China Pursues Win-win Cooperation, Not Zero Sum Ball Game in South China Sea


China’s rejection of 2016 tribunal ruling is not something new. Xi’s repeated statement that China is strong now so that no one will be able to force China to swallow the bitter fruit of losing its national rights and interests.

Philippine President Duterte knows that well. He knows that his country has no choice other than win-win cooperation with China. Therefore, though he was forced to mention the ruling, he had to accept Xi’s view that China will not accept the ruling but the ruling shall not affect the win-win cooperation between the two countries.

China seeks win-win cooperation with other countries in spite of the maritime territorial disputes. Therefore, it is not conducting a zero sum ball game with the Philippines. There is therefore no ball at all in Beijing’s court as described in SCMP’s article “Ball is in Beijing’s court’ on South China Sea after Rodrigo Duterte puts focus on international law”.

If Duterte had chosen and lost a zero sum ball game like his predicessor Aquino did, China would not have allowed Philippine fishermen to resume fishing at the Scarborough Shoal.

The article says, “The establishment of the joint steering committee on oil and gas cooperation, and an accompanying working group, also signalled some progress after the memorandum of understanding signed in November for joint resources development. But observers cautioned that domestic concerns, as well as institutional and legal issues, remained hurdles for its implementation.”

The oil and gas cooperation is the win-win cooperation China seeks. However, if the Philippines rejects such cooperation, China is well able to forbid Philippine exploration and exploitation of oil and gas there and explore and exploit the energy there alone.

China’s previous ban of Philippine exploitation of fish resources at Scarborough Shoal has made that very clear.

Ball at Beijing’s court”? What ball? No ball game at all. Win-win cooperation is the only way out.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3025228/ball-beijings-court-south-china-sea-after-rodrigo-duterte-puts.


China denies reports of building on disputed shoal


Boats at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12, 2016. REUTERS/Planet Labs/Handout via Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied reports that China will begin preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

China seized the shoal, which is northeast of the Spratly islands, in 2012 and denied access to Philippine fishermen. But after President Rodrigo Duterte visited China last year, it allowed them to return to the traditional fishing area.

Earlier this month, Xiao Jie, the mayor of what China calls Sansha City, said China planned to begin preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.

Sansha City is the name China has given to an administrative base for the South China Sea islands and reefs it controls.

“China places great importance on the preservation of the South China Sea’s ocean ecology, this is certain,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

“According to the relevant bodies in China, the reports you mention that touch upon building environmental monitoring stations on Scarborough Shoal are mistaken, these things are not true,” she added.

“With regards to Scarborough Shoal, China’s position is consistent and clear. We place great importance on China-Philippines relations.”

Xiao Jie’s comments about the plans as quoted by the state-backed Hainan Daily had been amended to remove mention of the shoal in the paper’s online version when checked by Reuters on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Philippines formally asked China’s embassy in Manila to explain news reports about building plans for Scarborough Shoal.

“We have sought clarification from China on reported plans on Scarborough Shoal,” Charles Jose, foreign ministry spokesman, said in a text message sent to news organizations.

In a radio interview later, Jose said it is important for the Philippines to strengthen its defense and maritime domain awareness capabilities.

He said the Philippines should also step up cooperation with its allies and regional partners who share the country’s position in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, resorting to peaceful settlement of disputes and adherence to rule of law.

“We should maintain the civilian nature so as not to escalate tensions,” he said, reacting to some suggestions the Philippines deploy warships to Scarborough Shoal to assert Manila’s claim on the rocky outcrop.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: Reuters “China denies reports of building on disputed shoal”

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


Philippine president says trusts China won’t build on disputed shoal


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while answering questions during a news conference upon arrival from a trip to Myanmar and Thailand at an international airport in Manila, Philippines March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he trusted China would not build anything on a disputed South China Sea shoal because he was given its “word of honor” and Beijing would not want to jeopardize a new friendship.

Duterte was commenting amid a furor in the Philippines stemming from remarks last week by the mayor in charge of China-controlled disputed islands and reefs, who said preparatory work was being planned to build several monitoring stations, including on the Scarborough Shoal.

“I was informed that they are not going to do anything at Panatag out of respect for our friendship,” he told a news conference in the early hours of Thursday, referring to the shoal by its local name.

“‘We will build nothing there’ – that was the assurance given by the Chinese government.

“They are not going to build anything … because they do not want to jeopardize our friendship”.

He said China “has a word of honor”. He did not specify when he received this assurance.

Duterte caused a stir on Sunday when he said “we cannot stop China”, when asked about the possibility of it putting radar at the shoal.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday said the reports about a monitoring station were “mistaken” and “not true”.

China’s activities in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which at least $5 trillion of goods passes annually, have been closely watched by the Philippines, which has seen Beijing build and arm artificial islands in its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The Scarborough Shoal is symbolic of the Philippines’ long struggle to assert itself against China’s maritime ambitions. Located 124 miles off the Philippine coast, the rocky outcrop was a rich fishing ground for Filipinos until China’s coastguard blockaded the area in 2012.

Duterte sprang a surprise last year when he took office and opted to pursue rapprochement with Beijing after years of bitter squabbling. China’s coastguard has since allowed Filipinos to fish at the periphery of the shoal.

Duterte said he was honest with his intentions when he visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in October.

“I just want to shake your hand but since you have this animosity with America you have identified us unjustly as on the side of America,” he said, recalling the meeting.

“I said ‘I just want to trade with you and I want business because my country needs it’.”

In a barb aimed at the United States, a close military ally of the Philippines, Duterte said countries should avoid escalating tensions, because missteps could be catastrophic.

“Why do you have to go there and look for friction?”, he said. “Friction causes an explosion … then you can have war.”

He added: “It’s a very important word for all of us: Miscalculation.”

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: Reuters “Philippine president says trusts China won’t build on disputed shoal”

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


China to build on disputed shoal in South China Sea


Boats at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12, 2016. REUTERS/Planet Labs/Handout via Reuters

China will begin preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, an official said, as two U.S. senators introduced a bill to impose sanctions on its activities in the disputed waterway.

China seized the strategic shoal, which is also claimed by the Philippines, in 2012 and the United States has warned Beijing against carrying out the same land reclamation work there that it has done in other parts of the South China Sea.

This week, Xiao Jie, the mayor of what Beijing calls Sansha City, an administrative base for disputed South China Sea islands and reefs it controls, said China planned preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.

The monitoring stations, along with docks and other infrastructure, form part of island restoration and erosion prevention efforts planned for 2017, Xiao told the official Hainan Daily.

The report comes ahead of a visit to Beijing at the weekend by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, where he is expected to reiterate U.S. concern about Chinese island building.

Tillerson has called the activity “illegal” and last June, then U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that any move by China to reclaim land at Scarborough Shoal would “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.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, Anna Richey-Allen, said it was aware of the Chinese report and reiterated a call on South China Sea claimants to avoid building on disputed features.

The Philippine foreign ministry declined to comment, saying it was trying to verify the reports.

Washington stresses the importance of free navigation in South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. China claims nearly all of the sea and Washington is concerned its island-building is aimed at denying access to the waters.

This week, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin introduced the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, which would ban visas for Chinese people helping to build South and East China Sea projects.

It would also sanction foreign financial bodies that “knowingly conduct or facilitate a significant financial transaction for sanctioned individuals and entities” if China steps up activity at Scarborough Shoal, among other actions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the bill “extremely grating” and said it showed the “arrogance and ignorance” of the senators.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said it was unclear if China planned dredging work at Scarborough Shoal, something that could wreck efforts to agree a code of conduct for the region that Beijing professes to support.

She noted that parties to a 2002 declaration of conduct had agreed to refrain from inhabiting uninhabited features.

During his January confirmation hearing, Tillerson said China should be denied access to islands it has built up in the South China Sea. He subsequently softened his language, saying that in the event of an unspecified “contingency,” the United States and its allies “must be capable of limiting China’s access to and use of” those islands to pose a threat.

(This version of the story was corrected to fix spelling of Glaser in paragraph 13)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and James Dalgleish)

Source: Reuters “China to build on disputed shoal 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.


China Keeps Open Scarborough Shoal to Philippines as a Favor


President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte in Lima, Peru. Photo: Xinhua

President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte in Lima, Peru. Photo: Xinhua

Filipinos unload after coming home to Subic from a fishing expedition in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: EPA

Filipinos unload after coming home to Subic from a fishing expedition in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: EPA

In its report “Xi tells Duterte that Scarborough Shoal will stay open to Philippine fishermen” yesterday, SCMP says Chinese “President Xi Jinping called on China and the Philippines to explore maritime cooperation” and promised that China’s Huangyan Island (also known as Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea will remain open to Philippine fishermen.

It’s the result of Obama’s pivot to Asia undesirable to the US and Philippines, but very good to China.

Before the pivot, both Chinese and Philippine coast guards patrolled the shoal and fishermen fished there as China, though much stronger than the Philippines, did not want to drive away the fishermen and coast guards of the Philippines, its friendly neighbor.

US pivot gave Duterte’s predecessor former Philippine President Aquino the illusion that with the help of the powerful navy of his ally the US, he could drive away Chinese coast guards and fishermen from the shoal and have exclusive possession of the shoal. He sent navy to round up Chinese fishermen there and thus gave rise to what the West regarded as a standoff between China and the Philippines there.

It was in fact not a standoff in its proper sense. It was in fact the operation of Chinese coast guards and navy to deny the Philippines access to the shoal and the sea around it. The Philippines only sent its coast guards to watch nearby without any action to drive away the Chinese to enable Philippine fishing boats to enter the area near the shoal.

Aquino asked the US for help, thinking that the mere appearance of powerful US navy will scare the Chinese away. However, instead of sending its navy to help him, the US told Aquino to withdraw and promised to have China retreat too. However, China would not retreat and continue to impose effective control of the shoal.

The US told Aquino to seek remedy from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague where the US had influence. Aquino did get an arbitration ruling in his favor but the US could not help him enforce the ruling though it has sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to scare China.

For years, Aquino’s illusion about US help to scare away China caused Filipino fishermen’s misery. They were banned by China to fish in the area around the shoal and thus lost what they depended for their survival.

Aquino simply did not care, but his successor President Duterte cares. Duterte wants to help the fishermen to have access to their traditional fishing ground. Since the US cannot help him, it is natural that he seeks help from China. To please China, he insulted US president Obama. Western media ascribed Duterte’s rude behavior to his anger at US opposition of his killing of drug dealers and addicts. That is only the excuse exploited by Duterte to attack the US and please China.

Duterte had long been well-known for his killing of drug dealers and addicts before he was elected as president. He must have got used to US criticism about the killing; therefore, attacking the US to justify his killing was not his priority. As he has declared, his priority is to enable Filipino fishermen to have access to the area around the shoal for their survival.

In fact, it is enough for Duterte to put an end of Aquino’s enmity and recover Philippines’ friendship with China. There is no need for him to upset the US to please China. True, China has been developing its military to counter US threat, but that is purely for self defense as US military always makes plan to attack China. China wants good relations with the US as such relations are favorable to China.

Chinese leaders are not so stupid as to contend with the US for world leadership. China is not rich or strong enough for that.

US belief of its world leadership is but an illusion in spite of its largest economy and strongest military. No one in the world follows its leadership now. Duterte wants to separate from the US because what has happened related to Scarborough standoff and Hague arbitration ruling have made him realize that there is no US world leadership. The US boasts that it is world leader that protects other countries including the Philippines. In fact it protects only its own interests. It will not fight to protect others if its own interests have not been affected.

The disputes between China and other South China Sea claimants will perhaps remain forever, but as long as China pursues win-win cooperation, it will be able to manage the disputes satisfactorily. That will make the US unable to exploit the disputes to contain China.

Other claimants have to learn from the lessons of Philippines’ failure in exploiting US pivot to Asia to get exclusive control of Scarborough Shoal. In the end, the Philippines has, on the contrary, enabled China to have exclusive control of the shoal and act as the host of the shoal.

Unlike the situation before the standoff, Filipino fishermen have no free access to the shoal. They have access now due to Chinese president’s personal promise instead of any right based on agreement or ruling.

If a claimant wants to exploit the resources in disputed waters, it has to cooperate with China. Otherwise, China will exploit the resources alone and the US simply will not interfere. That is the reality now in the South China Sea.

Comments 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/2047747/xi-tells-duterte-scarborough-shoal-will-stay-open


South China Sea Disputes: Who Wins and Who Loses?


A fisherman look at the fishing boats that just returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A fisherman look at the fishing boats that just returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and China's Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and China’s Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Former Philippine President Aquino was so excited when the US declared its pivot to Asia aimed at containing China. He soon sent his navy to round up Chinese fishermen at disputed Scarborough Shoal in order to drive Chinese away from the shoal and take control of the shoal.

In return, China sent its navy and coast guards to take the shoal and drive away Philippine navy. It even did not allow Filipino fishermen to continue to fish there. There was standoff between China and the Philippines for quite a long time.

Aquino did not expect that the US did not send its navy to help him. When he asked the US to help him. The US, though wanted to contain China, did not want to fight a war with China for Philippines’ rights and interests. It told him to retreat and promised to tell China to retreat too. Aquino did have retreated but China would not.

To help Aquino, the US told Aquino to file an arbitration at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and promised that it would use its influence to ensure that Aquino would win the arbitration.

As a Japanese was the head of the arbitration court, the US was sure Aquino would win. What it should do was but to use its military power to force China to obey the arbitration ruling.

Aquino did win the arbitration and the US did send two aircraft carrier battle groups to threaten China but could not subdue China. China conducted large-scale military drills to show its determination to fight a war to protect its rights and interests. The US had to give up as it had no intention to fight for Philippines’ rights and interests.

The Philippines had got nothing but been banned by Chinese navy and coast guards in exploiting the fishing and energy resources in the sea area it regards as its exclusive economic zone.

Now the Philippines is entirely a loser due to its illusion that the US will take actual actions in interfering with its disputes with China as the US has tried to make it believe.

The US is also a loser. It wanted to exploit China’s disputes with its neighbors to contain China and show that the US dominates the South China Sea, but China’s determination to fight a war to defend its rights and interests has made the US give up its attempt to interfere with the disputes. The US now only wants freedom of navigation and flightover that has never been hindered by China.

Previously, the US opposed China’s proposal on resolution of the disputes through bilateral talks. Its alleged that China might use its strength to force its terms on weaker nations. It wanted all China’s opposing claimants to hold multilateral talks with China and even wanted to be a party to such talks. At first, Philippine new president Duterte did want the US and Japan to participate in Philippines’ talks with China on the disputes. US did not refuse to participate though it had repeatedly declared that it would not take side in the disputes.

Now, the US has changed its stance that opposes bilateral talks. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said in Manila on October 24 that the United States supports direct dialogue negotiations between the Philippines and China in settling the South China Sea dispute.

Mr. Russel has given a clear signal to all the claimants in South China Sea disputes that the US will not interfere. No claimant can rely on US help in the disputes.

The US has not only lost face but also almost all its influence in Southeast Asia, poor United States of America.

China is the absolute winner.

It now is the host of not only Scarborough Shoal but also all the disputed waters. Other claimants can exploit the resources in disputed waters only when they have held successful bilateral talks with China on cooperation with China in exploiting the resources. China will not allow them to exploit the resources alone and the US will not interfere.

What about China allowing Philippine fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal and the areas around it to fish?

Does that not mean that China is respecting the arbitration ruling it has openly rejected?

Certainly not!

Please note that Philippine President Duterte has not concluded any agreement between China and the Philippines on Philippine fishermen’s right to fish there. The Philippines has no right to fish there. It is now allowed to fish there because its president has visited China to recover the long-term friendship between China and the Philippines.

The situation now is that China allows its friend to fish in its shoal and its sea area around the shoal.

That is why Chinese Foreign Ministry says there is no change in the situation at Scarborough Shoal after Philippine fishermen were allowed to fish there.

What situation? China owns the Shoal and the waters around it. Allowing a friend to fish there does not change the ownership.

Seeing that Malaysia soon follows Duterte’s example. Reuters says in its report “China and Malaysia sign deals on navy vessels” yesterday, “Malaysia has agreed to buy four Chinese naval vessels and pledged with Beijing to handle South China Sea disputes bilaterally, a Chinese official said on Tuesday, in what could be China’s latest counter to U.S. influence in the region.”

Article by Chan Kai Yee


China says ‘situation’ at disputed Scarborough Shoal has not changed


A fisherman look at the fishing boats that just returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A fisherman look at the fishing boats that just returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

China said on Monday the situation at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea “has not changed and will not change”, after the Philippines said Chinese vessels that blocked the area for four years had stopped harassing its fishermen.

Philippine security officials on Sunday said China had scaled down its maritime presence at the shoal since President Rodrigo Duterte’s return from a visit to Beijing aimed at patching-up ties and courting investment.

The disputed territory is significant not only for fishing, but for the broader balance of power in the South China Sea, and the circumstances behind China’s apparent softening of its position are not clear.

Asked about Philippine fishermen entering the area unimpeded, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said China always had “normal administration” over the Scarborough Shoal.

“The relevant situation has not changed and will not change,” she told a regular briefing.

Hua said Duterte’s visit to Beijing marked an overall improvement in relations.

“China will make proper arrangements on issues of President Duterte’s interest,” Hua said, without giving details.

China had repelled fishermen since seizing the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

Philippine boats returned from the area at the weekend with tonnes of fish and said Chinese boats had left them alone.

China’s blockade of what is a prime fishing spot prompted the previous Philippine government to file a legal case in 2013 at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, infuriating Beijing.

The tribunal’s July ruling in favor of the Philippines, which China refuses to acknowledge, declared no one country had sovereign rights over the shoal, and as a traditional fishing ground, Chinese, Philippine and Vietnamese were entitled to access it.

A frosty Philippine-China relationship changed dramatically after Duterte took office four months ago and started praising China while denouncing old ally the United States in a reversal of his predecessor’s foreign policy.

Duterte’s national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, confirmed there had been no agreement between the two countries about the Scarborough Shoal.

He said the dispute had not been resolved and the Philippines would reassert its rights when bilateral talks resume, although he noted “the climate has changed”.

“The president reiterated that we won in the court, the other leader also reiterated that it is historically their territory, so it was not resolved,” Esperon told reporters, referring to Duterte’s talks with Chinese leaders.

“They have coastguard ships there, there are no more navy ships and our fishermen are no longer accosted, they are not driven away.”

“In short, they are more friendly now.”

(Reporting by Paul Carsten in BEIJING and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters “China says ‘situation’ at disputed Scarborough Shoal has not changed”

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