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.”
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.
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.
I said in my post “China’s Space Era Strategy Overwhelmingly Superior to US Air-Sea Battle” on June 22:
There is no denial that the US regards China as its top potential enemy. Obama made it very clear that his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was directed at China.
Obama’s pivot to Asia, in spite of his claim that it was not directed at China, was directed at China. That was clear to everybody.
The US is obsessed with military solution. That is why it maintains an excessive military budget in spite of its shortage of funds for its people’s welfare and its essential but dilapidated infrastructures. Obama’s major approach for his pivot to Asia was to deploy 60% of US military in Asia.
China follows its gifted strategist Sun Tzu’s teachings: Subdue the enemy with strategy is the best of best, with diplomacy the next best, with fighting the third option while with attacking enemy cities the last choice. Its approaches have been strategy and diplomacy.
I have mentioned China’s strategy to enhance its geographical advantages by its construction of artificial islands with three airstrips in the South China Sea and its weapon strategy to develop integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense. In addition China has subdued the US with diplomacy.
First, there is the question: Has China really achieved that?
Recently, we have well-known US media’s articles on US losing to China. They, though perhaps do not follow Sun Tzu’s instructions, know well in the conflicts between the US and China, diplomacy is preferred to war.
With such a perspective, they publish articles on US losing to China.
First, Foreign Affair published an article titled “The United States Is Losing Asia to China” by Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar on May 12.
As a senior fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ely Ratner is quite an expert on U.S.-China relations, regional security in East Asia, and U.S. national security policy.
There has been no opposition to the article’s views from any heavy-weight experts.
That article was followed by WSJ article “The U.S. Is Losing the Pacific to China” by Ben Bohane on June 7, 2017. US loss is now much larger: not only Asia but the entire Pacific.
Ben Bohane is a photojournalist, author and television producer who has covered Asia and the Pacific islands for the past 25 years. His article shall be taken seriously.
However, the losses referred to in the articles means diplomatic losses not physical losses. Neither the US nor China have Asia or the Pacific as their own.
Mr. Bohane says in his article, “For more than 100 years, the US has viewed the Pacific Ocean as an ‘American lake’”. It is but US view instead of any US claim to the Pacific. China can regard a large area of the South China Sea as its lake as it has drawn a nine-dash line to encircle the area it claims and no one had opposed the line for more than two decades after it has been included in China’s map since 1947.
The US has never drawn any line whether nine-dash or ninety-dash to encircle the Pacific Ocean to support its claim to the Pacific. If it had drawn such a line, it would have encountered fierce opposition from lots of countries.
What Mr. Bohane means is in fact that China is establishing good relations with Pacific island nations while the US has neglected those nations. The island nations have not been US allies or spheres of influence. Nor are they China’s allies or spheres of influence; therefore, the actual situation there is that China has been making efforts to make friends there while the US has done nothing.
In Asia, what Mr. Ratner means in his article is but US loss of Southeast Asia to China. The US has kept Japan and South Korea as its allies. As for South and Central Asia, they have long been Russia’s spheres of influence. China has not substituted its influence for Russia’s. Even if it has, the areas have been lost by Russia instead of US to China.
As for the Middle East in Asia, the US does seem to have been losing it but not to China as China’s influence there remains very much limited.
What we have to discuss is how the US has lost its influence in Asia, especially Russia, Southeast Asia and Pakistan and how China has been gaining influence in Pacific island nations.
What is Sun Tzu’s teachings?
Sun Tzu says, “In the past, those who were skilled in war made themselves invincible first and then waited for the time when the enemy could be defeated. One relies on one’s own for invincibility, but whether one’s enemy can be defeated is determined by the enemy. Therefore, those who are skilled in war are able to make themselves invincible, but unable to make the enemy surely defeatable.
Therefore, those who are skilled in war put themselves in an invincible position and lose no chance of their enemies’ possible loss. Hence, a winning army fights after it has got the opportunity to win while a losing army fights first and then seek victory.
Let’s see what China has done to put itself in an invincible position. China had been improving its relations with Russia, its long-term enemy in history, For quite a long time since it began its reform and opening up it had been making efforts to improve its relations with Russia as it needed a peaceful environment for economic growth. At the same time, Russia had been trying hard to improve its relations with the West. In fact, at that time Russia adopted a political and economic system quite similar to the West. There was hope that Russia might be accepted by the West.
However, the West always has an intention to contain Russia in order to prevent it from becoming a superpower similar to the Soviet Union. After all, Russia is the major part of the Soviet Union.
China’s improvement in its relations with Russia put it in an invincible diplomatic position to prevent the West from sowing discord between Russia and China. However, though both of them felt the pressure from the US to contain them, there has been no breakthrough to establish mutual trust for closer relations, especially an alliance for that.
Then there was Obama’s pivot to Asia and later the West’s street coup that overthrew a pro-Russia Ukrainian government. China exploited the chances for the establishment of an anti-US alliance between China and Russia.
EU and US mistake in their street revolution to bring about regime change in Ukraine gave China the opportunity to entirely win over Russia and made Russia China’s close ally.
In East and Southeast Asia, China has developed economic relations with ASEAN, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand quietly till the relations become so close as to enable China to set up free trade areas with them. Moreover, China has made efforts to grow its market much larger and even larger that no other market can replace China’s.
China has thus established its invincible position in East and Southeast Asia. Its invincible position in Southeast Asia has been strengthened by its willingness to conduct win-win cooperation with other claimants in exploiting the fish and energy resources in the disputed sea areas. Still it could not defeat the US diplomatically there until the US made the mistake to give China the opportunity to win.
In fact, the US must have been very clear that due to ASEAN’s close economic relations with China, it is impossible for the US to make ASEAN join it in containing China.
Still the US made the mistake in instigating the Philippines to file an arbitration and helping it to win the arbitration without military support to impose the arbitration award. That gave China the opportunity to subdue the US with firm posture to defend its sovereignty and interests militarily while making efforts to win over the Philippines with the diplomacy by allowing the Philippines to fish in the area around Scarborough Shoal and promising win-win cooperation in exploiting the resources in the disputed waters.
China’s diplomatic victory in dealing with the Philippines has caused the US to lose the entire Southeast Asia.
The diplomatic victory in Southeast Asia has made the US unable to use any ASEAN member as its base to attack China. Together with the military control of the South China Sea has removed the threat of US attack at China from the South China Sea.
There remains the threat of the US cutting China’s trade lifelines through the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
For the west route, China has launched its Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road initiative. It has set up land connections with Europe through Russia and Central Asia through the initiative and is now busy building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for connection with the Middle East, which is vital for China’s energy imports.
However, in spite of China’s efforts to develop close economic relations with EU, China’s growing influence in eastern Europe has given rise to EU’s concerns as a result, China’s position though quite strong, cannot be regarded as invincible. However, US mistake in dealing with its relations with EU provides China with opportunity for closer times with EU. China owes its diplomatic victory in Europe to US mistake.
Now, China’s trade lifeline through the Pacific remains unsafe. China’s trade with Americas is much smaller than that with EU but American markets especially those in Latin America have great growth potential.
What shall China do?
According to Wall Street Journal’s article “US Is Losing the Pacific to China” on June 23, China has made multibillion-dollar investments throughout the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia is offering critical infrastructure projects, sending lots of tourists there and providing access to financial inclusion, but the US “continues to neglect its treaty allies in Micronesia and ignore the rest of the region.”
The article says, “Palau is still waiting on US$216 million in funds promised in 2011 as part of its agreement to provide the US with exclusive military access. Similar frustrations may lead the Federated States of Micronesia to terminate its own treaty with the US next year, well ahead of its expected 2023 expiration.”
Again China is establishing invincible position while the US is making mistakes to provide China with the opportunity to win with diplomacy.
If such diplomacy is combined with the construction of artificial islands on some reefs or floating artificial islands, each of which is supported with two aircraft carrier battle groups, China’s trade lifelines across the Pacific will thus be secure.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy and Wall Street Journal’s articles, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/12/the-united-states-is-losing-asia-to-china/ and https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-is-losing-the-pacific-to-china-1496853380
Two U.S bombers have flown over the disputed South China Sea, the U.S. Air Force said on Friday, asserting the right to treat the region as international territory despite China’s claim to virtually all of the waterway.
The flight by the B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam on Thursday came as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare for a meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Germany.
The two leaders were expected to discuss what China can do to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapon programs.
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday that some experts believe has the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
While Trump has been seeking China’s help to press North Korea, the U.S. military has, nevertheless, been asserting its “freedom of navigation” rights in the South China Sea, at the risk of angering China.
Asked about the flight by the two U.S. bombers, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said there was no problem with freedom of navigation or overflight for the East and South China Seas.
“But China resolutely opposes individual countries using the banner of freedom of navigation and overflight to flaunt military force and harm China’s sovereignty and security,” he said.
China’s Defence Ministry, in a short statement sent to Reuters, said China always maintained its vigilance and “effectively monitors relevant countries’ military activities next to China”.
“The Chinese military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” it added, without elaborating.
The United States has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on South China Sea reefs and tiny islands it has constructed, concerned that they could be used to extend its strategic reach.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year.
The two Lancers that made the flight had earlier trained with Japanese jet fighters in the neighboring East China Sea, the first time the two forces had conducted joint night-time drills.
Two U.S. Lancers flew from Guam over the South China Sea last month, while a U.S. warship carried out a maneuvering drill within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands in the waterway in late May.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly in TOKYO; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)
Source: Reuters “U.S. bombers challenge China in South China Sea flyover”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
By Mai Nguyen, Nidhi Verma and Sanjeev Miglani | HANOI/NEW DELHI Thu Jul 6, 2017 | 10:49am EDT
Vietnam has extended an Indian oil concession in the South China Sea and begun drilling in another area it disputes with China in moves that could heighten tensions over who owns what in the vital maritime region.
The moves come at a delicate time in Beijing’s relations with Vietnam, which claims parts of the sea, and India, which recently sent warships to monitor the Malacca Straits, through which most of China’s energy supplies and trade passes.
Vietnam granted Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension to explore oil block 128 in a letter that arrived earlier this week, the state-run company’s managing director Narendra K. Verma told Reuters.
Part of that block is in the U-shaped ‘nine-dash line’ which marks the vast area that China claims in the sea, a route for more than $5 trillion in trade each year in which the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims.
A senior official of ONGC Videsh, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said interest in the block was strategic rather than commercial, given that oil development there was seen as high-risk with only moderate potential.
“Vietnam also wants us to be there because of China’s interventions in the South China Sea,” the official said.
Vietnam’s state-run PetroVietnam declined to comment on the concession, which was first granted to India in 2006 but had been due to expire in mid-June.
Conflicting territorial claims over the sea stretch back many decades but have intensified in recent years as China and its rivals have reinforced their positions on the rocks and reefs they hold.
Far to the south of block 128, drilling has begun in a block owned jointly by Vietnam’s state oil firm, Spain’s Repsol and Mubadala Development Co [MUDEV.UL] of the United Arab Emirates.
Deepsea Metro I, operated by Odfjell Drilling Ltd., has been drilling in the region since the middle of last month on behalf of Spain’s Repsol SA, which also has rights to neighboring block 07/03, Odfjell said.
Odfjell declined to comment on the specific location of its vessel, but shipping data from Thomson Reuters Eikon showed it was in oil block 136/3, which also overlaps China’s claims.
Odfjell’s Eirik Knudsen, Vice President for Corporate Finance and Investor Relations, referred further queries to Repsol, which declined to comment. PetroVietnam made no comment.
COMPETING MARITIME CLAIMS
When asked about the activity, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposes anyone “carrying out unilateral, illegal oil and gas activities in waters China has jurisdiction over”.
“We hope the relevant country can act on the basis of maintaining regional peace and stability and not do anything to complicate the situation,” he told a briefing in Beijing.
Chinese General Fan Changlong cut short a visit to Vietnam and a friendship meeting at the China-Vietnam border was canceled around the time the drilling began.
The centuries-old mistrust between China and Vietnam is nowhere more evident than in their competing maritime claims, despite their shared communist ideology and growing trade.
Asked about the most recent drilling, Vietnamese officials said their Chinese counterparts have started raising concerns about cooperation with both Repsol and ExxonMobil Corp. of the United States, which is developing the $10 billion “Blue Whale” gas concession off central Vietnam.
They said Chinese officials also expressed concern at Vietnam’s evolving security relationships with the United States and Japan, both of which have offered moral support for its South China Sea claims and help for Vietnam’s coastguard.
Tensions with China were being contained, however, and had not yet reached crisis proportions, they said.
“We know they are unhappy again, but we are resisting the pressure – it is a traditional part of our relations with Beijing,” one official said privately. “Other parts of the relationship remain strong.”
Underlining the relationship between India and Vietnam, Vietnamese deputy prime minister Pham Binh Minh told a forum in New Delhi this week that India was welcome to play a bigger role in Southeast Asia – and specifically the South China Sea.
Hanoi’s growing defense and commercial ties with India are part of its strategy of seeking many partnerships with big powers while avoiding formal military alliances.
The pace has picked up since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration took office in 2014 and sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in South Asia by raising its diplomatic and military engagement in Southeast Asia.
India is providing naval patrol boats, satellite cover to monitor Vietnam’s waters and training for its submarines and fighter pilots – more military support than it is giving to any other Southeast Asian country.
On the agenda are transfers of naval vessels and missiles under a $500 million defense credit line announced last year.
Next week, the navies of India, the United States and Japan will hold their largest joint exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Greg Torode in Hong Kong; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
Source: Reuters “Vietnam renews India oil deal in tense South China Sea”
SCMP describes China’s new surveillance plane in its report “With a 30m wingspan and 2,450km range, this surveillance plane can cover the entire South China Sea” yesterday, stating, “With a wingspan of about 30 metres and maximum range of 2,450km, it has the capacity, at least in theory, to monitor and respond to incidents across the whole of the South China Sea, China Ocean News reported.”
SCMP quotes Collin Koh, a maritime expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, as saying, “One of the B-5002’s key technologies is a ‘sensor suite’ comprising both surface search radar and electro-optic detection capabilities, which allows it to operate in all weather and visibility conditions, day or night,” and that the plane will provide better support for Chinese coastguard at the forefront of the action in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Source: SCMP “With a 30m wingspan and 2,450km range, this surveillance plane can cover the entire South China Sea” (summary by Chan Kai Yee of the report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2100864/chinas-maritime-reconnaissance-capabilities-set-soar.