Monthly Archives: April 2016

Shamefare: How to Push Back Against China in the South China Sea

The rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — when the history books have enough perspective to quantify and objectively examine its sheer spectacle — will certainly declare it the speediest accumulation of national power in all of human history. Whatever you think of its brutal authoritarian nature, Beijing has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, secured most of its land borders and built a mighty navy and anti-access capability that would give its greatest competitor, the United States, major challenges in any open, kinetic conflict. But Beijing’s rise comes at a steep cost, a cost that might be bared collectively by the Asia-Pacific region in the form of an increasingly open and aggressive challenge of the collective regional status-quo.

Brunei silenced on South China Sea claims

Brunei is an absolute monarchist, Islamic state of 420,000 people on the north coast of Borneo, wedged into the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Indonesia and Malaysia own 99 percent of Borneo, which is the third largest island in the world, located at the maritime center of Southeast Asia. It has become a key pawn in China’s offense to control the South China Sea. The United Nations Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague is due to rule on the Philippines’ claim to the Scarborough Shoal – expected end-May or June. China is scrambling to find global and regional support for “direct bilateral negotiations” rather than international arbitration. It refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the Court and says it will not abide by its rulings. China is particularly keen to disable ASEAN from uniting against its ‘nine-dash line’ claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea. It has declared that Laos and Cambodia agree disputes should be settled through direct bilateral negotiations. It has now added Brunei to that list, removing three of the 10 members of ASEAN, which works only through group consensus

Asia’s New Battlefield: The Philippines’ South China Sea Moment of Truth

A specter is haunting Asia—the specter of full Chinese domination in the South China Sea. Latest reports suggest that China could soon move ahead with building military facilities on the Scarborough Shoal, a contested land feature it has occupied since 2012. This would allow China, according to a Mainland source, to “further perfect” its aerial superiority across the contested waters. By building a sprawling network of dual-purposes facilities, and more recently deploying advanced military assets to its artificially created islands, China is inching closer to establishing a de facto Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area. Integrating the Scarborough Shoal into its burgeoning defensive perimeter across the South China Sea will not only give it an upper hand in the contested waters, but also allow China to place the Philippines’ capital and industrialized regions within its strategic reach’-south-china-sea-15985

Asean consensus is a strategic lifeline

China’s surprise announcement of a consensus with Laos, Cambodia and Brunei on how they approach South China Sea disputes has generated predictable concern. The four points are: The dispute is between individual states rather than Asean as a bloc; these countries should be left to settle the dispute by themselves; they should do so without use or threat of force; and China and Asean should cooperate to ensure peace in the South China Sea. However, Asean secretary-general Le Luong Minh is correct in pointing out that Asean members should adhere to their common position on the South China Sea agreed in 2012. That includes the early conclusion of the regional code of conduct. He also rightly pointed out that no Asean state could negotiate with China on a dispute that involves other Asean countries. It is instructive that Brunei and Laos have stayed silent on the so-called consensus. However, Cambodian spokesman Phay Siphan has even denied such an agreement exists. This, and the fact that Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the so-called consensus while in Laos, the current Asean chair, after a whistle-stop tour of the two other states involved, suggests Beijing’s diplomatic stratagem is by no means a new one. China sees its strategic interest served by a divided South-east Asia. It has had varying success in this endeavour, starting with the 2012 Asean summit in Cambodia that failed to produce an agreed statement. The fallout from that had a sobering effect on Asean. Yet, last August in Kuala Lumpur, it was evident divisions remain. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, after saying in opening remarks that “this be the day we say we do more” on the dispute, had to later settle for a statement that failed to directly name China.

Taiwan proposes international arbitration for Okinotori dispute

CNA April 30, 2016, 12:14 am TWN TAIPEI–President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that Japan’s claim that the Okinotori atoll is an “island” violates the rights of fishermen everywhere and that Taiwan is not ruling out the idea of submitting the dispute to international arbitration. Again commenting on the April 25 detention of a Taiwanese fishing boat by Japan in waters 150 nautical miles east-southeast of Okinotori, Ma said Japan has seriously violated international law by illegally expanding its waters and demanding security deposits from detained fishermen in exchange for their release. Okinotori is only 9 square meters in area, equal to the size of two double beds, and cannot possibly sustain human habitation or economic life of its own, Ma argued. Citing Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said reefs that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone.

China warns Southeast Asia over maritime dispute

SINGAPORE: China urged Southeast Asian nations on Thursday to resolve territorial disputes through dialogue and repeated a warning of “negative consequences” if the Philippines wins an arbitration case in The Hague. Four Asean member states—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei—have rival claims with China to parts of the South China Sea and tensions have mounted in recent years since China transformed contested reefs into artificial islands that can support military facilities. The Philippines has taken a case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, where a ruling is due in the coming weeks, which many expect to go against China. Any sort of arbitration goes against the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea signed between 10 nations from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China in 2002, said Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin. “The arbitration is not by an international court, it’s arbitration brought unilaterally by the Philippine government against China but China took the decision not to participate in proceedings.” China warns Southeast Asia over maritime dispute

Pentagon Warns of Conflict Over Chinese Buildup on Disputed Island

China’s plans to build up a disputed island near the Philippines could lead to a regional conflict, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Thursday. Carter was asked about the strategic significance of China’s plan to add military facilities to a disputed island known as Scarborough Shoal located about 120 miles—within missile range—of Subic Bay, Philippines, where U.S. warships will be based. The defense secretary said Scarborough is “a piece of disputed territory that, like other disputes in that region, has the potential to lead to military conflict.” “That’s particularly concerning to us, given its proximity to the Philippines,” Carter told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on efforts to counter the Islamic State terrorist group. Carter said the Pentagon has similar views about a number of island disputes in the South China Sea, where China has been claiming most of the sea as its maritime territory and demanding that other states, including the United States, keep out of the region. The comments came in response to questions posed by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R., Alaska) who revealed during the hearing that Scarborough is the third vertex of a triangle of Chinese military bases that could be used to threaten the main Philippines island of Luzon. A map showed Woody Island in the Paracels and three other islands in the Spratlys Islands that are undergoing militarization by the Chinese as part of the island building program.

New air contingent in Philippines will bolster relations but could aggravate China

Amid heightened tensions with China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Air Force sent an air contingent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines April 16. The move came just two days after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced an “enhanced military alliance” between the two countries in Manila. The rotational force includes five A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, and three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters with the 18th Air Wing out of Kadena Air Base, Japan, and more than 200 airmen from various Pacific Air Forces units. They include aircrew, maintainers, logisticians and support personnel. About 175 airmen stayed in the Philippines to stand up the contingent following the annual Balikatan exercise, April 4-16, that involved more than 8,000 service members from the U.S, Philippines and Australia. Another 30 airmen will arrive from PACAF headquarters at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as well as several other PACAF bases It is not yet clear how long the aircraft and airmen will remain at Clark, but future rotations are planned. The composition of those units has yet to be determined.

China to build up atoll in contested South China Sea, source says

Reclamation work for outpost at Scarborough Shoal off Philippines coast ‘to begin this year’ China will start reclamation at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea later this year and may add an airstrip to extend its air force’s reach over the contested waters, a military source and mainland maritime experts say. A source close to the PLA Navy said Beijing would ramp up work to establish a new outpost 230km off the coast of the Philippines as the US and Manila drew their militaries closer together. Three Asean nations agree row will not hurt ties: Beijing An upcoming ruling on territorial claims by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, widely expected to go against China, would also accelerate the plan, the source said. Manila wants the court to ­declare that Beijing’s claims must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the decision could come next month or in June. “Beijing will take action to carry out land reclamation at Huangyan Island within this year,” said the source, who ­requested anonymity, referring to the shoal.

US to China: Resolve sea row peacefully

In a speech at the University of Southern California on Friday, Russel said the United States was determined not to let China undermine the interests of other nations with conflicting maritime claims. US Navy, file WASHINGTON – China has pulled out all the stops in vilifying the Philippines for pursuing arbitration to resolve their maritime disputes in the South China Sea, said Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel. In a speech at the University of Southern California on Friday, Russel said the United States was determined not to let China undermine the interests of other nations with conflicting maritime claims. “We don’t object to China exercising international maritime rights, but we do urge it to clarify its South China Sea maritime claims consistent with international law and to recognize other countries possess the same rights it exercises,” he said. Territorial claims are notoriously hard to resolve, and some disputes pre-date the creation of the People’s Republic of China, he said. Manila filed a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague contesting the legality of China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China cites “historical facts” for justifying its claim to 90 percent of the sea, which is also being contested by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. It has expressed intention to ignore the tribunal’s ruling