Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why China Might Seek to Occupy Scarborough Shoal

Chinese vessels have been spotted in the waters around Scarborough Shoal, a hotly contested atoll just 140 miles off the coast of Manila, the Philippine capital on the island of Luzon. Details remain sparse, but the presence of survey craft suggests preparations may be underway for China to occupy Scarborough and build a base there. Occupying Scarborough would send shock waves across an already tense region, and could deal a serious setback to American efforts to portray the United States as a credible counterweight to China. China’s audacious island building campaign has already lifted thousands of acres of sand from the depths of the sea. In response, the United States has asserted its freedom of navigation rights, made critical statements, and strengthened relationships with ASEAN nations. But a more assertive approach will be necessary to persuade China that establishing a permanent military presence so close to the capital of the Philippines will come with significant costs. The Philippines and China are just two of the six countries that lay claim to the islands, rocks, and reefs that speckle the map of the South China Sea. These overlapping claims to mostly barren land features are driven by a desire to control a region at the strategic crossroads of the 21st century. Over $5 trillion in trade, including roughly one-third of global crude oil shipments, passes through the South China Sea annually. The countries bordering the South China Sea are home to 2 billion people; 500 million live within 100 miles of the coast. The waters are vital sources of food for this coastal population, and portions of the seabed are believed to be rich in hydrocarbons. http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/why-china-might-seek-to-occupy-scarborough-shoal/

Drone War: China, Vietnam, And Philippines Turn To Unmanned Flights In South China Sea ‘Mexican Standoff’

“Drone war” appears to be building up in the South China Sea as China, Vietnam, and the Philippines jostle for advantage in their “Mexican standoff.” According to an expert, their turning to unmanned aerial vehicle technology reflects new terms of global competition changing the rules of the game for many long-simmering conflicts and rivalries. Drone expert Michael Boyle, a senior fellow at the United States-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said in a Voice of America interview that aired on February 5 that the area over the disputed South China Sea islands is prime for an airspace war. He echoed other experts who believe U.A.V.s will influence tussles in the South China Sea. Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/2941688/drone-war-china-vietnam-and-philippines-turn-to-unmanned-flights-in-south-china-sea-mexican-standoff/#8QrwrmF1QFBjVrdz.99

Foreign vessels ‘not welcomed’ in Malaysian waters: Minister

Malaysia announced on Tuesday that all foreign vessels are banned from fishing in its waters, following reports that some 100 fishing vessels were spotted off the Luconia Shoals. KUALA LUMPUR: All foreign vessels are not allowed to fish in Malaysian waters, National Security Minister Shahidan Kassim told reporters on Tuesday (Mar 29) after last week’s reports that some 100 Chinese fishing boats had been detected encroaching in Malaysia’s waters near the Luconia Shoals . The shoals – known as Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali among Malaysians – are located in the disputed South China Sea, less than 100 nautical miles from the coast of Miri in the eastern state of Sarawak. They are administered by the Malaysian government but also claimed by Taiwan and China, which calls them the Ansha islands. According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the boats were chased away by its assets as well as those from the navy. No more foreign vessels have since been spotted fishing at the shoals or within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone, the minister said. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/foreign-vessels-not/2646746.html

Did Chinese boats encroach into Malaysian waters?

KUALA LUMPUR: Contradictory statements on the encroachment or otherwise of Chinese vessels in Malaysian waters is very puzzling. The Diplomat reports that it could simply be a further illustration of Malaysia’s policy of playing it safe when it comes to the South China Sea dispute. The report said Shahidan Kassim, minister in the prime minister’s department, had said last week that around 100 Chinese registered boats and vessels had been detected in the Luconia Shoals, but on Monday Defence Minister Hushammuddin Hussein denied there was any encroachment. Hishammuddin was quoted in news reports as saying that he was told by Royal Malaysian Navy Chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Badaruddin that Chinese vessels did not encroach into Malaysian waters and that he felt “truly relieved”. Hishammuddin had, a day earlier, said the issue “can be resolved bilaterally” if the sightings were confirmed. He was reported by the Straits Times as saying: “I don’t think we want to send warships if it is true at all, to chase fishing boats away.” http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/03/30/did-chinese-boats-encroach-into-malaysian-waters/

Chinese fishing boats ‘did enter Malaysian waters’

While Malaysia’s navy has insisted that no foreign fishing vessels were spotted in its waters in the South China Sea in the past week, its maritime authorities are adamant that up to 100 Chinese boats had entered waters off Sarawak since March 24 before leaving on Sunday. The head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, called a press conference yesterday where he specifically pointed out that “Chinese foreign fishing boats” had sailed westward since being spotted, and that the number of vessels detected had dwindled to around 85 on Monday. “To have 100 boats, we don’t consider that normal. This is unprecedented. So… we have taken a very cautious approach,” he said, adding that two Chinese coast guard ships were escorting the fishing boats. http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/chinese-fishing-boats-did-enter-malaysian-waters

US hopes to see ‘diplomacy wins out’ in South China Sea: official

A China Coast Guard ship in a stand off with a Philippine supply boat. Photo: Jay Directo/AFP via Getty Images The US is very concerned about China’s attempted restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight amid the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a senior official said Tuesday, urging claimants to push for peaceful and diplomatic solutions. There has been an unprecedented campaign of land reclamation and military construction in the region, but “what China is doing vastly outstrips what all other claimants have done,” Colin Willett, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said from Washington during a telephonic press conference. “While it’s true that other claimants have at times put military personnel and weapons on their outposts, it just simply doesn’t compare to what we’ve seen China do in the last two years,” she said. Willett also rejected China’s claims that its new outposts are civilian or for civilian purposes, arguing that its runways, for instance, are designed to accommodate strategic bombers, not cargo planes for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. http://www.thanhniennews.com/world/us-hopes-to-see-diplomacy-wins-out-in-south-china-sea-official-60721.html

PHL inks contract for purchase of two anti-submarine helicopters

The Department of National Defense (DND) has signed a P5.36-billion contract with an Anglo-Italian firm for the procurement of two anti-submarine helicopters, which would be the first of its kind in the Philippine military’s armament. “This will definitely enhance the capability of the Philippine Navy,” said Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo. “For the first time, we’ll be having anti-submarine helicopters.” The contract was signed Tuesday in Camp Aguinaldo by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Stefano Bortoli, senior vice president for sales and strategic sourcing of AgustaWestland Limited. The delivery of the two AW159 anti-submarine helicopters is expected to be completed within 900 days upon signing of Notice to Proceed, which is expected to be issued in the coming days, Manalo said. Manalo said the helicopters will boost the country’s capability to defend its interest in the disputed West Philippine Sea. “This is timely because we all know what’s happening to our interest there,” he said. – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/560876/news/nation/phl-inks-contract-for-purchase-of-two-anti-submarine-helicopters#sthash.Txv9jkHh.dpuf

Chinese coast guard ships escorted poachers into Malaysia waters — official

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s maritime authority said Tuesday Chinese Coast Guard vessels escorted about a hundred Chinese fishing trawlers into Malaysia’s territorial waters near Luconia Shoals in the South China Sea last week. “It is unprecedented. This is the first time,” Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Director General Admiral Ahmad Puzi Abdul Kahar told reporters of the huge fleet of fishing boats his agency encountered last Thursday. “That is why we are taking a cautious approach.” For the first time, the agency shed more details of the incident that was first disclosed by Shahidan Kassim, minister in charge of national security last Thursday. Puzi showed a map that indicated the Chinese boats were within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone and they were discovered conducting their activities from Thursday through Sunday with the number of boats ranging from 40 to 100. The boats were spread out within 1,931-square-kilometer area. He said the fishing boats did not bear any flag or registration number but they noticed one Chinese Coast Guard vessel escorting them while another was anchored near Luconia Shoal or known locally as Beting Patinggi Ali. – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/560873/news/world/chinese-coast-guard-ships-escorted-poachers-into-malaysia-waters-official#sthash.7jwqoRKT.dpuf

Pentagon appeals for peace in South China Sea

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech at a World Affairs Council gala in Washington, said five evolving challenges now driving the Pentagon’s planning and budgeting were Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and international terrorism. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Tuesday reaffirmed its call to all countries with conflicting claims to parts of the South China Sea to refrain from reclaiming or militarizing any islands in dispute. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said he could not confirm recent reports that China has deployed anti-cruise missiles on Paracel islands or increased its maritime survey activities around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal but said all countries involved in maritime disputes should pursue diplomatic and legal solutions to these issues. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech at a World Affairs Council gala in Washington, said five evolving challenges now driving the Pentagon’s planning and budgeting were Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and international terrorism. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/31/1567891/pentagon-appeals-peace-south-china-sea

US says China risks confrontation with neighbors if it ignores tribunal ruling

China would face more conflicts with its Asian neighbors if it ignores an upcoming ruling of an international tribunal on the South China Sea disputes, a senior US State Department official said Tuesday. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Colin Willett, in a telephone press conference with Southeast Asian journalists, said China should view the arbitration result as an opportunity to resolve the maritime conflicts rather than look at it as a threat. Although not a party to the disputes, Washington, which has been trying to reassert its influence in the Asia-Pacific region after several years of preoccupation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly said that it is in its national interest to ensure peace and stability in the waters. “All eyes will be on China to see how it responds to the ruling and in our view that ruling should not be seen as a threat but can be seen as an opportunity for a real diplomatic solution,” Willett said. – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/560719/news/nation/us-says-china-risks-confrontation-with-neighbors-if-it-ignores-tribunal-ruling#sthash.6os9k5VY.dpuf