.

Twelve nautical miles mark internationally recognised territorial limits. Sailing within that range is meant to show the United States does not recognise territorial claims.

The Pentagon did not comment directly on the operation, but said the United States carried out regular freedom-of-navigation operations and would continue to do so.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $US5 trillion ($A6.4 trillion) in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Reuters

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

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Opinion: Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

October 6, 2017

By Ralph Jennings
Forbes

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.

 

  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.

 

  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”

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  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”

 

  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/10/05/vietnam-is-becoming-asias-most-aggressive-maritime-nation-after-china/#297ee547737e

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

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Two Women Plead Not Guilty to Killing North Korean Leader’s Half-Brother

October 2, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with a banned nerve agent pleaded not guilty at the start of a high-profile murder trial in a Malaysian court on Monday.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, a Vietnamese, are charged with killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with VX, a chemical poison banned by the United Nations, at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Feb. 13.

Both women wore bullet-proof vests as they were led into the court on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital. They face the death penalty if convicted.

The two women nodded their heads when the charge was read out to them at the Shah Alam court on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital.

Siti was dressed in a black floral suit, while Huong wore a white long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans.

The prosecution said in its charge sheet their actions showed “intent to kill the victim” by smearing his face and eyes with VX nerve agent, which a post-mortem confirmed had killed Kim.

Defense lawyers demanded that the prosecution immediately name four other suspects who have also been charged in the case but who are still at large. The prosecution said their identities would be revealed during the trial.

The women had told their lawyers they did not know they were participating in a deadly attack and believed they were carrying out a prank for a reality TV show.

They had carried out several practice runs at shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the attack on Kim Jong Nam, the prosecution said.

“The prank practice carried out by the first and second accused with the supervision of the four who are still at large was preparation to see through their common intention to kill the victim,” the prosecution said in its charge sheet.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said that Kim Jong Un’s regime was behind the murder. North Korea denies the allegation.

The trial is expected to run until Nov. 30 and the prosecution is expected to call up to 40 witnesses.

The prosecution also said in its opening statement that expert testimony would be presented to prove that VX was the cause of death.

(The story fixes typographical error to “vests”, paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and Tavleen Tarrant; Writing by Joseph Sipalan; Edting by Praveen Menon and Paul Tait)

Philippine Navy at fault in death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen, probe finds

October 1, 2017
Investigators cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea as it found that the Philippine Navy was at fault for the deaths of the Vietnamese fishermen, a source told Vera FIles. The ITLOS ruling states that: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”  Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is at fault in the death of two fishermen during a sea chase in the waters of Pangasinan on September 22, a source privy to the investigation of the incident said.

Investigators, the source said, cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that states: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”

READ: 2 Vietnamese dead, 5 arrested in chase with Philippine Navy

The Philippine Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, took note that the incident happened 39 nautical miles off Bolinao in Pangasinan, which was within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, the source further said.

“Under the Law of the Sea Convention, in the EEZ, the Philippines does not have Sovereignty but only Sovereign Rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources found therein. This means that the Philippines cannot enforce its laws including the Revised Penal Code except only its laws and regulations relating to fisheries and marine environmental protection,” explained the source.

The Philippine Navy announced September 26 that the officers involved in the incident were relieved as the Department of Foreign Affairs assured Vietnam a fair and thorough investigation into the deaths.

“We would like to offer our sympathies over the unfortunate loss of life and give you our assurance that we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into this matter,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

READ: Philippines to probe death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen in sea chase

The VERA Files source said based on the interview with the Vietnamese fishing boat captain, at about 11 in the evening on September 22, while the Vietnamese fishing boat was anchored 39 nautical miles off Bolinao, an unidentified vessel sailed towards their direction. Immediately, they cut their anchor net and scampered away towards the direction of Vietnam because they were afraid the approaching vessel was a pirates’ ship.

The Vietnamese heard 10 gunshots fired towards both sides of their fishing boat. It was only after a 30-minute chase, when the pursuing vessel was approximately three to five meters away that it was identified as the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19).

“At that very near distance, the PN vessel continued to fire at fishing boat killing two of the six crew who were hiding inside the cargo hold area located at the forward portion of the boat. The Navy officers arrested the remaining fishermen for poaching and brought them to Sual in Pangasinan,” the source said.

A photo of the BRP Miguel Malvar. Vera Files

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said it is too early to decide whether the Philippine Navy may be sanctioned.

“Whether or not the use of deadly force is justified is a separate question,” he told VERA Files in an interview. “That is supposed to be determined in the investigation,” he added, noting that whether disciplinary actions will be taken against those who fired is separate from poaching.

However, lawyer Romel Bagares, executive director of the Center for International Law, pointed out that the Philippine crew, all state agents, are covered by state immunity.

A case, he said, “may only be proceeded against in a criminal procedure by a Philippine court, unless the Philippines has expressly waived such immunity in favor of a Vietnamese court.”

Bagares added: “The Philippines has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to do so under established international law.”

“If the Philippines imposes an unreasonable bond for the prompt release of ship and crew and refuses to pay reparations for the two deaths, Vietnam may file the appropriate action before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Bagares said.

What the Navy did as part of its law enforcement was “justified,” as it happened within the 200-nautical mile EEZ of the Philippines, Batongbacal maintained.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights on its 200 nautical mile EEZ, where the country has exclusive rights to “explore and exploit natural resources” found in the area.

“Any foreign vessel that is found fishing in the (EEZ) is considered to be committing the crime of poaching,” Batongbacal said.

Although sovereign rights are “less than sovereignty,” as Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had earlier said, they retain a country’s exclusive and superior rights above other states.

Sovereignty bestows full rights on a country within the 12-nautical mile stretch of its territorial waters measured from the baseline. Beyond it is the EEZ governed by the Philippines’ sovereign rights, which give power for a country to take measures like arresting vessels and their crews under Article 73 of UNCLOS.

But this distinction is beside the point, Batongbacal said. As far as the law is concerned, the Vietnamese fishermen violated the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, he added.

Under Section 87 of the law, it is unlawful for foreign entities to operate their fishing vessels in Philippine waters. Any entry shall already constitute a prima facie evidence.

“The law already presumes them to be engaged in poaching. It’s the Vietnamese who must show proof that they were not fishing,” Batongbacal said.

The law penalizes offenders with a fine not exceeding $100,000, or P5,093,400, and confiscation of the catch, fishing paraphernalia and vessel.

The VERA Files source, however, said it would be difficult to establish and prove that the Vietnamese fishermen committed poaching because there are circumstances that must first be met before a foreign vessel’s activity can be considered poaching.

Vietnam is an ally of the Philippines, notably when it supported its position against China before the Arbitral Tribunal, which later ruled China’s claim to resources in the South China Sea had no legal basis and its nine-dash line invalid.

In 2015, the Philippines signed a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam that reaffirmed “their commitment to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former maritime officer, said in a September 26 press release the incident happened because of the absence of a clear direction in handling the maritime situation.

It “gives us a picture of the dangers and tension in the area amid territorial disputes and competition over resources,” he said.

He called on the administration to come up with a strategy that would provide policies and guide actions for all stakeholders, especially the fishermen.

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VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/10/01/1744485/philippine-navy-fault-death-2-vietnamese-fishermen-probe-finds