Monthly Archives: December 2014

Vietnam a Growing Threat to Taiwan’s South China Sea Claims: Report

Vietnam’s military expansion on nearby islands could threaten Taiwan’s lone outpost in the South China Sea, according to a new report submitted to Taiwan’s Control Yuan. The report, published by the Ministry of National Defense, noted that Vietnam’s deployment of mobile missiles and artillery guns on island bases could pose a threat to Taiwan’s military outpost Itu Aba (which Taiwan calls Taiping Island), the largest feature in the Spratly Islands which is also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and China. Of particular concern are moves by Vietnam to expand its troop presence in Sand Cay Island, including by deploying new shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (known as Dunqian Sand Island in Chinese Son Ca Island to the Vietnamese) – which lies just 11 km east of Itu Aba. If Vietnam plans on deploying these portable missiles close to Itu Aba, the report says it could attack Taiwan’s C-130 military transport planes and supply ships on their routine visits to Taiping Island. “Vietnam may plan to deploy these portable missiles to reef islets closer to Taiping Island or might carry them on patrol boats to within striking range. In such a scenario, our military transport aircraft heading to Taiping Island would be directly threatened,” The Taipei Times quoted the report as saying.   Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/vietnam-a-growing-threat-to-taiwans-south-china-sea-claims-report/

Putting limits on the Law of the Sea

The U.S. State Department’s legal study addresses this Chinese argument. “Had the drafters of the LOS (law of the sea) Convention intended to permit historic claims of one State to override the expressly stated rights of other States, the Convention would have reflected this intention in its text,” the study, called “Limits in the Seas,” declared. In other words, since the law of the sea created certain rights in 1982 that did not exist before, such as a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, its intention could not possibly have been to allow other rights, such as historic ones, to override the new ones without expressly saying so in the new law. To argue that “historic title” and “historic rights” are “matters not regulated by this Convention (and thus) continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law,” the study continued, is to misunderstand the comprehensive scope of the LOS Convention. Thus, the study concluded, a state may not derogate from the Convention’s provisions by claiming historic waters or historic rights under general international law. “The Convention,” it said, “does not permit a State to resort to general international law as an alternative basis for maritime jurisdiction that conflicts with the Convention’s express provisions related to maritime zones.”   Read more: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/frank-ching/2014/12/31/425290/p2/Putting-limits.htm

Wary of Japan’s new defense minister, China calls for peace

BEIJING: China has advised Japan to stay on the ” path of peace”. The advice comes after newly elected prime minister Shinzo Abe picked a pro-militarization politician, Gen Nakatani, as the new defence minister. “It is our position that whoever serves as the defence minister of Japan, the Japanese side should follow the path of peaceful development,” Chinese defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, a senior colonel, said in a briefing on Thursday. Nakatani’s appointment has significantly pushed up Abe’s popular approval rating by nearly four per cent to 53.3 per cent in Japan, according to a survey by the Koydo News Agency, on Thursday. The Abe-Nakatani combine is expected to amend the country’s paicifist constitution and acquire pre-emptive strike capabilities.   Read more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Wary-of-Japans-new-defense-minister-China-calls-for-peace/articleshow/45644074.cms

Expert unmasks China strategy of ‘creeping expansion’

A prominent global security scholar has unmasked China’s “grand strategy” of gaining control of the Asia Pacific Region by “creeping expansion” rather than waging major battles. Dr. Alexander L. Vuving, an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies based in Honolulu, Hawaii, writes in an essay posted by Commentators.com that China is creating its own islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea to leverage its claim on the strategic areas teeming with marine life and potentially huge oil and gas reserves. Beijing’s territorial claims — based on its self-declared horseshoe-shaped, nine-dash line map — cover areas close to the coasts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. China claims practically the whole South China Sea, a vast expanse of water that encompasses islands, islets, atolls and reefs that stretches from the Paracels, Spratlys, Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea and Pulau and Natuna Islands in Indonesian waters. Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/116135/expert-unmasks-china-strategy-of-creeping-expansion/#ixzz3Nty23bY1

Law and realpolitik in the South China Sea

China’s rejection of the international process represented by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is both a missed opportunity and a disappointing corollary to its intransigence on the South China Sea dispute. Beijing’s visceral opposition to third-party arbitration is based on the suspicion that the process is a means of exerting political pressure on it over territory it thinks is inherently Chinese. Thus, its recent position paper dismisses the special arbitral tribunal – where the Philippines filed a memorial this year – as having no jurisdiction over the issue. Instead, it asserts the “historical rights” that give Beijing indisputable sovereignty over disputed features. Clearly, this perspective leaves little room for a negotiated settlement of the festering maritime dispute in accordance with the impartial, transparent and tested mechanisms of international law. China is merely offering another version of the argument that the South China Sea is its because it says so. The fact that Vietnam has submitted its position to the tribunal initiated by the Philippines is a message that sovereignty claims do not stand simply because they are made. Instead, the rule of law is crucial to the resolution of those claims, precisely because international arbitral agencies have no vested interest in the outcome, whichever way a verdict goes. After all, a victory for Manila’s and Hanoi’s claims is not certain; yet, they have presented their cases at The Hague. This exemplifies the spirit that countries large and small should exhibit in their dealings with one another. The opposite is likely to be the case now. At the heart of the issue is China’s “nine-dash” territorial claim, which covers virtually the entire South China Sea. A repudiation of the nine dashes by the tribunal would provoke Beijing to dig in, and, indeed, to increase the stridency with which it defends its position. A new element of disquiet would be introduced into a situation that has stabilised somewhat lately. Matters would hinge on the military imbalance of power between China and the other claimants. Read more: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Law-and-realpolitik-in-the-South-China-Sea-30250499.html

The Fog of Law: China’s Great South China Sea Dilemma

Recent months have witnessed an impressive Chinese diplomatic blitzkrieg, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang feverishly courting friends and foes alike, proposing ambitious trading agreements and acquiescing to various confidence building measures (CBMS) aimed at de-escalating geopolitical tensions in the region. But China’s intensifying legal battle with the Philippines has injected new uncertainties into the picture. What has emerged in recent days is a new chapter of confrontation between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbors, particularly Manila and Hanoi. Interestingly, the United States has joined the legal fray by expressing its stance on—or, to put it more accurately, criticism of—China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. On the one hand, there have been considerable diplomatic gains in the past few weeks. To prevent accidental clashes in the high seas and the skies, Beijing signed CBMs with Washington and green-lighted the resumption of (mid-level) talks between Chinese and Japanese agencies, which oversee security and foreign-policy issues. China has also proposed a defense hotline with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), dangled $20 billion in development loans and offered to host a high-profile meeting between the defense minister of China and his Southeast Asian counterparts next year. Chinese and Vietnamese defense ministries also reportedly signed (an additional) hotline, with both Communist countries agreeing to revive deeply frayed bilateral relations. Rad more: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-fog-law-chinas-great-south-china-sea-dilemma-11889

Asia’s military budgets surge as armies go high-tech

SYDNEY — On two recent occasions, a pair of Sukhoi Su-30 fighters have taken off from their base near the old Indonesian trading port of Makassar and flown far across the Indonesian archipelago to intercept unidentified aircraft. One of the mystery planes, a light aircraft being ferried from Darwin in northern Australia to its new owners in the Philippines, was chased a long distance before being forced to land in Manado, a city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The other, an executive jet flying Saudi officials to Brisbane ahead of the Group-20 meeting, was ordered to land in the Indonesian city of Kupang on the island of Timor. In both cases, fines were imposed and the planes were allowed to continue to their destinations. It is unclear whether the Indonesian pilots could have taken any hostile action, since missiles have not yet been delivered for the Russian-made jets. Ready to rumble But the confrontations underline a shift in military capability among the nations of Southeast Asia. A decade ago, the Indonesian air force had little advanced combat capability, as its fighters were largely grounded by a lack of spare parts due to economic stringency and arms embargoes related to human rights abuses. Read more: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/Asias-military-budgets-surge-as-armies-go-high-tech

International Law and the South China Sea

China’s position paper published on December 7, 2014 is one of the rare documents in which Beijing officially expressed its opinions on the issues in the South China Sea as well as on the arbitration proceedings that the Philippines initiated at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in January 2013. It seems that the motivation was the December 15 deadline (which China has ignored) for its response to the Philippines’s claims before the Tribunal. China’s views on its refusal to appear in the arbitral proceedings can be summarized in four inter-related main points. First, lying at the heart of the disputes between China and the Philippines is the territorial claims over sovereignty over the archipelagos in the area, rather than interpreting UNCLOS. Therefore, in Beijing’s view it is beyond the scope of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to entertain the case. Second, China stresses that the Philippines has to respect bilateral statements between them as well as the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in which they agreed to solve their maritime issues through negotiations alone. Third, even if the Philippines has the right to bring the case to the Tribunal, China is not bound by it as in 2006 it submitted a declaration to the United Nations exempting itself from compulsory arbitration and other dispute settlement procedures. And finally, the fact that China has never chosen the other options for arbitration provided by UNCLOS leads to a violation in international law. It is easy to see that the main argument of China in its position paper is that the Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the case. The fact that China focuses on jurisdiction rather than displaying comprehensive counterclaims is hardly a surprise. Indeed, in almost every case of a default of appearance before an international court, the defendant (usually the party refusing to appear) challenges the jurisdiction of the Court. There have been more than 11 cases of default of appearance before the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). With respect to the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS), there has been just one case where one of the parties to the dispute refused to appear before the Tribunal: the Artic Sunrise case in which the Russian Federation did not participate in the judicial proceedings. Virtually all of the defaulting parties behaved in the same way. Rads more: http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/international-law-and-the-south-china-sea/

Beijing’s South China Sea objective is clear: To extend control

Within China’s bureaucratic system, sometimes it is in an agency’s interest to compete with others, rather than coordinate, in order to advance its own bureaucratic power and receive more funding. Linda Jakobson’s recent Lowy Report, China’s Unpredictable Maritime Security Actors, highlights this phenomenon between maritime agencies. Such a bureaucratic shortfall could explain to some degree China’s behavior in the South China Sea, particularly why China’s maritime enforcement agencies are increasingly ready to confront vessels of other claimants in disputed waters. Jakobson’s report argues that China lacks a grand strategy in the South China Sea. However, I would argue that competition or lack of coordination among government agencies is not incompatible with the existence of an over-arching strategy. China’s maritime agencies do appear to take actions independent of each other, but they do not aim to contest or alter Beijing’s overall strategic objective. That objective is clear, which is to advance Beijing’s control of the ocean to the best of its capacity. This suggests that we should be less concerned about the complex interaction among government agencies and more concerned with understanding the very nature of Beijing’s claims. Beijing claims a ‘historical right’ over waters within the nine-dash line. It claims all the features within the nine-dash line as Chinese sovereignty. So far there is no sign that China would compromise these claims for a peaceful resolution with other claimants, even though Chinese leaders have on different occasions acknowledged the existence of disputes and the need for a peaceful resolution. Additionally, China rejects third-party arbitration. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs position paper on the South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines asserts that it will not shake China’s ‘resolve and determination to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime rights and interests’. As pointed out by Jakobson, China is evidently building up naval capacity and ramping up civilian enforcement equipment. Perhaps the best evidence of a grand strategy is that China’s domestic legal framework is being constantly updated to expand de facto jurisdiction over the water and features within the nine-dash line. This is likely to embolden Chinese maritime enforcement agencies to take even more resolute actions against other claimant’s vessels in the future. Read more: http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2014/12/17/Beijing-South-China-Sea-objective-extend-control.aspx?COLLCC=1107275113&COLLCC=3390434553&COLLCC=4154895406&

Law and realpolitik in the South China Sea

China’s rejection of the international process represented by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is both a missed opportunity and a disappointing corollary to its intransigence on the South China Sea dispute. Beijing’s visceral opposition to third-party arbitration is based on the suspicion that the process is a means of exerting political pressure on it over territory it thinks is inherently Chinese. Thus, its recent position paper dismisses the special arbitral tribunal – where the Philippines filed a memorial this year – as having no jurisdiction over the issue. Instead, it asserts the “historical rights” that give Beijing indisputable sovereignty over disputed features. Clearly, this perspective leaves little room for a negotiated settlement of the festering maritime dispute in accordance with the impartial, transparent and tested mechanisms of international law. China is merely offering another version of the argument that the South China Sea is its because it says so. The fact that Vietnam has submitted its position to the tribunal initiated by the Philippines is a message that sovereignty claims do not stand simply because they are made. Instead, the rule of law is crucial to the resolution of those claims, precisely because international arbitral agencies have no vested interest in the outcome, whichever way a verdict goes. After all, a victory for Manila’s and Hanoi’s claims is not certain; yet, they have presented their cases at The Hague. This exemplifies the spirit that countries large and small should exhibit in their dealings with one another. The opposite is likely to be the case now. At the heart of the issue is China’s “nine-dash” territorial claim, which covers virtually the entire South China Sea. A repudiation of the nine dashes by the tribunal would provoke Beijing to dig in, and, indeed, to increase the stridency with which it defends its position. A new element of disquiet would be introduced into a situation that has stabilised somewhat lately. Matters would hinge on the military imbalance of power between China and the other claimants. – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/law-and-realpolitik-the-south-china-sea-20141223#sthash.qfMtgx2M.dpuf