Monthly Archives: December 2016

Narendra Modi, Joko Widodo meet: India, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime cooperation

New Delhi: India and Indonesia on Monday affirmed their commitment to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). “Both leaders affirmed that India and Indonesia are maritime neighbours whose relations are rooted in civilisational contacts developed through the seas and who share similar perceptions of the evolving maritime environment in the region and the world at large,” said a joint statement on maritime cooperation issued following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. × Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday. PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday. PTI “Both leaders recognised their shared commitment to democracy, pluralistic society, human rights and the rule of law,” it stated It stated that both Modi and Widodo affirmed the countries’ “deep respect for each other’s contribution to promoting peace, stability and development in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and beyond”. “Both leaders committed to maintaining a maritime legal order based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).” The joint statement assumes significance as several Southeast Asian nations have problems with China over South China Sea. In July, an international arbitration tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China violated the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea, one of the busiest commercial shipping routes in the world. The court accused China of interfering with the Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration, building artificial islands in the waters and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone. China reacted angrily, calling the verdict null and void with no binding force and that “China neither accepts it nor recognises it”. But Beijing has since decided to go for bilateral talks with Manila. India urged all stakeholders to follow the Unclos. Indonesia, the largest of the Southeast Asian nations, however, does not have any such issue with China. “Both leaders recognised that India and Indonesia share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication,” Monday’s joint statement said.

Taipei’s Name Game

First the phone call, then the bombshell. On December 2, Donald Trump reversed 37 years of American foreign policy by taking a ten-minute congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Yesterday, he went further, announcing that he doesn’t know “why we [the United States] have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.” Trump’s official position is still unclear, but his comments indicate that on the issue of Taiwan, he may favor changing a status quo that has persisted for nearly four decades. The current version of the United States’ One China policy, which holds that there is only one legitimate government of China, dates to 1979, when the United States recognized the communist government in Beijing while breaking off formal diplomatic ties with the nationalist government in Taipei. At the time, Taiwan was still a repressive one-party state, but over the next 20 years it peacefully transformed itself into a vibrant liberal democracy. Bet despite this progress, there is still not a independent country named “Taiwan.” The island Tsai governs still calls itself the Republic of China (ROC). Mainland China refers to it as Taiwan and officially considers it to be a renegade province, but in practice treats it like a foreign country. The World Trade Organization calls it the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu (Chinese Taipei).” The United States still uses the name Taiwan and is open about its desire to maintain strong, unofficial relations with the government in Taipei. Nevertheless, when a U.S. State Department spokesperson accidentally called Taiwan a country earlier this year, it was considered a major gaffe. But what is Taiwan, then? Today, 70 years after the end of the Chinese civil war that separated the island from the mainland, it is time for the international community to settle this question. It is meaningless to perpetuate the myth that Taiwan is a province of China. Rather, it

India and the South China Sea Dispute

The Hague’s Arbitration Tribunal on July 12 clearly backed the Philippines on the issue of the South China Sea (SCS) dispute. It also declared large parts of the South China Sea as international waters and a few as other countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). India stood in support of The Hague’s ruling as it believed that the international law should always be abided. Apart from being a member of the UNCLOS, there are three large reasons why India needs to play a role in the South China Sea. Though India is not a direct claimant in the South China Sea, it has 55 per cent of its economic stakes in the South China Sea. Secondly, to uphold its strong “Act East Policy”, it is seemingly expected to take a stand. Thirdly, it is answerable to its ASEAN colleagues. Hence, silence would not work in favour of India. Exemplifying this further, India had recently dismissed a picture printed in a state-run Chinese newspaper that stated that India was standing in support of China over the issue of the South China Sea. At the 14th ASEAN meeting at Laos, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh stated: “As State Party to the UNCLOS, India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.” Hence, India clearly supports freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of inter-national law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India’s stand on taking sides with the claimant countries is neutral as it wants the involved parties to directly resolve it. It also believes that the involved states should resolve it without any use of threat and force which would unwillingly lead to complications and affect the peace and stability of the region. The South China Debate can either have opportunistic or paradoxical outcomes in various ways. India has already offered military support to Vietnam, which is a direct and important claimant in the South China Sea. India has signed two major naval projects with Vietnam and discussions on installing the ‘Brahmos Missile system’ and ‘Varunastra’ in Vietnam is also underway. India has also offered a hand on modernising and upgrading their military equipment along with training the Vietnamese submariners. The Philippines’ military equip-ment are second hand and aged and that country has also already expressed its interest in purchasing cruise missiles and other military systems from India.

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

The Philippines has again thumbed its nose at the U.S., its longtime defense ally, saying it won’t be used as a springboard for U.S. ships and planes conducting operations that challenge China in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines will not allow its territory to be used as a staging ground for U.S. patrols — a possible departure from the current policy that allows U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines access to designated Philippine military bases under a 2014 defense agreement. Lorenzana said U.S. ships and planes can use Guam or Okinawa in Japan for South China Sea missions. But he said they can still refuel and resupply in the Philippines after conducting such maneuvers, not before. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said she could not comment on Lorenzana’s remarks as she hadn’t seen them, but added: “Our adherence to freedom of navigation is well known. You know, we will fly, we will sail anywhere within international waters and we will continue that.” Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the commander of the U.S. Army’s I Corps who leads international military exercises in the Pacific, said that the U.S. military was prepared to change next year’s joint exercises with the Philippines to humanitarian and disaster relief training. “If we change the training, we would probably look at putting a different force and a different capability in the Philippines versus the initial one that had been planned to go there,” he told Voice of America, referring to the initial focus on the Philippines’ territorial defense.

Think tank calls views on Duterte’s pivot to China ‘too simplistic’

In this Sept. 23, 2015, file photo, Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has considerably reduced tensions with China over contested South China Sea waters, says he plans to declare a marine sanctuary at the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Such a move would keep away both Filipino and Chinese fishermen and prevent China from constructing any facilities, like it did on seven other features farther south in the Spratly archipelago. AP/Renato Etac, File MANILA, Philippines — Observations that the Philippines is cozying up to China and veering away from allies like the United States (US) and Japan under President Rodrigo Duterte are too simplistic, a think tank director said. Shingo Yamagami, acting director general of the foreign affairs think tank Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), said that such observations from the foreign press are “too simplistic and off the mark.” Yamagami pointed out that the Philippine president made a visit to Vietnam before his trip to China and then afterward headed for Japan. The two countries have competing claims with China on a group of islands. Japan and China lay claim to a group of islands which is called Senkaku by Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing. Meanwhile, Vietnam and China have disputes over Paracel Islands called as Xisha by Beijing and Hoàng Sa by Hanoi. “Before President Duterte went to Beijing, he went to Hanoi. After his trip to Beijing, he came to Tokyo. You may have seen the text of the Philippine-Japan joint statement issued by Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and President Duterte. It is perfect. Perfect from Japanese viewpoint as well,” Yamagami said Thursday at the Pilipinas Conference by Stratbase ADR Institute.

US Sanctions Against China Over the East and South China Seas: A Serious Proposal?

Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill in the Senate Foreign Relations committee that proposes punitive sanctions against China over its activities in maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. The bill, called the “South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act of 2016” (PDF), proffers a plan to sanction Chinese individuals and entities “that participate in Beijing’s illegitimate operations in the South China Sea and East China Sea,” according to a release by Rubio’s office. “China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea are illegitimate and threaten the region’s security and American commerce, with reverberations that can be felt here at home, including Florida’s ports and throughout our state’s shipping and cargo economy,” Rubio noted. “The security of our allies in the region and our own economic livelihoods cannot be endangered by Beijing’s ongoing, flagrant violations of international norms in its pursuit of dominance in the South China Sea and East China Sea.” The bill would represent an ambitious change in U.S. policy. If it becomes law, it would require the U.S. president to execute a range of punitive sanctions against Chinese individuals and entities for activities in the South China Sea and in turn sanction third-party financial institutions that interact with those entities knowingly. Rubio’s proposals also contain important changes to U.S. policy, such as restricting foreign aid to states that may side with China’s position on disputes in the East and South China Seas and, more importantly, shifting the long-standing U.S. position on not taking sides in questions of territorial sovereignty in maritime disputes (with some exceptions). US Sanctions Against China Over the East and South China Seas: A Serious Proposal?

Japanese, Chinese military aircraft engage in latest tit-for-tat moves in airspace above Western Pacific

China and Japan have continued their recent tit-for-tat moves in the airspace above the Western Pacific, with aircraft from the two Asian giants on Saturday again engaging in an apparently tense encounter over the high seas between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island. The Defense Ministry in Tokyo said the Air Self-Defense Force had scrambled fighter jets after six Chinese military aircraft flew through the strategically important Miyako Strait, bound for the Pacific, adding that there was no violation of Japanese airspace. The ministry’s Joint Staff Office said that the six Chinese planes consisted of two Su-30 fighters, two H-6 bombers, one Tu-154 surveillance plane and one Y-8 surveillance plane. The Su-30 fighters crossed the strait and then made a U-turn to head toward the East China Sea while the surveillance planes and bombers headed toward the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan. China’s Defense Ministry slammed the scramble, saying that it had made “solemn representations” over the Japanese fighter jets, which it said harassed and shot decoy projectiles at Chinese air force planes, spokesman Yang Yujun said in a statement. “The Miyako Strait is a universally acknowledged international flight passage,” Yang said. “The exercise had been planned within this year’s air force training routine. It does not target any specific country nor objective and it adheres to international law and practices.” Japanese, Chinese military aircraft engage in latest tit-for-tat moves in airspace above Western Pacific

China air force conducts long-range drills near disputed waterways, says Taiwan

China is conducted a long-range drill with its military aircraft overflying waterways near Taiwan in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday (10 December), Taiwan’s defence ministry said. It is the first such exercise by China since a telephone call between Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and US President-elect Donald Trump left Beijing annoyed. However, there seems to be no indication that the drill was China’s response to Taiwan’s alleged shift in policy towards Washington.

Warships from US, Japan to arrive in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Warships and aircraft on patrol in the South China Sea are arriving in the Philippines from US bases in Guam and Japan, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday. Lorenzana clarified the US is not allowed to use the Philippines as a staging point to patrol the South China Sea. He added the US aircraft, including the P3 Orion surveillance planes often seen at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, were on administration stop. The US warships and aircraft only dock in the Philippines for the needed refueling and resupply, he said. “What is allowed and what the US has been doing was to send their aircraft and ships from Guam and Japan to patrol the South China Sea,” Lorenzana said. Lorenzana though conceded the Philippines is benefiting from the freedom of overflight and navigation conducted by the US in the region.

China flies nuclear-capable bomber in South China Sea after Trump Taiwan call, US officials say

Officials: China flew nuclear-capable bombers around Taiwan China flew a long-range nuclear-capable bomber outside China for the first time since President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the president of Taiwan, two US officials told Fox News. The dramatic show of force was meant to send a message to the new administration, according to the officials. It marks the second time Beijing flew bombers in the region since Trump was elected. Even more concerning for the Pentagon, China has been seen by American intelligence satellites preparing to ship more advanced surface-to-air missiles to its contested islands in the South China Sea. Trump’s call with Taiwan’s President Tsai ling-wen broke decades- long protocol after American leaders stopped communicating directly with the Taiwan president in 1979, when diplomatic ties were severed and the United States shifted to a new “one-China” policy. China protested Trump’s call with President Tsai.