The South China Sea Newsletter: Volume 2; March 2015
Hao Duy Phan
ACTS OF CLAIMANTS
31 March 2015: China’s Plan For ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation
While much attention at the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia this weekend was lavished on China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and other grand proposals, Beijing also held a ceremony on the sidelines of the forum to officially launch the Year of ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation.
29 March 2015: China Unveils Action Plan on Maritime Silk Road
The plan consists two segments – One is centered on the Asian land mass and called the Silk Road Economic Belt; the other looks to the South China Sea, the South Pacific and Indian Ocean and is known as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Together, they go by “one belt, one road” to Chinese officials.
28 March 2015: Philippines dismisses China concerns over South China Sea military repairs
The possible repair “is no way comparable to China’s massive reclamation activities, which not only violate international law…but also unnecessarily raise regional tensions”, spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement. “China’s recent statement expressing concern over what the Philippines plan to do should not distract us from the real issues in the South China Sea, which are China’s illegitimate ‘nine-dash line’ claim,” Jose said.
27 March 2015: China ‘seriously concerned’ by Philippine’s building in South China Sea
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was “seriously concerned” by the remarks by Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario. “This is not only a series infringement of China’s sovereignty, but it also exposes the Philippines’ hypocrisy,” she told a daily news briefing, calling on the Philippines to withdraw from the islands.
27 March 2015: Taiwan: Work on disputed islands monitored
The government is closely monitoring a flurry of construction work by rival claimant nations in South China Sea islands and reefs, National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Lee Shying-jow said. According to Lin, Vietnam has been active in the area, undertaking construction and installing heavy artillery weapons on Sandy Cay and Namyit Island.
26 March 2015: Philippines to resume works in disputed South China Sea
The Philippines said it would resume repair and reconstruction works in the disputed SCS after halting activities last year over concerns about the effect on an arbitration complaint filed against China. He said the works, including repairs to an airstrip, did not violate an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea because they would not alter the status quo in the disputed area.
26 March 2015: China wants to control South China Sea: Philippines
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said China`s efforts were aimed at undermining the tribunal that is due to rule early next year on a Philippine challenge to its claims to the disputed waters.
26 March 2015: China may establish Yalong Bay on Hainan island as the base of its fourth naval fleet
McDonough said China has recently constructed the Longpo naval base at Yalong Bay near the southeastern tip of Hainan. It will be completed as a deep-water port with submarine piers, an underground submarine facility with tunnel access and a demagnetizing facility to reduce the magnetic residuals on ship hulls. He said Yalong Bay is likely to serve as the main base of the PLA Navy’s Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile submarines.
24 March 2015: PH to upgrade radar system in bid to boost defense
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin inspected the facilities of the Air Defense Wing’s Gozar Air Station which would be refitted and equipped with new radars acquired through the ongoing capability upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
23 March 2015: Malaysia: Foreign military presence in South China Sea to be monitored
The government always monitors the presence of foreign military assets and personnel in the South China Sea to ensure the sovereignty and security of the country were safeguarded, Malaysian Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abd Rahim Bakri said.
15 March 2015: Philippines calls on international community to press to stop reclamation in SCS
Undersecretary Evan Garcia said at the 17th ASEAN-India SOM that “such unbridled reclamation activity worsens an already sensitive geopolitical situation and raises the specter of increasing militarization”.
15 March 2015: Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza: ‘Majesty of the law’ is PH weapon vs China in sea row
In his speech, Jardeleza reiterated that China’s claim was illegal. “China’s grand claim to cover almost the entire South China Sea, and all the maritime features therein, has no basis in international law”.
14 March 2015: China rushing reclamation to show ‘effective occupation’
Military sources say at the rate it is going, China’s reclamation will be completed within the year. And the rush is supposed to be dictated by a timeline of possible decision on an arbitration case filed by the Philippines that will determine maritime entitlements of reefs occupied by China in the disputed area.
13 March 2015: China building second aircraft carrier: Official
Beijing has “accumulated a lot of experience” from the first vessel and has now taken the “next step”, Chinese media quoted senior colonel and professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Liang Fang.
13 March 2015: Vietnam to build memorial for soldiers slain in China war
The memorial honors 64 Vietnamese army troops slain while fighting for the Johnson South Reef in Spratly Islands in 1988, which both countries claim. The building is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
13 March 2015: Malaysia Committed In Settling South China Sea Issue Cordially
Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said this was in line with the nation’s position as chairman of Asean this year, which was accepted amid tensions in the South China Sea.
12 March 2015: China begun to build an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef
Despite opposition from the United States and the Philippines, China has begun to build an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea.
12 March 2015: PLA admiral calls for radar stations in South China Sea
Yin said such facilities could be used to monitor the communication between pilots and the control tower for aircraft flying over the South China Sea.
12 March 2015: Philippines: China ‘blatantly disregarding’ code of conduct in South China Sea
China’s reclamation in the West Philippine Sea reflects its “blatant disregard” of the DOC of claimants involved in the territorial row, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.
12 March 2015: China’s latest expansion to deny Philippines’ access to Second Thomas Shoal
China has created new artificial islets in two more reefs in the disputed South China Sea, which the Philippine military fears is meant to choke off its access to Second Thomas shoal, where a crumbling Philippine Navy ship is beached.
12 March 2015: Philippines, Malaysia boost defense ties, urge South China Sea peace
These topics were discussed during the meeting of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Malaysian defense minister YB Dato Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on Wednesday in Camp Aguinaldo
11 March 2015: PHL to submit more evidence vs. China on or before March 16 deadline – DFA chief
Del Rosario said the Philippine’s reply would be submitted to the tribunal either March 13 or on March 16.
10 March 2015: The Philippines and Vietnam Forge a Strategic Partnership
It appears likely that a formal strategic partnership agreement could be reached this year. Del Rosario notedthat the strategic partnership with Vietnam would be the Philippines’ third after the United States and Japan.
8 March 2015: Chinese Foreign Minister on Land Reclamation: “We do not accept criticism from others when we are merely building facilities in our own yard”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “We are not like some countries, who engage in illegal construction in another person’s house. And we do not accept criticism from others when we are merely building facilities in our own yard. We have every right to do things that are lawful and justified.”
6 March 2015: China to Philippines: ‘We’re destined to be friends’
In a speech at the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua also hailed a recent meeting between the two countries’ leaders as the start of a “fresh process” to boost their ties.
5 March 2015: Vietnam Protests China Construction on Disputed South China Sea Island
Vietnam is protesting about China’s move to expand construction on the disputed Spratly islands, which Vietnam calls Truong Sa, in the South China Sea.
5 March 2015: China to raise defense spending by relatively mild 10.1 percent in 2015, amid neighbors unease
China said it will boost defense spending by 10.1 percent, a smaller rise than last year but in line with large annual increases that have drawn concern among the country’s neighbors over Beijing’s military and territorial ambitions.
4 March 2015: Philippines to UN: China reclamation destroys nature
“Massive reclamation should be considered a great concern for all states as it threatens the security and overall peace and stability in the region. Moreover, the massive reclamation that is causing widespread destruction of the region’s biodiversity will also irreparably damage the entire ecological balance in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” Natividad explained at the UN Security Council Open Debate.
3 March 2015: Citing certain developments between the Philippine and Chinese governments, Philippines suspends Reed Bank drilling in South China Sea
The Pangilinan-led Forum Energy says the Philippine government has explained that the contract area ‘falls within’ the disputed West Philippine Sea.
1 March 2015: Palace defends decision to end Chinese involvement in NGCP
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the DOE based its decision on a thorough study of the advantages and disadvantages of the matter.
ASEAN AND SOUTH CHINA SEA
25 March 2015: South China Sea dispute not between ASEAN, China: Cambodian PM
“It is not the issue of the whole ASEAN, but the issue between claimant countries and China,” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said.”They need to negotiate with each other.”
25 March 2015: Indonesia’s Widodo Backtracks On South China Sea Comments
When it comes to the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea, he said at a press conference in Tokyo, “Indonesia is not siding with any party involved in the dispute.”
23 March 2015: Indonesian president says China’s main claim in South China Sea has no legal basis
Indonesian President Joko Widodo says one of China’s main claims to the majority of the South China Sea has no legal basis in international law, but Jakarta wants to remain an “honest broker” in one of Asia’s most thorny territorial disputes.
19 March 2015: Philippine Navy supports joint patrolling of South China Sea with US, ASEAN navies
“We have supported combined and joint patrolling for anti-piracy purposes, like in the Straits of Malacca, and this have been a successful one. We can support it if this will be the objective – preserving stability and freedom of navigation of international/domestic shipping,” Vice Admiral Milan said.
18 March 2015: Malaysia Proposes Joint Asean Peacekeeping Force
Malaysia proposed that ASEAN countries form a joint peacekeeping force, saying it would help rebuild trust after bitter arguments over how to handle China’s territorial challenges in the South China Sea.
17 March 2015: ASEAN Defense Ministers Sign Security Declaration
In the statement, the SCS got a mention, with all parties underscoring “the importance of freedom of navigation in, and over-flight above, the South China Sea as provided for by universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.”
13 March 2015: Indonesian Govt urged to be proactive in SCS settlement
“Indonesia must be proactive in helping to settle this problem by working out a closer dialogue and cooperation with China and ASEAN,” Indonesian Council on World Affairs (ICWA) executive council head Ibrahim Yusuf said in Jakarta on Thursday.
12 March 2015: Malaysia to push drafting code of conduct with China to settle maritime dispute
“The Asean countries will discuss with China to draft a CoC at South China Sea. Malaysia as the chairman of Asean, will play an active role to ensure the matter is discussed comprehensively so all stakeholders regarding activities can be carried out peacefully, including China”, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said.
11 March 2015: China slams ASEAN chief for South China Sea comments
China expressed anger at the Vietnamese head of ASEAN for comments he made on the disputed South China Sea, rejecting Chinese claims based on the so-called nine-dash line.
6 March 2015: Freedom of navigation crucial to Singapore’s economy, says minister
Responding to Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Gerald Giam’s concerns about China’s building on reefs and islands posing threats to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said that freedom of navigation is an economically existential issue for Singapore.
4 March 2015: Asean Secretary-Genral backs Manila on sea row
“The dotted line [policy] is not binding [on] any [claimant] . . . but Asean supports the peaceful resolution of these disputes [concerning the Philippines and three other countries with China],” Asean secretary general Le Luong Minh said.
MAJOR POWERS AND SOUTH CHINA SEA
31 March 2015: US Blasts China’s ‘Great Wall of Sand’ in the South China Sea
In a direct public criticism of Chinese land reclamation in features in the South China Sea, America’s top Pacific commander accused Beijing of building a “great wall of sand” in disputed areas, media outlets reported March 31.
27 March 2015: Chinese military bases in South China Sea worries India
India has raised eyebrows over artificial islands that China is building in the SCS in the strategic waterway that is imperative for Delhi’s Asia-Pacific outreach as well as energy investments.
20 March 2015: Senators seek U.S. strategy to stop China’s South China Sea reclamation
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Corker and Democrats Jack Reed and Bob Menendez said that without a comprehensive strategy “long-standing interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk.”
18 March 2015: US Navy Urges Southeast Asian Patrols of South China Sea
The commander of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet called on Southeast Asian nations to form a combined maritime force to patrol areas of the South China Sea where territorial tensions flare with China.
18 March 2015: Vietnam, Australia call for ‘self-restraint’, warn against force in South China Sea
Vietnam and Australia today called for “self-restraint” in the South China Sea and warned against the unilateral use of force – an obvious reference to China’s increasingly aggressive presence that has stirred concerns across the disputed region.
16 March 2015: India Should Play Bigger Role in South China Sea, Says Singapore
Singapore said it wants India to play a bigger role in the South China Sea as China hastens land reclamation in the disputed waters that carry some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
13 March 2015: Russia fires back in response to US concerns over refueling bombers in Vietnam
“It is strange to hear such statements from representatives of the state whose armed forces are permanently stationed in a number of Asia-Pacific countries and which continues to increase its level of military activity in the region,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
12 March 2015: US wants Vietnam to stop Russian aircraft refueling at navy base
Washington has asked Vietnam to prevent Russia from using the Cam Ranh Bay naval base in the South China Sea to refuel its military aircraft, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed State Department official.
11 March 2015: India backs PH in China sea row
Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shri Lalduhthlana Ralte said New Delhi, like the Philippines, believes that the only viable and effective way to resolve the dispute is by subjecting the issue to international arbitration.
11 March 2015: India, ASEAN to discuss South China Sea dispute at Delhi meet
“Yes, we will be discussing regional security architecture (with ASEAN countries), as well as South China Sea issues, maritime security, cyber security,” Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa told reporters.
10 March 2015: Testing Beijing, Japan eyes growing role in South China Sea security
Tokyo has no territorial claims in the South China Sea, but worries about becoming isolated should China dominate a waterway through which much of Japan’s ship-borne trade passes.
7 March 2015: US to provide 6 patrol ships to Vietnam as ties strengthen
The US plans to provide six modern patrol ships to support Vietnam’s rescue and law enforcement missions, an officer said.
7 March 2015: India can operate in South China Sea, says U.S. Admiral
“The South China seas are international waters and India should be able to operate freely wherever India wants to operate. If that means the South China Sea, then get in there and do that,” said Admiral Harry Harris, Commander US Pacific Fleet while speaking at the National Maritime Foundation.
6 March 2015: Chinese admiral warns Japan to stay out of South China Sea
Japan “should not extend its reach too far, for example, making trouble in the South China Sea,” Adm. Yin Zhuo told Kyodo News as he left the opening of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body.
5 March 2015: Dispute forces UK company to stop drilling in South China Sea
A UK-listed company has been forced to suspend exploration in the South China Sea due to an ongoing territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.
3 March 2015: US voices concern over China’s ‘dramatic’ tactics in South China Sea
“I am concerned about it. I think it is an issue of concern for all of us,” Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Harry Harris, said.
2 March 2015: Spy plane trip to West PH Sea sign of US ‘commitment’ to Asian pivot
The spy plane – a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft – that is under the operational control of the US Navy Patrol Squadron 45 based in Yokosuka, Japan shows the country’s commitment to a strategic pivot to Asia, according to the US 7th Fleet’s public affairs office.
1 March 2015: Philippines, France agree to enhance bilateral ties
The Joint Declaration opposed “any acquisition or claim, by coercion or force, of any or all territory of a State by another State, in violation of international law, especially the Charter of the United Nations”.