Monthly Archives: February 2015

China defends its South China Sea activities as restrained

BEIJING (AP) — China defended its activities in the South China Sea as restrained and responsible Friday after the U.S. intelligence chief called its expansion of outposts in the region an “aggressive” effort to assert sovereignty. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the country’s activities on shoals and in surrounding waters it claims are “reasonable, legitimate and legal” and that its attitude has been one of “restraint and responsibility.” China says it has historical claims to a huge swath of the South Sea China that overlaps the claims of several neighbors including Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines, and it objects to what it considers U.S. meddling. The U.S. says it has a national interest in the peaceful resolution of the disputes in the region. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper cited China’s expansion of its outposts, including for the stationing of ships and potential airfields, at a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington on Thursday. His comments underscored U.S. concerns about land reclamation activities that could fuel tensions between China and its neighbors.     Read more:

Japan’s defense capability should not be underestimated: expert

Japanese military expert Kazuhiko Inoue said that Japan’s self defense force is capable of taking on China’s People’s Liberation Army even without the assistance of the United States, Tokyo’s Sapio Magazine reports. Inoue said that the ability of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force to resist a potential PLA invasion should not be underestimated. He also questioned whether China’s warships, designed based on technologies purchased from Russia, Ukraine, Israel are really that reliable compared to their Japanese counterparts. Using Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier as an example, Inoue said there is no catapult aboard the flight deck to launch carrier-based aircraft. Without sufficient anti-submarine warfare capability, Inoue argued that most of the PLA Navy’s surface combat vessels will become the victims of JMSDF’s Soryu-class diesel-electric attack submarines should a military conflict erupt between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China sea which Japan administers as the Senkakus (Taiwan claims them as the Diaoyutai and China as the Diaoyu). Unlike Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, the performance of air defense systems aboard the Chinese destroyers are questionable as well.   Read more:

Countering China’s Maritime Coercion

Is China-U.S. competition for primacy in Asia this century’s greatest threat to peace? Some analysts think so. But in leaping from Sino-American competition to potential world war, they miss the obvious: Chinese leaders probe, seize opportunities, and challenge the international system with creeping assertions of sovereignty in the East and South China Seas. Yet they have no intention of sparking war, and they know that American, Japanese and other leaders are equally averse to risking so much over something as arcane as maritime boundaries and rights. We need to reframe the problem. As important as it is, the potential for war is not the sole reason to pay attention to China’s actions. We must also attend to China’s pressing challenge to rules, rule making, and rule enforcement short of war. In other words, the China challenge is not only the avoidance of major power war (as crucial as that is, it is not as likely as some suggest), but also how to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in maritime Asia short of war. China does pose a challenge. Its rapid power gains coupled with its maritime saber rattling are riddling the region with a profound sense of insecurity. A redistribution of power is occurring, to be sure. Change is unavoidable and a rising China must be accommodated. There is no guarantee that a more Sino-centric regional order will protect the rights of China’s neighbors. In fact, there is ample reason to be skeptical about China’s future intentions. One does not have to argue that China has a coherent grand strategy of regional dominance to see that there is a problem and the system is under stress. Towering ambitions to rejuvenate China, make it a maritime power, and achieve the “China Dream” notwithstanding, Xi Jinping may not harbor long-term imperial ambitions. Still, why should neighbors hitch their security to a state with a long history of thinking of itself as the Middle Kingdom, and one in which anti-corruption and censorship campaigns leave individuals totally exposed to the caprice of an unelected Communist Party cadre?   Read more:

Aquino, Hollande renew call for maritime stability amid China aggression

MANILA, Philippines – Amid China’s continuing maritime aggression, President Benigno Aquino III and visiting French President Francois Hollande on Thursday renewed their call for peace in Southeast Asia. “We reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia and promoting maritime security, freedom of navigation and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS,” Aquino said in a joint press conference with Hollande following their expanded bilateral talks in Malacañang. UNCLOS stands for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines has filed an arbitration case before a UN international tribunal to question the execessive maritime claims of China. Beijing has refused to participate in the arbitration case initiated by Manila and has continued its reclamation activities and harrassment of Filipino fishermen in disputed territories. Apart from the maritime issue, the two leaders discussed regional and global issues of mutual concern including terrorism. “We likewise agreed to intensify the call on the international community to work together in order to fight terrorism in all its forms, as a common scourge to mankind,” Aquino said.   Read more:

China Rebuffs U.S. Request to Halt S. China Sea Island Work

China rejected an appeal from the Obama administration earlier this month to halt “destabilizing” construction on disputed islets in the South China Sea, according to U.S. officials. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel urged Chinese officials to halt rapidly expanding island construction over the past several years in the disputed Spratly Islands during a visit to Beijing. According to officials familiar with the talks, Russel’s appeal was rejected during a meeting Feb. 10 with Zheng Zeguang, China’s assistant foreign minister, who said the construction was occurring within China’s area of sovereignty. Zheng’s rejection of the request by Russel, the administration’s key Asia Pacific policymaker, echoed remarks by Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Sr. Col. Yang Yujun, who told reporters Jan. 29: “The construction and infrastructure maintenance on the reefs and islands in the South China Sea are legitimate and conducted in accordance with law. Other countries have no right to point fingers at such construction activities.”   Read more:

U.S. flies surveillance plane over South China Sea

World Bulletin / News Desk The United States has begun flying its most advanced surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, out of the Philippines for patrols over the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Thursday, acknowledging the flights for the first time. The United States, the Philippines’ oldest and closest ally, has promised to share “real time” information on what is happening in Philippine waters as China steps up its activities in the South China Sea. China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims. The U.S. Navy said in a statement it demonstrated the capabilities of P-8A in both littoral and open ocean environments, explaining the aircraft’s multi-mission sensors to Philippine forces. “It was a remarkable opportunity to work alongside the members of the Filipino armed forces,” said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew Pool, Combat Air Crew 4 patrol plane commander. “Sharing this aircraft’s capabilities with our allies only strengthens our bonds.”   Read more:

Such quantities of sand

EVEN on a quiet Sunday morning, a steady stream of lorries trundles along the broad, pristine and otherwise deserted streets of Punggol Timur, an island of reclaimed land in the north-east of Singapore. They empty their loads into neat rows of white, yellow and grey mounds where the country stockpiles a vital raw material: sand. Building industries around the world depend on sand. But Singapore’s need is especially acute, as it builds not just upward but outward, adding territory by filling in the sea—with sand. And in Asia it is far from alone. The whole region has a passion for land reclamation that has long delighted property developers. But it has worried environmentalists. And it brings cross-border political and legal complications. For Singapore, territorial expansion has been an essential part of economic growth. Since independence in 1965 the country has expanded by 22%, from 58,000 hectares (224.5 square miles) to 71,000 hectares. The government expects to need another 5,600 hectares by 2030. The sand stockpiles are to safeguard supplies. Singapore long ago ran out of its own and became, according to a report published last year by the United Nations Environment Programme, by far the largest importer of sand worldwide and, per person, the world’s biggest user. But, one by one, regional suppliers have imposed export bans: Malaysia in 1997, Indonesia ten years later, Cambodia in 2009 and then Vietnam. Myanmar also faces pressure to call a halt. Exporting countries are alarmed at the environmental consequences of massive dredging. And nationalists resent the sale of even a grain of territory.   Read more:

China’s nine-dash line still infringes international law

Suggestions that China could claim historic fishing rights within the nine-dash line misinterpret international law. While Sourabh Gupta’s arguments, outlined in a recent Forum article, relating to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Articles 62 and 123 have been disputed elsewhere, we argue that his argument regarding Article 56 is also incorrect. The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime is outlined in UNCLOS Article 56, which states that a country has within its EEZ ‘sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing […] natural resources’. UNCLOS and its subsequent interpretations imply that the right of exploitation is exclusive, as the name implies: other countries can participate in the exploitation of this country’s EEZ only with its agreement. When a country becomes an UNCLOS signatory it gives up any claims to any rights to fish within other countries’ EEZs, regardless of historical fishing activities. In return the country gains the exclusive right to fish in its own EEZ.   Read more:

South China Sea And Indonesia’s New Maritime Strategy – Analysis

Strategically responding to China’s conflict escalation in South China Sea, newly elected President Widodo announced Indonesia’s New Maritime Strategy in November 2014. Contextually, Indonesia should have responded much earlier for a redefinition of Indonesia’s maritime postures in keeping with China’s enlarging escalation of conflict in the South China Sea against Indonesia’s ASEAN neighbours. Regrettably this did not take place for multiple reasons which prompted earlier Indonesian political dispensation to adopt a “Hands-Off” policy posture on South China Sea conflicts. Indonesia’s previous Foreign Minister thought it more prudent to adopt such an attitude as China’s military brinkmanship had directly not touched Indonesia. Also, the prevailing view was that with such a posture, Indonesia would be enabled to play the role of a ‘honest broker’ and not antagonise China. Such a policy steered and dominated by the previous Foreign Minister was strongly contested by Indonesia’s powerful military who viewed with alarm China’s conflict escalation with Vietnam and the Philippines and China’s creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea for supplementing China’s strategy to achieve what I have always termed at international seminars as China’s strategy of achieving “Full Spectrum Dominance of the South China Sea”.   Read more:

Manila ends Chinese involvement in running its power grid citing security fears.

The Philippine government said earlier this week it would end Chinese technical involvement in the country’s power grid partly due to lingering security concerns. On the night of February 23, Philippine media outlets had first reported that Philippine Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla had said that the government would not renew the work visas of 16 Chinese experts employed by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) when they expire in July 2015. The Chinese state-owned firm State Grid Corporation of China has had a 40% stake in the NGCP, which runs the national power grid of the Philippines. But Petilla said the government now wanted only Filipinos working there.   Read more: