Lucas NiewenhuisNovember 16, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump used his Twitter megaphone to declare on November 15 that “our great country is respected again in Asia,” and later gave a speech in which he further boasted that America’s “standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now.” But in at least one major hot-button Asian issue, America’s standing appears to be notably declining, and China’s notably rising: the South China Sea.
- The New York Times notes (paywall) that though Trump made references to the conflict, saying that “no one owns the ocean” and that “freedom of navigation and overflight are critical,” he “did not single out China for criticism, continuing a pattern of soft-pedaling on a dispute that could annoy United States allies.”
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which in previous years has “noted concerns ‘expressed by some’ leaders” about China’s actions in the South China Sea, this year made no mention of concerns in a statement, the Nikkei Asian Review reports (paywall). This is a “clear diplomatic victory” for China, Nikkei says.
- Japan, also, seems to be newly reluctant to criticize China’s claims in the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post reported on November 15 that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “has repeatedly raised the South China Sea issue during his last five years in office – much to Beijing’s irritation – so his silence this week was a marked contrast to the past.”
- SCMP attributed Abe’s silence to his efforts to further diplomacy on North Korea, but the New York Times says (paywall) that experts suggest that “Mr. Abe appears keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s erratic swings in opinions and loyalties,” and is “naturally wondering if the United States may make some kind of deal with China that could put Japan at a disadvantage.” Trump’s “failing to press China on its military buildup in the South China Sea” has reinforced the perception that China is “taking advantage of an American retreat,” analysts say.
Source: SubChina “No one wants to criticize China on the South China Sea anymore”
Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
James Pomfret, Neil Jerome Morales November 14, 2017 / 9:55 AM / Updated 7 hours ago
MANILA (Reuters) – China’s agreement to begin talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the fine print of a code of conduct framework for the disputed South China Sea will help to stabilize the region, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said.
“China’s greatest hope is for peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Li told ASEAN leaders in Manila.
The Chinese and Southeast Asian foreign ministers in August adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.
While the South China Sea was not as dominant an issue at this summit at a time of relative calm, there was an underlying acknowledgement amongst ASEAN members that the risk of a miscalculation in the disputed waterway could flare up at anytime.
Li, addressing ASEAN leaders during a summit in the Philippines capital Manila on Monday, said there was a consensus on moving forward and to try to peacefully resolve the issue.
“We hope the talks on the code of conduct will bolster mutual understanding and trust,” Li said, according to a transcript of his speech released by China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
He added that he hoped this would be a “stabilizer” for the region, while pledging that China would “firmly safeguard” the freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic waterway where $3 trillion worth of goods passes every year.
Critics, however, say the agreement to talk on the details of the code of conduct is only an incremental move, with a possible final agreement still years away.
While Li did not give a timeframe, Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, who was chairing the regional summit, said China was being pressed to set a specific date and that Beijing responded it would “consider really fast-tracking” the code of conduct.
“China has graciously agreed to a code of conduct and it binds itself to the agreement,” Duterte said.
The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.
All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established but critics say the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable, or have a dispute resolution mechanism, raises doubts about how effective the pact will be.
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN, some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China’s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands. China claims most of the waterway and has been aggressively building and militarizing artificial islands.
China’s official news agency Xinhua said in a commentary that the pact to hold consultations on the code of conduct was “a new starting point to jointly build a sea of peace, stability and prosperity”.
Additional reporting by Karen Lema and Manny Mogato in Manila; Editing by Angus MacSwan
Source: Reuters “South China Sea code of conduct talks to be ‘stabilizer’ for region: China premier”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
The US instigated the Philippines to file an arbitration case at Hague and enabled the Philippines to obtain an arbitration award to entirely deny China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea. It sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept the arbitration but China was not scared. It responded with the resolution to fight a war to defend its rights and interests.
The US had to give up as it does not want a war with China for others’ rights and interests.
Entirely disappointed, Philippine President Duterte sought recovery of friendship with China at the expense of the US.
To contain China with the South China Sea disputes, US hope lies on Vietnam as China has forced it to stop drilling for oil and gas in the disputed waters and thus upset it.
However, Vietnamese media’s good response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s article on Vietnamese Communist Party’s mouthpiece quashed US hope in pitting Vietnam against China.
Seeing that no countries in Southeast China support US stance on enforcing Hague arbitration, US President Trump was wise to quickly change its stance. According to Reuters’ report “Trump offers to mediate on South China Sea” yesterday, the US has now thrown Hague arbitration award to the rubbish bin and offered its mediation or arbitration to resolve South China Sea disputes specifically the disputes between Vietnam and China when Trump met with his Vietnamese counterpart.
Trump’s offer was soon indirectly rejected by Chinese and Vietnamese communist party general secretaries Xi Jinping and Nguyen Phu Trong according to Reuters’ another report “Vietnam, China avoid quarrel over South China Sea during visit” the same day. Since quarrel is to be avoided, there certainly will be no quarrel to be resolved by mediation or arbitration.
There will in fact be no quarrel on disputes in the South China Sea when US President Trump does not interfere just like the time when Trump’s predecessor had not started his interference.
Obama interfered in order to contain China. Does Trump not want to contain China?
I will give an answer in my next post “Non-Moron’s Advice to Moron: Replacing Asia-Pacific with Indo-Pacific”.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ reports, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-trump-asia-vietnam/trump-offers-to-mediate-on-south-china-sea-idUSKBN1DC04H and http://www.reuters.com/article/us-vietnam-china/vietnam-china-avoid-quarrel-over-south-china-sea-during-visit-idUSKBN1DC0P7.
Reuters report “China tests new dredger capable of South China Sea projects: state media” on November 5 says, “Some experts say China will land its first deployments of jet fighters onto its runways in the Spratly islands in coming months.”
Are Reuters and its experts so ignorant of the developments in the South China Sea? China has deployed fighter jets and other warplanes on its artificial islands since at least mid 2016. On top are CSIS’s satellite photos dated May 24, 2016, May 22, 2016 and June 1, 2016 showing Chinese warplanes on its Spratly Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross artificial islands.
With such ignorant reporters and experts, how can Reuters provide its readers with news based on facts!
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which is reblogged below:
China tests new dredger capable of South China Sea projects: state media
November 5, 2017 / 11:47 AM
BEIJING (Reuters) – China is testing a new dredger ship that will greatly enhance its land reclamation capabilities, a state media report said on Sunday, as the country continues to develop facilities in the South China Sea in a bid to strengthen its claims in the waters.
State-run Beijing News newspaper said the Tian Kun began water tests on Friday. A cutter suction dredger is a type of a ship used for large-scale projects to create or reclaim land.
“For example, there are many hard coral reefs on the sea floor of the South China Sea,” the paper quoted Zhang Xiaofeng, chief engineer for the vessel, as saying, adding the ship will be put into service sometime in the first half of 2018.
Recent satellite images show that China has quietly undertaken more construction and reclamation in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, in a bid to strengthen its grip despite objections from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam as well as the United States.
Some experts say China will land its first deployments of jet fighters onto its runways in the Spratly islands in coming months. (underline by this blogger)
The United States is concerned China’s construction of islands and military buildup in the waters could be used to restrict free nautical movement. Its ships have carried out freedom of navigation patrols in the area, angering China.
The subject could come up when Trump visits Beijing next week as part of his 12-day Asia trip and meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, though North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile tests are expected to feature more prominently in talks.
“The South China Sea issue isn’t an issue between China and the United States,” China Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told reporters on Friday, adding there is no issue with freedom of navigation in the region and that China has indisputable sovereignty over islands and surrounding waters.
Reporting by Se Young Lee and Fang Cheng; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
I have described in my previous posts the unqualified failure of Obama’s pivot to Asia in containing China:
Its intervention with China’s disputes with China’s neighbors resulting in China’s construction and militarization of artificial islands and winning over the Philippines. Now, the South China Sea can be regarded as China’s lake.
America’s only hope of having Vietnam confronting China has been lost as Vietnam has mended fence with China.
SCMP says in its report “Beijing and Hanoi try to ease South China Sea tensions as Xi Jinping prepares for tussle with Trump for influence in region” yesterday that China and Vietnam have reached agreement to manage their disputes in the South China Sea.
SCMP quotes China’s Assistant foreign minister Chen Xiaodong as saying, “Both sides will uphold the principle of friendly consultations and dialogue to jointly manage and control maritime disputes, and protect the bigger picture of developing Sino-Vietnam relations and stability in the South China Sea.”
What he said was confirmed by the Vietnamese side.
SCMP says, “In a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Hanoi on Thursday (November 2), Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said both sides should avoid actions that would complicate the dispute.
It is only natural for Vietnam to do so, given its close economic relations with China.
“China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said on Friday that China would seek to deepen economic cooperation with Vietnam, adding that its investments in the country had reached US$150 billion this year, ” said SCMP in the report.
Previously, Vietnam wanted to diversify its economic reliance through Obama’s TPP, but Trump has scrapped TPP and dashed Vietnam’s hope to pieces.
Judging by what White House Chief Staff John Kelly said about China in his interview with Fox’s Laura Ingraham, Trump seems to have no intention to contain China. However, lots of influential Americans are deep in Thucydides Trap and want very much to contain China.
Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has visited India to establish alliance with India to contain China, especially to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative.
That is why according to SCMP, the US has begun to use the term “Indo-Pacific”. Yes, containing China in the South China Sea has failed but US and Indian navies can cut China’s trade lifelines in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
That will force China to conduct arms race with the US in earnest as China regard it as a threat. However, the US regards China’s efforts to make its military strong as a threat so that the two countries will be engaged in arms race in earnest. Can Xi Jinping and Trump replace the arms race with win-win cooperation?
Comment 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/2118315/beijing-and-hanoi-try-ease-south-china-sea-tensions-xi.
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.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) says in its report “Could drone that can deliver cargo to islets in South China Sea secure presence in disputed waters?” on October 27 that China conducts maiden flight of its new freight unmanned aerial vehicle AT200 for emergency delivery of goods to its islets in the South China Sea.
AT200 can carry 1.5 ton goods in its 10 cubic meters cargo compartment and has a range of 2,000km to reach the remotest area within China’s nine-dash line. It can take off and land on a runway of 200 meters and can even use dirt track or grass field for take off and landing at military facilities with no airfield.
If there is no space 200km for landing of the drone, China is developing an airdrop function for the drone to enable it to accurately drop goods onto a landing zone as small as 10 metres in diameter.
The drone is especially useful for delivery of military supplies quickly in poor weather.
Obviously, AT200 will further strengthen China’s control of the South China Sea.
Comment 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/2117438/drone-could-deliver-cargo-islets-south-china-sea-makes.