Category Archives: West Philippine Sea

Philippine Lawmaker Digging Up New Intelligence on Pressure From China


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  TAIPEI, TAIWAN — A Philippine opposition party legislator has been drawing attention for the release of privileged information that suggests China is infringing on offshore islets that the two countries dispute, a potential threat to a recently strengthened diplomatic relationship.   But some people reading his feed suspect personal political motives, including an effort to weaken President Duterte.   Congressman Gary Alejano is using social media to spread intelligence gathered on Chinese activity in the South China Sea. The former marine captain elected in 2013 charged China had planted its flag on a sandbar in Philippine-controlled waters in late July and in mid-September chased a Philippine patrol vessel away from three sandbars in the same waters.   Alejano is giving out this information on Facebook and Twitter to remind Filipinos to be careful of their friendship with China forged under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over the past year.      


South China Sea: Fourth US FONOP in Five Months

Earlier this week, the United States carried out the fourth freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea so far this year, after resuming the operations after a seven-month break in May. A U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Chafee, challenged excessive Chinese maritime claims in the Paracel group in the South China Sea, according to a Reuters report. According to Reuters, which cited U.S. officials, USS Chafee “carried out normal maneuvering operations” to challenge excessive maritime claims. The claims themselves were not explicitly clarified, but would likely involve China’s illegal prior notification requirements for lawful innocent passage operations. Moreover, the operation, like previous Paracel FONOPs, may have protested China’s illegal straight baselines around its island possessions there. In response to the operation, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army reportedly deployed two fighters, a helicopter, and surface ships to escort USS Chafee out of what Beijing claims as its territorial waters. “We demand the U.S. side earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense noted, adding that China would improve its area and anti-ship defenses in the region. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a press conference the day after the operation, noted that China would “continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the U.S. to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions.” The FONOP is the fourth in just five months and demonstrates that the Trump administration is accepting a higher frequency for these operations. After the Obama administration initiated South China Sea operations in October 2015, beginning with challenges to Chinese and other South China Sea claimant state possessions in the Spratly group, it only carried out three additional operations in 2016. Critics of the Obama administration’s approach to the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea suggested that the relative infrequency and perception that the operations were subject of the overall ebbs and flows of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship undermined their stated utility as legal signaling tools. Even with stepped up FONOPs this year, the Trump administration hasn’t changed the fundamentals of U.S. South China Sea policy, which continues to remain agnostic about sovereignty claims and focuses exclusively on freedom of navigation, overflight, and the preservation of international law and order in the region.  


Anifah: South China Sea issues should be addressed though peaceful means

KOTA SAMARAHAN, Oct 12 ― Malaysia believes that the South China Sea issues are complex, multi-faceted and highly sensitive and therefore, overlapping claims in the South China Sea should be addressed through peaceful means and in accordance with the relevant principles of international law. Its Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China (China) have claimed maritime areas and features in the South China Sea, which overlapped with Malaysia’s claims off the coast of Sabah and Sarawak. “China’s claim in the South China Sea is outlined by a unilaterally drawn ‘nine-dash line’ that includes almost the entirety of Malaysia’s maritime areas off the coast of Sabah and Sarawak. “Malaysia does not recognise China’s claims as outlined by the nine-dash line because it is inconsistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS). “Malaysia reaffirms the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and of flights over the South China Sea,” he said in his talk on ‘Issues and Challenges in Managing Malaysia’s Foreign Relations’ at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), here, today. He said Malaysia emphasised the need for all parties to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC in its entirety: to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence; exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities; to not to resort to threat or use of force; and for the parties concerned to resolve their differences and disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law including UNCLOS 1982. Malaysia urged that the consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) be intensified, to ensure the expeditious establishment of an effective COC, he added. Meanwhile, Anifah said: “Asean is one of the core aspects of Malaysia’s foreign policy and ASEAN as a whole is also important for China. “Therefore, Malaysia and China need to ensure proper balance and equilibrium between their individual and bilateral interests, and the larger regional interest of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. “Asean member states and China have been working together to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, and must continue to do so.” Anifah also said that Asean member states and China were committed to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety.  


Challenge China in the South China Sea by Democratic Example

  Australia and Timor-Leste will be finalizing their Timor Sea maritime-border agreement this month through the first time use of a compulsory conciliation clause that is part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Moreover, the reconciliation effort of Indonesia and Timor-Leste has led to, among other things, successful negotiations of their land border. Together these two accomplishments could help propel a broader regional narrative that promotes and institutionalizes support for democratic ideals, reconciliation-based solutions and international norms—challenging China’s one-sided border demands in the South China Sea. But for this to happen the United States must champion such regional developments.   Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony, voted in a plebiscite for independence from Indonesia in August 1999 (78.5 percent in favor to 21.5 percent against) after twenty-four years of occupation and resistance, which killed nearly a third of the population and affected every family. The opposition to occupation and international pressure on Indonesia eventually led to a trilateral agreement signed between the United Nations, Portugal and Indonesia in May 1999, which enabled the Timorese people to determine their destiny through a UN-sponsored ballot. The victory quickly turned to devastation as departing Indonesian-backed militias burned much of the country’s limited infrastructure to the ground.     The subsequent story of reconciliation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia is remarkable for the process and its success. After gaining independence in 2002, the leadership of Timor-Leste prioritized reconciliation with truth-telling to forge a new relationship with its closest neighbor, and to heal its divided community. The process was supported by an Indonesian government democratizing its politics and reforming its security institutions. Instead of following the standard international human-rights agenda to prosecute individual perpetrators of violence, the leaders of Timor-Leste and Indonesia instead sought a model of reconciliation anchored in both local peace-building and state-building.  


US guided-missile destroyer again checks Beijing in the South China Sea

An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter passes the USS Chafee (DDG 90) while delivering supplies to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during a vertical replenishment mission with the USNS Bridge in the Pacific Ocean on Jan. 2, 2012. Petty Officer 2nd Class James R. Evans, US Navy WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Tuesday, three U.S. officials told Reuters, even as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in reining in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. But it was not as provocative as previous ones carried out since Trump took office in January. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal maneuvering operations that challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.  


Chinese frigate, jets drive away US warship from South China Sea

  China sent a frigate and fighter jets to warn and drive away a US Navy destroyer, after the latter sailed near islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Wednesday.   The frigate Huangshan, two J-11B fighters and one helicopter were sent in response to the US Navy destroyer’s presence, a MND spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the Chinese military will enhance its self-defense in light of the US military’s constant provocation, and will firmly defend China’s sovereignty and interests.   The MND’s response came after the US guided missile destroyer Chafee sailed near islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Reuters reported.   The report said the destroyer “carried out normal maneuvering operations that challenged ‘excessive maritime claims.’”   Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also denounced the mission as a violation of China’s sovereignty and interests on Wednesday.   “China strongly opposes the move and has lodged solemn representations with the US … and the Chinese government will continue to take firm measures to safeguard national territory, sovereignty and maritime interests,” Hua said at a daily press conference.    


Alejano insists presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa island ‘dangerous’

MANILA- Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Friday insisted that the presence of Chinese ships near the Philippines’ Pag-asa island is “highly suspicious” and “dangerous” even after Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said it is only “quite natural.” Alejano said the real issues on the recent reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa are the activities of the Chinese Navy, Chinese Coast Guard, and Chinese maritime militias against Filipino vessels in the area. Advertisement “It was about aggressive, dangerous, and highly suspicious activities of Chinese Navy, Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militias against Philippine government and civilian vessels conducting various activities in the area,” he said in a statement. The lawmaker earlier said he received information that Chinese ships were seen again in waters near Pag-asa and 3 nearby sandbars. The Chinese ambassador on Thursday downplayed the presence of Beijing’s vessels saying there is no need to worry since the ships are only engaged in fishing. Pag-asa (Thitu), the second largest island Spratly group of islands, and a high-tide elevation feature, is located around 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. Alejano also belied Zhao’s statements that China will not do anything to escalate tensions in the disputed waters in adherence to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The lawmaker said there have been instances in the past when Philippine vessels were blocked by Chinese maritime militias just along Pag-asa. “His statements that China strictly abides by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties specifically Section 5 are not entirely true. The DOC of Parties was not just signed recently. It was, in fact, an old document which was signed fifteen years ago in 2002,” he said. Contrary to Zhao’s claims, Alejano said Beijing has repeatedly violated the DOC. “Testament to this was China’s grabbing of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and the numerous incidents of harassment of Filipino fishermen. It should also be noted that China has aggressively reclaimed its seven reefs from 2013-2016 in violation of international laws and the rights of the Philippines…,” he said.  


Despite Common Threat in Beijing, Other South China Sea Rivals Still Spar Among Selves

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Four Southeast Asian countries and Taiwan, all of which lay claims to the contested, resource-rich South China Sea, are still grappling with incidents among themselves despite a focus on their common rival, China. The suspected shooting deaths late last month of two Vietnamese fishermen in waters 34 nautical miles from the Philippines were a severe response to a common issue: Boats from one country test the limits of another to catch fish. But China, the most powerful claimant, is often not in the picture. “Most fishing boats have GPS so they actually know their position and whether they’re approaching islands controlled by some other country but that they might not get caught,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “That’s how fishermen are.” Gunfire was common in the 1990s Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam claim nearly all or parts of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea. Since 2010, the smaller governments have focused on resisting China militarily and diplomatically. They resent its reclamation of land for artificial islands, a buildup of military infrastructure and passage of coast guard ships far from its shores.

Duterte Reaches out to U.S. Amid South China Sea Harassment

As reports that Chinese vessels are increasing in number near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the South China Sea, Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has hinted at a possible reconciliation with the U.S. Duterte made a surprise announcement that he wanted to be “friendly” with the U.S., a view which contrasts to earlier statements. On several previous occasions, he called on U.S. special forces in the Philippines to return home and said he no longer wanted a joint military sea and land exercise with the U.S. He even described the U.S. as a “lousy” country. But Duterte is changing his tune, now, two months after the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) broke the news that 11 Chinese ships were spotted in the sea waters of Pag-asa Island. The news alarmed the ASEAN community which suspected China was further expanding its military presence in the disputed South China Sea. Pag-asa is one of the Spratly Islands and is home to 100 Filipino fishermen. Duterte has not publicly opposed the resumption of military drills that allowed 900 U.S. troops to hold joint military exercises with Filipino troops in the Northern Philippines. Though not specifying the joint military exercise is aimed at China, the U.S. embassy said that this military exercise will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region to further reinforce (the two countries’) decades-long alliance.


South China Sea: Philippines Plans Spratly Upgrades

The Philippines Armed Forces will upgrade the airstrip on Thitu Island, among other improvement. The Philippines will begin important upgrades to its primary outpost in the disputed Spratly group in the South China Sea. According to Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program will finance the paving of the 1.3 kilometer-long airstrip on Thitu, or Pag-Asa, Island—the largest Philippine holding in the Spratly group, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims. In addition to the airstrip upgrade on Thitu Island, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will also endeavor to implement long-sought upgrades to barracks, water systems, and other facilities on nine other features in the Spratly Islands. According to Voice of America, the modernization program, launched in 2012 under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, who took a particular interest in the South China Sea, has a budget of $2.56 this year. The planned upgrades for Thitu Island demonstrate a degree of continuity in Manila’s South China Sea policy under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who, since entering office in July 2016, has pursued a policy of rapprochement with Beijing. Recently, Chinese naval and coast guard vessels approached Thitu Island, with little response from the Duterte administration.