Monthly Archives: May 2017

How China Tamed the Green Watchdogs

Too many environmental organizations are betraying their ideals for the love of the yuan. Scores of Chinese dredgers ground up the coral of semisubmerged reefs in the South China Sea over the past three years to build artificial islands that are now becoming military bases. The enormity of the destruction to marine biodiversity is unprecedented. The Chinese government has destroyed more than 5 square miles of coral reef in fishing grounds that help feed hundreds of millions of people, including Chinese. https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/how-china-tamed-the-green-watchdogs-1496075092

North Korea is helping China in the South China Sea—whether it knows it or not

Like most of the world, China is fed up with North Korea, which yesterday (May 29), in defiance of international pressure, conducted its third missile test in three weeks. The unpleasant neighbor is steadily progressing toward its goal: the ability to hit much of the world, including the US mainland, with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. But, for Beijing, North Korea’s saber-rattling does serve one useful purpose: It distracts attention from the contested South China Sea. Last year, the world fretted over China’s territorial aggression in that resource-rich waterway, with critics warning it could become virtually a “Chinese lake.” Beijing claims nearly the entire sea, based on what an international tribunal ruled last July to be bogus reasoning, both legally and historically. Now, thanks largely to North Korea, the issue has faded into the background—just as China might have hoped. https://qz.com/990701/north-korea-is-helping-china-in-the-south-china-sea-whether-it-knows-it-or-not/

What a new agreement means for the South China Sea

THE long-running dispute between China and its rivals in the South China Sea centres on an apparently insoluble conflict: China’s maritime claims overlap with those of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Nobody wants to go to war; nobody wants to back down. To reduce the chances of armed conflict and give all claimants a chance to save face, the countries have ostensibly been negotiating a set of rules designed to regulate behaviour and manage tensions for decades. The idea was first mooted by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the late 1990s, after China’s seizure in 1995 of a Philippine-claimed reef; since then, negotiations have proceeded haltingly. But on May 18th the two sides agreed on a framework for a “code of conduct”. It will be presented to foreign ministers in August, and will form the basis for future negotiations. Both sides congratulated themselves on their progress. But will it amount to anything? http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/05/economist-explains-25

China should pay and go

As China and the Philippines engage in bilateral talks, Manila should revisit the South China Sea arbitral award and not sleep on its rights As a matter of inviolable principle, the Philippines should incorporate in its terms of reference for bilateral talks with China the July 12, 2016, award by the Ad Hoc Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). The bilateral talks weave inextricably with the framing and eventual adoption of the draft Code of Conduct on the South China Sea between ASEAN and China. The Philippines needs to assert the arbitral award in its negotiations with China as a non-negotiable item, lest the principle of estoppel militate against Philippine interests in South China Sea. The Philippines has yet to officially and boldly demand China’s immediate and unconditional compliance with its legal obligations arising from the award issued by the tribunal in The Hague. It’s the height of irony that the one without lawful rights over its 9-dash line claim over the South China Sea barks the loudest in militarily asserting China’s “core national interests.” In contrast, the Philippines, which legitimately possesses sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and secured the final and legally binding arbitral award, is unduly timid and even solicitous of China. It has avoided muttering even anything that remotely hints at its own inviolable sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea. Yet China has been to trying to control and bar Philippines from areas in the Spratly Islands, even though those are situated within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/169349-china-economic-compensation-philippines-eez-unclos-arbitration

Why China’s ‘Three Warfares’ Could Provide Beijing with Big Gains (Thanks to Donald Trump)

Under Xi Jinping, China has intensified its focus on “seizing discursive power” (话语权) and “propagating China’s voice” at the global level. Indeed, the recent One Belt, One Road summit in Beijing has highlighted China’s ambitions to exert its influence upon the international order—and adjust it to its own advantage. For China, this concept of discursive power is often considered a critical aspect of its comprehensive national power. Indeed, to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), information is a weapon. The CCP has pursued Internet control through an extensive, adaptive system in order to avert threats to social stability and its survival, while seeking to assert its influence through shaping public opinion with domestic and external propaganda. Concurrently, to operationalize discursive power, the CCP and PLA have built upon an extensive history of political warfare to engage in concerted influence operations, with Taiwan as the primary target but also against the U.S. and worldwide. These dimensions of Chinese discursive power—Internet control, propaganda work and political warfare—enable the CCP’s defense of China’s core sovereignty, security and development interests, while advancing national strategic objectives. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/why-chinas-three-warfares-could-provide-beijing-big-gains-20878

Analyst: US South China Sea operation a sign of support to Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The move of the US Navy to sail near Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands shows Washington’s support for the Philippines’ claims over the South China Sea. US officials earlier confirmed that guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the disputed waters. Beijing has protested US Navy’s freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the region and had sought an explanation with US officials over the incident. Jeffrey Kline, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, said that the areas that China are excessively claiming are rightfully part of the Philippines according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “The selection of Mischief Reef itself is clear in the sense that, in my view, we’re supporting the Philippines claim here and we’re also selecting what is clearly not a legal claim or a type of supportive claim by China,” Kline said in an interview with ANC on Friday. On July 2016, the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands issued a ruling invalidating China’s excessive claims over the disputed South China Sea. The Duterte administration set aside the ruling and opted to hold bilateral consultations with China to settle the maritime dispute. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/26/1703811/analyst-us-south-china-sea-operation-sign-support-philippines

The real purpose of US Navy ‘freedom of navigation operations’ around disputed South China Sea islands ‘Fonops’ in South China Sea are Washington’s way of continuing to support the regional security architecture and the rules-based liberal international order

With days to go before Asian defence officials meet in Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, the United States carried out its first South China Sea freedom of navigation operation (fonop) for the year. The guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. Not only was the operation the first for the year, it was the first carried out by the Trump administration – which had, until the operation, largely pushed the disputes in the South China Sea and US policy therein to the back burner. The Obama administration’s final fonop was in October, leaving a break of more than 200 days between both events. US warship sails to within a few miles of island built up by China in Spratlys China reacted predictably to the operation. The foreign ministry issued a statement noting that the US vessel entered “the adjacent waters” of Mischief Reef without the “permission of the Chinese government” (we’ll come back to why the precise phrasing here matters). The ministry reaffirmed China’s view that its sovereignty over nearly 90 per cent of the South China Sea was “indisputable”. More seriously, however, on the same day as the USS Dewey’s fonop,two Chinese jet fighters conducted what the US Navy complained was an unsafe intercept of a P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The US aircraft was intercepted near Hainan Island, presumably in a move designed by the People’s Liberation Army to assert Beijing’s sovereignty to the region. The intercept came just days after a similar incident over the East China Sea. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2095925/real-purpose-us-navy-freedom-navigation-operations

HOPE FOR CODE OF CONDUCT ON SOUTH CHINA SEA

Hope for Code of Conduct on South China Sea The legally binding document is expected to address reducing the risk of clashes in one of the world’s most strategic maritime territories, writes Rajaram Panda The oceanic space of the South China Sea (SCS) has emerged as a major flashpoint in the Asia Pacific region as there are several claimants to this disputed maritime territory. Several smaller nations of the ASEAN grouping claim to some parts of the SCS which are in their exclusive economic zones. On the other hand, China claims its sovereignty over this maritime space almost in its entirety. It even rejected the ruling in July 2016 of the international tribunal which ruled that China’s claims lack any historical validity. It has declared the SCS as one of its core interests, along with Tibet and Taiwan. Over the years, China has been engaged in various activities such as island building, making new fishing zone, even trying to build a nuclear reactor in the SCS with the aim to take control of this ocean space to the exclusion of other claimants. When the Hague tribunal invalidated in July 2016 most of its claim over the SCS in a case brought by the Philippines, China was enraged. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had taken office a month before the ruling, downplayed the ruling with a view to improve his country’s relations with China. Despite Duterte’s attempt to mollycoddle ties with China, it protested when Philippines’s defence and military chiefs visited a disputed island in the SCS. The Philippine Government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades. In order to achieve its objectives, China has tried and at times succeeded, in creating disunity amongst the ASEAN states. At other times, it has used economic diplomacy to get a certain member state of the grouping into its fold. For example, China took maximum advantage of the Philippines when controversial Duterte took power and willingly tried to reach out to Beijing. According to a recent report, China had even installed rocket launchers on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef in the SCS, though it claims that the facilities would be limited to defensive requirements. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-should-carry-out-naval-challenge-to-chinas-artificial-islands-retired-defence-boss-20170526-gwefds.html

China and Asean agree to draft code of conduct in South China Sea

Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbours have agreed to a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move that could reduce the risk of clashes in one of the world’s busiest waterways. Along with the framework, rival claimants China and the Philippines will start talks today over their competing claims in the sea, according to senior diplomats from both sides. China building on another disputed island in South China Sea Representatives for China and all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to the framework in Guiyang in Guizhou province after two days of talks that wrapped up on Thursday, said Liu Zhenmin, deputy foreign minister and head of China’s delegation. “The draft framework contains only the elements and is not the final rules, but the conclusion of the framework is a milestone in the process and is significant. It will provide a good foundation for the next round of consultations,” he said at a joint press conference. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2094873/china-and-asean-agree-draft-code-conduct-south-china

USS Ronald Reagan now underway on patrol amid uncertainty in Asia

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan departed its Yokosuka homeport Tuesday for a scheduled patrol of the Asia-Pacific region, amid concerns about North Korea and questions about how the White House will address China’s claims to the South China Sea. The roughly 5,000 sailors assigned to the ship and its embarked air wing departed a day later than planned due to an unspecified maintenance issue that required repair. An aircraft carrier’s scheduled deployment, which typically includes accompanying destroyers or cruisers and an unannounced submarine presence, typically lasts six to eight months. Although Navy officials haven’t announced port visits or operations, typical deployments take the Ronald Reagan to allied and partner countries in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. Security analysts will watch for any movements toward the Korean peninsula, where the San Diego-based USS Carl Vinson has kept watch amid a series of North Korean missile launches and speculation that the communist state could soon conduct a nuclear test. https://www.stripes.com/news/uss-ronald-reagan-now-underway-on-patrol-amid-uncertainty-in-asia-1.468540#.WSY7FROGODV