Vietnam Taking Long-Term Hard Line Toward China on Maritime Claims

FILE - A Vietnamese floating guard station is seen on Truong Sa islands, or Spratly island.

FILE – A Vietnamese floating guard station is seen on Truong Sa islands, or Spratly island.

Vietnam is lengthening a military runway on a tiny islet to help hold off a larger, more aggressive China for control in Asia’s widest-reaching sovereignty dispute as other claimants keep quiet or seek negotiations.

The government in Hanoi is extending the runway on one of the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, from 762 to 1,005 meters and building new hangars, according to the U.S. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The longer runway would allow easier access for the air force’s maritime surveillance aircraft, it said.

Historic use of the sea, strong national pride and a history of deadly conflicts are motivating Vietnam to fortify more than two dozen islands in the chain.

“The Vietnamese have to play a very careful game,” said Adam McCarty, chief economist at Mekong Economics in Hanoi. “They don’t really want to provoke China, but they also can’t just let China do whatever it wants to do.

China has also irritated Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines since 2010 with its quick expansion into the 3.5-million-square-km (1.4 million-square-mile) ocean.

Standing up to China

But other governments normally keep quiet when China passes ships through their maritime zones. Malaysia, for one, hopes to protect its extensive trade and investment relations with the world number two economy, while Brunei is also quiet.

The Philippines, once hostile enough to take the maritime dispute to a world arbitration court, began making peace with China in August. The two sides may now explore jointly for undersea fossil fuels.

Vietnam has already done landfill work on 27 South China Sea islets, more than any other claimant, though China’s land reclamation is grabbing more headlines.

Vietnam has also acquired submarines and spent heavily on military expansion over the past eight years, analysts note.

Unique cause for concern

Vietnam is uniquely wary of China for historical reasons, analysts say. The two sides fought a border war in 1979 and have reported three major clashes at sea. An incident in the Paracel Islands in 1974 sank a South Vietnamese navy ship with the captain on board, killing a total 71 from both sides. A 1988 naval battle left 64 Vietnamese dead.

From 1992 to 1996, Vietnam staved off China’s efforts to explore some of the sea’s islets, but China has taken an upper hand since then despite a 2007 plan in Vietnam to link maritime resources to its coastal economic development.

Two years ago Vietnamese and Chinese vessels rammed each other in the Gulf of Tonkin after China allowed an offshore oil driller to position a rig in overlapping waters. The oil rig incident sparked anti-China riots in Vietnam and left 21 dead. Vietnam protested a Chinese rig using the same waters in April.

“I think, number one, they have very unfortunately experienced in the past that they have had actual military confrontation with China in terms of protecting their maritime interests,” said Andrew Yang, secretary general with the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank in Taiwan.

Historic claims

Vietnamese people have used the South China Sea for hundreds of years, stoking the nationalism behind today’s dispute with China. Before North and South Vietnam were unified in the 1970s, the south maintained military and civilian communities in the Spratlys. Its claims to the ocean now also overlap with Malaysia and the Philippines.

“The Vietnamese leadership still has to be very sensitive and responsive to what the Vietnamese people really feel and want,” he said. “There’s a strong anti-China sentiment and there’s very strong nationalism in Vietnam, so they have to be seen to be pushing back against China but at the same time they realize you can’t poke the bear too often or you get a really bad backlash.”

Vietnamese officials once believed the South China Sea to hold oil and natural gas reserves off their south coast, McCarty said, but they eased away due to the cost of exploration. The country is not “sophisticated” in deep-sea fishing, another common economic reason countries cite for their interest in the South China Sea, he said.

As China builds up tiny disputed islets with the capability of launching planes, Vietnam fears its claims will be harder to defend, McCarty said.

Hanoi seeks peace with Beijing

Still, the country counts China as its top supplier of raw material for a fast-growing manufacturing sector. China is also Vietnam’s top trading partner.

The Communist government in Hanoi squelched the 2014 riots in part to keep peace with Beijing. In September, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc pledged to manage their differences over maritime issues.

At the same time, Vietnam is pursuing closer security ties with Japan, India and the United States as a bulwark against China.

“They’ve gone much further than Malaysia and much, much further than the Philippines to be able to represent a deterrent [to China],” said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at The University of New South Wales in Australia.

In May the U.S. government lifted a 30-year-old embargo against selling lethal weapons to Vietnam and separately it has offered $18 million in military aid. Japan is also sending maritime patrol boats to Vietnam.

China prefers two-way talks with rival maritime claimants to solve disputes and has lashed out at the United States for intervention.

“Vietnam had long been negotiating bilaterally with China, but Vietnam is different in saying that where third party interests are involved, then they have a right to be involved,” Thayer said.

Source: VOA “Vietnam Taking Long-Term Hard Line Toward China on Maritime Claims”

Note: This is VOA’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

Vietnam expanding South China Sea runway: U.S. think tank

A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/File Photo

A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/File Photo

Vietnam is extending a runway on an island it claims in the South China Sea in apparent response to China’s building of military facilities on artificial islands in the region, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday.

Satellite images taken this month showed Vietnam had lengthened its runway on Spratly Island from less than 2,500 feet (760 meters) to more than 3,300 feet (1 km), Washington’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said.

AMTI, a project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said continued reclamation work would likely mean the runway was extended to more than 4,000 feet (1.2 km).

It said the upgraded runway would be able to accommodate maritime surveillance aircraft and transport planes, as well as combat aircraft.

The report said Vietnam had added about 57 acres (23 hectares) of land to Spratly Island in recent years, but its reclamation work remained modest by Chinese standards.

China has built military-length runways on three artificial islands it has built up in the South China Sea since 2013.

Reuters reported in August that Vietnam had discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China’s runways and military installations across the vital trade route.

Military analysts said the deployment of the launchers was the most significant defensive move Vietnam has made on its holdings in the South China Sea in decades and it underscored Hanoi’s concerns about China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in the disputed region.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry has called the information “inaccurate”, without elaborating.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: Reuters “Vietnam expanding South China Sea runway: U.S. think tank”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Report: China Could Make a Big Move in the South China Sea Starting Next Month

China's J-10 fighter jet. Image: Creative Commons.

China’s J-10 fighter jet. Image: Creative Commons.

By Harry J. Kazianis August 14, 2016

It seems if the People’s Republic of China is going to make a push to radically alter the status-quo in the South China Sea—by reclaiming the hotly disputed Scarborough Shoal that is clearly within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines—we now have a good idea of when that might happen: sometime between early September, after the G-20 summit being hosted in China, and the U.S. presidential election on November 8th.

The idea was laid out in a recent article in the South China Morning Post in an article dated August 13th. The report, quoting “a source familiar with the matter”, said that Beijing would not carry out any reclamation work on the Shoal before hosting the G-20 next month but could begin construction before America goes to the polls. “Since the G20 will be held in Hangzhou next month, and regional peace will be the main topic among leaders of the great powers, China will refrain from [acting on the] reclamation plan,” explained the source, who was not identified.

As I noted in a recent piece, if China were to make a big move in the South China Sea, especially to counteract the recent ruling in the Hague that nullified any possible claims to almost the entirety of this important body of water, after the G-20 and before the U.S. presidential election makes the most sense. As I explained:

“Always looking to enhance its status as a rising superpower as well as play the part that China is the ultimate partner nation and never one to start trouble, Beijing will follow a carefully well scripted playbook in the South China Sea — lots of fiery talk and signaling, but no escalatory steps for the time being. China would not want to risk having any drama at this prestigious gathering — beyond what could occur already when it comes to tensions in Asia. Why rock the boat and lose face? Now is simply not the time for a squabble. I would argue Beijing has every incentive to hold its fire until after the summit.

But the plot thickens from there, adding more reason to the argument that Beijing is holding back for the right time to respond. Why not take advantage of the daily media drama show that is the U.S. Presidential election cycle and save any escalatory moves in the South China Sea so they simply get buried in the news cycle?

There could not be a better time to start trouble in the South China Sea, at a time when the United States—truly the only nation that could really deter Beijing from troublemaking — will be very much distracted in the business of selecting its next Commander-in-Chief. American as well as global media will be very much focused on the battles to come between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton…”

But there is also now another reason such an anonymous source might want to come forward and reveal such information, stating such a move “is a must for China”, especially right now: it puts pressure on Manila to reach a settlement. With reports like the above advancing a narrative of possible reclamation as well as recent deployments of large numbers of ships around the shoal as well as ‘bomber selfies’ over the area, China is signaling it may be getting ready to act boldly. And with newly appointed Philippines envoy, former President Fidel Ramos, just concluding talks in Hong Kong, in what was described as an ice-breaking session, pressure is mounting on Manila to not only speed up negotiations, but agree to a settlement on China’s terms.

How Washington responds to the gathering storm clouds over the South China Sea is critical. The Obama Administration should continue to make clear—it has done so now on at least a few occasions, according to press reports—reclamation at Scarborough would be a mistake, signaling the creation of what Center for New American Security (CNAS) scholar Patrick Cronin called a “pink line”, essentially that Washington could, and I emphasize could, consider such a move a game changer, and act according. But such statements, with this administration having such little time in office left and likely unable to react decisively unless staring down the possibility of a major crisis—knowing it would need to hand off any major policy shifts in Asia to a new administration—could ring hollow. Considering this, China might decide now is the time to lock in its gains in the South China Sea.

One thing is for certain, it stands to reason Asia watchers here in Washington may very well have a very busy fall indeed.

Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Center for the National Interest and Senior Editor at The National Interest Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter: @grecianformula.

Source: National Interest “Report: China Could Make a Big Move in the South China Sea Starting Next Month”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

U.S. flexes muscles as Asia worries about South China Sea row

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The United States stepped up pressure on China on Saturday to rein in its actions in the South China Sea, with top defense officials underlining Washington’s military superiority and vowing to remain the main guarantor of Asian security for decades to come.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. approach to the Asia-Pacific remained “one of commitment, strength and inclusion”, but he also warned China against provocative behavior in the South China Sea.

Any action by China to reclaim land in the Scarborough Shoal, an outcrop in the disputed sea, would have consequences, Carter said.

“I hope that this development doesn’t occur, because it will result in actions being taken by the both United States and … by others in the region which would have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China,” Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum in Singapore.

“The United States will remain the most powerful military and main underwriter of security in the region for decades to come – and there should be no doubt about that.”

The South China Sea has become a flashpoint between the United States, which increased its focus on the Asia-Pacific under President Barack Obama’s “pivot”, and China, which is projecting ever greater economic, political and military power in the region.

Carter however said he would welcome China’s participation in a “principled security network” for Asia.

“Forward thinking statesmen and leaders must … come together to ensure a positive principled future,” he said, adding that the network he envisaged could also help protect against “Russia’s worrying actions” and the growing strategic impact of climate change.

The deputy head of China’s delegation to the forum said the United States should reduce its provocative exercises and patrols in the region and said any attempts to isolate China would fail.

“This is a time of cooperation and common security,” Rear Admiral Guan Youfei told reporters. “The U.S. action to take sides is not agreed by many countries. We hope the U.S. will also listen to the other countries.”


Other Asian leaders said the situation in the South China Sea was viewed with concern across the region.

“All countries in the region need to recognize that our shared prosperities and the enviable rate of growth that this region enjoys over past decades will be put at risk by aggressive behavior or actions by any one of us,” Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told the forum.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said his country would help Southeast Asian nations build their security capabilities to deal with what he called unilateral, dangerous and coercive actions in the South China Sea.

“In the South China Sea, we have been witnessing large-scale and rapid land reclamation, building of outposts and utilization of them for military purposes,” Nakatani said. “No country can be an outsider of this issue.”

A Chinese official responded by saying Japan should be careful “not to interfere and stir up problems” in the waterway, while China’s foreign ministry also weighed in regarding the U.S. and Japanese comments.

“Counties outside the region should stick to their promises and not make thoughtless remarks about issues of territorial sovereignty,” the ministry said in a statement.

Trillions of dollars of trade a year passes through the South China Sea, which is home to rich oil, gas and fishing resources. Besides China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have claims in the area, and rising tensions have been fuelling increasing security spending in the region.

“The uncertainty of China’s future trajectory is arguably the main driving concern about possible military competition now and in the future,” Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

Carter said that for decades some critics had been predicting an impending U.S. withdrawal from the region, but this would not happen.

“That’s because this region, which is home to nearly half the world’s population and nearly half the global economy, remains the most consequential for America’s own security and prosperity.”


In an apparent counter to “America-first” policies expounded by prospective Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, including suggestions that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Asia, Carter stressed bipartisan support for continued engagement.

The Shangri-La Dialogue is being held ahead of a significant ruling expected in coming weeks on a case filed by the Philippines in the International Court of Arbitration challenging China’s South China Sea claims, which Beijing has vowed to ignore.

The United States has been lobbying Asian and other countries to back the judges’ statement that their ruling must be binding, a call echoed by Japan on Saturday.

China has lobbied on the other side for support for its position that the court lacks jurisdiction in the case.

(Additional reporting by Marius Zaharia, Masayuki Kitano, Lee Chyen Yee and Paige Lim in Singapore and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Lincoln Feast)

Source: Reuters “U.S. flexes muscles as Asia worries about South China Sea row”

Kerry Wise to Know Lifting Arms Ban on Vietnam Cannot Hurt China

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh pose for a photo before a signing ceremony at the Government Guesthouse as part of the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh pose for a photo before a signing ceremony at the Government Guesthouse as part of the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

Reuters reports today that US Secretary of State Kerry said that Lifting of Vietnam arms ban not aimed at China.

Kerry knows well improving ties with Vietnam aims at China but knows well that it cannot hurt China; therefore, he said lifting arms ban is not aimed at China to cover US true intention.

Anyway, it is good for the US to lift its stupid ban. US can make lots of profit in its sales to Vietnam.

US imposed sanctions on China after China defeated it in Korea but lifted the sanctions on its own later.

US imposed sanctions on Cuba after the invasion of Cuba supported by it was defeated but lifted sanctions on its own later.

US imposed sanctions on Vietnam after Vietnam defeated it but lifted sanctions on its own later.

Sanctions have been proved ineffective on China, Cuba and Vietnam but the US remains stupid in imposing sanctions on Russia now. Obviously, the sanctions do not work. Russia is more aggressive in Ukraine and even extends its aggression to Syria. Will the US not lift the sanctions soon as it hurts not only Russia but also itself and its EU allies?

Sorry, since the US has been defeated by China, Cuba and Vietnam and has no alternative to stop Russian aggression, sanctions are its only option perhaps though not effective.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters report. Full text of Reuters report can be viewed at

China Conducting Land Reclamation in Paracels in Addition to Spratlys

North and Middle Islands before and after land reclamation

North and Middle Islands on January 9 when land reclarmation began and on March 2 when much land reclamation had been done.

The Diplomat says in its report on March 7 titled “Satellite Imagery: China Expands Land Filling at North Island in the Paracels”, “Satellite imagery from March 2, 2016 shows a marked expansion of China’s dredging and land filling at North Island in the Paracels.”

The dredging did not begin until January 2016 and the report says, land reclaimed links North Island with Middle Island to accommodate a runway. The report believes that China may build an airstrip there though there is an airfield in nearby Woody Island. China will have three airstrips in the Spratlys. Two in the Paracels are not too many.

Source: The Diplomat “Satellite Imagery: China Expands Land Filling at North Island in the Paracels”

Full text of the report can be viewed at

China Built Largest Island to Deal with US Warplanes from Filipino Bases

The artificial island at the southern end of Mischief Reef showing a newly-built seawall on its north side and a completed dock are shown in this Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative January 8, 2016 satellite image released to Reuters on January 15, 2016. REUTERS/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe/Handout via Reuters/Files

The artificial island at the southern end of Mischief Reef showing a newly-built seawall on its north side and a completed dock are shown in this Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative January 8, 2016 satellite image released to Reuters on January 15, 2016. REUTERS/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe/Handout via Reuters/Files

I said in my post “Too Late for Philippines’ Two-way Talks with China on Maritime Dispute” on February 13:

China has developed enough anti-ship missiles to resist the attack from US aircraft carrier battle groups, but the US is still able to attack China with its attack nuclear submarines from the South China Sea where sea is deep enough for such submarines to maneuver. However, the submarines will be detected by China after they have launched the attack. They need the protection of fighter jets from Philippine military bases. In order to deal with US air force from the Philippines, China has been building its largest artificial island on Mischief Reef.

Note: The island on Mischief Reef is the largest at the South China Sea with an area of 5.52 square kilometers now. It is located the nearest to the Philippines.

In fact, before China realized the need to deal with such submarine attack with air protection from Filipino bases, China focused on building its artificial island on Fiery Cross Reef for control of the South China Sea. The construction of the artificial island on Mischief Reef began much later, but due to the strategic importance of the artificial island on Mischief Reef for China’s national security, the construction there has become China’s first priority. As a result, China said it would soon complete its land reclamation on some reefs in mid July 2015 and according to satellite photos, it had indeed finished the reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef by September 2015. However, it continued to conduct large-scale land reclamation on Mischief Reef.

In its report “U.S. admiral warns against Chinese fighter flights from South China Sea runways” yesterday, Reuters provides a photo taken in January that shows how much China did in its land reclamation there since June 2015. We provide the photo on top of this post.

The photos below show the artificial island in May and June last year. Compared with the above photo taken in January, we see how much land reclamation had been done since May 2015.

Mischief Reef in May and June 2015

Mischief Reef in May and June 2015

China is building a runway 2.6 km long on the artificial island on Mischief Reef according to Wikipedia. China said its artificial islands were mainly for civil purposes. Do you believe that? No one will build a civilian airport on an island without civilian population. Even if there is civilian population the size of the island of only 5.52 square kilometers does not justify the construction of a civilian airport there. Therefore, it is very clear that the artificial island on Mischief Reef has been built for China’s national security.

Reuters says in its report:

Any move by China to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea would be destabilizing and would not deter U.S. flights over the area, a senior U.S. naval officer said on Monday.


Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, also urged Beijing to be more open over its intentions in the South China Sea, saying it would relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing”.

The island can be turned into a military base whenever necessary as China can build all the necessary facilities there now mostly secretly. The US can do nothing no matter what angst it has.

The fact now is that with its artificial islands, China has geographical advantages at the South China Sea if a war breaks out there.

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, the full text of which can be viewed at

Obama in Asia to Prove US Lost of Leadership Failing to Stop China?

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

New York Times says in its report on November 18 that Obama told reporters in Manila when was there to attend APEC summit that he urged the Chinese to stop military activities in the South China Sea and endorsed a process of arbitration to settle differences between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbors. But China refuses to listen and has repeatedly stated that it will not accept any arbitration award.

However, Obama suffered a setback as APEC statement fails to mention South China Sea issue despite Obama’s and Abe’s desire to have the issue included.

Reuters says in its report yesterday that in Kuala Lumpur on November 21, Obama, instead, urged not only China but also other parties to South China Sea disputes to do so, saying, “For the sake of regional stability the claimants should halt reclamation, construction and militarisation of disputed areas.”

China says it has completed reclamation and will not conduct militarization but is conducting construction of mainly civil but some military facilities there with a vengeance. It is common sense that lots of civil facilities can be used for military purpose. For example, if consideration of military use is taken in the construction, the radar, airports, etc. for civil purposes can be used by the military in wartime.

What Obama wants is to keep U.S. control of the South China Sea, but the U.S. will soon lost the control to China if China keeps on its construction on the artificial islands.

However, Obama can do nothing to stop China. APEC summit failed to raise the South China Sea Issue. Even if ASEAN raises its concern about the construction, it will be very mild and China will ignore it.

It seems that the U.S. can only continue its freedom of navigation and flight-over actions to humiliate China.

China seems to be very upset but has taken no military actions and does no seem likely to take such actions in the near future. Certainly, it shall not. When China has finished its construction to dominate the South China Sea and developed sufficient military strength to counter the U.S., the U.S. will no longer dare to conduct the actions to upset China. U.S. politicians perhaps may like fighting a war. After all, a war will benefit rich and powerful U.S. weapon manufacturers. The problems for the politicians are that American people do not want to fight a war. They support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they have been attacked by terrorists. China takes the South China Sea because the islands, reefs and waters have been claimed by China for centuries and China has taken them peacefully. U.S. interests there including freedom of navigation and flight-over have simply not been affected.

Obama wants to prove U.S. leadership by making APEC raise its concern about China’s reclamation and construction in the South China Sea, but his failure in doing so precisely prove that the U.S. is losing world leadership though it remains for the time being the strongest military power in the world.

It is a question whether the U.S will be able to remain the strongest if it fails to put its economy in order while China succeeds in its economic reform and development.

Even if the U.S. is able to remain world no. one in military strength, it still may not be world leader if it only knows to make others follow him by military threat. It has to earn popularity with economic strength. China is now popular as it is willing to provide huge funds to help other countries develop their economy and become rich.

On the contrary, what the U.S. is doing to help other countries is to sell them expensive weapons so as to make them poorer as a result.

I hope that Obama refrains from making any unsuccessful show of U.S. leadership but put his homeland in order to enable the U.S to be the real world leader.

Article by Chan Kai Yee as comments on New York Times’ and Reuters’ reports:

Full text of New York Times’ report:

Obama Calls on Beijing to Stop Construction in South China Sea


MANILA — President Obama called on China on Wednesday to halt its construction on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, raising the contentious issue at the start of a two-day economic summit meeting at which he and other Pacific Rim leaders also discussed trade and climate change.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines, Mr. Obama directly addressed the disputed Chinese claims to islands in the critical waterway. He urged the Chinese to stop military activities there and endorsed a process of arbitration to settle differences between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbors.

“We agree on the need for bold steps to lower tensions, including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea,” Mr. Obama said.

The United States takes no position on the territorial claims of various Asian governments in the region, but Mr. Obama has aggressively sought to defend the right of free navigation in the South China Sea, a vital route for commerce and trade. On Tuesday, he announced $250 million in military contributions to several Asian nations to support their efforts to stand up to China.

The president’s comments on Wednesday came at the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit meeting, at which leaders from 19 regional economies have gathered for discussions about growth and trade.

Later in the evening, Mr. Obama joined the other leaders in a tradition at the APEC meeting: donning clothes of the host country. This year, Mr. Obama and his counterparts wore a sheer, off-white linen shirt called a barong Tagalog, by the Filipino designer Paul Cabral, according to local news media.

The formal men’s version has a four-button placket and golden embroidery, and is usually worn buttoned to the neck, which has a pointed collar. The women’s version is similar but has an open neckline.

Mr. Obama and the other leaders posed in the barongs before sitting down for dinner and entertainment, which included a rendition of “On a Clear Day,” by Jessica Sanchez, one of the finalists on Season 11 of “American Idol” and a former member of the cast of “Glee.” Ms. Sanchez, who is from California, is the daughter of a Philippine woman.

During the day, Mr. Obama participated in a series of working sessions. The centerpiece of the discussions on Wednesday was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was agreed to recently by a dozen countries, including the United States. Mr. Obama hailed the deal at a meeting with other leaders.

“This is the highest-standard and most progressive trade deal ever concluded,” he said, standing beside Michael B. Froman, the United States trade representative, who helped negotiate the pact. “It includes strong protections for workers, prohibitions against child labor and forced labor. It has provisions to protect the environment, to help stop wildlife trafficking, to protect our oceans.”

The agreement still faces an intense debate in the United States as Congress considers it. But Mr. Obama expressed confidence that it would be approved.

“The fact that everyone here has stepped up and made some hard decisions that are going to pay off for decades to come I think is testimony to the vision that was reflected,” he said.

Mr. Obama also used the summit meeting to push for his climate change agenda, telling a group of chief executives that the world must face the “urgent and growing threat of climate change” before time runs out.

He said the economic and social threats from climate change should be of particular concern to the people of Southeast Asia, where many low-lying islands could face disaster as sea levels rise.

“Few regions have more at stake in meeting this challenge than the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to travel to Paris at the end of the month for a climate change summit meeting that aims to reach an accord dedicating many nations to reducing their carbon emissions to slow global warming.

The president hosted a discussion of climate change at the chief executives’ forum along with Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Aisa Mijeno, a Filipino entrepreneur who invented a lamp that runs on saltwater.

In response to a question from Mr. Obama about her lamp, Ms. Mijeno said that it provided about eight hours of light, as well as power to a USB port for charging a phone.

“And all you need to do is you just have to replenish the saltwater solution,” she said, “and then you have another eight hours of lighting.”

Mr. Ma offered the president the perspective of a very large company that, he said, spends 0.3 percent of its revenue to encourage young people to find creative ways to help the environment. He said that when he was 12, he almost drowned in a lake, and that now that lake was dry.

“If we do not care about this earth, we do not care about the water, food, environment, I think nobody can survive, whether you’re big or small,” Mr. Ma said. “So this is the concern. This is the worry I have.”

Mr. Obama was scheduled to end the day with a working dinner to further discuss economic issues.

Full text of Reuters’ report:
Obama urges halt to artificial islands in South China Sea

KUALA LUMPUR | By Matt Spetalnick and Martin Petty Nov 21, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday that countries should stop building artificial islands and militarising their claims in the disputed South China Sea.

“For the sake of regional stability the claimants should halt reclamation, construction and militarisation of disputed areas,” Obama told a meeting between the United States and leaders of the 10 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China insists it has undisputed sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, a claim that overlaps with four ASEAN countries.

China has been transforming reefs in the Spratly archipelago into artificial islands and has built airfields and other facililties on them. This has caused ripples of alarm in much of East Asia about China’s intentions and freedom of navigation in a waterway through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually.

Obama said he commended ASEAN for working to create a code of conduct for the South China Sea “including the peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight.”

Earlier this month, U.S. B-52 bombers flew near China’s artificial islands, signaling Washington’s determination to challenge Beijing over the disputed sea.

China has said it does not want the South China Sea issue to be the focus of the meetings in Kuala Lumpur. Prime Minister Li Keqiang has yet to comment on the issue.


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak opened the weekend series of meetings earlier on Saturday, calling on world leaders to confront Islamist extremism. The “barbaric acts” of “terrorists” do not represent any race or religion, he declared.

Islamist militants killed 19 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali on Friday before Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners. This came a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in coordinated attacks in Paris.

“The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed, nor should we allow them to claim to do so,” Najib said in his opening speech at the ASEAN summit.

“They are terrorists and should be confronted as such, with the full force of the law.”

Malaysia has deployed extraordinary security measures around Kuala Lumpur as leaders from 18 countries, including Obama, arrived for the series of summits.

Obama said on Saturday the Mali hotel attacks only stiffened the resolve of the United States and its allies, which would be relentless in fighting those targeting its citizens and would allow militants no safe haven.

“We will continue to root out terrorist networks,” Obama told a meeting of business executives. “We will not allow these killers to have a safe haven.”


Most of the leaders arrived from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila. Both the APEC meeting and the ASEAN summit typically focus on economic issues but have been overshadowed by the terrorist attacks.

Najib said he had intended to open the summit to talk about an economic community that ASEAN is launching this weekend in a region of 622 million people with a combined economic output of $2.5 trillion.

“But the events of recent days and weeks have cast a shadow over us all,” he said.

He said predominantly Islamic countries such as Malaysia have a duty to expose as lies the “ideology propagated by these extremists that is the cause of this sadistic violence.”

Obama said ASEAN’s community would not only help integrate economies in the strategic region but “improve regional stability”.

Obama said his signature free trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), “will bind the United States even closer to some of our strongest allies in Asia”.

“Our alliances are the foundation for our security which becomes the foundation for our prosperity, which allows us to invest in the source of our strength, including our alliances,” he told the ASEAN business executives.

The Asia-Pacific countries in the TPP include Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia, all of whom are attending the Malaysia meetings.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Martin Petty. Additional reporting by Trinna Leong and Praveen Menon. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)

China to Step up Militarization of Reefs in South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang at the press conference

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang at the press conference

At a regular press conference on October 27, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said, “the relevant party keeps creating tension and stirring up troubles in the region, the Chinese side may have to reach the conclusion that we do need to step up and speed up relevant capacity building. We advise the US not to take self-defeating actions.”

What he meant by relevant capacity that would make the US actions self-defeating? Obviously it is military capacity. That proves the prediction in my previous posts that US actions would give China excuse to militarize its artificial islands, which is indeed China’s aim in incurring such huge expenses in building the artificial islands but China needs some excuse for the militarization.

U.S. naval actions to patrol the disputed waters in fact do no harm to China as long as China can militarize the islands smoothly and control the entire South China Sea with the militarized artificial islands.

The U.S. has been too slow and weak in responding to China’s land reclamation. It now can only patrol the disputed waters to save its face but can do nothing to prevent China from control the sea with those artificial islands.

In case of a war between China and the U.S. near China, U.S. nuclear submarines have difficulty of maneuver at the East China Sea and Yellow Sea because the waters there are too shallow but can cruise easily in the vast and deep South China Sea. The anti-submarine facilities on and under the water of China’s militarized artificial islands will enable China to kill U.S. submarines there. That is the real problem.

Article by Chan Kai Yee as comments on Chinese Foreign Ministry’s press conference.

Full text of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s transcription of the press conference can be viewed at

China’s Xi Is Not So Foolish as to Militarize Artificial Islands Now

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

This blogger has repeatedly explained in his posts that there is no need for China to militarize the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea now unless the U.S. conducts military provocation there.

As the islands can easily be militarized to function as a few unsinkable aircraft carriers, China now is able to control of the South China Sea with those islands whenever it wants. In addition, aircraft carriers are costly to maintain while the large investment in building the islands can be recovered through the development of tourism, fishery, fish farming and oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Since according to Reuters’ report titled “U.S., China agree on rules for air-to-air military encounters”, China has concluded agreements with U.S. on a military hotline and rules of behavior to govern air-to-air encounters, there will be no such provocation. It would have been foolish for Xi to militarize the islands now. That is why Xi said in Washington as quoted in Reuters report, “Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country and there is no intention to militarize,”

However, we cannot deny that with the potential of militarization of the artificial islands, China’s dominance of the South China Sea has been established.

Article by Chan Kai Yee as comments on Reuters’ reports:

The following are the full text of Reuters’ reports:

Xi denies China turning artificial islands into military bases
WASHINGTON By David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina Sep 25, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concerns about Chinese militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea to China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday, but Xi denied any plan to establish military strongholds there.

Obama said their summit talks included a “candid” discussion on Asia-Pacific disputes, focusing on growing tensions in the South China Sea where China has competing territorial claims with several Southeast Asian countries.

“I conveyed to President Xi our significant concerns over land reclamation, construction and the militarization of disputed areas, which makes it harder for countries in the region to resolve disagreements peacefully,” Obama said.

He spoke with Xi at his side during a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden. The Chinese leader is on his first state visit to the United States.

China has said repeatedly that the artificial islands it has built up on disputed reefs would be used for military defense and analysts say satellite pictures show it has completed one military length runway and appears to be working on two more.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told the Aspen Security Forum in July that China was building hangers on one of the reefs – Fiery Cross – that appeared to be for tactical fighter aircraft.

Xi, however, denied that militarization was taking place.

“Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country and there is no intention to militarize,” Xi said, using the Chinese name for the disputed Spratly archipelago.

“Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are Chinese territory,” Xi said. “We have the right to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful legitimate maritime rights and interests.”

Xi also reiterated that China is committed to freedom of navigation in the sea and to resolving disputes through dialogue. He said Beijing and Washington had a shared interest in this regard.

Washington analysts and U.S. officials say the militarization of the islands has already begun and the only question is how much military hardware China will install.

U.S. experts say satellite photos from early this month also show China was carrying out dredging work around the artificial islands, a month after saying it had stopped.

Harris said last week that China’s runway building and further militarization of the artificial islands was of “great concern” and posed a threat to all countries in the region.

Jane’s Defense Weekly published new satellite images of Fiery Cross taken on Sept. 20 that it said showed China had completed the runway on the reef and was moving closer to making it operational.

Jane’s said completion of the runway could allow China to accelerate construction of infrastructure and to start air patrols over the disputed islands.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina, Julia Edwards, Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Storey, Frances Kerry and Ken Wills)

U.S., China agree on rules for air-to-air military encounters
WASHINGTON By Phil Stewart Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:34pm EDT

The United States on Friday announced agreements with China on a military hotline and rules of behavior to govern air-to-air encounters, just days after the Pentagon criticized China over an unsafe intercept of a U.S. spy plane.

The agreements were unveiled following talks in Washington between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama and seek to lessen the chance of an accidental flare-up between the two militaries, despite tensions in the South China Sea.

“We agreed to new channels of communication to reduce the risks of miscalculations between our militaries,” Obama told a White House news conference with Xi standing beside him.

The new agreement on rules of behavior for air-to-air encounters was broad in scope, addressing everything from the correct radio frequencies to use during distress calls to the wrong physical behaviors to use during crises.

“Military aircrew should refrain from the use of uncivil language or unfriendly physical gestures,” read one provision of the agreement. (

Another agreement created formal rules to govern use of a military crisis hotline, a move that aims to speed top-level communication. (

The Pentagon says two Chinese JH-7 fighter jets intercepted an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane, with one passing within just 500 feet of the U.S. aircraft. The intercept took place on Sept. 15, about 80 miles (130 km) east of the Shandong peninsula in the Yellow Sea.

The Pentagon reported a far more dangerous intercept last year, when, in August 2014, a Chinese warplane flew as close as 20 to 30 feet (7 to 10 meters) to a U.S. Navy patrol jet and conducted a barrel roll over the plane.

One U.S. defense official said, the United States will expect “full compliance” with the agreement.

The intercepts are examples of moves seen as an assertion of the expanding reach of China’s military. This month, five Chinese Navy ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska.

Closer to home, China’s territorial claims have stoked tensions. Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

The agreement sidesteps such territorial disputes by being “geographically neutral,” the U.S. defense official said.

But Obama said he had a “candid” discussion with Xi.

“I indicated that the United States will continue to sail, fly and operate anywhere that international law allows,” Obama said as Xi stood beside him.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bernard Orr)