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South China Sea Newsletter

The South China Sea Newsletter: Volume 9 (October 2015)

The South China Sea Newsletter: Volume 9 (October 2015)

Hao Duy Phan



30 October 2015: Philippines welcomes arbitration decision to hear Philippines case v. China

“The decision represents a significant step forward in the Philippines’ quest for a peaceful, impartial resolution of the disputes between the parties and the clarification of their rights under UNCLOS,” Hilbay, the Philippine legal representative in the proceedings, said. “The elimination of preliminary objections to the exercise of the tribunal’s jurisdiction opens the way for the presentation of the merits of the Philippines’ substantive claims,” Hilbay added.


29 October 2015: China reiterated its position of not accepting or participating in the arbitration

“The attempts to attain more illegal interests by initiating arbitration unilaterally is impractical and will lead nowhere,” said Zhu Haiquan, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “China is committed to resolving relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation with parties directly involved. This is the only right choice.”


29 October 2015: US welcomes arbitration decision against China’s claims in South China Sea

State Department spokesman John Kirby told a regular news briefing that in accordance with the terms of UNCLOS, the decision of the tribunal would be legally binding on both the Philippines and China. John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s armed services committee, hailed the Hague ruling.


29 October 2015: Arbitral Tribunal to convene merits hearing and render awards on merits in 2016

In consultation with the parties, the tribunal has provisionally set the dates for the merits hearing. The hearing will not be open to the public, however the tribunal will consider requests from interested states to send small delegations of observers. The tribunal expects that it will render its Award on the merits and remaining jurisdictional issues in 2016.


29 October 2015: Arbitral Tribunal renders award on jurisdiction and admissibility

The Arbitral Tribunal unanimously decided that it has jurisdiction over seven of Philippines’ submissions. Other submissions will be considered in conjuction with the merits. The tribunal held that each of the Philippines‘ submissions reflects disputes concerning the interpretation or application of UNCLOS. It rejected the argument that the dispute is about sovereignty or delimitation.  It confirmed that DOC is not legally binding and the Philippines has met the obligations to exchange views.



29 October 2015: China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea

China’s naval commander told his U.S. counterpart there is a risk of “a minor incident that sparks war” if the United States continues with its “provocative acts” in the South China Sea, the Chinese navy said on Friday.


29 October 2015: China will take ‘all necessary’ measures in future US sail-bys in South China Sea

China’s military will take “all necessary” measures in response to any future US navy incursions into what it considers its territorial waters around islands in the South China Sea, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.


29 October 2015: U.S., Chinese navies agree to maintain dialogue to avoid clashes

The U.S. and Chinese navies held high-level talks on Thursday after a U.S. warship challenged China’s territorial assertions in the South China Sea, and a U.S. official said they agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols under the CUES agreement to avoid clashes.


29 October 2015: Vietnam respects freedom of navigation and overflight in SCS

MFA spokesperson Le Hai Binh stated that Vietnam respect the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in consistent with relevant provisions of UNCLOS as well as its national laws.


28 October 2015: US will continue naval operations in South China Sea: US Defence Secretary Carter

“There have been naval operations in that region in recent days, and there will be in the weeks and months,” Carter told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.


28 October 2015: Singapore supports the right of freedom of navigation and overflight

The statement highlights that “every state whose trade passes through the South China Sea, or whose ships and aircraft use the South China Sea, has an interest in upholding the right of freedom of navigation and over-flight.  This includes Singapore, for whom the South China Sea is a vital life line.”


28 October 2015: Taipei calls for freedom of navigation and overflight through SCS

The press release states calls upon all concerned parties to jointly uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight through the South China Sea, refrain from escalating tensions and resolve disputes peacefully.


27 October 2015: China summons U.S. ambassador over South China Sea patrol

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus on Tuesday to protest against a U.S. naval patrol close to China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea, Chinese state television said.


27 October 2015: US patrols in SCS not a problem: Philippine President

Philippine President Benigno Aquino says he “sees no issue” in a U.S. warship’s patrol in the South China Sea and that he welcomes a balance of power in the region.


27 October 2015: China sends guided missile destroyer to monitor USS Lassen

The Chinese PLA Navy has dispatched the guided missile destroyer Lanzhou and the patrol ship Taizhou to send warnings by law to the USS Lassen.


27 October 2015: U.S. sees more frequent patrols in South China Sea: defense official

Additional patrols were likely in the region, the official said, but gave no timing for the next such freedom-of-navigation exercises. The U.S. Navy last went within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratlys in 2012.


27 October 2015: China: US illegally entered waters near relevant islands and reefs without the permission

Responding to a question from the media, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “the USS Lassen illegally entered waters near relevant islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands without the permission of the Chinese government on October 27. Relevant authorities of the Chinese side monitored, followed and warned the US vessel. Relevant actions by the US naval vessel threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, put the personnel and facilities on the islands and reefs at risk and endangered regional peace and stability. The Chinese side hereby expresses strong opposition.”


27 October 2015: Angry China says shadowed U.S. warship near man-made islands in disputed sea

China’s Foreign Ministry said the “relevant authorities” monitored, followed and warned the USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government’s permission. “China will resolutely respond to any country’s deliberate provocations. We will continue to closely monitor the relevant seas and airspace, and take all necessary steps in accordance with the need,” the ministry said in a statement that gave no details on precisely where the U.S. ship sailed. The United States had not conducted a patrol within 12 miles of the seven Chinese outposts since Beijing began building the reefs up at the end of 2013. The U.S. Navy last went within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratlys in 2012.


27 October 2015: China says followed U.S. warship in South China Sea

Chinese authorities monitored, followed and warned U.S. warship USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said.


27 October 2015: U.S. Navy Ship Sails Near Islands Claimed by China; U.S. pursues long-awaited ‘freedom of navigation’ operation

An American defense official confirmed Monday that the U.S. Navy ship navigated through the waters around at least one of the land masses to which China lays claim within the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, crossing an area that China maintains is part of its sovereign territory.


26 October 2015: U.S. Navy ship nears 12-mile limit around Chinese islands

The vessel began the journey early on Tuesday local time near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.


23 October 2015: US admiral: Policymakers to decide South China Sea patrols

Swift told The Associated Press his sailors have the capacity and capability to enter the waters, but he emphasized that the patrols would reinforce international laws and wouldn’t be directed at a specific country.


21 October 2015: Senior US Navy officers visit Chinese aircraft carrier amid South China Sea tensions

China has hosted a visit to its sole aircraft carrier by senior US Navy officers, amid plans by Washington to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.


15 October 2015:Australia joins US to rebuke Beijing on S China Sea moves

Canberra is also supportive of Washington’s plan to mount “freedom of navigation” patrols inside the 12-nautical-mile zone of China’s new islands — waters Beijing claims as its own.


15 October 2015: US Navy chief: Sailing in the South China Sea is not provocative

The United States’ operating in international waters in the South China Sea should not come as a surprise and would not be a provocative act, the U.S. Navy’s most senior uniformed officer said on Thursday.


12 October 2015: U.S. Tells Asian Allies That Navy Will Patrol Near Islands in South China Sea

The “freedom of navigation” patrols, which would come within 12 nautical miles of at least one of the islands, are intended to challenge China’s efforts to claim large parts of the strategic waterway by enlarging rocks and submerged reefs into islands big enough for military airstrips, radar equipment and lodging for soldiers, the officials said.


13 October 2015: Philippines: US right to sail warships near China’s South China Sea ‘islands’ – DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs backed on Tuesday American plans to send warships near artificial islands built by China in the disputed South China Sea, saying it is “important for the international community to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight” in the strategic body of water.


12 October 2015: U.S. Patrols to Test China’s Pledge on South China Sea Islands

A U.S. official confirmed Sunday that a decision had been made to conduct such patrols but said it was unclear when that might happen or where exactly. “It’s just a matter of time when it happens,” the official said. Another U.S. official indicated that the operation could come within days. http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-patrols-to-test-chinas-pledge-on-south-china-sea-islands-1444615926

7 October 2015: Navy will challenge Chinese territorial claims in South China Sea

Plans to send a warship through the contested space have been rumored since May, but three Pentagon officials who spoke to Navy Times on background to discuss future operations say Navy officials believe approval of the mission is imminent.


6 October 2015:US warns China over freedom of navigation in South China Sea

The United States has warned China again not to threaten the stability of the South China Sea since Washington is committed to protecting the freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region.


2 October 2015: U.S. Navy will patrol near man-made islands constructed by Beijing

The United States is poised to send naval ships and aircraft to the South China Sea in a challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims to its rapidly-built artificial islands. The timing and details of the patrols are still being worked out, Obama administration and Pentagon officials said.


1 October 2015: China navy calls for United States to reduce risk of misunderstandings

China hopes the United States can scale back activities that run the risk of misunderstandings, and respect China’s core interests, the Defense Ministry on Thursday cited a senior Chinese naval commander as saying.



25 October 2015: Taiping Island lighthouse construction completed in disputed S. China Sea

Quoting the Maritime and Port Bureau (航港局), the Chinese-language United Evening News said construction of the lighthouse was completed recently and will officially begin operations before the end of the year.


23 October 2015: Vietnam wants friendly relations with both US and China

Vietnam’s defense minister says his country wants good and friendly relations with both the United States and China, and will not favor one over the other.


20 October 2015: China says South China Sea lighthouses not meant to alter ‘status quo’

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended the structures as “completely within China’s sovereignty” and said they had no relation to “some people’s” comments that China was trying to bolster its hold over the islands. “I want to stress that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and surrounding waters,” Hua said, using the Chinese name for the Spratlys. “We absolutely do not need to build lighthouses to strengthen our sovereignty claims.”


20 October 2015: DFA chief in Vietnam to discuss South China Sea issue

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Del Rosario would lead the Philippine delegation in the October 21ministerial meeting of the 8th Philippines-Viet Nam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) in Hanoi, Vietnam.

19 October 2015:

Philippines Hits Out at Chinese Lighthouses in Disputed Sea

“We are strongly opposed to China’s construction and operation of lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson Reef,” said Charles Jose, a spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs. “These actions are obviously intended to change actual conditions on the ground and aimed at bolstering China’s territorial claim in the South China Sea. We will not accept these unilateral actions as a fait accompli,” he added in a statement.


19 October 2015: China: China’s South China Sea island-building is for the public good

China’s vice-foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said that not only would China continue to build on the islands—the sovereignty of which are disputed by several countries—but that it is doing so in everyone’s interest.


19 October 2015: Malaysia concerned about unresolved disputes in South China Sea

The minister warned of unintended accidents in the high sea and open sky if the problems drag on further, so the military of each country must be on their toes to prevent such a scenario.


17 October 2015: Chinese construction in S. China Sea will ‘improve navigation’

China’s construction work in the South China Sea will improve navigation and not affect freedom of navigation as feared, said Central Military Commission vice-chair Fan Changlong yesterday, as he stressed that China’s projects are mostly intended for civil purposes.


17 October 2015: Hishammuddin: Code of Conduct best way to govern South China Sea territorial claims

“Malaysia’s position is that problems over the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully via multilateral platforms,” he said.


17 October 2015: Chinese General Dismisses South China Sea Concerns

A top Chinese general said Saturday that China’s newly created islands in the disputed South China Sea are intended mainly to aid shipping and dismissed concerns that Beijing is seeking to strengthen its control over the strategically vital region.


17 October 2015: China wants naval drills with Southeast Asia in South China Sea

China’s defense minister said on Friday that he is willing to hold joint drills in the disputed South China Sea with Southeast Asian countries, covering accidental encounters and search and rescue, striking a conciliatory tone over an increasingly tense spat.


16 October 2015: China’s Cyber Spies Take to High Seas as Hack Attacks Spike

In the midst of a weeklong hearing on a South China Sea territorial dispute, the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague went offline.


15 October 2015: Chinese military reaches out amid South China Sea tensions

China’s Defense Ministry has said that the ASEAN gathering in Beijing is to “promote strategic trust and pragmatic cooperation.” Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan will hold talks with his counterparts and host them on visits to military units, the spokesman said.


15 October 2015: Vietnam accused China of sinking one of its fishing boats

The incident was apparently motivated by a desire to steal the ship’s catch of fish and put it out of commission. There was no immediate evidence that any Chinese government ships were involved, although Beijing’s aggressive actions are believed to embolden Chinese fishermen in the area.


15 October 2015: Taiwan’s airstrip in Spratly Islands ready for planes

Observers have speculated that the airstrip has been improved to accommodate F-16 fighter aircraft and P-3C anti-submarine surveillance planes, but Taiwan’s defence ministry spokesman Major General David Lo has said it was planned for flight safety and humanitarian tasks carried out by C-130 transport planes.


14 October 2015: China is boosting its offensive air capabilities as South China Sea tensions grow

China’s air force can launch long-range precision strikes, state media on Wednesday cited a military expert as saying, as the country working to develop its offensive air capabilities.


14 October 2015:China says has not militarized South China Sea

China has not militarized the South China Sea, but there are certain countries which keep flexing their muscles who should stop hyping up the issue, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.


14 October 2015: Vietnam slams China over construction of lighthouses in South China Sea

The Vietnam News Agency on Wednesday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh as saying the construction “seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty … complicates the situation and escalates tensions.”


11 October 2015:Beijing seeks academic allies over South China Sea dispute

Beijing plans to invite scholars from other countries, including Taiwan, to study China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.


10 October 2015:China vows to keep building on reefs in South China Sea as lighthouses are completed

China vowed to continue building in disputed reefs of the South China Sea, as state media said construction had finished on two lighthouses on reefs claimed by other countries.


10 October 2015:China completes construction of lighthouses in disputed South China Sea

The lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands have been officially opened, the state-run Xinhua news agency said late Friday.


9 October 2015:China warns it will not allow violations of its waters

China said it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.


4 October 2015: PH at UN dares China to put words to action

“On our dispute with China, a long-time partner and neighbor, we also hope that we will finally see actions that are consistent with Beijing’s declarations so that genuine efforts to lower tensions in the South China Sea can succeed and the peaceful settlement of disputes can be obtained,” Del Rosario said.


3 October 2015: PH urges UN to back peaceful resolution of West PH Sea dispute

“With the growing support from the international community in peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, including through arbitration, the Philippines is hopeful that the final outcome of the arbitration process would pave the way for a settlement of maritime disputes,” Del Rosario told a meeting between foreign affairs chief of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the world body’s 70th General Assembly in New York, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.


2 October 2015: No third party can explore oil, gas in South China Sea: Beijing

“China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant seabed and subsoil. China is against any country or enterprise’s oil and gas exploration activity in the waters under China’s jurisdiction without China’s permission,” the ministry of foreign Affairs told HT in response to a list of questions without mentioning India.


2 October 2015: China building triangle of bases, warns Philippines

“This is in the high seas. China is converting it into a military base, naval base with a 3-kilometer [airstrip]. It can take in any military aircraft,” Carpio  said.


1 October 2015: Satellite Images Suggest China Is Building 1st Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

Photos appear to show what they described as an “unidentified hull in an advanced state of construction” in the northeastern city of Dalian.


1 October 2015: Taiwan’s lighthouse in disputed sea nearly complete

The purpose of the construction is to “strengthen national sovereignty and protect navigation safety,” the bureau said on its website. Apart from the lighthouse, there are two other development projects taking place on the island, both of which are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. One is the construction of a pier by the Coast Guard Administration and the other is the Defense Ministry’s improvement of a runway built in 2008.


28 September 2015: Vietnam leader: China island work violates international law

Vietnam’s president said that China’s island-building in the disputed South China Sea violates international law and endangers maritime security.



20 October 2015: China to enhance mutual trust at upcoming ASEAN-China meeting

The 10th high-ranking officials’ meeting of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is currently underway in Chengdu, China. Issues to be discussed include the implementation of the declaration and maritime cooperation. Liu said he expects to enhance mutual trust and confidence at the meeting on the South China Sea.

20 October 2015: Hun Sen Urges Continued Dialogue Over South China Sea

In a speech delivered in China on a recent visit, Hun Sen said the contentious issue, where several Asean countries are in disputes with China, should be solved under existing mechanisms between China and Asean, including a so-called “declaration of conduct” to prevent military conflict.


19 October 2015: Indonesia committed to maintaining security, stability in South China Sea

The government also called on every element to not conduct activities in South China Sea that could increase tensions, the TNI chief stated here, Monday.”It means that whatever country invites (us) to take part (in a joint military exercise) in South China Sea, it is better that the TNI does not accept it, for the sake of (regional) stability,” the general emphasized.


19 October 2015: Countries with overlapping claims in South China Sea should aim for win-win outcome: Singapore DPM Teo

Countries with conflicting claims in the South China Sea should strive for a positive outcome instead of a zero-sum one, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.”While sovereignty is non-divisible, resource sharing is infinitely divisible. Joint development of the rich resources would allow claimants to share the wealth of the sea.”




29 October 2015: Angela Merkel suggested China go to international courts to resolve the row

“The territorial dispute in the South China Sea is a serious conflict. I am always a bit surprised why in this case multinational courts should not be an option for a solution,” said Merkel, in Beijing. “We wish that the sea trade routes stay free and safe, because they are important for all.”


28 October 2015: Australia to join Chinese navy exercises in South China Sea

Two Australian warships will hold exercises with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea next week, Australia’s defense minister said on Thursday, just days after a U.S. navy patrol near a man-made Chinese island in the disputed waters angered Beijing.


17 October 2015: India, US and Japan hold naval exercises under China’s gaze

The sea drills, part of the six-day-long Malabar exercises, will cover the full spectrum of naval maneuvers, including military-to-military coordination and anti-submarine warfare, according to a joint statement.


15 October 2015: Philippines praises India’s stand on South China Sea

The Philippines is watching with concern the “massive reclamation” being undertaken by China around contested islets in the South China Sea, the country’s foreign minister said here on Wednesday, praising India for calling on all parties to abide by the rule of law on the issue.


12 October 2015: Amidst tension in South China Sea, US, Japan and India ready for naval Exercise Malabar

From October 14-19, the three navies will rehearse scenarios for destroying hostile submarines, surface warships and aircraft.


10 October 2015: US Boosting ASEAN Capacity Amid South China Sea Tensions

According to William R. Brownfield, assistant secretary at the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative – initially announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in December 2013 – had now grown to $100 million with funding from all parts of the U.S. government targeted at four ASEAN states: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.


4 October 2015:US to Support Taiwan in South China Sea Per 2016 Defense Budget Bill

Section 1261 of NDAA 2016 outlines a new “South China Sea Initiative,” which appears first in a sector on “Matters Relating to the Asia-Pacific Region.” It notes that the secretary of defense is authorized to provide assistance and training to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, and, finally, Taiwan, “for the purpose of increasing maritime security and maritime domain awareness of foreign countries along the South China Sea.”


4 October 2015: US expects China, Philippines to abide by UN ruling

Should a UN tribunal rule it has jurisdiction over a case brought by the Philippines against China’s nine-dash claim over the South China Sea, any arbitral decision the court makes would be binding to both countries, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said.


2 October 2015: India’s warship INS Sahyadri on a visit to Da Nang

The visit of INS Sahyadri is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing inter-operational abilities between navies of India and Vietnam.



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