Reuters Staff January 15, 2018 / 8:34 PM / Updated 14 hours ago
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally made a decision to let China conduct scientific research off the Philippines’ Pacific coast, his spokesman said on Monday, despite concern among critics about threats to maritime sovereignty.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that as chief architect of foreign policy, Duterte allowed China to work with the University of the Philippines in Benham Rise, an area roughly the size of Greece and believed by some scientists to be rich in biodiversity and tuna.
The United Nations declared Benham Rise, off the Pacific coast, part of the continental shelf of the Philippines in 2012. Manila last year renamed it the “Philippine Rise”.
Though China does not lay claim to the area, the lingering presence of its vessels for several months in late 2016 triggered concern about its intentions.
The Philippines granting of the permission to China was not announced and was revealed a few days ago by a lawmaker who has been fiercely critical of Duterte’s close ties with Beijing.
The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime squabbles over sovereignty in the South China Sea, but there has been no disagreement about waters off Manila’s Pacific coast.
Roque said anyone opposed to the joint research project should go to Congress and raise the issue there.
“If this is not a wise move of the president, then a law could be enacted to prohibit it,” he said.
The Philippines would grant permission to any other country that might show interest in conducting maritime research at Benham Rise, he added.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel
Source: Reuters “Philippines’ president made call on China’s sea research – spokesman”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Judging by US military’s keen interest in the South China Sea one may think that the South China Sea lay just off America’s East Coast and that what China does in the disputed waters is a threat to US lifelines. In reality, China’s moves only affect the interests of rival claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam. US core interests in the world are not affected at all.
The sea lanes through the South China Sea are indeed very important as $3.4 trillion in goods passes them each year, but blockade of the sea lanes by China is out of the question. China has now the largest world trade volume. If it blocks the sea lanes in the South China Sea, its trade lifelines through the oceans will be cut by powerful US navy that dominates the oceans. Therefore, the concerns about the sea lanes are but exaggeration by US military, politicians and media. No one really worries about the sea lanes.
Why then does the US pay such keen attention to South China Sea that is located far away from the US and does not affect US core interests?
US encirclement of China has been broken but China remains a potential major challenger to US world leadership. At the time when Xi Jinping took over the reign from Hu Jintao, the US was aware that only China not Russia has the potential to be rival to or even replace the US as world number one; therefore, the US continue to make great efforts to contain China in spite of its failure to encircle China.
US pivot to Asia to Contain China in South China Sea
By that time China had grown relatively rich and was developing its navy quite quickly. The Philippines has occupied some islands and shoals claimed by China but in spite of China’s much stronger navy than the Philippines, China has no intention to take back those islands and shoals by force. Therefore, though China claimed sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, it allowed the Philippines who had rival claim to the shoal, to patrol and fish in the rich fishing area around Scarborough Shoal.
Encouraged by US pivot to Asia, the Philippines, however, began to contend with China for the islands, reefs and sea areas in the South China Sea. It sent its navy to round up Chinese fishing boats and fishermen in order to deprive China of the right to fish there. China sent its navy and coast guard ships to protect its fishermen and fishing boats and drive away Philippine boats and fishermen. The Scarborough standoff had thus begun.
In my opinion, even though China has sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, the two countries shall maintain the previous status quo. China shall allow Filipino fishermen to fish there as like Chinese fishermen, quite a few Filipino fishermen had been fishing there for generations; therefore, before the standoff, China did not drive away Filipino fishermen from the sea area.
Luckily for China, Filipino navy’s attempt to drive away Chinese fishermen provided China with the excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen. China is thus very lucky to gain complete control of Scarborough Shoal peacefully.
Luckily again, Filipino coast guards fired at Taiwanese fishermen and killed one of them. As China regards Taiwan as a part of China, the incident gave China additional excuse to drive away Filipino fishermen when China thinks fit.
China was not so lucky with Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). If the Philippines had sent building materials to stabilize it shipwreck there, China would have had the excuse to drive Filipino troops away from the shoal, but the Philippines did not give China such a chance to remove the shipwreck that the Philippines placed there as its outpost.
There has been allegation that China has become more assertive in the South China Sea, but the above-mentioned Chinese actions have proved that it does not want to give such an impression. The Philippines started the Scarborough standoff by refusing Chinese fishermen access to the shoal so that China responded by refusing Philippine fishermen access to the shoal. When Philippine new president Duterte has corrected his predecessors’ mistakes and made efforts to restore friendship with China, China allows Philippine fishermen to resume fishing there. China just wants to preserve the status quo. If that is assertive, it has been assertive for a long time. There has been no change in China’s assertive attitude.
The US encouraged the Philippines to start the standoff but did not send its navy to help the Philippines. On the contrary, it told the Philippines to retreat and file an application for arbitration at the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague. The shoal was but a small issue. The arbitration was a big issue. If the court controlled by the West gave an arbitration award that entirely deny China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea, the US will have the excuse to send its navy to drive China entirely away from the South China Sea.
That was America’s wishful thinking. Chinese leaders had the wisdom to know what the US wanted and thus be very clear that the US had fallen into Thucydides Trap.
China’s Efforts to Avoid Thucydides Trap
In the annual U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue in 2013, in order to please the US, China promised to make the following major concessions:
China committed to move to a market-determined exchange rate for its yuan currency;
It pledged to better protect against trade secret misappropriation through strengthened enforcement;
It promised to liberate its financial sector:
1. Foreign banks and securities firms would be allowed to directly trade government bond futures and sell them to foreign and domestic institutional investors; and
2. China would also welcome participation by foreign firms in corporate bond underwriting and had pledged to facilitate further evaluations of interested underwriters for participation in this market; and
It had for the first time pledged to ensure that enterprises of all forms of ownership had equal access to inputs, such as energy, land, and water, and to develop a market-based mechanism for determining the prices of those inputs.
China has fulfilled some of the promises but not all of them as China has to conduct its major economic reforms in order to be able to fulfill them in their entirety, but Xi Jinping’s economic reforms have encountered serious resistance from vested interests. That is why Xi further concentrated his power in the coming 19th Party Congress in 2017.
If Xi has succeeded in enhancing his centralism, he will be in much better position to make the economic concessions that US President Trump has been pressuring China to yield. With those concessions, China will be able to please the US that it has no intention to contend with the US for economic dominance in spite of the prospects of surpassing the US in economy.
However, that will be too late as the arbitration award may come out well before Xi would be able to conduct the reform. Moreover, even if China does have conducted the reform to please the US, the US, being in Thucydides Trap, may not be satisfied as that would not contain China enough to stop China’s rise.
How can China remove the threat of US attack? Can it give up its rights and interests in the South China Sea? Certainly not as it will be a repetition of China’s humiliation by foreign bully. What shall China do?
Article by Chan Kai Yee
On October 28, I had a post titled “China’s Wisdom Tested when the US Likely Falls into Thucydides Trap” on Daniel Kliman and Zack Cooper’s October-27 article “Washington Has a Bad Case of China ADHD” that reflects US security experts’ Thucydides Trap mentality. I expressed my hope that Chinese leaders will have the wisdom to avoid the trap.
Two days later on October 30, my post “US, India Join Force to Block China’s Belt and Road Initiative” describes US Secretary State Rex Tillerson in the trap as reflected in his speech at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” before his visit to India aimed at winning over India as US ally in containing China.
Yesterday, we have Daniel Blumenthal’s article “Trump Needs to Show That He Is Serious About America’s Rivalry With China” on Foreign Policy that further reflects US elite in Thucydides Trap.
Note: The title of the article is America’s rivalry with China instead of vice versa.
South China Sea
China claims the isles, reefs and area within its nine-dash line since long ago and had the line in its map since 1947. The US supported the claim by sending Chinese navy to take back from Japan the isles there with its navy after World War II.
Due to Thucydides Trap Clinton began to challenge China’s claim in 2013 in order to contain China and Obama then began his pivot to Asia as US priority to contain China.
Instigated by the US, the Philippines began Scarborough standoff and ended up in China disallowing Philippine fishermen fishing there.
Then US told the Philippines to file an arbitration and helped it get an arbitration award that entirely denies China’s rights and interests, but China refuses to accept it and US failed to force China to accept it with its two aircraft carrier battle groups.
China decided to fight a war to defend its rights and interests, but the US did not want to fight as it had no rights or interests to defend. It certainly will not fight for others’ rights and interests.
The US ended up in losing its long-term ally the Philippines and its influence in ASEAN and the South China Sea, a total failure in its rivalry with China there.
Since Japanese government bought the Diaoyus (known as Senkaku in Japan), China has sent coast guard ships and aircrafts to patrol and large fishing fleet to the area around the disputed islands. Japan wanted to send navy to drive Chinese vessels away, but that may end up in war so that it needs US help. It was an opportunity for Thucydides Trap to give rise to a war between the US and China.
China was determined to fight. In order to prevent US retaliation with nuclear weapons in case China has sunk a US aircraft carrier (note: China had hundreds of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles able to sink a carrier with saturate attack), China showed its strategic nuclear submarines for three days in a row on CCTV primetime news to tell the US it had second-strike capabilities with not only mobile ICBMs hidden in tunnels but also nuclear submarines.
The US said that it did not want to fight for a few rocks so that it told Japan not to send its navy and China not to fire the first shot. The crisis ended as a result. Still China patrols and fishes in the disputed area so that the islands are now jointly administered by China and Japan.
At that time, perhaps Clinton had but Obama had not yet fallen into Thucydides Trap.
Now, Chinese navy has grown much stronger, fight a war in the East China Sea is out of the question especially because the sea there is too shallow for US submarines to operate.
When Obama began his pivot to Asia, Japan was very happy especially at Obama’s TPP that aimed at containing China.
Now, Trump has scrapped TPP. Japan has no choice but to court China in order to have a larger share in China’s huge market. Japan though a US ally and does want to contain China as it is scared by China’s rise, cannot give the US the help the US needs in containing China as Japan’s economic relations with China are too important for Japan especially as TPP has been scrapped.
China has satisfied Trump’s demands in implementing his sanctions so that Trump cannot make things difficult for China though the writers of the article want him to do so.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson places hope in US relationship with India to contain China, but India has joined Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Indian leader Modi is obviously very wise to obtains from every possible corner including the US. Modi will certainly not give up its interests in other corners such as trade and economic cooperation with China, weapon supply from Russia for improvement of relations with the US.
In fact, what the US can provide India with is but weapons and weapon technology but it is very expensive. If China and Pakistan may improve their relations with India to resolve their long-term disputes and remove India’s long-term enmity, India will willingly become a member of Asia Union. There is real possibility for that as both India and Pakistan have joined Russia and China’s SCO.
What China shall do is to avoid rivalry with the US so that there is no excuse for Americans to fall into Thucydides Trap though US vested interests such as money-thirsty weapon makers want them to fall into.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/02/trump-needs-to-show-that-he-is-serious-about-americas-rivalry-with-china/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Picks.
China’s mil.huanqiu.com says in its report “Philippines promotes Philippine-China joint exploitation in the South China Sea: Draft Contract has been submitted to Philippine President” yesterday that Philippines’ ABS-CBN news website says in its report on September 28 that Philippine government is promoting a win-win scheme with other South China Sea claimants to jointly explore oil and gas in disputed waters.
In addition “Philippine Star” reported on the same day that Philippine side’s draft contract on joint exploration of the oil and gas resources in Palawan has been submitted to President Duterte for examination and approval. The exploration will be conducted by a joint venture between China, the Philippines and Malaysia in an area to the northwest of Palawan.
This blogger’s comment:
The disputes among China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei in the South China Sea are mainly over the oil and gas resourced there, the above-mentioned model of win-win cooperation among China, the Philippines and Malaysia will set an example for the peaceful solution of the disputes. As a result, countries outside the region will have no excuse to interfere with the disputes.
That is China’s victory as China has all along advocated putting aside the dispute to jointly exploit the resources. Philippine ex-president Aquino wanted to exploit the resources alone. Instigated by the US, he started and won an arbitration but got nothing as the US does not want to fight a war with China to impose the arbitration award.
Seeing that China is capable of exploiting all the resources while the Philippines can get nothing if it is so greedy as to get the resources alone, Aquino’s successor is wise to cooperate with China and other claimants to exploit the resources jointly.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.huanqiu.com’s report, summary translation of which is provided here. Full text of the report in Chinese can be viewed at http://mil.huanqiu.com/world/2017-09/11295927.html.
In SCMP’s article “Willingness to explore resource sharing points to cooperative future for China, the Philippines”, the writer Richard Heydarian, a Manila-based academic and author, says “peaceful dialogue over resource sharing in disputed areas could in itself contribute to improving diplomatic relations among competing neighbours.”
However, he points out the seemingly insurmountable obstacles including Philippine constitution and popular nationalism so that former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo failed in her attempt for such sharing.
Mr. Heydarian fails to see that situation is different now. Before Philippines’ failure to get its ally’s help in countering China in the Scarborough standoff and imposing Hague arbitration award, the Philippines still has the illusion that with the help from China’s rival and its long-term ally the US, it can be benefited from the resources in the disputed waters fully alone.
Now, without Chinese consent, it cannot even exploit the fish resources in the disputed waters claimed by it. It simply cannot exploit the energy resources without cooperation with China, but China has the technology, equipment, funds and military strength to exploit the resources alone without any sharing with other claimants. What if China extracts all the resources alone? No one can help the Philippines to prevent that. Neither the US, ASEAN or the permanent court of arbitration at the Hague can.
Therefore, the Philippines has no alternative but share the resources with China or it will get nothing.
Its current president Duterte is wise to see that, but his people perhaps do not realize that and would rather give China the opportunity to enjoy the resources entirely alone.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2108202/willingness-explore-resource-sharing-points-cooperative.
Manuel Mogato August 15, 2017 / 5:39 PM
MANILA (Reuters) – China has assured the Philippines it will not occupy new features or territory in the South China Sea, under a new “status quo” brokered by Manila as both sides try to strengthen their relations, the Philippine defense minister said.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also said the Philippines was working on a “commercial deal” with China to explore and exploit oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea with an aim to begin drilling within a year.
The defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, told a congressional hearing the Philippines and China had reached a “modus vivendi”, or a way to get along, in the South China Sea that prohibits new occupation of islands.
“The Chinese will not occupy new features in the South China Sea nor they are going to build structures in Scarborough Shoal,” Lorenzana told lawmakers late on Monday, referring to a prime fishing ground close to the Philippines that China blockaded from 2012 to 2016.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a waterway through which about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June last year, has courted China and avoided rows over maritime sovereignty that dogged his predecessors, while berating traditional ally the United States over several issues.
China has built seven islands upon reefs in disputed areas, three of which, experts say, are capable of accommodating fighter jets. They have runways, radars and surface-to-air missiles which China says are for defense.
Lorenzana did not comment when lawmakers, citing reports from the military, told him five Chinese ships had showed up almost 5 km off the Philippine-held Thitu Island in the Spratly archipelago on Saturday.
The military’s public affairs chief, Colonel Edgard Arevalo, declined to comment until the armed forces had the “whole picture on the current situation”.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
‘CONTRARY TO CONSTITUTION’
Cayetano assured lawmakers on Tuesday any energy deal with China would not violate the constitution and would conform to a 60-40 percent revenue sharing, weighted towards the Philippines.
“We can come up with a commercial deal that is better than Malampaya in the disputed areas,” Cayetano said, referring to an existing natural gas project off Palawan island between the government and Chevron, a resource which is due to be depleted by 2024.
“How can any Filipino argue with that? … It cannot violate the constitution.”
But such an arrangement could be complex and sensitive as both countries claim the oil and gas reserves. Sharing them could be construed as legitimizing the other’s claim, or even ceding sovereignty.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim over most of the South China Sea in July last year. China has refused to recognize the ruling, which clarified Philippine sovereign rights to energy reserves within its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Philippine energy department last month said it may resume drilling for oil and gas on the Reed Bank, which is within the Philippine EEZ, before the end of the year, offering new blocks to investors in a bidding in December.
The Philippines suspended exploration in the Reed Bank in late 2014 as it pursued the international arbitration.
Minority lawmakers Gary Alejano and Edcel Lagman opposed the plan for an energy deal saying it would be illegal.
“This is contrary to our constitution because these areas should be exclusively for Filipinos,” Lagman said.
Cayetano declined to give details of the talks and requested an executive session of congress to divulge information about the venture with a Chinese energy company, which he did not identify.
Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of Philippine oil and gas firm PXP Energy Corp, said this month any joint venture would likely be with “a company like CNOOC”, referring to the China National Offshore Oil Corp
Officials from the foreign and energy ministries have said privately any deal would likely be commercial only and both sides would keep the issue of sovereignty out of the equation to avoid complications.
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel
Source: Reuters “Philippines says China agrees on no new expansion in 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.
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of uninhabited island of Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Erik De Castro
Manuel Mogato August 8, 2017 / 9:56 PM
MANILA (Reuters) – China pushed for a maritime code of conduct with Southeast Asian countries that would not be legally binding, the Philippine foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Alan Peter Cayetano said some countries wanted the South China Sea code to be legally binding, and China preferred the less forceful “binding”. He said all parties realized it was better to drop all mention of it from the framework and move forward.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China hailed the adoption on Sunday of a negotiating framework for the code of conduct (COC) as progress towards preventing disputes.
Cayetano cited the framework as an example of how parties that were historically at odds were co-operating, but his comments indicate that China had initially set out to create a code that had no legal binds.
“Everyone is more open to negotiations,” Cayetano told a news conference. “At first, words about being non-legally binding, China dropped, just said ‘OK, approve the framework and go to the COC’.”
Critics say Beijing’s end game is to either negotiate what amounts to a gentleman’s agreement, or stall and buy time to expand its defense capability on its manmade islands.
ASEAN has long wanted to sign China up to a set of laws to prevent disputes over energy reserves, fishing, and land reclamation, and avoid military conflicts in the South China Sea, where Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and China have competing claims.
ASEAN and China say the framework is only a guide for how the code will be established, but critics say the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make it legally binding and enforceable creates doubts about how effective the pact can be.
Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged ASEAN and China to ensure the code is “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law”.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday said it was too soon to discuss components of the code, but whatever is agreed must be stuck to.
“If China is saying now that we’re going for ‘binding’, will we stop talking to them?” Cayetano asked.
“The problem with legally binding is … what are the penalties, what are the mechanisms for adjudication, what tribunal, what court and who will enforce?.
“I think some countries are just being practical.”
How to address Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea has long been ASEAN’s most divisive issue, with China’s influence on the group looming large and complicating efforts to reach consensus decisions.
China is particularly sensitive to even oblique references in ASEAN statements to its artificial islands and rapid development of defense facilities in disputed waters.
Host the Philippines, which is expanding its economic ties with China, made no mention of those in its chairman’s statement on the 27-nation ASEAN Regional Forum issued late on Tuesday.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Neil Fullick and Alister Doyle
Source: Reuters “Philippines says China wanted non-legally binding South China Sea code”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.