Beijing busy in the South China Sea


BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:



The navies of China and Southeast Asian nations staged their first computer-simulated drills aimed at jointly responding to emergencies and building trust.

Singapore’s navy hosted the two-day exercises that ended Friday at a training center in Changi naval base, where officers coordinated their force deployments and helicopter landings on navy ships. They monitored developments on three giant screens, including one showing the location of a simulated collision between an oil tanker, which supposedly caught fire, and a passenger ship that sank and scattered people in the high seas.

Col. Lim Yu Chuan of Singapore’s navy said it was a successful prelude to actual maneuvers at sea that are planned for October in China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the planned naval exercises in China and the computer-simulated drills in Singapore were a starting point in efforts to elevate Beijing’s security relations with Southeast Asia.

“The two sides will further expand our defense exchange and security affairs cooperation in a joint effort to meet security challenges and uphold regional stability,” Wang told a news conference Thursday.

Aside from China and Taiwan, ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the disputed region. In the bloodiest confrontations, China clashed with Vietnamese forces in the Paracel Islands in 1974, leaving 74 South Vietnamese dead. Another clash in 1988 in the Spratlys, the South China Sea’s most contested region, left more than 60 Vietnamese sailors dead.