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.


Drilling for oil in disputed sea may resume this year: Philippine official


Enrico Dela Cruz July 12, 2017 / 6:53 PM / 13 hours ago

MANILA (Reuters) – Drilling for oil and natural gas on the Reed Bank in the South China Sea may resume before the end of the year, a Philippine energy official said on Wednesday, as the government prepares to offer new blocks to investors in bidding in December.

The Philippines suspended exploration at the Reed Bank, which it calls Recto Bank, in late 2014, as it pursued international arbitration over territorial disputes.

The bank is in waters claimed by China.

Ismael Ocampo, director at the Department of Energy’s Resource Development Bureau, told reporters the agency expected the suspension to be lifted in December.

He said a directive from the Department of Foreign Affairs directing the Department of Energy to resume oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea was already in the works.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

Exactly a year ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

The ruling, which China refused to recognize, clarified Philippine sovereign rights in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone to access offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, 85 nautical miles off its coast.

“We will try to conduct seismic activities,” in the disputed waters, Ocampo said, hopeful that China would not complain and harass crews of survey ships to be deployed.

In 2011, Chinese patrol vessels almost rammed a survey ship at the Reed Bank contracted by a PXP Energy Corp (PXP.PS) unit.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who took power shortly before the Hague ruled in favor of Manila, has said he would raise the landmark ruling with China eventually, but he first needed to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Duterte, who has been cool toward old ally the United States, hopes closer ties with China will yield billions of dollars in loans and investment in infrastructure, the backbone of his economic agenda.

PXP Energy Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said in March he was optimistic his company’s exploration project at Reed Bank would soon resume, citing the warming ties with China.

The Philippines, which relies overwhelmingly on imports to fuel its fast-growing economy, is under pressure to develop indigenous energy resources. Its main source of natural gas, the Malampaya field near the disputed waters, is due to run out in less a decade.

PXP’s Reed Bank prospect has indicated natural gas yield potential.

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

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters “Drilling for oil in disputed sea may resume this year: Philippine official”

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


Setting Aside Disputes, Philippines Benefited from China Ties


Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez told the Post in an exclusive interview that his country was taking a “realistic and practical” approach to territorial disputes. Photo: David Wong

SCMP says in its report “Philippines hails new rapport with China as key to economic growth amid ‘realistic and practical’ approach to South China Sea” today, “The Philippines’ trade minister is predicting economic ties with China will grow faster than ever as the island nation sets aside their maritime border disputes, signalling a sea change from Manila’s confrontational approach to diplomacy initially under a tough-talking new president.”

“As the Philippines’ target for GDP growth was an ambitious 7 to 8 per cent in the coming five years, Lopez (the minister) said, China would be the key force to help his country achieve that. He pointed to the 34 per cent year-on-year growth of exports from the Philippines to the mainland and Hong Kong from January to May.”

It proves my belief that win-win cooperation is much better than confrontation.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2102244/philippines-hails-new-rapport-china-key-economic-growth-amid.


Why the United States Is Losing Asia to China?


Foreign Policy published an article titled “The United States Is Losing Asia to China” by Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar on May 12, which this blogger finds quiet interesting.

The article begins with China’s One Belt, One Road summit and described it as “the latest manifestation of Chinese leadership at a time when U.S. commitment to the region is less certain than ever.”

The article mentions Senator John McCain’s proposal of a $7.5 billion “Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative” ($1.5 billion annually through 2022) that, though mentions making U.S. regional posture “more forward-learning, flexible, resilient, and formidable,” mainly focuses on the military such as improvement of military infrastructure, purchase of additional munitions, etc.

However, the article believes that for the near-term battle to resuscitate American power in Asia will rise and fall on economics instead of the military.

Trump seems to blame for withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) aimed at containing China to make China unable to replace the US as leader in Asia. However, Democratic candidate Clinton who lost to Trump in the election also opposes TTP due to its failure to benefit the US. The US is too hard up to afford giving economic benefits to Asian countries at its own expense.

However, China’s One Belt, One Road benefits itself while benefiting other countries. Why is the US unable to do so?

Perhaps the US is too obsessed with military approach in its relations with other countries. It maintains the most powerful military machine in the world to scare others but fails to make them subdue to its leadership.

Why does the US fail to conduct win-win cooperation with other countries like what China has been doing so as to benefit both itself and others?

It is simply unable to do so as it lacks wise leadership at home to put its house in order so that it will have a growing economy and market to attract Asian countries.

Its media has been busy for decades to demonize China in order to make Asian countries believe they need US military protection. The problem is that though China’s military has grown much stronger, it prefers peaceful approaches in solving its disputes with other countries. It does not use its military to threaten other countries to subdue to it and accept its claims.

The obvious example is its disputes with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.

Before Philippine former president Aquino sent Philippine navy to drive away Chinese from the shoal, China, though has a much stronger navy, does not drive away the Philippines from the shoal and allow the Philippines to fish there. China drove the Philippines away merely in response to Philippines’ hostile move. That is all.

When Philippine resumes friendship with China, China allows the Philippine to go there again.

In addition, China provides funds for Philippines’ construction of infrastructure. That will certainly benefit China as China can export its excessive infrastructure industries and materials but the Philippines will be better benefited. That is win-win cooperation.

What the US has done to make the Philippines switch to China?

It provides the Philippines with its retired warships that are regarded as rubbish in modern warfare as its military aids. Can such ships fight China’s modern navy?

The Philippines has to depend on US protection. However, the US refuses to perform its obligations to protect Philippines’ interests in Philippines’ disputes with China.

That has made the Philippines realize that US has forged alliance with the Philippines to protect its own interests and contain its own potential enemy instead of protecting its ally the Philippines’ interests.

The Philippines has switched to Chinese side first of all due to military factor instead of economic factor.

The article is right that the US loses due to economic factors but fail to point out it also due to military factors as the US military is strong only in weapons but has no financial resources to support it to win a war even in a small country such as Afghanistan nor the military wisdom to achieve its strategic goal in wars as proved in its wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article, full ext of which can be found at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/12/the-united-states-is-losing-asia-to-china/


Will Japan Switch to China’s side Causing the US to Lose Entire Asia?


State Councilor Yang Jiechi (left) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their talks in Tokyo on May 31. Photo: Kyoto

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regards a rising China as Japan’s top threat; therefore, he is the greatest enthusiast in helping former US President Obama set up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and implement his pivot to Asia to contain China.

China’s construction of large artificial islands with three airstrips able to deploy more fighter jets than all US aircraft carriers makes the US unable to control the South China Sea. In addition, the US simply cannot win a war with China near China as China has deployed anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles and is establishing an anti-submarine network.

Like Philippine President Duterte, Abe has doubt now whether the US is able to defend Japan even if it has transferred 60% military to Asia according to Obama’s pivot to Asia.

Abe did not switch as he still hopes that he could rely on TPP to contain China and make Japanese economy grow to counter China’s economic influence in Asia.

TPP is so important to Abe that he rushed to the US twice shortly after Trump was elected and was inaugurated to try to persuade Trump not to withdraw from TPP but in vain.

On the contrary, to his great consternation in his meeting with Trump, he was told that Trump had been successfully in the process of improving US ties with China. That is Abe’s nightmare as instead of being Japan’s ally in containing China, Trump is turning the US into Japan’s fierce competitor in China’s huge market.

What shall Abe do? Shall he switch to Chinese side like Duterte has done?

Militarily, Trump has promised Abe that the US will perform its obligations to protect Japan. Abe is in a much better position than Duterte who has no hope for US military support in his conflict with China.

However, economy is more important for Abe. If he fails to improve Japan’s economy as he has promised, there is no hope for him and his party to remain in power in Japan. Therefore, whatever the cost, even humiliation, he has to improve economic ties with China.

That is why Reuters begins its report “Tokyo trip may be in the cards for Xi Jinping, sources say” by saying, “Japan is mulling asking China’s president to visit in the latter half of next year, government insiders say”.

In addition, Reuters says, “To lay the groundwork for the trip, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was likely to visit China in the first half of next year, the sources told Kyodo News.”

However, it is now but Abe’s wishful thinking as China has said nothing about the exchange of visit.

This blogger believes that China will improve economic ties with Japan as both China and Japan will be benefited.

Moreover, China will certainly be in a better position in dealing with both the US and Japan if it draws the two countries into fierce competition in Chinese market.

If the economic benefits in Japan’s ties with China keep on growing while Trump’s protectionism causes Japan’s share in its important US market to keep on shrinking, there is chance for Japan’s switch to China’s side, causing the US to lose entire Asia.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2097786/tokyo-trip-may-be-cards-xi-jinping-sources-say.


China says Philippines’ 600-kg drug seizure was largest in shared crackdown


Philippine authorities last week seized more than 600 kg of methamphetamines in the largest such bust since China launched a crackdown on drug-smuggling in cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation, Chinese customs said on Monday.

China is the main source of methamphetamine consumed in the Philippines, which is caught in the throes of a brutal war on drugs waged by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Two people arrested in a May 12 raid on suspected smugglers told Chinese authorities they hid the drugs in five printing machines to smuggle them into the Philippines, customs officials in the coastal city of Xiamen said.

Tipped off by their Chinese counterparts, Philippine officials seized 604 kilograms (1,332 lb) of methamphetamine on May 26, Xiamen Customs said on its website.

“According to the Philippines side, this case is the largest drug trafficking bust made by the Philippines since China and the Philippines launched cooperation against cross-border drug smuggling,” the Xiamen officials said in the statement.

“It shows China’s determination to crack down on drug smuggling.”

The Philippines’ Bureau of Customs said in a statement issued last Saturday that it had acted on the intelligence from Chinese customs to seize the drugs in Valenzuela City, about 14 kilometres north of the country’s capital of Manila.

It valued the haul at 6.4 billion pesos.

“Our level of effective information-sharing with China Customs Cooperation sends a strong warning to all those involved in the drugs trade,” said Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

The two nations agreed during Duterte’s visit to China last October to strengthen cooperation in battling illicit drugs.

Duterte defended Beijing last year after a Reuters report quoted Philippine drug enforcement officials as saying China had done little over the years to staunch the flow of meth and its precursor chemicals.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Peter Graff)

Source: Reuters “China says Philippines’ 600-kg drug seizure was largest in shared crackdown”

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


Hague Ruling Will Trouble the Philippines Forever


FILE PHOTO: Chinese structures are pictured at the disputed Spratlys in South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

In its report “Philippines, China play down Duterte’s talk of war in disputed sea” today, Reuters describes the trouble Philippine President Duterte is in as opposition denounces him for failure to impose the Hague arbitration ruling.

Whenever the Philippines tries to impose Hague ruling, it will face the question whether it wants to fight a war with China. As the US does not want to fight a war for it, it is not able to fight. However, the ruling will always be used to oppose anyone in power in the Philippines who dare not fight to impose the ruling, knowing well the war will result in massacre of Philippine troops.

For thousands of years to come, all those in power in the Philippines will have trouble due to the ruling.

How stupid it has paid millions of dollars to get the trouble!

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-philippines-china-idUSKBN18I0D1.