The South China Sea Newsletter: Volume 3; April 2015
Hao Duy Phan
PHILIPPINES V. CHINA
21 April 2015: Tribunal set hearing date
The Arbitral Tribunal issued its fourth Procedural Order, deciding to hold a hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility in July 2015.
ACTS OF CLAIMANTS
28 April 2015: Vietnam: Nobody can prevent oil exploration in our waters
In an apparent reference to China, Vietnam asserted that “nobody” could prevent oil exploration efforts in its exclusive zone.
26 April 2015: Beijing moves toward `de facto control of South China Sea`: Philippines
“(China) is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told fellow ministers at a regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
25 April 2015: China accused of threatening Philippines military plane in South China sea
The Chinese vessel flashed powerful lights and radioed the Philippine plane to leave the area near Subi Reef, one of the islands in the Spratlys chain occupied by the Philippines, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunocs, said.
25 April 2015: China to build airstrip on Subi Reef
The dimensions and shape of the land fill are compatible with a potential airstrip 3,300 meters long, similar to the prospective length of the runway currently being paved on Fiery Cross, the site of another installation being built by China on a former reef in the Spratlys.
24 April 2015: Philippines counts the cost of China build-up in disputed sea
The Philippine government says it is bearing the brunt of US$108 million annual losses in marine life and resources as China continues occupy and build military structures in the disputed South China Sea. “As of March 2015, reef ecosystems destroyed in Spratlys or the Kalayaan Group of Islands have already reached an estimated area of 311 hectares”.
24 April 2015: China Is Building Giant Floating Islands in the South China Sea
China will have a new tool to pursue their ambitions further into the oil-rich sea: 1,000,000 ton floating islands, mobile battle stations that can be converted for civilian and military use, allowing for resupplying forces, aircraft landing, hangar storage, and providing a naval base for amphibious vehicles.
24 April 2015: Philippines, Vietnam to hold naval drills, scientific research in South China Sea
The planned activities are part of the soon-to-be signed “Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership”.
23 April 2015: Philippine Airplane Fired over Disputed Island in SCS
The plane in question was a civilian medical evacuation flight bound for Thitu Island, the largest of Philippine-controlled naturally occurring Spratly Islands.
23 April 2015: Chinese vessel Haixun-21 on patrol mission in South China Sea
The 93-meter-long Haixun-21 is China’s first patrol vessel with displacement exceeding 1,000 tons and capable of carrying helicopters. The 1,500-ton-displacement vessel, which was built in 2001 and then served in East China Sea, has participated more than 100 missions since it was transferred to the South China Sea in 2012.
23 April 2015: Malaysia: Avoid military power struggle in South China Sea overlapping region
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said given that the overlapping claims were a very complex and sensitive issue, it should be handled with prudence based on the principle of consultation and international law practices.
22 April 2015: Philippines chides China’s ‘insecurity’ over disputed sea
“We don’t understand where this insecurity of the Chinese towards us is coming from. Where do we have the wherewithal to compete against China as a superpower?” Lacierda said.
22 April 2015: China defends vessels’ actions against PH in South China Sea
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not directly confirm whether water cannon was used. He said that “official Chinese vessels in waters near the Huangyan island carried out their duties and managed the relevant waters according to law”, using the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal.
22 April 2015: China Makes Multibillion-Dollar Down-Payment on Silk Road Plans
China is attempting to play a much bigger regional role, pushing plans for two interconnected infrastructure networks. One is the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” an overland route running through Central Asia, and the other is the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” which will traverse the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.
21 April 2015: Philippines warns China of “irreparable miscalculations”
The Philippine Department of National Defense or DND is worried about China’s decision to ignore the international outcry against its reclamation activities in the South China Sea and warned that this could lead to “irreparable miscalculations.”
21 April 2015: China criticizes U.S., Philippine drills in South China Sea
While Philippine President Benigno Aquino says the drills aren’t targeted at China, “few believe he means it,” the Global Times said in the editorial Tuesday on its English- language website. “Can anyone believe that China can be bluffed to make compromises when others show off their military muscle? We will simply find it laughable while imagining Philippine personnel stumbling after U.S. forces.”
21 April 2015: Philippines Accuses China of Using Water Cannons On Its Fishermen
The Manila government said China’s coast guard used its water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal on Monday, damaging some of their wooden boats, Reuters reported.
20 April 2015: Taiwan to send P-3C on surveillance missions over SCS
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the military will dispatch P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft on surveillance missions over the SCS in the future.
20 April 2015: Vietnam asked Philippines to form pact to counter China, Aquino reveals
The new “strategic partnership” being negotiated between two states fending off China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea was suggested by Vietnam, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has revealed.
20 April 2015: Philippines has more proof of aggressive China reclamation in disputed seas
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has more proof of the “aggressive” Chinese reclamation in the disputed areas in the South China Sea, a move that it said should worry not just claimant-states but the entire world.
20 April 2015: Philippines: Damage from China’s reclamation in West PHL Sea irreversible, widespread
AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said, “China’s claim that its activities have not caused damaged to the ecological environment in the area is not acceptable.” “Massive Chinese reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
18 April 2015: China Snubs G7 Declaration on Sea Row
Reacting to recent declaration of the Group of Seven (G7), China said “we hope relevant countries can respect the efforts made by countries in the region to maintain the region’s peace and stability, and do more that is helpful to regional peace and stability,” said Hong Lei.
17 April 2015: Images show rapid Chinese progress on new South China Sea airstrip
Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern in the United States and Asia.
17 April 2015: Aquino: South China Sea dispute a global problem
President Benigno Aquino III insisted that China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea should not only trouble South East Asian nations.
17 April 2015: Philippines says the South China Sea dispute could affect global trade
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said on Friday the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea was of concern for the world because global trade will be hit by China’s reclamation.
16 April 2015: Images Show China Building Aircraft Runway in Disputed Spratly Islands
Analysts had speculated that China planned to build an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, but the satellite image released by Jane’s Defense Weekly is the first hard evidence that it is doing so.
15 April 2015: DFA chief: 50 meetings with China reached dead end
“We had over 50 bilateral engagements with them and that did not work because … in every bilateral meeting you have with China, unfortunately, [leads to their saying] to you, ‘We have indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea’,” Del Rosario said.
14 April 2015: Philippine Leader: World should fear China’s actions in South China Sea
“Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world,” Aquino said when asked to assess Chinese government moves in recent years to assert its sovereignty claims over the sea.
13 April 2015: China’s Island-Building Is Ruining Coral Reefs, Philippines Says
China’s island-building activities have destroyed about 300 acres of coral reefs and are causing “irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance” of the South China Sea, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.
13 April 2015: China sets off for excavation in disputed South China Sea
The 25-member strong team left Qinglan Port, Wenchang City, Hainan Province for its 45-day research mission, provincial cultural heritage administration was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
11 April 2015: China Deploys New ‘Carrier Killer’ Missile
The most striking revelation of the 2015 ONI report is that the PLAN has apparently already equipped a class of guided missile destroyers with China’s most advanced supersonic anti-ship missile. “[T]he newest class, the LUYANG III destroyer is fitted with the new vertically-launched YJ-18 ASCM.”
10 April 2015: China is increasingly adding patrol ships
China is rapidly building coast guard ships, the vessels that China most commonly uses for patrols in the South China Sea, and in the last three years has increased the number of ships in that category 25 percent. China has the world’s largest coast guard fleet, with more such ships than its neighbors Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines combined, the report shows.
10 April 2015: China says it’s a robust force for peace in South China Sea
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China advocated talks to resolve tensions. “I think you will agree with me that China has been a robust force for the preservation and promotion of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Hua said.
10 April 2015: China Keeps Close Watch as Vietnam Builds U.S. Ties
Xi made a veiled reference to the ongoing tensions by warning Trong of the need to “control maritime disputes” over the South China Sea.
9 April 2015: China, Vietnam pledge peaceful resolution for South China Sea dispute
A joint communique said that both countries greed to “use well the Sino-Vietnam government border negotiation mechanism, uphold friendly consultations and negotiations to look for a basic and lasting resolution both countries can accept”. China and Vietnam should also “proactively look for transitional resolution methods which do not affect either side’s position, including looking at and discussing joint development”. Neither country should do anything to “complicate or expand” the dispute in order to ensure peace and stability in the sea, the statement added.
9 April 2015: China mounts detailed defence of South China Sea reclamation
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing that the reclamation and building work in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea was needed partly because of the risk of typhoons in an area with a lot of shipping that is far from land.”We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services” for China and neighbouring countries, Hua said. The islands and reefs would also meet the demands for China’s military defence, Hua said without elaborating.
9 April 2015: China: Land Reclamation Caused No Damage to the Marine Environment
Responding to a question by the media, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the land reclamation work went through “scientific assessments and rigorous tests” and that “the ecological environment of the South China Sea will not be damaged”.
8 April 2015: New Images Show China Literally Gaining Ground in South China Sea
Over a matter of weeks, satellite photographs show the island growing bigger, its few shacks on stilts replaced by buildings. What appears to be an amphibious warship, capable of holding 500 to 800 troops, patrols the reef’s southern opening.
7 April 2015: Vietnam Officials Visit China to Mend Ties After Rig Spat
Vietnam sent a high-ranking delegation of Communist Party officials and Cabinet ministers to China on Tuesday as the countries seek to mend relations strained by the giant northern neighbor’s deployment of an oil rig last year in disputed waters.
ASEAN AND SOUTH CHINA SEA
30 April 2015: Hun Sen urges ASEAN states to settle disputes directly with China
Mr Hun Sen said the best scenario is to let the parties directly concerned in the conflicts — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — settle their differences with China and leave the other states to “take a rest, observe and advise”. Otherwise, the 10-member group will not be able to resolve the issue.
29 April 2015: China ‘Gravely Concerned’ by ASEAN Statment on South China Sea
Hong Lei said, “The Chinese side is gravely concerned about the statement of the 26th ASEAN Summit on the South China Sea issue.” China’s main complaint has always been that ASEAN summits are not a proper place to discuss the South China Sea, as only four of the ten ASEAN nations have claims to disputed islets in the area. The South China Sea “is not an issue between China and ASEAN”.
28 April 2015: PNoy reports ‘substantial’ progress in pushing united ASEAN stand on South China Sea
Aquino said he was satisfied with the outcome of the regional meet. He noted that in his opening statement, Prime Minister Najib Razak of host Malaysia “also did talk about all of the reclamation activities. I’m sure … I didn’t hear anybody say that this isn’t a problem,” adding that in terms of degrees Manila’s was “the strongest statement” in terms of “reaffirmation of UNCLOS, DOC” and “expeditious formulation” of the COC.
28 April 2015: ASEAN: Chinese actions ‘may undermine peace’ in South China Sea
Chinese island-building efforts “may undermine peace, security and stability” in the disputed South China Sea, said a statement by Southeast Asian leaders meeting for a summit on Monday.
28 April 2015: Singapore: ASEAN has role to “keep temperature down” on South China Sea dispute
It was the first time Mr Lee addressed recent developments in the South China Sea – with tensions heightened over China’s reclamation works in the area. Mr Lee said the situation has become more serious in the past year and, if not managed, will lead to tension on the ground and at sea.
27 April 2015: China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was supposed to showcase the 10-member bloc’s progress towards economic integration, was overshadowed by the long-running maritime territorial dispute.
26 April 2015: Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea
“The threats posed by these massive reclamations are real and cannot be ignored or denied,” Rosario said. “ASEAN should assert its leadership, centrality and solidarity. ASEAN must show the world that it has the resolve to act in the common interest.”
26 April 2015: Aquino calls for consensus amid ASEAN silence on sea row
In a speech he delivered before flying to Malaysia for the ASEAN summit, Aquino said the 10-member bloc should have unity to attain its objectives. “We believe that an important foundation of the path we are supposed to tread is embodied in ASEAN Centrality. Instead of individualism, unity is key to attaining the goals that will benefit everyone,” the president said in Filipino.
26 April 2015: Asean head says China’s ‘nine-dash’ line isn’t compatible with international law as Malaysia plays down the issue
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told reporters. “The Philippines is free to issue any statement they wish, and I respect them for that. But for us, Asean’s stand is that we want to engage with China.” Asean’s secretary-general, Le Luong Minh,suggested that the group would likely refrain from jointly criticizing Beijing at the summit but said that member nations can’t agree to China’s use of the nine-dash line to claim the contested waters.
26 April 2015: Asean sec-gen Minh: Urgent to engage China over sea spat
“What is urgent is for Asean to engage China in a more substantive discussion on the elements of the CoC to overcome this challenge as there has been a widening gap between the diplomatic track and the actual condition at sea,” Minh told The Star. “The situation now at sea is contrary to the spirit of Article 5 of the DoC and that is a concern,” he said.
24 April 2015: ASEAN summit to urge ‘self-restraint’ in South China Sea dispute
A Southeast Asian summit will urge “self-restraint” in the South China Sea but avoid directly criticizing Chinese actions that have fanned tensions in the contested waters, a diplomatic source with knowledge of a draft statement said.
24 April 2015: Malaysia asks China for cooperation in South China Sea
Days before Malaysia hosts a regional summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman called on China to cooperate with Southeast Asia in speeding up talks on a maritime Code of Conduct (CoC) in the disputed South China Sea.
23 April 2015: Asean Chair Malaysia wants efforts on South China Sea Code of Conduct to be hastened
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said “While we recognise the development of the CoC is a gradual process in which parties have agreed to take a step-by-step approach, we are of the view the pace needs to be hastened. Malaysia hopes China will work together with Asean member states in hastening the conclusion of negotiations on the CoC,” he said in an email interview with The Star.
23 April 2015: ‘Malaysia might downplay sea dispute in ASEAN summit’
Ten ASEAN leaders are expected to meet in Kuala Lumpur on April 27. But instead of focusing on “strategic issues” in the South China Sea, political experts say the agenda set by Malaysia will be very much trade and investment oriented.
20 April 2015: Asia needs new military balance, says Indonesian general
As the region becomes increasingly concerned over China’s rapid expansion in the South China Sea, Moeldoko said on Monday that Asia needs “a new balance.” As a result of heightening tensions in the region, Indonesia plans to upgrade its military forces in Natuna and Tanjung Datu, areas near China’s claims in South China Sea.
11 April 2015: Indonesian, US Navies Conduct Air Patrol Exercise in South China Sea
The patrol involved 88 personnel overall. The United States committed a P-3C Orion fleet comprising four ships and 21 personnel. In terms of Indonesian hardware, the Indonesian navy committed CN-235 and NC-212 short take-off and landing (STOL) maritime patrol aircraft in addition to a BO-105 helicopter.
MAJOR POWERS AND SOUTH CHINA SEA
29 April 2015: Japan considering joint US air patrols in South China Sea
While no concrete plans had yet been formulated, Japan could join U.S. patrols in the South China Sea, or operate patrols in rotation from the Japanese island of Okinawa on the edge of the East China Sea, the Japanese source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
28 April 2015: US, Japan concerned about China actions in South China Sea: Obama
Voicing shared anxiety about China’s activities in the South and East China Seas, the two leaders vowed to counter new threats and increase joint military deterrence.
28 April 2015: Obama: Beijing flexing its muscles in South China Sea
US President Barack Obama accused China of “flexing its muscles” through territorial claims and the building of new islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
27 April 2015: US, Philippines agree on rotations to bases along South China Sea
U.S. forces would have access to at least eight bases in the Philippines — including two near a hotly contested island group claimed by China — under a new bilateral defense agreement, according to a Philippine media report.
23 April 2015: U.S.-China Navies Meet Amid Rising South China Sea Tensions
American and Chinese navies met in the Port of Zhanjiang, the home base of China’s South Sea fleet, to exchange ideas and play a few sports matches.
23 April 2015: Japan Plans to Aid US in Disputed SCS
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be sending legislation to Japanese Parliament next month that would expand the role of the country’s Self-Defense Forces, and may subsequently lead to Tokyo’s deeper involvement in the South China Sea dispute.
21 April 2015: China’s reclamation creates risk of clash in South China Sea: US admiral
“China is responsible for the rise of tensions and complications in the South China Sea,” Admiral Harris said, adding that there was stark difference between what China had committed to doing under the Declaration of Conduct with Asean and what Beijing was actually doing.
18 April 2015: US, Philippines gear up for annual wargames under shadow of China disputes
The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the long-time allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership.
16 April 2015: China’s Dredging in Contested Waters Worries US
Admiral Samuel Locklear, addressing members of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, said China is “doing this in combination with what we have seen to be a fairly massive land reclamation in the Spratly Islands and upgrades to facilities in the Paracel Islands”.
16 April 2015: China reef work could lead to new air exclusion zone – US commander
China could eventually deploy radar and missile systems on outposts it is building in the South China Sea that could be used to enforce an exclusion zone over the disputed territory, the U.S. military commander for Asia said.
15 April 2015: G7 Foreign Ministers’ Declaration on Maritime Security
G7 Foreign Ministers said that they are concerned by any unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions and strongly oppose any attempt to assert territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.
13 April 2015: India, Australia could push for South China Sea conduct code: Bishop
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday said her country wants to be the “partner of choice for India’s energy security” and, with both countries sharing “similar views” on China’s territorial ambitions and on unimpeded maritime rights, they could work together to push the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
10 April 2015: China blasts Obama over military ‘muscle’ in South China Sea
“The US leader talked about China’s ‘sheer size and muscle’, but one can also see clearly who has the biggest size and muscle in the world,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing. She called on Washington to “genuinely make efforts to safeguard peace and stability” in the region.
10 April 2015: Obama: China ‘using muscle’ to dominate in South China Sea
The US is concerned China is using “sheer size and muscle” to strong-arm smaller nations in the row over the South China Sea, Barack Obama says.
10 April 2015: US warns Beijing against ‘destabilising’ South China Sea
“In our view, China’s land reclamation and the construction activity are fuelling greater anxiety within the region,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters. Rathke said Washington is concerned that China “might militarise outposts on disputed land features of the South China Sea.
9 April 2015: China tells US to ‘speak and act with caution’ in South China Sea island dispute
China’s Foreign Ministry urged the United States on Thursday to act and speak cautiously after the U.S. defense chief repeated Washington’s opposition to any “coercive unilateral” actions by China over a group of islets disputed with Japan.
7 April 2015: U.S. Defense Chief Heads East, Talking Tough on China
The U.S. is deeply concerned about China’s behavior in the South China Sea and its cyber activities, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said as he headed for security meetings in the region.
6 April 2015: Vietnam and Russia Agreed to Continue Oil and Gas Cooperation in SCS
Dung said the two leaders agreed on the expansion of cooperation in oil and gas projects in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the East Sea, which is the Vietnamese term for the South China Sea.
1 April 2015: U.S. Navy commander: China’s artificial islands violate international law
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Harry Harris’ remarks come after tensions have escalated in recent years over territory in the South China Sea.