U.S. Navy says carrier group operating in S.China Sea


Reuters

June 15, 2021 12:42 PM HKT Last Updated a day ago

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is seen during its visit to Hong Kong, China November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yuyang Wang/File Photo

TAIPEI, June 15 (Reuters) – A U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Ronald Reagan has entered the South China Sea as part of a routine mission, the U.S. Navy said on Tuesday, at a time of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, which claims most the disputed waterway.

China frequently objects to U.S. military missions in the South China Sea saying they do not help promote peace or stability, and the announcement follows China blasting the Group of Seven nations for a statement scolding Beijing over a range of issues.

“While in the South China Sea, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units,” the U.S. Navy said.

“Carrier operations in the South China Sea are part of the U.S. Navy’s routine presence in the Indo-Pacific.”

The carrier is being accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey, it added.

China has ramped up its military presence in the South China Sea in recent years, including building artificial islands and air bases.

The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the United States, with Washington rejecting what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters.

U.S. warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years, in a show of force against the Chinese claims.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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


Philippine military chief visits island in disputed waters


Reuters June 9, 2021 3:44 PM HKT

The head of the Philippine armed forces visited a coral-fringed island his country occupies in the South China Sea this week, a move that could stoke already heightened tensions between Manila and Beijing in disputed waters claimed by both countries.

During Monday’s visit, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Cirilito Sobejana commended the soldiers for the role they played in protecting the island’s residents and “guarding the country’s territories” in the strategic waterway.

The visit comes after recent diplomatic protests made by the Philippines over what it says is the illegal presence of hundreds of “Chinese maritime militia” vessels inside its exclusive economic zone and near its occupied islands.

Chinese diplomats have said the boats were just sheltering from rough seas and no militia were aboard.

Sobejana’s trip to Thitu, known to Filipinos as Pagasa, happened on Monday, but information was only made public by the AFP on Wednesday.

Thitu is the biggest of the nine reefs, shoals and islands the Philippines occupies in the Spratly archipelago, and is home to a small number of military personnel and civilians.

“(The troops) are in very high spirit, their level of moral is high especially after our visit,” Sobejana told reporters on Tuesday evening, adding he also wanted to inspect the island to oversee plans to convert it into a logistics hub to make it easier for naval assets conducting patrols to refuel.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, a conduit for goods in excess of $3 trillion every year.

The foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China agreed during a meeting on Monday to exercise restraint in the South China Sea and avoid actions that could escalate tensions.

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


China, ASEAN Meeting to Maintain Stability in South China Sea in Disregard of US Provocation


It is a regular meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. SCMP, however, regards the meeting as China’s efforts to upgrade its relationship with ASEAN to counter the US in the South China Sea; therefore it gives its report on the meeting the title “China woos Asean with diplomatic upgrade in its relationship status”.

The report says after the meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announces plan to elevate ties between China and ASEAN to the highest level as if it is but China’s plan, but it is, in fact, both China’s and ASEAN’s plan. Both China and ASEAN have been benefited greatly from their close ties; therefore they want to elevate their ties to the highest level.

That is both sides’ desire to be further benefited. It has nothing to do with US provocation in the South China Sea. The report carries a photo of a few filipinoes protesting China’s presence in areas of disputes between China and the Philippines, but Article 3 of the Declaration clearly provides, “The Parties reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”. China certainly has freedom of presence there.

Since the meeting is on the implementation of the Declaration, the Philippines had to keep silent about China’s presence as it has to abide by the Declaration. However, SCMP has to make its report sensational to attract readers with distorted description of the meeting involving US-China confrontation.

Obviously, ASEAN does not want to be involved so that in the meeting it wants to boost the “progress on South China Sea code of conduct” to avoid the territorial disputes between China and a few ASEAN members from being exploited by the US to undermine the stability in the region.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at China woos Asean with diplomatic upgrade in its relationship status | South China Morning Post (scmp.com) .


The Philippines has dramatically boosted South China Sea patrols, data shows


PUBLISHED FRI, MAY 28 20212:18 AM EDT

Abigail Ng

KEY POINTS

  • The Philippines has drastically stepped up its patrols in the South China Sea recently, and has come into closer contact with the China Coast Guard, according to ship tracking data.
  • From March 1 to May 25, 13 law enforcement or military vessels from the Philippines visited waters around the contested Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal at least 57 times, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said.
  • “This was a substantial increase over the previous 10 months … when 3 vessels were tracked making 7 total visits to contested features,” the report said.

The Philippines has drastically stepped up its patrols in the South China Sea recently, and came into closer contact with the China Coast Guard, according to ship tracking data.

Between March 1 to May 25, 13 law enforcement or military vessels from the Philippines visited waters around the contested Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal at least 57 times, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said in note this week.

“This was a substantial increase over the previous 10 months … when 3 vessels were tracked making 7 total visits to contested features,” the report said. It pointed out that this boost in patrols is “beyond anything seen in recent years” from the Philippines.

The South China Sea has been a regional flashpoint in Asia, involving territorial disputes between some countries and China. The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam are among the countries that lay claim to parts of the waterway, but China sees much of the area — including Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal — as part of its territory. Chinese vessels, by contrast, operate as sentries, staying at targeted features for weeks at a time and usually leaving only once a replacement has arrived to continue the watch. –Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

The AMTI, which is part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out that the location of patrols by the Philippines has also changed.

Before March, vessels from the Philippines “almost exclusively” traveled to and from the country’s largest outpost in the Spratlys, Thitu Island.

“But recent patrols have included Second Thomas Shoal, which is occupied by the Philippines but patrolled daily by China, Whitsun Reef, where the recent militia swarm was detected, unoccupied Sabina Shoal near Second Thomas, and Scarborough Shoal, where China has maintained a permanent presence since 2012,” AMTI said.

The report reviewed tracking data from commercial provider Marine Traffic, and images from satellite firms Maxar and Planet Labs.

Outsized and outgunned’

AMTI outlined an incident in May, when Chinese Coast Guard vessels tailed or chased coast guard vessels from the Philippines which are “almost always outsized and outgunned.”

On May 19, the Philippines sent four ships into contested territorial seas, but were met by two Chinese ships. At least one Philippine ship was “pursued” by the Chinese, it said.

One of the China Coast Guard vessels began trailing the Philippine vessel named MCS 3005, as it sailed around one side of Scarborough.

The other Chinese vessel closely pursued a separate Philippine ship, the Habagat, on the other side before “peeling off toward” a third and larger another Philippine vessel name Gabriela Silang, AMTI said.

The Philippines appears determined to assert itself, but the country’s patrols “pale in comparison” to the intensity of China’s “near-permanent coastguard and militia presence,” according to the report.

Manila’s ships embark on “staggered tours” and spend one to two days at contested features.

“Chinese vessels, by contrast, operate as sentries, staying at targeted features for weeks at a time and usually leaving only once a replacement has arrived to continue the watch,” said AMTI.

“Whether the Philippines will continue its current pace of patrols, and how China might react, is unclear,” the report said. “But while Manila’s combination of more public protest and greater presence seems to have had some success in dispersing Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef and Sabina Shoal, it hasn’t impacted the overall number of Chinese vessels operating in disputed waters.”

Manila is “drawing greater attention, and international condemnation, to China’s activities, particularly on the militia front,” AMTI said.

Source: CNBC “The Philippines has dramatically boosted South China Sea patrols, data shows”

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


Philippines and China hold ‘friendly and candid’ talks on South China Sea


Reuters

May 22, 2021 4:13 PM HKT

The Philippines and China held “friendly and candid” talks on the South China Sea, the Philippines’ foreign ministry said on Saturday, days after the minister ordered Chinese vessels out of the disputed waterway in an expletive-laced tweet.

The presence of hundreds Chinese vessels inside the Philippines 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been the latest source of tensions between the two countries in the South China Sea, through which $3 trillion worth of goods pass every year.

The Philippines said the encroaching vessels were manned by militia, while Beijing said they were fishing boats sheltering from bad weather.

“The two sides had friendly and candid exchanges on the general situation and specific issues of concern in the South China Sea,” under a bilateral consultation mechanism convened in 2016 to ease tensions in the strategic waterway, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“There was mutual recognition of the importance of dialogue in easing tensions and understanding each country’s position and intentions in the area,” the DFA said.

Earlier this month, Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin likened China to “an ugly oaf” for its behaviour in the waterway.

“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE FUCK OUT,” Locsin tweeted on his personal account.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who prefers to not provoke Beijing and wants to tap it for loans and investment, barred his ministers from talking about the South China Sea situation in public after the outburst.

Also discussed during Friday’s dialogue was the row over the June 2019 sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese fishing vessel that abandoned the Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea. The Philippine justice ministry will seek compensation for the victims, the DFA said.

Despite recent tensions, ties between the Philippines and China have improved under Duterte, who described the 2016 arbitration ruling on the South China Sea that went in Philippines’ favour as just a “piece of paper” he could throw in the trash.

But the Philippines reiterated its call on Beijing to respect international law, including the arbitral ruling during the talks, the DFA said.

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


China says U.S. warship illegally enters its territory in S. China Sea


May 20, 2021 11:35 PM HKT

China said on Thursday an American warship had illegally entered its territorial waters in the South China Sea and was expelled, which the United States denied in the latest salvoes over Beijing’s claims in the busy waterway.

In a statement, the Chinese military’s Southern Theatre Command said the USS Curtis Wilbur entered the waters near the Paracel islands without permission, adding that its ships and planes followed the U.S. vessel out.

It said the U.S. action violated China’s sovereignty and undermined regional peace and stability.

However, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the vessel “asserted navigational rights and freedoms” near the Paracel islands, over which China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim sovereignty.

The Chinese military’s comments were false, it added.

“USS Curtis Wilbur was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory,” it said. “USS Curtis Wilbur conducted this Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters.”

The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the United States, with Washington rejecting what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters.

U.S. warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years, in a show of force against the Chinese claims.

On Tuesday, the USS Curtis Wilbur had sailed through the Taiwan Strait, angering China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory. read more

In a statement addressing both that incident and Thursday’s flare-up, China’s defence ministry described the U.S. warship’s movements as a serious provocation.

“China’s military will take all necessary measures to deal with all threats and provocations,” it added.

Source: Reuters “China says U.S. warship illegally enters its territory in S. China Sea”

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


Duterte’s Wise Dealing with South China Sea Dilemma


It’s really very difficult to be the president of a poor and weak country with a proud people, especially a country in the middle of the contest between two great powers China and the US.

Philippine people want Philippine President Duterte to be strong in enforcing the Hague arbitration ruling to safeguard Philippine rights and interests in the disputed waters in the South China Sea, but without US military help, Duterte is unable to enforce the ruling. Duterte is very clear the US will not fight a costly war with China for the Philippines. Therefore, he is in a dilemma what to do.

When former US President Obama began his pivot to Asian to contain China’s rise, Duterte’s predecessor Aquino wrongly believed that the US might perform its treaty obligations to protect the Philippines in its territorial disputes with China. At that time, China maintained a low profile in the world that caused Aquino to commit the blunder to start the Scarborough standoff to drive China away from the Scarborough Shoal. China responded with strong defense of its core interests there.

The US, however, failed to help Aquino counter China. As a result, the Philippines instead of China was driven away from the shoal. China banned Philippine fishing in and around the shoal.

To comfort the Philippines, the US told the Philippines to file an arbitration at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. It used its influence to help the Philippines obtain a favorable ruling and promised to help the Philippines enforce the ruling.

The Philippines did have obtained a favorable ruling the denied all China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea. As promised, the US sent two aircraft battle groups to force China to accept the ruling. China responded by challenging the US to war. The US certainly is not willing to fight a costly war for Philippine interests. As a result, Philippine fishermen were banned to fish there.

It was only when Duterte wanted to be friendly with China that China began to allow the Philippines to fish there.

Now, the US seems really hard in dealing with China. Some Philippine politicians and officials began to cherish Aquino’s unrealistic belief again especially when the US has sent its aircraft carrier battle groups to the South China Sea repeatedly. China has grown stronger in the nearly a decade after the said standoff. Moreover, it has built a few artificial islands with long airstrips on three of them in preparations for war to safeguard its rights and interests there.

After US Secretary of State Blinken promised to perform US treaty obligations to protect the Philippines in case of its military conflicts with China. China sent large fleets of fishing vessels to the disputed waters to challenge the Philippines with obvious intention to test the US whether it will perform its treaty obligations as Blinken promised.

Philippines Foreign Ministry protested Chinese vessels presence based on the arbitration ruling that the waters belong to the Philippines but Duterte remained silent. According to Reuters report “Philippines flags ‘incursions’ by nearly 300 Chinese militia boats” on May 13, 2021, Philippine President Duterte said the ruling was just a “piece of paper” that he could throw in the trash.

However, in Reuters report “Philippines’ Duterte says won’t withdraw ships from contested waters” the next day, Reuters says, “In his televised address, he (Duterte) said he ‘believes in the entirety’ of that ruling.”

What did he mean? has he reversed his position and wanted to enforce the ruling instead of throwing it in the trash? In fact Duterte is wise to say so.

In its entirety Duterte believes the ruling provides what his country wants but is not binding on China and cannot be enforced without a war joined by the US against China. Since the US does not want to fight for the Philippines’ interests in the South China Sea, the Philippines, as a much weaker country, is unable to fight to enforce the ruling. As the ruling in its entirely is unenforceable, it is but a piece of waste paper that Duterte can throw in the trash. That is Duterte’s wise belief.

The report quotes Duterte as saying, “I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble. I respect your position, and you respect mine. But we will not go to war”.

He is indeed wise not to confront China or try to draw in the US in a military conflict with China. Both the Philippines and the US will be embarrassed if the former fights China but the latter will not join it. The US will lose its credibility in failing to perform its treaty obligations while the Philippines may be humiliated with the loss of the war.

Chinese vessels are in the disputed waters to impose its summer fishing ban. Duterte respects China’s position so that he will not tell Philippine fishermen to fish there. He wants China to respect his position not to withdraw Philippine vessels from the disputed waters. Since China allows freedom of navigation there, it certainly will not drive Philippine vessels from the disputed waters.

By those words, Duterte pleases Philippine people with his seemingly strong attitude against China but avoids upset China with any actual deeds.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters reports, full text of which can respectively be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/philippines-flags-incursions-by-nearly-300-chinese-militia-boats-2021-05-12/ and https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/philippines-duterte-says-wont-withdraw-ships-contested-waters-2021-05-14/.


Philippines’ Duterte says won’t withdraw ships from contested waters


Reuters

May 14, 2021 5:49 PM HKT

Photo

A screen grab from a video released by the Philippine Coast Guard shows a Philippine bureau of fisheries vessel (L) approaching another vessel believed to be manned by Chinese militia at Sabina Shoal in the South China Sea, May 7, 2021. National Task Force On The West Philippine Sea/Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS

Photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the arrival ceremony for the first COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in the country, at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 28, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rebuffed a call from China to withdraw vessels from disputed areas of the South China Sea and said he would not bow to pressure, even if it jeopardises his friendship with Beijing.

The Philippines has boosted its presence in contested areas of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including Thitu island, near to Chinese military installation, in defiance of the months-long presence of hundreds of Chinese boats it believes are manned by militia.

Duterte’s remarks in a televised address aired on Friday come as pressure builds on him to abandon his pursuit of close ties with China and stand up to what his defence chiefs say are blatant provocations.

“We have a stand here and I want to state it here and now again that our ships there … we will not move an inch backward,” Duterte said.

China last month said the Philippines must “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes” in response to a rare maritime exercise conducted by the Philippines.

“I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble. I respect your position, and you respect mine. But we will not go to war,” Duterte said.

“I will not withdraw. Even if you kill me. Our friendship will end here.”

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Duterte has been criticised for refusing to press China to abide by a 2016 arbitration ruling on the South China Sea that went in Philippines’ favour.

He drew flak last week for saying the landmark award was just a “piece of paper” he could throw in the trash. In his televised address, he said he “believes in the entirety” of that ruling.

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


Arbitration Ruling, Piece of Waste Paper, Philippine President Duterte


Reuters says in its report “Philippines flags ‘incursions’ by nearly 300 Chinese militia boats” today (May 13, 2021)” that Philippine Foreign Ministry has repeatedly complained about large number of Chinese Ships in waters it regards as Philippine territorial waters based on the arbitration ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, a ruling China denies.

Now according to the report, Philippine President Duterte said the ruling was just a “piece of paper” that he could throw in the trash.

Due to Duterte’s pro-China policies, the Philippines has for years turned blind eyes to the presence of Chinese ships in the disputed waters claimed by both countries, but now its foreign ministry has begun to protest perhaps due to US Secretary of State Blinken’s promise to help the Philippines safeguard its interests in the disputed waters. If the Philippines is serious in imposing the ruling, there is bound to be military conflicts. Will the conflicts cause the US to perform its treaty obligations to join the philippines in a war with China? That will be the question.

It seems China is not scared by Blinken’s words. Previously, Chinese fishing boats did fish in the disputed waters but not on such large scale. This time there are 285 ships there. They certainly are not conducting fishing operations as China has imposed its summer fishing ban there from May to mid-September. That is obviously a challenge to see whether the US dare to interfere militarily with the disputes there.

It seems that Duterte knows well that the US will not honor Blinken’s promise to help the Philipines fight China; therefore, he regards the ruling that the US helped the Philippines to obtain but as a piece of waster paper.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/philippines-flags-incursions-by-nearly-300-chinese-militia-boats-2021-05-12/.


Will US Join Philippines in Fighting China


For many years the Philippines has refrained from violating China’s summer fishing ban in the South China Sea, especially after it was banned fishing in areas around the Scarborough Shoal at the Scarborough Standoff.

At that time, Philippine President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino II started the standoff, mistakenly believing that the US would have given him military support as the US was adopting its policy of pivot to Asia to contain China.

Now, US President Joe Biden has been so hostile to China that many Philippine politicians believe that it is time to induce the US into Philippines’ war with China to enable them to drive China away from the disputed waters.

However, China is not afraid of military conflicts with the Philippines. SCMP’s report “South China Sea: Philippines accuses China of ‘dangerous challenges’ near Scarborough Shoal” says, “In a statement on Tuesday night, Hermogenes Esperon, a national security adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, said the China Coast Guard conducted ‘shadowing, blocking, dangerous manoeuvres and radio challenges’ to two Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the waters near the shoal late last month.

US Secretary of State Blinken has openly said US will protect the Philippines if China attacks the Philippines even its civilian. Therefore, the danger of war now will be in the South China Sea. The Philippines is now provoking China in order to have a military conflict to draw in the US. Esperon’s above statement proves that China is not scared by Blinken’s words. It is not afraid of a war with the US in the South China Sea as it has geographical advantages there.

Will the US help the Philippines fight China then?

I doubt the US is willing to incur the heavy costs of war without any economic gains. Moreover, it will not be a war out of US affection for the Philippines though the Philippines has been US subordinate ally for a long time. I believe the US still remembers well its humiliation in being driven out of its military bases in the Philippines three decades ago.

What about Blinken’s promise to perform US treaty obligations to help the Philippines counter China? Will the US be humiliated by its failure to honor its promise? The US needs only declare its long-standing position not to take side in other countries’ territorial disputes as it did during the Scarborough standoff. If the worst comes to the worst, Biden can just fire Blinken. That will be quite enough! It will be much cheaper than fighting a war with a world power.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3132333/south-china-sea-philippines-accuses-china-dangerous-challenges?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=enlz-scmp_international&utm_content=20210505&tpcc=enlz-scmp_international&MCUID=480db96a00&MCCampaignID=1c6145d274&MCAccountID=3775521f5f542047246d9c827&tc=7.