Monthly Archives: November 2016

China Ponders ADIZ in Disputed Sea

TAIPEI — A Chinese state institution warned this week that Beijing is ready to set up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the contested South China Sea, giving it the authority to screen foreign aircraft. But analysts say any enforcement would anger other countries without deterring traffic. That measure would follow a series of steps to control the movement of foreign ships in the same sea, underlining China’s intent to hold its vast maritime claims after a world court tribunal ruled in July that it lacked a legal argument. China calls 95 percent of the sea its own and its militarization of tiny islets since 2010 has angered officials from Jakarta to Washington. Beijing reportedly toyed with the idea of an ADIZ in July after the court verdict. “More likely if they do decide to progress toward this, it would be kind of a patchwork approach in which military exercises have closure areas, and that would be the sort of trial point to extend the geographic scope of those or the duration of those from there rather than go for an all-out ADIZ,” said Euan Graham, international security director for the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. The government-run Chinese think tank, the National Institute of South China Sea Studies, said that because of an estimated 700 U.S. surveillance patrols in the sea last year, Beijing was ready to set up the air zone unless Washington stopped the activity. The U.S. government counts a lot of China’s neighbors as allies and calls most of the sea international waters. China says the rival superpower is trying to contain its expansion. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan Vietnam and the Philippines also claim all or parts of a sea that’s rich in fisheries and may hold valuable undersea fossil fuel reserves. The South China sea covers 3.5 million square km (1.4 million square miles) from Taiwan to Singapore. China could feasibly set up an air zone, called an ADIZ for short, using radars if it built up Scarborough Shoal west of the Philippines, said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at The University of New South Wales in Australia. That installation would give it the third corner of a triangle connecting the Paracel and Spratly island chains. http://www.voanews.com/a/china-ponders-adiz-in-disputed-sea/3617133.html

Duterte’s undermining of ASEAN

If the main foreign policy objective of Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte was to make his archipelagic nation the centre of international relations concerns in the Asia Pacific, he has succeeded beyond expectations. Coined a “popularly elected despot” by Chito Gascon of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, Duterte’s diplomatic flurries within Asia have sparked conversations among international observers, many of which have concentrated on their implications for the US pivot to Asia and US–China rivalry. Ironically, the election of another loud-mouthed “boy-man” demagogue, Donald Trump, may have changed the equation. If “The Donald” applies his user-pay principle to the US security umbrella, it is conceivable that a divorce between the two countries by mutual consent could become possible. This seems unlikely, not only because of the popularity of the US–Philippines alliance on both sides of the Pacific, but also because there appears to be a blooming “bromance” between the Filipino president and the US president-elect. Duterte has already appointed José EB Antonio, a Filipino business partner of the US president-elect and builder of Manila’s own Trump Tower, as his special trade envoy to the United States. Seen from Hanoi, the challenge of Duterte is not a weakening United States presence in the Pacific but the deleterious effects of his presidency on ASEAN. Vietnam was set to benefit greatly from the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in The Hague on China’s nine-dash line claims in the South China Sea. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/30/duterte-s-undermining-asean.html

Duterte’s South China Sea sanctuary offers fresh hope for peace

BANGKOK: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has planned to declare a maritime sanctuary and no-fishing zone at a lagoon within the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The idea is an interesting one and offers a potential solution to international disputes over South China Sea territory — but only if it is jointly agreed and enforced by all sides in the dispute. Duterte’s action would be unilateral and thus potentially represent a big loss for the Philippines, whose fishermen would be barred from the sanctuary. It is not yet clear whether China, the other main claimant, would reciprocate by instructing its own fishing fleet to steer clear of the lagoon. Duterte disclosed the idea to Chinese President Xi Jinping when they met on Nov 19 on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru. Why he chose to go it alone rather than negotiate a joint plan on the sanctuary with Beijing remains a mystery. After all, Duterte recently forged a rapprochement with China and is now on good terms with its leaders. Scarborough Shoal is better known to Filipinos as Panatag, an area they have fished for generations. That practice ended in 2012 when China seized the shoal, before the Chinese coast guard relented last month and offered Filipino fishermen access as a gesture amid warmer ties following Duterte’s Beijing trip. Duterte wants to preserve the Shoal as a spawning ground and envisions the ban extending to Chinese boats. However, Filipino fishermen have voiced opposition to the plan, complaining it would eradicate a major source of their income and at the same time hand jurisdiction to the Chinese coast guard. Nonetheless, Duterte has taken the initiative in the South China Sea, which is the focus of long-standing disputes between countries in the region. Beijing’s claim to as much as 90 per cent of the contested waters encompasses territories also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. At stake are huge oilfields reckoned to lie beneath the seabed, though so far no country in the region has tested that theory. http://www.dawn.com/news/1299586/dutertes-south-china-sea-sanctuary-offers-fresh-hope-for-peace

A Rare Look at the Chinese Navy’s Submarines

Beijing’s state television shows off a Russian-made attack submarine. A news report on Chinese state television provided a rare look inside one of the submarines of the Chinese Navy. The Kilo-class submarine was purchased from Russia during the 1990s and is the tip of Beijing’s spear in its disputes with neighbors. The People’s Republic of China bought twelve 636-class submarines in the 1990s and early 2000s. The submarines, known as the “Kilo” class to NATO, were originally designed by the Soviet Union to operate in Cold War European coastal waters. After the fall of the USSR and the end of the Warsaw Pact, the 636 class became a useful means for Russia to earn hard currency, and the submarines were exported to China, Algeria, India, Iran, and Vietnam. The 636 class is fairly small by modern standards, just 238 feet long by 32 feet wide. They displace 3,076 tons submerged, less than half that of an American nuclear attack submarine. The subs are powered by diesel engines that allow them to move at speeds of up to 10 knots on the surface and 17 knots underwater. They have a maximum operating depth of 984 feet, but normally dive to a maximum of 787 feet. The 636 class excels in two areas: silence and shallow water operations. Nicknamed “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy, their teardrop hulls reduce water resistance and offer a huge leap over China’s older Ming class diesel electric subs. The 636’s propulsion plant is isolated on a rubber base to prevent vibrations from being picked up by enemy submarine hunters. Each ship is covered from bow to stern with rows of rubber tiles that deaden sound. A pair of ducted props powered by low-speed motoring motors allow it to operate closer to the sea floor, a useful feature when operating in shallow water. http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a24068/china-submarine-636/

Beijing may test Trump over South China Sea: analyst

Last two presidents tested by China, but arbitration ruling will affect behaviour, says Japanese academic CHINA may take provocative action regarding the South China Sea, which currently remains calm, to test Washington’s reaction after the United States’ president-elect Donald Trump takes office early next year, a Japanese scholar said recently. As long as Trump continues to refrain from making his policies regarding the contentious sea clear, China has two options: Take a wait-and-see approach or engage in provocations to test the winds, Japan Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Tetsuo Kotani said. Looking back to the experiences in 2001 and 2009 after George W Bush and Barack Obama took office respectively, China has had a habit of testing incoming administrations, he said. In April 2001, the US and China had a dispute after a mid-air collision between a US Navy EP-3E signals intelligence aircraft and a People’s Liberation Army Navy interceptor fighter jet. The US aircraft was forced to land at Hainan Island and the crew was detained until Bush sent a letter of apology to Beijing. In March 2009, there was an incident in the South China Sea when the Pentagon reported that five Chinese vessels shadowed and aggressively manoeuvred in dangerous proximity to the USS Impeccable surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters. China said the US Navy ship had violated international and Chinese law by confronting its vessels off the southern island of Hainan. “These two incidents happened in March to April, so we can expect in March next year, China may test the US new administration in the South China Sea,” said Kotani in an interview. “China can’t wait for Trump, so we expect something will happen right after Trump takes office or even before.” http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/aec/asean_plus/30300582

Chinese warcraft fly over Bashi Channel, Miyako Strait in drill

BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — Warcraft from the Chinese Air Force flew over the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait on Friday in a west Pacific drill, an Air Force spokesman said Saturday. The overflight involved “multiple types of warplanes,” meeting the set target, spokesman Shen Jinke said while responding to media inquiries. The routine high sea drill was an common practice among all countries close to sea, Shen said. “It accords with international law and practice, doesn’t aim at any specific country, region or target, and is legitimate, reasonable and justified,” he said. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-11/26/c_135860684.htm

China’s freedom of navigation

After the USS Decatur navigated through the Paracel Islands on Oct. 21, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense stated that the United States warship had entered Chinese territorial waters without authorization — a serious violation and intentional provocation according to China. Although the US Navy claimed that the USS Decatur navigated outside the territorial sea limit of 12 nautical miles from each of the Paracel features, the Chinese claim the baseline surrounding the Paracel as a whole. A claim squarely rejected by the arbitral tribunal. Indeed, it was not the first time the US has conducted its “Freedom of Navigation Program” in the South China Sea. Overall, China has persistently protested the program and considers “freedom of navigation” a threat to its security. As a maritime power, China seemingly practices freedom of navigation quite extensively. All states, including China, are the beneficiaries of navigational freedom. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N), as well as merchant vessels have all travelled well beyond its immediate waters, i.e. the South China Sea and East China Sea. In 2014, various reports showed that over 20 Chinese nuclear submarines had enjoyed freedom of navigation, sailing from their base near Hainan through Indonesian archipelagic waters and maneuvered in the Indian Ocean, including making stops in the famously Chinese-built port of Hambantota, Sri Lanka. Chinese frigates have also made similar trips through Indonesian waters as seen by Indonesian authorities from several choke points controlled by it. These trips would be impossible without freedom of navigation. A similar PLA-N operation to surround Indonesia and the Philippines from Hainan to Hainan via the South China Sea, Sunda Strait, Indian Ocean, Lombok Strait, Pacific Ocean and Philippines Sea can only be exercised under a freedom of navigation regime. Freedom of navigation is not exclusively for government ships, but also for commercial vessels. With a plan to expand PLA-N fleet to over 350 warships by 2020, and operation of almost 5,000 merchant vessels, China will exercise freedom of navigation more than any country in the world does. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/26/china-s-freedom-navigation.html

Donald Trump’s South China Sea Challenge: 4 Ways America Can Push Back Against China

On the day President-elect Donald J. Trump first steps foot in the oval office the weight of the world’s problems will be squarely on his shoulders. The Islamic State, tensions with Russia and an out of control Syrian Civil War will loom large, ready to test the resolve of the new administration almost immediately. Moreover, while all of the above could fully occupy the new President’s attention for years to come, a greater, multi-decade dilemma with truly global ramifications awaits—the growing challenge presented by the People’s Republic of China. No Bigger Challenge: While many experts and scholars can readily recite a laundry list of reasons for growing tensions in the U.S.-Sino relationship, there is only one that counts: Beijing has determined that it no longer needs to bide its time or hide its capabilities, evidenced by China’s opposition to a U.S. led international system in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, Beijing has every intention to slowly but surely push America out of Asia and dominate what is clearly the world’s fastest growing economic region today. And among all of the China-related problems Trump will need to deal with, growing economic competition, a rising military, increasing pressure on Japan in the East China Sea, tensions with what Beijing describes as the “renegade province” of Taiwan and so on, there is one, to be specific, a certain body of water that will test the skills of his new diplomats and strategists more than anything else: the South China Sea. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/donald-trumps-south-china-sea-challenge-4-ways-america-can-18511

Trans-Pacific Partnership: China seizes trade opportunity after Donald Trump’s threat

United States President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to dump or renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on his first day in office is a gift for the Chinese in their drive to control the world economy. China is now positioning itself as free trade’s new champion and seizing economic leadership of the Pacific Rim. Under President Barack Obama the TPP was sold as a way to counter China’s rise, and its possible demise is now viewed in China as a US retreat from the region. China was excluded from the TPP, which would have accounted for 40 per cent of world trade. It’s been referred to as ‘the dodgiest deal you’ve never heard of’ and now, Fact Check answers your questions on the TPP. Chinese President Xi Jinping has seized the opportunity at the APEC summit last weekend and pushed his own free trade vision, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It involves 16 countries including Australia and Japan, but excludes America. Mr Xi is pushing to make it bigger and is leaving the door open to Latin American countries like Peru who are keen to benefit from the growing economies of Asia. The move would be a massive boost for China’s plans to shift the existing US-dominated world economic order. With billions of dollars on offer, China is trying to supplant the World Bank and the IMF with its Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-24/china-seizes-opportunity-after-trump-threatens-to-dump-tpp/8056086

Report on the growing US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region

Editor’s Note: The following article is an abstract from a report by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, headquartered in Haikou, capital of South China’s Hainan province. The United States’ military deployments and activities in the Asia-Pacific region are important manifestations of its “rebalancing” strategy. Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US global military strategy has been shifting its focus and giving priority to the region. In 2012 and 2013, it officially announced that 60 percent of its naval vessels and 60 percent of its air force would be deployed in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Driven by this rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific, the US has gradually built up its troop deployments, forward presence and military activities in the region, and increased military cooperation with its regional allies and partners, such as Japan and Singapore. I Military expenditures, bases and deployment The proposed US defense budget for fiscal year 2016 was $585.3 billion, an increase of about 4 percent on the budget for the previous fiscal year. In February 2016, the US Department of Defense released a proposed budget request of $583 billion for fiscal year 2017, which is almost the same as that for the previous fiscal year. By 2015, the US had 368,000 military personnel in the Asia-Pacific region, among whom about 97,000 are stationed to the west of the International Date Line. The military personnel deployed in the Asia-Pacific region account for more than 50 percent of its total military forces overseas. II Military activities With the implementation of its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific strategy, the US has deployed advanced reconnaissance aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic surveillance ships, nuclear submarines, orbit reconnaissance satellites, etc. China has become the No 1 target for the US’ close reconnaissance in terms of frequency, scope and means. According to available statistics, the US made more than 260 close reconnaissance sorties against China in 2009. The number was more than 1,200 in 2014, and there was an obvious increase in US’ close reconnaissance activities in the South China Sea region in 2015. Such activities threaten China’s national security, damage China’s maritime rights and interests and undermine Sino-US strategic mutual trust. They could also lead to accidental collisions at sea or in the air, making such reconnaissance an important negative factor affecting Sino-US relations and also peace and stability in the region. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2016-11/25/content_27481119.htm