Monthly Archives: April 2017

China revises mapping law to bolster claims over South China Sea land, Taiwan

BEIJING – China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, a top law-making body, passed a revised version of China’s surveying and mapping law intended to safeguard the security of China’s geographic information, lawmakers told reporters in Beijing. Hefty new penalties were attached to “intimidate” foreigners who carry out surveying work without permission. President Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of new legislature in the name of safeguarding China’s national security by upgrading and adding to already broad laws governing state secrets and security. Laws include placing management of foreign nongovernmental organizations under the Security Ministry and a cybersecurity law requiring that businesses store important business data in China, among others. Overseas critics say that these laws give the state extensive powers to shut foreign companies out of sectors deemed “critical” or to crack down on dissent at home. The revision to the mapping law aims to raise understanding of China’s national territory education and promotion among the Chinese people, He Shaoren, head spokesman for the NPC Standing Committee, said, according to the official China News Service. China revises mapping law to bolster claims over South China Sea land, Taiwan

Push for S.China Sea code stirs ASEAN suspicions about Beijing’s endgame

MANILA – China’s support for finalizing a code of conduct in the hotly contested South China Sea is generating some hope in Southeast Asia of settling disputes, but those working out the terms remain unconvinced of Beijing’s sincerity. Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). But given the continued building and arming of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, Beijing’s recently expressed desire to work with ASEAN to complete a framework this year has been met with skepticism and suspicion. “Some of us in ASEAN believe this is just another ploy by China to buy time,” said one senior diplomat familiar with the talks. “China is expectedly stalling until it has completely attained its strategic objectives… What need is there for the green grass when the horse is dead?”

OPINION: Lorenzana and the true Patriots

Here and abroad, the common (mis)perception is that the current government is too cozy with China and, correspondingly, relaxing its claims in the West Philippine Sea. After all, you have a chief executive, who never fails to praise Beijing as a friendly, brotherly nation, which could serve as an indispensable partner for national development in the Philippines, while nonchalantly downplaying the bilateral maritime disputes as a seemingly peripheral concern. “Thank you for loving us and helping us survive the rigors of this life,” declared Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year after China extended a generous aid package for disaster-relief and agricultural development. “I made the correct decision [to improve ties with China]. I went alone [on] foreign policy then I went to China and talked to President Xi Jinping [last October].” Under his command, the Philippines has effectively set aside its landmark arbitration case, sought to pursue an ‘independent’ foreign policy, which “will not be dependent on the United States”, and, indeed, scaled back major joint military exercises with Washington, namely the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (Carat) and U.S.-Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX). Plans for joint patrols in the South China Sea have been cancelled, while Americans have been barred from utilizing Philippine bases for conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. They have also been barred from developing facilities in the Bautista Airbase in Palawan, close to Kalayann Islands, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Not to mention the occasional cusses against Western leaders.

Bill Hayton: What the West doesn’t get about China

Beijing’s South China Sea ambitions encompass defense, trade — and pride A U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jet lands on the USS Carl Vinson following a patrol of the South China Sea. © AP The question of what China actually wants in the South China Sea is surprisingly little-studied in the West. Too many international analysts seem happy to make assumptions about its strategic and tactical motivations without reference to Chinese sources. A preoccupation among U.S. strategists about freedom of navigation, the safety of allies and the maintenance of a rules-based order dominates most English-language writing about the dispute. Too often they project the same motivations onto the “other” and interpret Chinese actions accordingly. Official Chinese documents paint a different picture. China’s white paper on military strategy two years ago identified the major threats facing the country as “hegemonism, power politics and neo-interventionism,” and stated that the military’s top priority is “to safeguard [China’s] national unification, territorial integrity and development interests.” While the U.S. analysts are focused on access through the South China Sea as part of the “global commons,” the Chinese focus is on defending it as part of its inherent territory. My research has shown this historical narrative to be baseless. Nonetheless, Western analysts need to take it much more seriously to understand what is causing the disputes there.

DND chief’s island visit alarms China

China has expressed alarm over the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año to Pag-Asa Island last Friday, saying it ran counter to an “important consensus” reached between the leaders of the two countries. FMPRC/Released MANILA, Philippines – China has expressed alarm over the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año to Pag-Asa Island last Friday, saying it ran counter to an “important consensus” reached between the leaders of the two countries. “Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing before the weekend. Lu said China’s President Xi Jinping and President Duterte had reached a consensus “to properly deal with the South China Sea issue.” “We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development the bilateral relations are experiencing, faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leaderships, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations,” he added. But Lu said they are still verifying the facts regarding the visit, and that Manila and Beijing have been in constant communication on how to manage maritime issues since Duterte’s visit to China last year. “We hope that this momentum can continue. We hope that the Philippines can work with China to jointly maintain regional peace and stability as well as the sound momentum of moving bilateral relations forward,” said the Chinese official.

South China Sea: Did China Coast Guard Deny Philippine Fishermen Access to Union Bank?

Philippine authorities are working to confirm reports that Chinese Coast Guard vessels harassed and drove away Filipino fishermen at Union Bank in the Spratly group in the South China Sea. According to early reports, Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired warning shots to deny fishermen access to disputed waters. The location of the incident, which occurred on Thursday, is close to Gaven Reef, which is home to one of China’s seven artificial islands in the Spratly group. The Philippine military was cautious in assessing the incident early on, describing “alleged harassment” by the Chinese vessels. Others have been less charitable to China. For example, Rep. Gary Alejano, a Philippine congressman, condemned “in the strongest terms” the “aggressive acts” of the Chinese Coast Guard in the incident, according to the Inquirer. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has said the incident is under investigation. A Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson meanwhile noted that Manila would seek to raise the issue with China through bilateral channels should the incident be verified. “With the current positive momentum in PH-China relations, we have mechanisms in place where the Philippines can raise such issues. This includes the bilateral consultation mechanism, which is meant to tackle issues of concern in the West PH Sea,” DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar told reporters, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea. Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month. The incident comes two weeks after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on Philippine troops to move to occupy unoccupied features in the South China Sea. Though China and the Philippines have seen a broader bilateral rapprochement since Duterte’s inauguration last year, the latest incident emphasizes that Chinese maritime law enforcement vessels continue to exercise influence in disputed waters, including at Scarborough Shoal. Last year, in July, Manila saw an international tribunal rule in its favor and against Beijing in a 2013 case concerning maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea. The arbitral tribunal’s award also found China’s capacious nine-dash line claim invalid under international law. Both China and the Philippines have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Earlier in March, Chinese oceanographic survey activities at Benham Rise, an underwater plateau east of the Philippine island of Luzon, in the Philippine Sea, drew scrutiny. China ultimately said it respect the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the area and Duterte said the incident had been “blown out of proportion.” Nevertheless, the reaction in the Philippines demonstrated continuing public opinion sensitivities regarding Chinese maritime activities in disputed and settled waters alike. South China Sea: Did China Coast Guard Deny Philippine Fishermen Access to Union Bank?

G7 ministers call for implementation of Hague ruling on South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies reiterated its opposition to the militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea. The ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States maintained their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order based on international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “We consider the July 12, 2016 award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal under the UNCLOS as a useful basis for further efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea,” the G7 joint communique read. The UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague, Netherlands had ruled that China’s nine-dash line claim does not have a legal basis and that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS for building artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Beijing, however, refused to honor the ruling of the arbitral tribunal and insisted that they have indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea. The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, decided to set aside the ruling in settling the maritime dispute.

INTERVIEW/ Think tank chief: Beijing should show restraint in South China Sea

BEIJING–China softened its attitude toward the international community after facing strong criticism from its neighbors and the United States for building military bases on islets in the South China Sea from 2014. Although Beijing’s change could be a response to that criticism, it might also mean that China feels its major objectives have already been achieved in the South China Sea. Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China, said both Washington and Beijing should now show restraint in that region. He was asked about the change in Beijing’s stance and whether it represented an adjustment of government policy. Excerpts of the interview follow: Asahi: How do you view the meeting in early April between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping? Wu: It was an important meeting for developing a stable U.S.-China relationship in the future. China will not bring up issues surrounding the South China Sea. But from a long-term perspective, China’s development could be seen by the United States as a threat to its leadership position in the world.

Expert: Philippines should push for ‘no-take zones’ to reinforce arbitral ruling

The Philippines can cooperate with other countries to establish joint areas of protection as a way to reinforce the South China Sea arbitral ruling. File MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should work with other claimant-states to create “no-take zones” to reinforce national and international fisheries management agenda as a way to reinforce the South China Sea arbitration ruling. This was the assessment of an expert from De La Salle University (DLSU) who said that one way to reinforce the arbitration ruling on South China Sea released last year was for the Philippines to establish transboundary marine parks and areas of joint protection. “Doing this will preserve the living resources they harbor, hopefully, so they will replenish adjacent habitats,” Ma. Carmel Ablan Lagman of the DLSU Center for Natural Resource and Environmental Research said. Lagman added that this setup can work in the more or less 100 small islands and features in the hotly-contested Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. Lagman said that the Spratlys can greatly benefit from such a multistate intervention considering that it’s one of the few remaining healthy, resource-rich areas and habitats in the region based on ecological considerations such as the duration of pelagic larvae, surface circulation patterns and seasonability of adults and larvae. She said that agreements to share the cost and effort may be drawn over areas such as Palawan, which is under the jurisdiction of the Philippines but whose benefits can also trickle to others. Lagman said bilateral agreements can be ironed out and financing can come in the form of training.

Fish and regional security

While it had achieved renown—or notoriety—for the protracted political tug-of-war, the South China Sea is, first and foremost, one of the most diverse and productive marine ecosystems in the world. The area covers some 3.5 million square kilometers of rich waters, responsible for an estimated 10 million to 16 million tons of fisheries landings, or about 12 to 15 percent of the total global catch. As the plot thickens, Ma. Carmen Ablan Lagman of the Biology Department and Center for Natural Resource and Environment Research of De La Salle University tackled a spectrum of issues in a special paper “Converging on the Fisheries in the South China Sea” as part of Stratbase ADRi series of commissioned studies. These are salient points of the paper. In the region, this translates to some three-million jobs associated with fisheries and some $66.7 billion in total economic activity supported by fishing. Because it is bounded by some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, this means about two-billion inhabitants in this region rely on fishing in terms of food security, livelihood, or export. And because fish stocks in the Yellow Sea, Gulf of Tonkin, East China Sea, all the way to the Gulf of Thailand are fully fished or depleted, this puts additional pressure on the South China Sea, whose stocks harbor healthy coral reef habitats and abundant fish. The Philippines in its arbitration case against China appropriately sought to clarify national fisheries jurisdiction. Tracing back to 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, resulted in competing claims from countries based on their definitions of their Exclusive Economic Zones, or EEZ. More recently, China’s contentious nine-dash line territorial claim in 2009 highlighted the economic value of the marine resources in the region.