Rectangles show disputed areas in South China Sea.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sept. 2 that China is building on another shoal in the South China Sea despite an international court ruling rejecting most of China’s claims in the resource-rich area. The Communist Party dictatorship of President Xi Jinping has been aggressively militarizing parts of the sea.
A U.N.-backed tribunal has ruled in July that China’s claims to almost all of the strategic sea had no legal basis and that its construction of artificial islands in disputed waters was illegal.
Mr. Duterte said he received an “unsettling” intelligence report showing China had sent barges to the contested Scarborough Shoal and had appeared to begin construction in the area for the first time.
China has already built artificial islands in the Spratly chain in the South China Sea. The United States has warned of unspecified “actions” if Beijing extended its military expansion to the Scarborough Shoal.
Reuters reported that “A senior U.S. soldier said on Sept. 1 that Australia must choose between a stronger U.S. alliance or closer ties with China, and urged Canberra to take a tougher stance against Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
“The Pentagon, however, disputed the statement by U.S. Army Assistant Chief of Staff Colonel Tom Hanson, saying it did not represent the position of the U.S. government.
“I think the Australians need to make a choice … it’s very difficult to walk this fine line between balancing the alliance with the United States and the economic engagement with China,” Colonel Hanson said on Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio.
“There’s going to have to be a decision as to which one is more of a vital national interest for Australia,” he said, adding that the comments reflected his personal view and were not necessarily that of the U.S. government.
“The idea that Australia, or any country, needs to choose between its longstanding ties to the United States and its emerging links with China presents a false choice,” U.S. Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said. . “Australia has strong, multifaceted ties with its Pacific neighbors, including China, just as we seek the same.”
Colonel Hanson’s comments came after a parliamentary booklet warned Australian lawmakers to treat Chinese motives in Asia-Pacific region with caution as Beijing moves, many observers think, to establish hegemony in the South China Sea
In a rare show of cooperation between the two superpowers, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted joint operations in the Pacific with its Chinese counterpart this summer, part of annual patrols to deter illegal fishing.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said the USCG Mellon “rendezvoused and conducted a professional exchange” with two Chinese Coast Guard ships.
“The exchange focused on professional goodwill between coast guards,” U.S. Coast Guard District 17 spokesman Lt. Brian Dykens said. He added that the U.S. government has a “shiprider agreement” with China in which the U.S. Coast Guard vessel works with one or two Chinese Coast Guard ships.
Earlier this week, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said “cooperation between the two countries’ coast guards has deepened through personnel exchanges and joint operations.”
Xinhua also reported that the China Coast Guard plans to expand patrols in northern parts of the Pacific Ocean and deepen cooperation with the U.S. side.
The U.S., Japan and nations on the South China Sea have sought to counter Beijing’s militarized expansion into the South and East China seas.
Japan’s annual defense review has expressed ”deep concern” over what it sees as China’s ”coercion” and aggressiveness, particularly in the South China Sea.
The review comes amid heightened tension in East and Southeast Asia less than a month after an arbitration court in the Hague invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the disputed South China Sea.
An increasingly aggressive and militaristic China refuses to recognize the ruling.
Japan fears that Chinese military bases being built on shoals and tiny islands in the sea will dangerously expand Beijing’s influence over a region through which $5 trillion in trade passes every year, much of it to and from Japanese ports.
And so, notes Reuters, Japan provides equipment and training to Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines and Vietnam, that “are most opposed to China’s territorial ambitions.”
China’s increasingly aggressive military is pushing the nation’s also aggressive Communist political leadership to be willing to attack the U.S. and other nations that are pushing back against China’s attempt to take over the South China Sea through military threats. But so far, anyway, the government of President Xi Jinping has shown some wariness of provoking a direct armed clash with the United States.
China has called for a peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes through talks at the same time as it continued to build up its military in the sea, especially by militarizing reefs and shoals.
Hackers, presumably directed by the Chinese government, have attacked the Web site of Vietnam’s two biggest airports and its national airline, Vietnam Airlines, with pro-Chinese messages about China’s attempts to take control of most of the South China Sea. The attacks come after a ruling by an international tribunal earlier in July in the Hague that China’s claims are almost entirely spurious.
Vietnamese state media said the hackers criticized the Philippines and Vietnam and their comparatively modest claims in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese officials said the hackers directed browsers to what Vietnam Airlines called “bad Web sites overseas”.
Dictatorships tend to support other dictatorships in order, in part, to discourage democracy. Thus it was no surprise that the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad sides with China’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea — in opposition to the decision of a nonpartisan international tribunal in the Hague that essentially said that China’s claim was bogus.
In a new show of muscle, China is closing part of the South China Sea for military exercises this week. The announcement comes after an international tribunal ruled against Beijing’s claim to own virtually the entire sea.
An area southeast of China Hainan island province will be closed until Thursday local time, but Beijing gave no details about the exercises.
The Japan Times reported: “Six governments claim territory in the South China Sea, although the area where the Chinese naval exercises are being held is not considered a particular hot spot. China’s navy and coast guard operate extensively throughout the South China Sea and regularly stage live firing exercises in the area.”
The very clear July 12 ruling could lead smaller Asian countries to be more assertive regarding their rights in these waters, which, in turn, could increase the number of incidents with an increasingly expansionist and aggressive China, which its neighbors consider a bully.
A big question is how much this will affect freedom of navigation in a sea through which goes 30 percent of world trade. The United States, for its part, has emphasized that it will do what is necessary to keep the shipping lanes open in the region.
China has lost an important international legal case over control of strategic reefs and atolls that it asserts give it the right to control much of the South China Sea. It has been rapidly militarizing some of these features to cow other nations with claims in the region, through which goes 30 percent of world trade in physical things.
But expansionist dictatorships have a tendency to ignore international law.
The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague overwhelmingly favors claims by the Philippines and will intensify diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in this geopolitically very sensitive area.
As The Guardian noted, “By depriving certain outcrops of territorial-generating status, the ruling effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing ‘nine-dash’ line that goes almost ridiculously far into the South China Sea, far, far away from China.
China predictably denounced the verdict, which declares large areas of the sea to be neutral international waters or in the exclusive economic zones of other countries. Xinhua, the country’s official news agency, attacked what it called an “ill-founded” ruling that was “naturally null and void”.
The Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily said that the tribunal had ignored “basic truths” and “tramped” on international laws and norms. “The Chinese government and the Chinese people firmly oppose [the ruling] and will neither acknowledge it nor accept it,” it added.
The tribunal declared that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.”
China has strongly criticized Japan over a scramble of military aircraft from the two countries amid a dispute over islands in the East China Sea.
Japan is in an old dispute with China over ownership of a group of islands northeast of Taiwan, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said that two Japanese fighter jets took “provocative actions” at a high speed near a pair of Chinese fighter jets patrolling the sea on June 17.
The Japanese planes used radar to “light up” the Chinese aircraft, the Chinese statement added. Japan has acknowledged that there was a scramble but has denied that there was any radar lock.
“The Japanese plane’s provocative actions caused an accident in the air, endangering the safety of personnel on both sides, and destroying the peace and stability in the region,” China’s Defense Ministry said.
Japan has accused China of escalating military activity in the East China Sea, saying that Japanese emergency scrambles to counter Chinese jets have almost doubled over the past three months.
Reuters reports that Japan “is worried that China is escalating its activity in the East China Sea in response to Tokyo’s pledge to support countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Vietnam, that oppose China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.”
China is saber-rattling this week in the South China Sea in advance of an international legal ruling that might put into even more doubt China’s claims to much of the sea. The government of President Xi Jinping has sent extra naval vessels into the waters.
As Chinese expansionism fuels fears all over East Asia, Japan plans to buy new fighter jets worth a total as much as $40 billion. Japan is increasingly worried about Chinese aggression in the East China Sea, where there are a number of islands whose ownership the two nations dispute. It’s also worried about Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, which could threaten freedom of navigation in some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
The Japan Times reported: “The program will dwarf most recent fighter jet deals in value, likely attracting global contractor interest. But analysts say Japan’s preference for an aircraft that can operate closely with the U.S. military, given close Washington-Tokyo ties, makes a non-U.S. option a long shot.”
Japan seeks a kind of warplane that will let it maintain air superiority over China. China’s warplanes still lag behind those used by the U.S. and its allies, but Beijing has been building its capability, fueling a more muscular security agenda under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
U.S. officials say that at least one Chinese military ship tailed the USS John C. Stennis , an aircraft carrier, daily during its recent cruise through the South China Sea. But The Washington Post, in another of its frequent updates on tensions in the sea, said that no hostile incidents were reported.
The P0st reported that “Despite lingering suspicions, the two navies have been gradually expanding contacts and have agreed to protocols to avoid unintended incidents at sea.’’
(June 13th, 2016) A poll of Australians suggest that most believe that China has become the most influential nation in the Asia-Pacific region and that more want stronger ties with the rising superpower than with the U.S., The Guardian reported.
Enthusiasm for a strong U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific was also significantly lower in Australia than in South Korea, Indonesia, Japan and even China in some cases, according to the research released on Wednesday by the University of Sydney’s U.S .Studies Centre and regional partners.
The Guardian reported that “More Australians (70%) were likely to see Beijing and Washington as ‘competitors’ than even the Chinese citizens surveyed (50%), though the poll also found a significant lack of regional awareness among Australian respondents, 42% of whom were not aware that Japan was a U.S. ally.”
Only the South Koreans and the Japanese felt generally positive about the U.S. role in the region.
James Brown, a research director at the U.S. Studies Center, told The Guardian that the results suggested Australians “remain seized by the narrative that U.S. power is declining in the region” and had a “a benevolent view” of the rivalry between China and the U.S. and “might not automatically identify with Japanese concerns over China” – including disputes over islands in the South China Sea.
(June 13th, 2016) In the context of China’s repeated incursions into Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea and attempts to dominate the South China Sea by military force, Japan, India and the United States will hold major trilateral naval exercises off the east coast of Okinawa Prefecture through June 17, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces said June 7.
The large-scale exercises are part of an annual event that since last year has included Japan as a permanent member.
The Japan Times reported that drills, “which will focus on anti-submarine warfare and air-defense training, are likely to bolster ties among the three allies.’’
China has been rapidly bolstering its submarine and other naval forces in the East China and South China Seas for the past several years, worrying other nations in the Asia/Pacific region.
(June 13th, 2016) Scarborough Shoal, in the South China Sea, may be becoming a line in the sand against Chinese militaristic expansionism in that sea, most of which China claims. China seized and occupied the shoal in 2012.
It is unclear what the United States and nations friendly to it in the region would do if China continues to seize and militarize reefs and islands in the sea.
China has warned that it might respond to an unfavorable international arbitration ruling against its claim to the “island’’ in favor of the Philippines by putting structures on the shoal to give it a military outpost very close to the Philippines’s door. Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo says China will not accept the tribunal’s ruling, expected sometime this summer.
Speaking at a Singapore forum, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S., as an ally of the Philippines, would take action, without elaborating. Hit this link for more information.