Monday, December 15, 2014

PLA deploys frigate to S China Sea

  • China's Want staff reporter  2014-12-13 09:41 (GMT+8)
The photo of the confrontation between the Cangzhou, left and the Dinh Tien Hoang on the Johnson South Reef released on the Chinese website. (Internet photo)
The photo of the confrontation between the Cangzhou, left and the Dinh Tien Hoang on the Johnson South Reef released on the Chinese website. (Internet photo)

The map of disputed islands over South China Sea. (File photo/CNA)
A Type 053 guided-missile frigate missile was deployed to the waters of Johnson South Reef last month to defend China's land reclamation project in the area from Vietnamese warships according to our sister newspaper Want Daily, citing a photo recently released on a Chinese internet forum.
The Forum of South China Sea Studies, an online message board based in mainland China released a photo on Dec. 11 which shows the standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese warships near the Johnson South Reef. Apparently, the Chinese warship in the picture is the Cangzhou, a Type 053 guided missile frigate. It was sent to the disputed waters to confront the Dinh Tien Hoang, a Vietnamese Gepard-class stealth frigate in the waters of Johnson South Reef.
The Dinh Tien Hoang and its sister ship, the Ly Thai To had just completed their visit to Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. Under the leadership of Nguyen Van Kiem, the deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese navy, both Gepard-class stealth frigates arrived at the Southwest Cay of the Spratly islands currently under Vietnamese control to entertain the troops on the islet. Officials from the Vietnamese government said that the visit was not aimed to provoke China.
However, the picture released by the Forum of South China Sea Studies suggests that the Dinh Tien Hoang was sent to the waters of Johnson South Reef to monitor the Chinese land reclamation program in the area. The Cangzhou was apparently sent to Johnson South Reef to defend its workers there according to Want Daily. Once China constructs a 2,000-kilometer runway on the Johnson South Reef, its fighters such as the Su-30, the J-10 and the J-11 can attack all targets in the region of the Strait of Malacca.
When China completes its land reclamation programs on Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Hughes Reef, a new forward operation base will allow the People's Liberation Army to project its power into the region. This new base is 830 km from Ho Chi Minh City, 890 km from Manila, 490 km from Western Malaysia, 1,500 km from Kuala Lumpur and 1,500 km from the Strait of Malacca.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Vietnam Launches Legal Challenge Against China’s South China Sea Claims

Vietnam lodges a submission at The Hague and rejects Chinese position paper on the South China Sea.

The Diplomat, December 12, 2014

Vietnam and China moved their saber-rattling over the South China Sea into the legal arena this week as Hanoi lodged a submission with an arbitral tribunal at The Hague and rejected a Chinese position paper. Beijing swiftly dismissed Vietnam’s challenge.
In a statement on Thursday, the Vietnamese foreign ministry rejected China’s December 7 position paper, which laid out Beijing’s legal objections to an arbitration case that the Philippines had filed against it.
“Vietnam’s established position is to resolutely object to China’s claims over Hoang Sa, Truong Sa islands and adjacent waters,” Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said, using the Vietnamese names for the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Binh also suggested that Hanoi had sent a statement to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, which is currently examining the Philippines’ case against China over the South China Sea disputes.
According to the South China Morning Post, Vietnam’s statement to the PCA, submitted last Friday, made three main claims in opposition to China’s stand. First, it recognized the court’s jurisdiction over the case submitted by the Philippines, which Beijing does not. Second, it requested that the court give “due regard” to Vietnam’s own legal rights and interests in the Spratlys, Paracels, and in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf while deliberating on the case. Third and lastly, it rejected China’s infamous nine-dash line – which lays claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea – as being “without legal basis.”
Hanoi’s actions are part of a concerted effort to respond to China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, which has continued in 2014. In May, a Chinese state-owned oil company dispatched a deep sea drilling rig off the coast of Vietnam in disputed waters south of the Paracel Islands, which led to deadly boat clashes and anti-Chinese violence and plunged diplomatic relations to an all-time low. In response, Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung had said that Hanoi was “considering various actions, including legal actions in accordance with international law.”
By lodging a statement with the court – as opposed to directly joining the Philippines in its case – Vietnam has found a way to make its views heard but not alienate Beijing, which has warned Hanoi against joining Manila’s legal challenge. Beyond the legal realm, Vietnam has also taken a number of other actions, including slowly moving towards closer ties with the United States – made easier by the partial lifting of a U.S. lethal weapons embargo – and making its first-ever port call to the Philippines last month.
Predictably, China dismissed Vietnam’s sovereignty claims in its foreign ministry statement, labeling them “illegal and invalid” and emphasizing that “China will never accept such a claim.”
“China urges Vietnam to earnestly respect our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and resolve relevant disputes regarding Nansha with China on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law so as to jointly maintain peace and stability on the South China Sea,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
The legal tussle between Beijing and Hanoi comes as the December 15 deadline nears for China to submit its defense in the arbitration case brought about by the Philippines. China is not expected to submit anything in response to the tribunal’s deadline, having already declared in its position paper that it would “neither accept nor participate in the arbitration.”
Two days before China released its position paper, the U.S. State Department published a study that questioned the validity of Beijing’s nine-dash line. China dismissed the study, claiming that it ignored basic facts and legal principles and was unhelpful in resolving the South China Sea issue.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to steal the Sea, Chinese style

By Lieveillyn King, December 1, 2014 – 5:02 pm 

In history, countries have sought to increase their territory by bribery, chicanery, coercion and outright force of arms. But while many have sought to dominate the seas, from the Greek city states to the mighty British Empire, none has ever, in effect, tried to take over an ocean or a sea as its own. 
But that is what China is actively doing in the ocean south of the mainland: the South China Sea. Bit by bit, it is establishing hegemony over this most important sea where the littoral states — China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam — have territorial claims. 
The importance of the South China Sea is hard to overestimate. Some of the most vital international sea lanes traverse it; it is one of the great fishing areas; and the ocean bed, near land, has large reserves of oil and gas. No wonder everyone wants a piece of it — and China wants all of it. 
Historically China has laid claim to a majority of the sea and adheres to a map or line — known as the nine-dash map, the U-shape line or the nine-dotted line — that cedes most of the ocean area and all of the island land to it. The nine-dash map is a provocation at best and a blueprint for annexation at worst. 
The mechanism for China’s filching of one of the great seas of the world is control of the three island archipelagos, the Paracel, Spratly and Pratas islands, and several other smaller outcroppings, as well as the seamounts, called the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal. Between them, they consist of about 250 small islands, atolls, keys, shoals, sandbars and reefs. Very few of these are habitable or have indigenous people. Some are permanently submerged, and many are only exposed at low tide. 
Yet if China can claim title to them, it can use them to extend its hegemony into the area around them. First, it can claim the standard 12 miles of territorial waters around each land mass and it also can claim an economic zone of influence of 200 miles from the most dubious “island.” Ergo, China can connect the dots and grab a large chunk of the South China Sea. 
China is reclaiming land – actually building a new artificial island — in the disputed Spratly Islands. The two-mile-long island will have an airfield that, China's foreign ministry claims, will be used for air-sea operations. The other claimants, think otherwise, especially Vietnam. The United States has called for China to halt the island project. 
China has been both stealthy and obvious about its strategy. It has increased its trade with the claimants; and in some cases has made generous contributions to their infrastructure development, but not in the South China Sea. In its maritime provocations, China has been careful to use its coast guard, not its navy, as it extends its grasp on the archipelagos, and inches forward to total domination of anything that looks like land in the waters off its southern coast. 
The Philippines has sought international legal redress under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty which the United States has not ratified, limiting its legal maneuvering, according to Barry Nolan of the Boston Forum, a policy analysis group that has studied the South China Sea crisis this year. China denies the legitimacy of international law in what is says is an internal matter. 
To my mind, we are seeing is a new kind of imperialism from China, a gradual annexation of whatever it wants; quiet aggression, just short of war but relentless. This is China's modus operandi in Southeast Asia, Africa and other places. It squeezes gently and then with greater strength, like a lethal constrictor snake. 
Southeast Asian countries are arming, but China’s naval forces are growing faster. Also, it has the cash and the people to do what it wants. The U.S. “pivot to Asia” has done little to reassure China’s neighbors. Their nervousness is compounded by the ease with which Russia was able to annex Crimea and is proceeding into Eastern Ukraine unchecked. What’s to stop China grabbing some useless islands, and then a whole sea? 

The ancient concept of oceans as commons is under threat. The Chinese dragon walks and swims. — For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate
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