Duterte: China’s manmade islands in disputed sea not for PH but intended vs the US

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sought on Monday to allay fears about China’s construction of military bases on manmade islands in the South China Sea, saying these were built to defend against America rather than confront neighboring states. Duterte also blamed past governments for not building up the country’s defenses in the Spratly archipelago at a time when Beijing was only starting to build its artificial islands and turning them into military bases. “We did nothing,” the firebrand leader said in a speech to Chinese-Filipino businessmen. On China’s construction, he added: “It’s not intended for us. The contending ideological powers of the world or the geopolitics has greatly changed. It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think would destroy them and that is America.” China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where $3 trillion worth of goods passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims. Duterte: China’s manmade islands in disputed sea not for PH but intended vs the US

British warship to sail through disputed South China Sea


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SYDNEY, Australia – A British warship will sail from Australia through the disputed South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights, a senior official said Tuesday in a move likely to irk Beijing. China claims nearly all of the resource-rich waterway and has been turning reefs and islets into islands and installing military facilities such as runways and equipment on them. PH will thank China for artificial islands someday – Roque China construction continues in disputed sea: think tank British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would arrive in Australia later this week. “She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea (on the way home) and making it clear our navy has a right to do that,” he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra. He would not say whether the frigate would sail within 12 nautical miles of a disputed territory or artificial island built by the Chinese, as US ships have done. But he said: “We absolutely support the US approach on this, we very much support what the US has been doing.” In January, Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the sea. China says U.S. warship violated its South China Sea sovereignty Williamson said it was important that US allies such as Britain and Australia “assert our values” in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which US$5.0 trillion in trade passes annually. “World dynamics are shifting so greatly. The US can only concentrate on so many things at once,” he said. “The US is looking for other countries to do more. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership.” China in December defended its construction on disputed islands, which are also claimed by Southeast Asian neighbors, as “normal” after a US think tank released new satellite images showing the deployment of radar and other equipment.


Chinese navy preparing for island dispute: expert

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is strengthening its combat capability by conducting drills in the South China Sea in an effort to deal with potential disputes and national reunification in the future, a military expert said on Wednesday, adding that other countries should familiarize themselves with the situation. Website navy.81.cn, affiliated to PLA Daily, reported six landing ships taking part in an exercise in the South China Sea on Monday. The fleet conducted training, including artillery practice, the navy.81.cn website reported on Monday. China’s Type 071 amphibious landing ships – Jinggangshan and Kunlunshan – joined the exercises, according to the report. “The PLA Navy is responding to the Central Military Commission’s call for more training to strengthen combat capabilities,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.


China to make disputed islands bigger using ‘magic island maker’

MANILA, Philippines — China intends to use its “magical island maker” to expand the size of its reclaimed islands in the South China Sea following years of massive reclamations and despite continuing protests from neighboring countries.   “The size of some South China Sea Islands will be further expanded in the future with more dredging vessels, such as the [Tian Kun Hao] working on the land reclamation projects in the South China Sea region,” Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, the state-run Global Times said.   Chen said that one of the most outstanding achievements of China’s island-building in the contested waters was the increase in civilian facilities on these man-made features, thereby improving public service capacity and helping maintain sovereignty over them.   This expansion will likely continue just months after China in November launched Tian Kun Hao, its biggest island-making vessel and described as a “magic island maker.”   A new government report said that China “reasonably” expanded the area of its South China Sea islands, with construction projects in 2017 alone covering about 290,000 square meters.   These construction projects, according to the report, included new underground facilities for storage, administrative buildings and a large radar.   It said that the construction activities will help China meet its “international responsibility” including maritime search and rescue and navigation safety and environment protection.   They can also help Beijing enhance its military defense capability within its “sovereign scope,” with more Chinese troops being stationed in the area, a move likely to further worry its neighbors and the US.   The Chinese report generally reinforced a warning by an American think tank which provided satellite imagery showing China’s unceasing construction activities on its artificially-made features in the disputed waters.  


As tensions ease, China keeps building on disputed islands

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tensions over China’s island-building in the South China Sea may have eased in the past year, but Beijing has kept busy.   New satellite imagery shows China has built infrastructure covering 72 acres (28 hectares) in the Spratly and Paracel islands during 2017 to equip its larger outposts to be air and naval bases.   The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative closely tracks developments in the South China Sea, where China and several Asian governments have conflicting territorial claims. It said Thursday there has been construction of hangars, underground storage, missile shelters, radar arrays and other facilities.   The activity comes as China joins what are likely to be protracted negotiations with Southeast Asian nations on a “code of conduct” for South China Sea. Tensions with the U.S. on the issue have also eased, despite Washington’s criticism of Beijing’s conduct.   The construction is the follow-up phase to a campaign of land reclamation that was completed by early 2016 in the Spratlys, an island chain where Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims. According to the Pentagon, China has added more than 3,200 acres (1,248 hectares) of land to the seven land features it occupies in the area.   China also seems to have halted smaller-scale operations to expand islands in the Paracels that lie farther north, the initiative said.   The U.S. and others have accused Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its sweeping claims across the South China Sea. China says the man-made islands in the Spratlys, which are equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade.  


China Calmed Asian Maritime Dispute in 2017 Without Ceding Sovereignty

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — China calmed Asia’s biggest maritime sovereignty dispute in 2017 by offering aid, investment and the pledge of negotiations with weaker Southeast Asian countries as Beijing’s chief nemesis, the United States, kept quiet. These shifts in the South China Sea sovereignty dispute involving six governments allow Beijing to minimize public criticism of its claim to about 90 percent of the waters stretching from its southern coast to the island of Borneo. That calm in turn lowers risk of conflict. “The U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, when they look at Asia they are inclined to think that it’s a peaceful place, because we’ve found a way to communicate despite disagreements and to accept disagreements as they are,” said Alan Chong, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam assert sovereignty over all or parts of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea. Claimants prize the tropical body of water around some 500 tiny islands for its fisheries, marine shipping lanes and undersea fossil fuel reserves. China cites historical fishing records to back its claims. Since 2010 the technologically superior country has angered its neighbors by using landfill to build up islets for military installations. In 2016, a world arbitration court ruled, at the Philippines’ request, against the legal basis for Chinese maritime claims.  


Singapore backs peaceful resolution of sea dispute

  SINGAPORE – The city-state of Singapore has expressed support for a peaceful resolution of the overlapping claims of some areas in the South China Sea.   Although Singapore is not a claimant state, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan noted that majority of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have trade and economic-related interests, which also puts premium on peace and stability in the region.   “So, what are ASEAN’s interests? Our interests are, number one, freedom of navigation and overflight because all of us are dependent on trade and we want trade to be able to flow securely, peacefully, without tension, without risk,” Balakrishnan told the gathering of the 8th ASEAN Visiting Journalists Program last week.   “Even if there’s no war, if there’s tension, your insurance premiums for trade will go up. You immediately erode our profit margins, erode our volumes of trade,” he said.   Balakrishnan discussed the need to address the issue of “peace, stability, with freedom of navigation and overflight so that trade is not affected.”   “We want a rules-based world order where international law counts. Not just because international law itself is something so powerful, but because international law provides avenues for the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he said.   http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/12/03/1764831/singapore-backs-peaceful-resolution-sea-dispute

Opinion: China Has Tempered Its Expansion In The Disputed South China Sea

  The government in Beijing has made no official statement to this effect, but connect the dots and here’s a picture: It has mothballed for now a quest to landfill new islands in Asia’s major disputed waterway, the South China Sea. Land reclamation had alarmed five other Asian governments that vie with China for sovereignty over the sea, which is packed with valuable fisheries as well as fossil fuel reserves, because the resulting new islets can support military installations.   China has put any new, controversial reclamation work on hold under a rising tide of foreign pressure, at least two veteran Asian geopolitics analysts believe. The last time you heard about it was in June, when an American think tank called China’s work on three of the sea’s Spratly Islands “near completion.” The construction began at least a year earlier.   https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/11/27/china-freezes-expansion-of-its-control-over-asias-major-disputed-sea/#25871a2d771c

Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea dispute

  U.S. President Donald Trump said on a visit to Vietnam on Sunday he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea, where five countries contest China’s sweeping claims to the busy waterway. Vietnam has become the most vocal opponent of China’s claims and its construction and militarisation of artificial islands in the sea, through which about $3-trillion in goods pass each year. “If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said in comments ..  


Japan May Face a New Chinese Onslaught in Dispute Over East China Sea Islets

It may be time to pay more attention to Beijing’s moves against Japan in the East China Sea. Experts say that with China’s Communist Party Congress now concluded and perhaps after President Trump’s trip to Asia in early November, Beijing may escalate the moves it’s made near disputed territories in the strategic sea. Japanese analysts fear that China might send maritime militia vessels backed by the Chinese Coast Guard in a show of force directed at the disputed Senkaku Islands. This could include a landing on one of the eight uninhabited islands. “That’s a very legitimate concern,” said Ryan Martinson, a researcher at the U.S. Navy War College’s Maritime Studies Institute, in a reference to Japanese fears.