Monthly Archives: March 2015

China’s ‘Great Wall of Sand’ Raises U.S. Concerns

CANBERRA, Australia—Unprecedented land reclamation by China in contested islands of the South China Sea is raising serious questions over whether Beijing intends confrontation or cooperation with other regional powers, America’s top Pacific Commander Said. Read more:

China’s Air Force Conducts First Training Exercise in West Pacific

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has conducted its first training exercise above the western Pacific Ocean on Monday, the country’s Defence Ministry said, in a move that could heighten tensions with neighboring countries in the South China Sea. PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke told Reuters on Monday that PLA aircraft flew to the West Pacific for drills through the Bashi Channel, an international waterway linking the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and returned the same day after completing the training. “The training was held to promote the air force’s combat capability,” Shen said, noting that the training exercise is part of the Air Force’s annual plan and is in line with what other “major countries” regularly carry out. “The training complies with relevant international laws and practices, and is not aimed at any country or target and poses no threat to any country or region,” Shen added. The exercise is the first time Chinese warplanes have conducted drills so far from China’s coastline, Reuters said in the report. “The US navy and air force have conducted multiple joint exercises at sea, but none were conducted for the Chinese military in the open seas such as the West Pacific Ocean,” said Zhang Junshe, a research fellow with the Navy Military Academic Research Institute. Read more:

China wants to control South China Sea: Philippines

MANILA – The Philippines accused China on Thursday of seeking to take control of nearly the entire South China Sea with an expansionist agenda dominated by “massive reclamation” works. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said China’s efforts were aimed at undermining a United Nations tribunal that is due to rule early next year on a Philippine challenge to its claims to the disputed waters. “China is accelerating its expansionist agenda and changing the status quo to actualize its nine-dash line claim and to control nearly the entire South China Sea before… the handing down of a decision of the arbitral tribunal on the Philippine submission,” del Rosario told reporters. China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the resource-rich sea, even areas approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, based on an old Chinese map with nine dashes outlining its territory. But the nine dashes are in some places more than 1,000 (600 miles) from the nearest major Chinese landmass and well within the exclusive economic zones of its neighbours. The dispute — with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claiming parts of the sea — has for decades been a source of deep regional tension and occasional military conflict. Tensions have escalated sharply in recent years as China has moved to increase its presence and assert its authority in the waters. Del Rosario said those activities were continuing to pick up pace, pointing to what he described as Chinese ships ramming Filipino fishing boats at a shoal close to the Philippine coast in January. Read more:

Does ASEAN Have a South China Sea Position?

On March 25, Xinhua reported that Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen had reiterated that the South China Sea dispute is an issue between claimant states and China, not between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China. “It is not the issue of the whole of ASEAN, but the issue between claimant countries and China,” he said during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education. “They need to negotiate with each other.” Hun Sen’s remarks – and Xinhua’s reporting of them – while not surprising, are deceiving. And they get to a broader point that resurfaces from time to time, including most recently in a controversy involving the ASEAN Secretary General: does ASEAN have a South China Sea position? As with many other things in ASEAN, it’s complicated. Yes, Hun Sen is partly right in that there are officially only four ASEAN claimants in the South China Sea who actually have disputes: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Indonesia, as I noted in a previous piece, does not technically consider itself a claimant, even though China’s nine-dash line map overlaps with Jakarta’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) generated from the resource-rich Natuna Islands chain. Read more:

Chinese South China Sea Reclamation Projects Hamper Philippines, Others’ Claims

MANILA— China is forging ahead with reclamation projects on at least seven tiny but hotly contested features in the South China Sea, posing what could be a major challenge in the Philippines’ international arbitration case against China. Surveys of the disputed outcroppings will be key. Since the beginning of the year, various satellite images of Chinese reclamation work in the Spratly Islands have shown shoals and reefs turning into artificial islands. Major harbors that can dock military ships are nearly completed. So are several airstrips and at least three multistory buildings where bare outposts once stood. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said at a forum in Manila Thursday his government has protested what he calls “the massive reclamation activities” of China. “The alteration of these features [is] plainly intended to change the character, status and maritime entitlements of the said features, which prejudice the arbitration and undermine work of the arbitral tribunal to hear and objectively decide the case,” said del Rosario. Read more:

China looks to up ‘soft control’ of Myanmar: report

China must increase its “soft control” of Myanmar to fulfill its dream of building a new Pacific Fleet and an Indian Ocean Fleet, according to a commentary from the Beijing-based Sina Military. According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the 14th Army Corps of the People’s Liberation Army recently began a large-scale military exercise in the western region of southwest China’s Yunnan province, near the China-Myanmar border. The exercise comes amid increasing tensions between the two countries due to the escalating violence between the Myanmar government and ethnic rebel forces, which has already spilled into China after a stray shell flattened a house and a wayward bomb killed four Yunnan farmers earlier this month. Sina Military believes Beijing is sending a message to Naypyidaw — which began a renewed assault on the rebels’ Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army in the self-administered Kokang region on March 27 — through the exercise and also by leaking reports that it is tightening border restrictions and placing artillery units and air defense troops on standby. For China, increasing its long-term “soft control” of Myanmar is important for both economic and military reasons. Unlike neighbors such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Bhutan, Myanmar offers a key route to the Indian Ocean, which is why China aims to eventually rent land from Myanmar to build a PLA naval base there, the report added. Read more:

Checkmate: PH has lost West PH Sea to China, analysts say

MANILA – It’s a checkmate. The Philippines has lost the West Philippine Sea to China, according to analysts. In light of recent intelligence photographs that show massive and extensive construction and reclamation activities by China in the West Philippine Sea, Congressman Ashley Acedillo and military historian Jose Custodio both believe that it is a veritable “game over” for the Philippines in its fight to retain its maritime rights to the West Philippine Sea. Speaking before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Acedillo showed a slide presentation detailing the military facilities being constructed by China on various reefs and shoals, including airstrips, multi-story command structures, and docks for warships. There are now large-scale construction and expansion activities by China in Chigua Reef, Calderon Reef, Kagitingan Reef, Mabini Reef, Gaven Reef, Zamora Reef, and Panganiban Reef. While he sees nothing wrong in the Philippines taking the diplomatic approach by filing an arbitration case before the United Nations (UN), Acedillo said the Philippines should not just have depended on this alone. Even if the UN rules in favor of the Philippines and declares China’s nine-dash line claim invalid, the ruling cannot be enforced and no entity can force China to retreat from the West Philippine Sea, he said. Acedillo believes that at the rate China is going, the Philippines will lose the Kalayaan Group of Islands in one or two years.   Read more:

Philippines is not backing down in disputed South China Sea waters

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said on Thursday it would resume repair and reconstruction works in the disputed South China Sea after halting activities last year over concerns about the effect on an arbitration complaint filed against China. Manila had called on all countries last October to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by China. China itself is undertaking massive reclamation works in the area, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam have also been making improvements to their facilities. Read more:

China’s scrappiest enemy is a familiar foe

For the fifth time in 100 years, Vietnam is facing the prospect of being involved in a war with a larger, more powerful country. The country that took on the Central Powers, Japan, France, the United States, and China is facing the possibility of conflict with a familiar foe: China. As Beijing presses territorial claims in the South China Sea, Vietnam is arming itself for a potential air and sea confrontation with its larger neighbor. Despite the difference in size between the two nations, particularly in terms of military power, Vietnam is not backing down. Vietnam went to war five times during the 20th century. In World War I, Vietnamese troops served on Europe’s Western Front as part of France’s colonial forces. Vietnamese troops fought Japanese occupation forces in World War II, the French and American military between 1945 and 1972, and, briefly, China in 1979. Perhaps improbably, Vietnam won — or avoided losing — every time. China and Vietnam are two neighbors that historically do not get along. Vietnam has suffered political, military, and cultural domination from China for thousands of years.   Read more:

China invokes ‘cabbage tactics’ in South China Sea

China is conducting ‘cabbage’ or a militarily overwhelming strategy and ‘salami-slicing’ – insidious land-grabbing tactics to strengthen its power in the South China Sea By Huseyin Erdogan China is following a long-term strategy with its so called “Cabbage Tactic” to increase its power in the South China Sea, said an expert from China’s Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, on Tuesday. “At a strategic level China is expanding its territorial control over the South China sea and also securing the trade routes that are vital to its continuous economic development,” Ahmet Goncu, an associate professor at China’s Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, told The Anadolu Agency AA via email. He added that “to achieve its strategic goals, China is following very clever tactics that are difficult to counter.” The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas, with competing claims of ownership over the sea and its resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, EIA. The EIA estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Conventional hydrocarbons mostly reside in undisputed territory. Goncu further said the “Cabbage Tactic” the Chinese navy follows. “Whenever there is a conflicted small island, the Chinese military and paramilitary forces are sent to overwhelm the islands and lay siege to the surrounding islands with military ships, fishing boats along with other kinds of paramilitary vessels.” Read more:–china-invokes-cabbage-tactics-in-south-china-sea