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Aggression in South China Sea will see new anti-China coalition – Golez

MANILA, Philippines — A former national security adviser predicted that China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea will spur the creation of a coalition of countries, including the United States, to thwart the Asian giant’s military dominance in the vital sea lanes. “In view of its aggressive stance, China has triggered (the formation of) a coalition against itself … It is an over aggressiveness that is backfiring,” Roilo Golez, who is also a former congressman, said in a talk before leaders of the Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Pasig City. “If there is a bully, he may get his way for a while, but then after a while, people will coalesce and gang up against the bully. And who is the first bully in the area?” the graduate of the US Naval Academy said. He pointed out that the US, Japan, Australia, India and Vietnam have already moved to beef up their forces in the contentious sea lanes. “It is an emerging coalition. You can see sea exercises between India and the US … Japan is considering patrolling the South China Sea, and Australia said it is going to modernize its Navy,” he said. “It looks like the world is now ganging up on China.” At the same time, he said, the world is also keeping close watch on the Philippines’ case China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which accuses China of violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by laying claim to almost the whole South China Sea. The international tribunal is expected to hand down its decision this year although China has refused to recognize and participate in the proceedings. “If we win this case, this would invalidate China’s nine-dash line claims,” Golez said. Recently, China raised hackles by deploying an air defense missile system to Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain which it disputes with Taiwan and Vietnam.—golez



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United States officials claimed that China has installed military jamming equipment on fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea which will allow Beijing to block enemy radar and communications systems. This latest step in China’s militarization of its island bases signifies Beijing’s determination to assert its regional territorial claims, regardless of U.S. opposition. According to The Wall Street Journal, the jamming systems were installed within the last 90 days. The Journal quoted a U.S. Defense Department official who said that China “deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts” in the southern part of the sea. The claim was reportedly backed by satellite images provided by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe. China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. The images showed what is believed to be a jamming system with its antenna extended on Mischief Reef, one of seven fortified artificial Spratly outposts. China has been constructing such bases since 2014. Existing reefs and rocks are covered with sand and eventually concrete, creating military bases in the middle of the ocean.


US, Japanese, Australian warships dock in PH this week amid sea tensions

Some warships of the Philippines’ traditional allies – US, Japan, and Australia – are set to dock in the Philippines this week for port visits amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Manila on Wednesday for a port visit, the US Embassy announced. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is on a Western Pacific deployment. It sailed the disputed South China Sea before it arrived in Manila. “The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group will continue on their regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment after departing Manila, conducting a variety of operations, including addressing shared maritime security concerns, building relationships with partner navies and enhancing interoperability and communication with partners and allies throughout the area of operations through exercises and visits,” the warship’s public affairs said in a statement. The US, which claims it will continue to allow vessels to sail wherever international law allows, has three aircraft carrier strike groups currently within or around the South China Sea. Royal Australian Navy vessels Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Anzac (FFH 150) and logistics vessel HMAS Success (OR 304) are scheduled to arrive on Thursday at Alava Wharf in Subic for a four-day goodwill visit, the Philippine Navy said in a media advisory. Read more:


U.S. and China Have Bigger Problems Than a Trade War

Fake islands, the Taiwan Travel Act and Chinese outreach to Russia are making military conflict more likely. The tit-for-tat trade sanctions fight between the U.S and China may be getting the headlines and rocking financial markets, but some less-noticed recent flare-ups between the world’s preeminent powers may present more lasting, and perilous, complications for American policymakers. The new National Defense and National Security Strategies produced by the Donald Trump administration made clear that Washington has a decidedly more pessimistic outlook on its future relationship with China. For years, the U.S. had focused on China’s potential to integrate more effectively into the international system; it is now girding for a return to the great-power competition of the 20th century. Chinese officials, who spend a lot more time poring over U.S. strategy documents than most American do, certainly interpreted this shift as presaging a downturn in relations, preparation for military conflict, and confirmation of their long-held belief that the U.S. seeks to blunt China’s rise and limit its global influence. Meanwhile, in response to China’s growing military and diplomatic assertiveness in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy has gradually routinized its freedom of navigation operations in the Spratly Islands — conducting one every two or so months since early 2017. In late March, the Navy conducted — and publicized — a pointedly ambitious operation near Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef, intended to signal that the U.S. considers the reef a “low-tide elevation” rather than a true island, challenging China’s claim to sovereignty and a surrounding 12-mile exclusive territorial area. China was likely also displeased when last month the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson visited Da Nang — the first U.S. carrier trip to Vietnam since 1975. In response, China’s Defense Ministry condemned the Mischief Reef operation as a “serious military provocation,” and shortly thereafter conducted its own large naval exercise, involving 40 ships and an aircraft carrier, off of Hainan Island on China’s southeast coast. This week, U.S. officials publicly called out China’s installation of radar-jamming equipment (with obvious military applications) on two of its newly constructed islands in the Spratly chain. Yet China’s most tendentious act may have been verbal rather than martial. On a visit to Moscow this month, China’s new defense minister, General Wei Fenghe, declared, “The Chinese side has come to Moscow to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia, and that we’ve come to support you.”


US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations ‘transparent’

MANILA — As an “interested party” in the achievement of peace in the Pacific region, the United States is encouraging transparency in the negotiations for the crafting of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the West Philippine Sea. In a conference call with the press on Thursday, Patrick Murphy, US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, said Washington welcomed the fact that there is now an inclusive dialogue to manage maritime disputes in the sea lane. “All 10 members of ASEAN with China are participating in that dialogue. That’s the good news,” Murphy said. “At the same time, as an interested party, we very much encourage that this process be transparent, that it leads to a binding, meaningful result in accordance with international law,” he added. While the US is not a claimant country, Murphy stressed they are a “very interested and engaged country” as part of the Pacific region. “We have great interest in this part of the world for our commerce, but also in exercising our legal freedoms of navigation and overflight,” he said. For more than a decade, China and the ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to work towards the early adoption of the COC. But it was only during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit in November last year that development on the document began to move forward. As the dialogue progresses, Murphy encouraged parties to adhere to the basic principles of international law, as he cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on a case between the Philippines and China, and the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) on the West Philippine Sea. Murphy said COC discussions can only work if the environment is conducive for dialogue. “That’s why we encourage all parties to cease any militarization, construction or reclamation of disputed outposts,” he said. “That would be in accordance with the 2002 DOC and that would improve the backdrop, the environment for successful dialogue.” US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations ‘transparent’

Are China and the Philippines Agreeing to Share the South China Sea?

In theory, any resource-sharing agreement should be consistent with both countries’ national as well as the 2016 international tribunal ruling at The Hague, which nullified much of China’s nine-dash line map claims to areas Manila views as its own. The Philippine constitution bars any JDA with a foreign entity that refuses to acknowledge the country’s sovereignty within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Any JDA within China’s nine-dash line map will also potentially violate international law by legitimizing the Asian powerhouse’s excessive and expansive claims in adjacent waters. According to the 2016 arbitral award ruling, the Philippines and China have no overlapping EEZs, thus it’s not clear what would be the legal basis for a fair and legitimate resource-sharing scheme in accordance to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has described any resource-sharing agreement with China within Philippine waters as unconstitutional and potential grounds for Duterte’s impeachment. Leading defense officials also continue to ring alarm bells over China’s expanding military footprint in adjacent waters. The two sides likely envision resource-sharing ventures similar to the Camago-Malampaya gas project, located off the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan in the South China Sea, where multinational energy giants Chevron and Shell are the lead investors. One proposal is for the Philippine National Oil Company to subcontract CNOOC to develop energy resources in the nearby Calamian Islands, which lies outside the Philippines’ EEZ as well as China’s nine-dash line map. The arrangement would seemingly clear most potential legal hurdles and seems politically viable. A similar arrangement, though more controversial, is being considered in neighboring Reed Bank, a potential site of huge untapped hydrocarbon resources.


Islands of Chinese power

When the US aircraft carrier, Carl Vincent, recently made a port call at Da Nang, Vietnam, it attracted international attention because this was the first time that a large contingent of US military personnel landed on Vietnamese soil since the last of the American troops withdrew from that country in 1975. The symbolism of this port call, however, cannot obscure the fact that the United States, under two successive presidents, has had no coherent strategy for the South China Sea. It was on President Barack Obama’s watch that China created and militarised seven artificial islands in the South China Sea, while his successor, Donald Trump, still does not seem to have that critical sub-region on his radar.It was just five years ago that China began pushing its borders far out into international waters by building artificial islands in the South China Sea. After having militarised these outposts, it has now presented a fait accompli to the rest of the world — without incurring any international costs. These developments carry far-reaching strategic implications for the Indo-Pacific region and for the international maritime order. They also highlight that the biggest threat to maritime peace and security comes from unilateralism, especially altering the territorial or maritime status quo by violating international norms and rules. The Indo-Pacific is so interconnected that adverse developments in any of its sub-regions impinge on wider maritime security. For example, it was always known that if China had its way in the South China Sea, it would turn its attention to the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. This is precisely what is happening now. An emboldened China has also claimed to be a “near-Arctic state” and unveiled plans for a “polar Silk Road”. In fact, with the US distracted as ever, China’s land-reclamation frenzy in the South China Sea still persists. China is now using a super-dredger, dubbed as a “magical island-building machine”.


What a Nixed Energy Project Reveals About Vietnam’s South China Sea Calculus

Late last month, Vietnam suspended ongoing work on a major oil drilling project in disputed waters between it and China in the South China Sea, reportedly under Chinese pressure. The incident revealed the ongoing challenge Vietnam faces in protecting its interests in the vital waterway as Beijing continues to aggressively assert its maritime claims. Vietnam is no stranger to this kind of Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. For Hanoi, the disputes are just part of a wider, centuries-old problem of managing ties with its giant northern neighbor, which occupied it for nearly a millennia and with which it has fought multiple wars, including most recently in 1979. Due to its proximity to China, the vast asymmetry of its capabilities relative to Beijing, and the long historical evolution of their relationship, Vietnam has long pursued a mix of engagement and balancing, recognizing the threats and opportunities from Beijing. …


Ahead of Drills in South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Minister Visits Vietnam

China and Vietnam agree to “cautiously handle maritime issues.” From March 30 to April 2, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister as well as a member of the State Council, paid an official four-day visit to Vietnam. Officially, Wang was in Vietnam this time mainly to attend the sixth Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting. But the disputed South China Sea issue apparently dominated the hidden agenda for both countries, particularly at a time when China has been intensifying military drills in South China Sea. As The Diplomat has been following, on March 23, the U.S. warship USS Mustin carried out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea and passed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China. As an immediate response, China rapidly increased its military presence in this area. Not only did the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) announce that it had “recently” conducted a combat patrol mission in the South China Sea, the PLA Navy (PLAN) also decided to conduct combat exercises “in the coming days.” Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month. On March 30 — the day that Wang started his visit to Hanoi — the Maritime Safety Administration in Hainan confirmed on its website that China’s military drills will last for a total week, from April 5 to 11. The notification also specified the exact location of the drills and highlighted “Entering prohibited” in English. Days earlier, Reuters published satellite images showing at least 40 ships and submarines flanking the aircraft carrier Liaoning off Hainan Island — an unusually large display of the PLAN. Since the Philippines has backed down on the South China Sea dispute under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, Vietnam has become the most vocal opponent of China’s claims in the South China Sea. Located close to Hainan Island geographically, Vietnam undoubtedly has been paying close attention to China’s recent military operations.


Report: U.S. Navy could soon conduct drills in South China Sea

Hong Kong press reported Tuesday the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group anchored at Singapore port and may soon be deployed to the South China Sea. File Photo courtesy of United States Navy Sign up for our weekly Korea Now newsletter An exclusive report putting perspective on the week’s most important developments. April 3 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy could conduct drills at or near the South China Sea amid rising tensions with Beijing over trade tariffs and Chinese plans to deploy its first domestic aircraft carrier, according to Hong Kong press reports. Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily News reported Tuesday the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group anchored at Singapore port and may soon be deployed to the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea and has successfully militarized the disputed Spratly Islands as neighboring countries back down from confrontation. The U.S. “maritime training drills,” if carried out, could “greatly provoke” China, the News reported.. The group, led by Carrier Strike Group 9, is planning to conduct operations for the Seventh Fleet, and could conduct joint exercises with the militaries of other countries, the report states. China recently conducted a large-scale drill involving its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. A total of 40 Chinese ships were involved in the exercises. China is wary of the U.S. military presence, a Chinese military analyst warned Tuesday. Jin Yinan, a retired People’s Liberation Army general and former professor at China’s National Defense University, said on China National Radio the United States’ policy of “pressure” against China and Russia could lead the two countries to forge an alliance.


Chinese air force holds drills over South China Sea, Western Pacific in ‘preparation for war’

H-6K bombers, Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets were among the aircraft involved in the combat patrols and drills, and they also passed over the Miyako Strait, which lies between two Japanese islands, the air force said in a statement on Sunday. It called the exercises the air force’s best preparation for war. The air force did not say when or specify where the drills took place. Beijing’s muscle flexing came days after lawmakers approved changes to the Chinese constitution and confirmed a new government line-up. During his closing speech to the legislature on Tuesday, President Xi Jinping sent a strong nationalist message, saying China would crush any attempt to “divide the nation” and highlighting Beijing’s hardline stance towards any talk of independence for Taiwan and Hong Kong. Beijing accuses US of ‘serious provocation’ after destroyer sails through disputed South China Sea The air force released footage of the drills, as Japan’s defence ministry on Friday confirmed that eight Chinese military aircraft – including six H-6K bombers, a Tu-154 reconnaissance plane and a Yun-8 transport plane – had passed over the Miyako Strait that day. Zeng Zhiping, a military expert at the Nanchang Institute of Technology in Jiangxi province, said the scale of the exercise was unusual for China’s air force. “Rather than a fighter jet or two, numerous military aircraft with multiple functions passed over the Miyako Strait before they carried out this mission – this is by no means something that happens regularly,” Zeng said. The Su-35 fighter jet was among a number of military aircraft involved in the exercises. Photo: PLA Air Force The country is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme overseen by Xi, with a heavy focus on its air force and navy, from building stealth fighters to adding aircraft carriers. Beijing insists it has no hostile intent, but its sabre-rattling in the busy South China Sea, and around Taiwan, has touched a nerve in the region and in Washington.