Asserting sovereignty, Indonesia renames part of South China Sea


Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. Photo: Beawiharta

Tom Allard and Bernadette Christina Munthe July 14, 2017

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea on Friday, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China’s territorial ambitions in the maritime region.

Seen by analysts as an assertion of Indonesian sovereignty, part of the renamed sea is claimed by China under its contentious maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line’, that encompasses most of the resource-rich sea.

Several Southeast Asian states dispute China’s territorial claims and are competing with China to exploit the South China Sea’s abundant hydrocarbon and fishing resources. China has raised the ante by deploying military assets on artificial islands constructed on shoals and reefs in disputed parts of the sea.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Unveiling the new official map, the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oegroseno, noted the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

“We want to update the naming of the sea [and] we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea,” he told reporters.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he didn’t know anything about the details of the issue, but said the name South China Sea had broad international recognition and clear geographic limits.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing. “We hope the relevant country can meet China halfway and properly maintain the present good situation in the South China Sea region, which has not come easily.”

‘Clear Message’

I Made Andi Arsana, an expert on the Law of the Sea from Indonesia’s Universitas Gadjah Mada, said the renaming carried no legal force but was a political and diplomatic statement.

“It will be seen as a big step by Indonesia to state its sovereignty,” he told Reuters. “It will send a clear message, both to the Indonesian people and diplomatically speaking.”

Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, said Indonesia’s action followed renewed resistance to Chinese territorial claims by other Southeast Asian states.

“This will be noticed in Beijing,” he said.

Last week, Vietnam extended an Indian oil concession off its coast while a joint venture led by state-owned PetroVietnam commenced drilling further south. China has a territorial claim in both areas.

Meanwhile, the director of the Philippines Energy Resource Development Bureau, Ismael Ocampo, said on Wednesday that the country could lift a suspension on oil and gas drilling on the Reed Bank by December. The underwater mountain, lying 85 nautical miles off the Philippines coast, is also claimed by China.

Exploration activity was suspended in late 2014 as the Philippines sought an international ruling on China’s territorial claim. The Philippines won the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague one year ago.

China refused to recognize the decision. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office on June 30 last year, expressed reluctance about enforcing the decision at the time, as he sought deeper diplomatic and economic ties with China.

However, the Philippines lately has become more assertive about its sovereignty.

More than two dozen oil, gas and coal blocks, including additional areas in disputed waters, may be offered during the December bidding, Ocampo said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Tom Allard and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Bill Tarrant

Source: Reuters “Asserting sovereignty, Indonesia renames part of South China Sea”

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


Vietnam’s Balancing between US and China


Three Chinese navy ships will be staying four days at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh International Port, from Saturday. File photo: AFP

Three Chinese navy ships will be staying four days at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh International Port, from Saturday. File photo: AFP

SCMP says in its report “Chinese navy ships make first port call at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay amid South China Sea dispute” that weeks after two US warships’ first port call at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay since normalization of relations between Vietnam and the US, three Chinese navy ships will make first port call at that strategic port of Vietnam.

Though SCMP exaggerates the tension between China and Vietnam due to their disputes over the South China Sea, it reflects in the report that the visit is official and quite friendly.

Like the Philippines, Vietnam has tried to seek US help in the disputes. However, the US has failed to give its ally the Philippines any meaningful support in enforcing an arbitration ruling entirely favorable to the Philippines. Disappointed, the Philippines has switched to China’s side. That makes Vietnam realize that it had better make balancing efforts between China and the US so that it may benefit from its close economic relations with China while getting some support and advanced weapons from the US to enable it to have better bargaining power in dealing with China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2038971/chinese-navy-ships-make-first-port-call-vietnams-cam


Japan scrambled fighters against China a record 571 times in fiscal 2015


Japan scrambled Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets against Chinese aircraft approaching its airspace a record-high 571 times in fiscal 2015, the Defense Ministry said.

The number is up from 464 times registered the previous year and the highest since the ministry’s Joint Staff Office began releasing data by country and region in fiscal 2001.

The office on Friday said Chinese military planes were often spotted flying over the East China Sea and between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island.

The number of scrambles by Japanese fighter jets against Chinese aircraft has been on the rise in recent years and the Defense Ministry is analyzing operations of the Chinese military.

“The numbers of scrambles alone do not tell the whole story, but we should recognize that the increase . . . indicates a tougher security environment,” Kazuhiko Fukuda, head of public affairs at the Self-Defence Forces’ Joint Staff, told reporters.

“China is modernizing its air force and is clearly aiming to improve its air combat capability in faraway skies . . . Concrete activities based on those targets are reflected in these numbers.”

Japan’s ties with China have been strained by a dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, regional rivalry and the legacy of Japan’s World War II aggression.

Patrol ships and fighter jets routinely shadow each other near the uninhabited islets that are controlled by Japan, raising concern that an unintended collision or other accidents could develop into a larger clash.

Japan scrambled ASDF fighters a total of 873 times in fiscal 2015 through March, including 288 times against Russian aircraft, many of which appeared to be involved in information-gathering.

Russia continues to carry out large-scale military drills frequently, a senior official of the ministry noted.

Source: The Japan Times “Japan scrambled fighters against China a record 571 times in fiscal 2015”


China rejects U.S. query on military flight to disputed island


Chinese Y-8 military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. Photo: mil.huanqiu.com

Chinese Y-8 military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. Photo: mil.huanqiu.com

Mil.huanqiu.com, a military forum of Global Times under Chinese government’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily, says in its report that the landing of a Y-8 military transport on the airport China has built on the artificial island on Yongshu (Fiery Cross) Reef proves that the airport is capable for military use and that fighter jets deployed on the island will control the area 500 to 1,000 km around the island.

That certainly worries the US; therefore, it is natural for the US to query China’s that military flight to the artificial island. However, according to Reuters report titled “China rejects U.S. query on military flight to disputed island” today, China rejected US query.

Reuters says, “China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement its military’s tradition was to help those in need as part of its commitment to ‘wholeheartedly serve the people’,” and “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the United States has no right to comment on China’s building works and defensive facilities there, the ministry said.”

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Y-8 patrol aircraft landed on Yongshu (Fiery Cross) Reef to rescue workers” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Source: Reuters “China rejects U.S. query on military flight to disputed island”. The following is the full text of the report:

China rejects U.S. query on military flight to disputed island

China’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday rejected queries by the U.S. military as to why China had used a military aircraft to evacuate sick workers from a new airport on an island China has built in the disputed South China Sea.

CNN quoted Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis as saying it was unclear why China had used a military aircraft rather than a civilian one in the landing on Fiery Cross Reef.

China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement its military’s tradition was to help those in need as part of its commitment to “wholeheartedly serve the people”.

“In sharp contrast, the U.S. side is expressing doubts about whether it’s a military or civilian aircraft at a time when somebody’s life is in danger,” it said.

“We cannot but ask: if a U.S. citizen suddenly took ill on U.S. soil, would the U.S. military look on with folded arms?”

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the United States has no right to comment on China’s building works and defensive facilities there, the ministry said.

Chinese activity in disputed waters of the South China Sea, including the construction of islands by dredging up sand onto reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago, has alarmed rival claimants, in particular the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as the United States.

The United States has repeatedly criticized the construction of the islands and worries that China plans to use them for military purposes. China says it has no hostile intent.

The runway on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year in the archipelago.

Civilian flights began test runs there in January but the landing by the military aircraft, on Sunday, was the first time China has publicly reported a flight by a military plane to Fiery Cross Reef.

More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China’s territorial claims in the area, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Related post:

China’s Airport on Fiery Cross Reef Controls 500 to 1,000 km around it dated yesterday


U.S. to give Philippines eye in sky to track South China Sea activity


U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter (R) and U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg stand at attention while the American anthem is played at the American cemetery in Taguig, metro Manila April 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Ezra Acaya

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter (R) and U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg stand at attention while the American anthem is played at the American cemetery in Taguig, metro Manila April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ezra Acaya

The United States will transfer an observation blimp to the Philippines to help it track maritime activity and guard its borders amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, a U.S. diplomat said on Monday.

Philip Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said Washington would give Manila, its oldest Asia-Pacific security ally, $42 million worth of sensors, radar and communications equipment.

“We will add to its capability to put sensors on ships and put an aerostat blimp in the air to see into the maritime space,” Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines,

The blimp is a balloon-borne radar to collect information and detect movements in the South China Sea, a Philippine military official said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Philippines last week to reaffirm Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defend Manila under a 1951 security treaty.

China has been expanding its presence on its seven artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago and on Monday landed a military plane for the first time on one of them, Fiery Cross Reef.

It comes ahead of a planned U.S. freedom of navigation patrol this month near the Spratlys.

Carter’s visit also signals the start of U.S. military deployment in the Philippines, with 75 soldiers to be rotated in and out of an air base north of Manila.

Goldberg said the two allies had agreed to set up a system for “secure and classified communications” as part of a five-year, $425 million security initiative by Washington in Southeast Asia.

Manila will receive some $120 million in U.S. military aid this year, the largest sum since 2000 when the American military returned to the Philippines for training and exercises after an eight-year hiatus.

They signed a new deal in 2013 allowing increased U.S. military presence on a rotational basis and storage of supplies and equipment for maritime security and humanitarian missions.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “U.S. to give Philippines eye in sky to track South China Sea activity”


China’s Airport on Fiery Cross Reef Controls 500 to 1,000 km around it


Chinese Y-8 military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. Photo: mil.huanqiu.com

Chinese Y-8 military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. Photo: mil.huanqiu.com

Reuters says in its report titled “Chinese military aircraft makes first public landing on disputed island” that a Chinese military aircraft landed on the large airport China has built on Fiery Cross Reef yesterday to evacuate three sick workers.

Chinese military forum mil.huanqiu.com says in its report on the same incident that the landing proves that the airport is capable for military use and that if fighter jets are deployed there, they will control the area 500 to 1,000 km around the reef.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Y-8 patrol aircraft landed on Yongshu (Fiery Cross) Reef to rescue workers” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Source: Reuters “Chinese military aircraft makes first public landing on disputed island”. The following is the full text of Reuters report:

Chinese military aircraft makes first public landing on disputed island

A Chinese military aircraft has landed at a new airport on an island China has built in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Monday, in the first public report on a move that raises the prospect of China basing warplanes there.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and worries that it plans to use them for military purposes, even though China says it has no hostile intent.

The runway on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly archipelago.

Civilian flights began test runs there in January.

In a front-page story, the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said a military aircraft on patrol over the South China Sea on Sunday received an emergency call to land at Fiery Cross Reef to evacuate three seriously ill workers.

They were then taken in the transport aircraft back to Hainan island for treatment, it said, showing a picture of the aircraft on the ground in Hainan.

It was the first time China’s military had publicly admitted landing an aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef, the influential Global Times tabloid said.

It cited a military expert as saying the flight showed the airfield was up to military standards and could see fighter jets based there in the event of war.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said such rescue missions were part of the military’s “fine tradition” and that it was “not at all surprising” they had done this on China’s own territory.

The runways would be long enough to handle long-range bombers and transport aircraft as well as China’s best jet fighters, giving it a presence deep in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia that it has lacked until now.

More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China’s territorial claims in the area, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore)


China rebuffs Vietnam criticism of oil rig move


An oil rig (R) which China calls Haiyang Shiyou 981, and Vietnam refers to as Hai Duong 981, is seen in the South China Sea, off the shore of Vietnam in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Minh Nguyen/Files

An oil rig (R) which China calls Haiyang Shiyou 981, and Vietnam refers to as Hai Duong 981, is seen in the South China Sea, off the shore of Vietnam in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Minh Nguyen/Files

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday rebuffed Vietnam’s second demand this year to move a controversial oil rig and drop plans to drill in South China Sea waters where jurisdiction is unclear, saying it was engaging in normal exploration activity.

The $1-billion rig, which was at the center of a fierce diplomatic stand-off between the countries in 2014, had moved into an area of the Gulf of Tonkin over which, Vietnam said, the two countries were still “executing delineation discussions”.

“The relevant work is in undisputed Chinese waters, and it is normal commercial exploration,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. “We hope the relevant party takes an objective and reasonable view on this.”

He did not elaborate.

China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea amid rival claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Two years ago, China parked the rig, the Haiyang Shiyou 981, for 10 weeks in waters Vietnam considers its exclusive economic zone, triggering their worst row in decades and an outcry among Vietnamese nationalists.

Many experts call the move a miscalculation by Beijing that played into the hands of the United States. Since the row, Vietnam has become closer to Washington than ever before.

Vietnam closely tracks the movement of the oil rig, which has operated as far away as the Bay of Bengal, and has been close to disputed waters several times since 2014.

Both of Vietnam’s protests this year against the rig’s activity have coincided with leadership changes in Hanoi.

Vietnam swore in a new prime minister on Thursday and a new president last week. Its previous complaint about the rig was in January, two days before the start of its Communist Party’s five-yearly congress.

Vietnam has also criticized China’s decision to start operating a lighthouse on one of its artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, saying it violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and was illegal.

Hong said the lighthouse was a matter for China, but it had been built to improve navigational safety for all users of the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Jessica Macy Yu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “China rebuffs Vietnam criticism of oil rig move”