BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and are rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves.
CHINA ISSUES WARNING TO US NAVY SHIPS
China’s foreign ministry has protested the presence of U.S. Navy ships in waters it claims and says it has warned them to keep away.
Spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that the littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords “illegally entered” waters surrounding the Spratly Islands on Nov. 20. Geng said the destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer sailed past the Paracel Islands the next day.
“The Chinese Southern Theater Command tracked and monitored the whole process according to law, verified and identified the U.S. warships, and warned them to leave,” Geng said.
PHILIPPINES CONCERNED BY CHINA ELECTRIC GRID CONTROL
A Philippine lawmaker has raised concerns over the possibility of China shutting off power in the country due to its partial ownership of the national electric company.
China’s State Grid Corporation owns 40% of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros of the opposition Liberal Party said that could give China leverage in the event of a major confrontation over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded Friday by saying ties with Manila had been “brought back on track, consolidated and improved.”
Kent Carpenter, a marine biologist from Old Dominion University in Virginia, told the ABSABS-CBN TV network that giant clam harvesting and island building were responsible for the bulk of the destruction.
“The destructive island building activities in the South China Sea not only smothered corals by covering them over with actual sand, but the sand itself is continuing to bleed out into the water … so they don’t have a chance to recover,“ Carpenter said.
That, he said, stands to bring about a major decline in fish catches in the area.
Carpenter said compelling environmental testimony was provided to the Hague tribunal in the form of satellite photos showing the destruction of coral reefs as China built man-made islands to reinforce its territorial claims. The 2016 Hague ruling invalidated most of China’s claims but has been ignored by Beijing.
France’s top admiral says China’s navy is no longer hiding its ambition to maintain a global presence.
Christophe Prazuck was quoted by an Indian newspaper as saying China’s participation in the international anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia had become the pretext for it to expand its influence.
The Chinese navy “is not hiding anything about their global ambitions,” Prazuck was quoted as saying in The Hindu.
“Very often piracy is a very good excuse for countries to go out of their waters,” he said.
Despite the elimination of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, China is still sending ships to the region, including nuclear attack submarines, “though it’s not the most effective tool to fight against pirates,” Prazuck was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
India and France are in discussions for mounting joint patrols in the Indian Ocean.
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