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How America Can Take Control in the South China Sea – by Alexander L. Vuving | Foreign Policy

13 February 2017

by Alexander L. Vuving | Foreign Policy – A simple playbook to prove China is all bark and no bite over its disputed islands. 

Photo Credit: TED ALJIBE/ Staff

Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief who just became the new U.S. secretary of state, might not be causing the same level of global disruption as his boss, President Donald Trump. But in his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 11, he sent shockwaves through the China-watching community, vowing: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

These remarks instantly gave rise to a global consensus that spanned hawks in China to doves in the West. An editorial in the Global Times, a prominent mouthpiece for Chinese nationalists, warned: “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating also reacted angrily, saying: “When the U.S. secretary of state-designate threatens to involve Australia in war with China, the Australian people need to take note. That is the only way Rex Tillerson’s testimony that a ‘signal’ should be sent to China that ‘access to these islands is not going to be allowed’ and that U.S. allies in the region should be there ‘to show backup’ can be read.” From Beijing to Sydney, a consensus formed — Tillerson’s position has no basis in international law, is tantamount to an act of war, and does not make strategic sense. In short, opponents argue, the posture the new U.S. secretary of state proposed is legally baseless, politically dangerous, and practically ineffectual.

This consensus rests on the belief that China is both willing and able to go to war over serious provocation. But this misreads Tillerson’s proposal and misunderstands the complex realities of the South China Sea. A naval blockade is not the only way to achieve Tillerson’s objectives, and China has a large stake in avoiding war with the United States in the region.

To see this, we need to use a “whole of capabilities” lens that is less U.S.-centric. From this perspective, Tillerson’s suggestion would not boil down to a military blockade as most commentators assume. Instead, the United States and its partners potentially have at their disposal a full spectrum of actions including diplomatic negotiations and economic sanctions and kinetic constraints that, directly or indirectly, can prevent further island building and Chinese militarization of those islands.

One such action is targeted sanctions against individuals and companies that support, facilitate, or participate in Beijing’s illegitimate operations in the South China Sea. The bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio last December exemplifies this approach. It would impose asset freezes and travel bans on people and entities who “contribute to construction or development projects” in the contested areas and those who “threaten the peace, security or stability” of the South China Sea or East China Sea. It would also prohibit actions that may imply American recognition of Chinese sovereignty over the contested areas in these seas and restrict foreign assistance to countries that recognize China’s sovereignty there. These primary sanctions could be augmented by secondary sanctions against those who do business with the offenders. The Rubio bill may or may not be adopted, but targeted sanctions remain an important tool to indirectly cause changes in China’s behavior.

A more direct option would be for the United States and its partners to borrow a page from China’s own playbook and emulate its “cabbage” tactic in denying Beijing’s access to the South China Sea islands. The cabbage tactic consists of wrapping contested islands in multiple layers of Chinese military and paramilitary power. Like the Chinese cabbage, the anti-China cabbage would also have three layers, surrounding the targeted islands with private civilian boats in the inner circle, followed by law enforcement vessels in the outer circle, all protected by warships over the horizon.

The anti-China coalition couldn’t match China’s use of paramilitary maritime militias in such operations. But it could invite civilian volunteers to man the first line of defense. Rather than shooting down Chinese aircraft and mining Chinese ports, the coalition can use drones — both unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles — launched from civilian and coast guard ships to seal off the entry to China’s airstrips and harbors on the fake islands.

Contrary to common belief, these actions can be fully consistent with international law. If China does not recognize your rights to freedom of the seas, you have the right to restrict China’s freedom in return. The Permanent Court of Arbitration award from last July, which is now an integral part of international law despite Chinese rejection, has ruled as illegitimate China’s “nine-dash line” claims in the South China Sea, its occupation of Mischief Reef, its denial of access to Scarborough Shoal, its island building in the Spratlys, and its harassment of others in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

But the court does not possess the tools to enforce its rulings, so it’s up to the members of the international community to act on behalf of the common interest and to induce China to comply with its obligations. Fortunately, international law allows countries to conduct countermeasures against wrongful acts. As James Kraska, a professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College, has argued, challenging China’s rights to access its artificial islands is consistent with international law. After all, it’s fair game to do to China what China has done to others.

Many are concerned that regardless of its legality, blocking China’s access to its occupied islands would amount to an act of war and risk armed conflict as a response. This fear is overblown, however. When China blocked others’ access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal, nobody called it an act of war and no armed conflict ensued. Taking a leaf from China’s own book, the cabbage tactic of access denial would mute the casus belli and discourage Beijing from going to war.

Still, there is concern that, driven by the pressure of nationalist public opinion and in an effort to maintain national image and domestic legitimacy, Chinese leaders may escalate the conflict and engage in war with the United States. But as Jessica Weiss, a leading expert of Chinese nationalism, found in her study of China’s nationalist protests, nationalist public opinion is more of a tool in the government’s hands to signal resolve than a driving force of Beijing’s assertive foreign policy. A more recent analysis by Alastair Iain Johnston, a professor of Chinese foreign policy at Harvard University, also comes to a similar conclusion, showing a decline of nationalism among ordinary citizens since 2009.

As the weaker party and the party that depends far more on traffic in the South China Sea, China actually has a larger stake in avoiding war in this region than the United States does. Indeed, avoiding large-scale conflict is one of the imperatives of China’s long-term strategy in the South China Sea. China has become more aggressive in recent years because of a U.S. deterrence deficit in the gray areas between war and peace. Beijing’s preference for gray-zone activities is also a testament to the working of nuclear and conventional deterrence. The trick of avoiding war while getting China to comply with international law lies in a two-pronged approach that skillfully combines the strengths of sticks with those of carrots while neutralizing their weaknesses.

In considering conflict over the islands, we don’t have to imagine China and the U.S. military as the only parties involved; a full range of actions and players exists, including sanctions, negotiations, regional countries, and international civil society. It might be tricky in the current diplomatic climate, but in the best possible world, the combined effect of actions on this full spectrum has a good chance of persuading China to comply with international law, especially if it involves a concerted effort of the United States, major powers such as Japan and India, and regional states such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

Commenting on Tillerson’s remarks, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said: “If [the United States] wants to do that, they have the force to do so, let them do it.” A cabbage approach to deny China’s access to Scarborough Shoal or Mischief Reef would be more legitimate and effective if it involved the Philippine Coast Guard and civilian volunteers from the Philippines and other countries. Southeast Asian states often hedge between America and China with a tilt toward the one that is more powerful and more committed to them. If the Trump administration increases U.S. presence in the South China Sea, is committed to defending the Philippines as much as Japan and South Korea, and refrains from criticizing Manila’s domestic agenda, it could sway the pragmatic President Rodrigo Duterte to back the United States.

Targeted sanctions against Chinese persons and companies involved in projects in the South China Sea would also be much more effective if they were supported not only by the United States but also by other major economies and regional states. With its large state sector, China is particularly vulnerable to targeted sanctions. Its construction and development projects in the South China Sea have involved several large state-owned companies that are eager to make profit abroad. If designed cleverly, sanctions could hit hard big companies such as China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which moved a giant oil rig to drill in the Vietnamese EEZ in 2014; China Southern and Hainan airlines, which fly planes to the artificial islands; China Mobile, China Telecom, and China United Telecom, which operate communication networks on the disputed islands; and China Communications Construction Company, which dredged sand to build artificial islands in the Spratlys — thereby creating an incentive inside China to drop its illegitimate claims in the South China Sea.

Signaling a readiness to prevent Chinese island building and restrict China’s access to the fake islands is the logical response if the United States really wants to restore deterrence in the South China Sea. Part of the failure to put a limit on China’s expansion lies in the myth of an ever-looming war with China, which makes the use of logical deterrents unthinkable. This creates a self-restraint that is not only unnecessary but also strategically disastrous.

 Alexander L. Vuving is a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of the U.S. government or any U.S. government agencies.

 (This article is originally published at Foreign Policy)


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The South China Sea Is Not China’s – Gareth Evans | Project Syndicate

28 July 2016

(MELBOURNE – Gareth Evans | Project Syndicate) – To no one’s surprise, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has upheld all the key arguments of the Philippines in its case against China on the application of theUnited Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the South China Sea. In its ruling, which employed even tougher language than most expected, the tribunal cut the legal heart out of China’s claim that the sea is, in effect, a Chinese lake.


Poll to change the South China Sea name to Southeast Asia Sea (C) Change.org

The PCA ruled that China’s “nine-dash line,” a 1940s-era delineation that implies ownership by China of 80% of the South China Sea, is legally meaningless. It also made clear that China’s recent land-reclamation activity, turning submerged or otherwise uninhabitable reefs into artificial islands with airstrips or other facilities, confers no new rights to the surrounding waters or any authority to exclude others from sailing or
flying nearby.

Official Chinese statements on the nine-dash line have never stated precisely what it is intended to encompass. Some refer to “historic rights,” others to “traditional Chinese fishing grounds,” while still others suggest that it is merely shorthand for describing all the land features in the South China Sea over which China claims sovereignty. But every variation has provoked others in the region, by signaling China’s willingness to encroach on perceived fishing rights (as with Indonesia), rights to exploit resources (as with Vietnam), or their own rights to the land-features in question

The PCA’s decision punctures any notion that international law now recognizes “traditional” or “historic” maritime claims not directly associated with recognized sovereign ownership of relevant types of land. Recognized ownership of a habitable island, as with mainland territory, includes a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone or EEZ and rights over any associated continental shelf (subject to any overlapping rights of others).

Recognized ownership of an uninhabitable rock or permanently protruding reef includes the surrounding 12-nautical-mile territorial sea. Nothing more. Without land, a state cannot claim rights to the sea.

China can and will continue to claim that, despite competing claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, and others to the land features in question, it is the sovereign owner of habitable islands and permanently protruding rocks or reefs in the Spratly and Paracel Island groups and elsewhere. In making its case, it can invoke accepted legal criteria like effective occupation or acquiescence. When added to its own coastal entitlements, China might well end up with a sizeable and entirely defensible set of rights in the South China Sea.

But the PCA addressed none of these underlying sovereignty issues in the Philippines case. And, crucially, even if all of China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea were one day accepted – whether through negotiation, arbitration, or adjudication – the total area, including territorial sea, EEZs, and continental-shelf rights, would still not approach the size of the vast zone encompassed by the nine-dash line.

The PCA’s decision also rules out China’s claim to an unlimited right to pursue and stare down any close surveillance of its massive reclamation activity and construction of military-grade airstrips, supply platforms, communications facilities, and in some cases gun emplacements. Such construction has occurred on seven previously unoccupied locations in the Spratlys: Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, Gaven Reef, and Hughes Reef (all previously submerged at high tide), and Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef (all previously part-exposed at high tide, but uninhabitable).

Under UNCLOS, states may construct artificial islands and installations within their own EEZs, and also on the high seas (but only for peaceful purposes). In neither case can this have the legal effect of turning a previously submerged reef into a “rock” (which might allow a 12-mile territorial sea to be claimed), or an uninhabitable rock into an “island” (which might allow for a 200-mile EEZ as well). The Philippines case confirmed these basic principles.

In doing so, the PCA also made clear that China had no right whatsoever – at least in the case of the previously submerged Mischief Reef – to engage in any construction activity, as the territory it claims is within the Philippines’ EEZ.

China seems unlikely to abandon occupancy of any island, reef, or rock where it currently has a toehold, or to stop insisting on its sovereign ownership of most of the South China Sea’s land features. But everyone with an interest in ensuring regional stability should encourage China to take several steps that would not cause it to lose face.

These steps include a halt to overtly military construction on its seven new artificial islands in the Spratlys; not starting any new reclamation activity on contested features like the Scarborough Shoal; ceasing to refer to the “nine-dash line” as anything other than a rough guide to the land features over which it continues to claim sovereignty; submitting these claims at least to genuine give-and-take negotiation, and preferably to arbitration or adjudication; advancing negotiations with ASEAN on a code of conduct for all parties in the South China Sea; and an end to dividing and destabilizing ASEAN by putting pressure on its weakest links, Cambodia and Laos, on this issue.

The alternative course, already being promoted by hotheads in the People’s Liberation Army, is to take a dramatically harder line by, say, renouncing UNCLOS altogether and declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over most of the South China Sea. Declaring an ADIZ, which the United States would certainly ignore, would sharply increase the likelihood of military incidents, with wholly unforeseeable consequences.

Walking away from UNCLOS would also be wrongheaded. China would still be effectively bound by its terms, now almost universally recognized as customary international law, irrespective of who adheres to it. The gesture of defiance would damage both its reputation and other territorial interests, not least its claims against Japan in the East China Sea, which rely on UNCLOS’s continental-shelf provisions.

If China takes a hardline path, or fails to moderate its behavior significantly in the months ahead, the case for further international pushback by countries like mine – including freedom-of-navigation voyages within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef and other artificial islands in that category – will become compelling. But right now it is in everyone’s interest to give China some space to adjust course and to reduce, rather than escalate, regional tensions.

This article is originally published on Project Syndicate.

 

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China’s accelerated militarisation in the South China Sea – by Choe Nam-suk – Korea IT Times

03 April 2016

Korea IT Times – Right on the threshold of the US-ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Sunnylands on February 15 and 16, where US President Barack Obama raised concerns about China flouting international law in the East Sea with its militarising activities, China did challenge public opinion by deploying HQ-9 missiles on Phu Lam (Woody Island) in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

That threatening behavior was officially condemned by Vietnam and the US. Vietnam sent a diplomatic note to protest China’s violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa archipelago. At the same time it proposed that the UN circulate the diplomatic note among diplomatic missions at its agencies.

On February 23, Reuters carried a story saying that recent satellite images showed that China may be installing a high-frequency radar system in Chau Vien (Cuarteron) Reef, one of the seven entities in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago that were illegally occupied by China in 1988 and 1995. Two radar towers may have been built by China in the northern and southern portions of Chau Vien Reef. High-frequency radar installations would enable China to bolster its ability to illegally monitor air and marine traffic and activities from the Malacca Strait to the East Sea. Similar radar systems, together with helicopter pads and gun emplacements, may have been installed in Ga Ven (Gaven Reef), Tu Nghia (Hughes Reef), and Gac Ma (Johnson South Reef).

The information came a day before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in the US. Meanwhile, the Chinese People’s Daily was equivocal about the possibility of its country’s deployment of four SU-35s, the first batch purchased from Russia, to “patrol the East Sea”.

All these moves are trampling on international law, including the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.

1. How did China spark tensions in the East Sea?

In 1947, the Chinese administration drew the so-called “dot-line”, claiming its “sovereignty” over more than 80 percent of the East Sea. This claim is also called the “U-shaped” or the “cow-tongue” line.

The “cow-tongue” line includes Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes, sovereignty over whom was established and exercised in an uninterrupted, peaceful and legitimate manner by the Vietnamese State from the 17th century, when they were not subject to any public or individual ownership. The line also encompasses the exclusive economic zones and continental shelves belonging to Vietnam as well as other littoral countries in the East Sea as prescribed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, to which China is a signatory country.

 

The introduction of the “cow-tongue” line formed part of China’s attempts to expand its boundaries with the use of force. Earlier, China launched bloody naval attacks to invade the western portion of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago in 1974 after illegally occupying a cluster of islands in the eastern area of the archipelago in 1956.

In March 1988, China dispatched troops to invade six entities belonging to Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago. The move came amid China’s war on Vietnam’s northern border, which started on February 17, 1979, still not ended.

The two fierce naval fights claimed the lives of 74 Vietnamese in Hoang Sa in 1974 and 64 others in Truong Sa in 1988. Today, similar actions are likely to be repeated as China is pursuing a scheme to scale up militarisation in the East Sea.

In 2014, China’s illegal placement of its oilrig Haiyang Shiyou 981 in Vietnam’s legitimate exclusive economic zone and continental shelf triggered a terrible crisis in the two countries’ relationship. The action, however, created a diversion, allowing Chinese vessels to sail to the seven entities China illegally acquired in 1988 and 1995 in Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago and conduct a massive land reclamation to develop man-made islands.

2. China has been unilaterally occupying the East Sea using force and threats:

The use of force and threats to use force are the main paths China has taken to actualise its scheme to control the East Sea.

China deployed forces three times in invading Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago:

– In 1909, China launched a force-backed blitz on several islands in Hoang Sa archipelago for the first time, debuting its involvement in a dispute over the sovereignty of this archipelago with Vietnam;

– In 1956, the People’s Republic of China took advantage of the transitional time for territorial management rights under the Geneva Accord to dispatch a military force to secretly take up the eastern portion of Hoang Sa archipelago;

– In 1974, when the US troops were forced to leave Vietnam and the US-backed army of the Republic of Vietnam was weakened, China acquired the western part of Hoang Sa archipelago with military force.

For Truong Sa archipelago:

– In 1946, when Japan disarmed its military as ordered by the US and other allied forces, the Chinese administration took advantage of the situation and sent a fleet, commanded by Admiral Lin Zun, to Truong Sa archipelago to take over a number of islands, including Ba Binh (Itu Aba Island). The event marked China’s initiation of a sovereignty claim with Vietnam over Truong Sa archipelago;

– In 1988, the People’s Republic of China used force to seize six shoals and reefs, which almost were submerged, in the northwestern area of Truong Sa;

– In 1995, the People’s Republic of China dispatched forces to occupy Vanh Khan (Mischief  Reef), which was held by the Philippines then, in the northern portion of Truong Sa.

Immediately after taking over Hoang Sa and part of Truong Sa, irrespective of responses from Vietnam and regional and international communities, China has continually embarked on construction and expansion on occupied features to turn them into offensive military bases providing services for attacks to be launched from Hainan to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. With these activities, China aimed to develop these occupied entities in the two archipelagoes into unsinkable “aircraft carriers” in the East Sea. Recent reclamation work to create islands and turn shoals in Truong Sa into man-made islands, and build airstrips, port wharfs, outposts and trenches there has bred concern from the public. Other activities undertaken by China that are worrying the public are the deployment of more soldiers, weapons and vehicles in key positions in the two archipelagoes – in particular the installation of modern surface-to-air missiles in Hoang Sa and high-frequency radar in Chau Vien. These moves unveiled a scheme to militarise the East Sea, which China has long sought to conceal from the international public through excuses and promises.  It even tried to implicate other countries in that scheme. The above-said activities have definitely served China’s attempt to monopolise the East Sea by force and by threats of force. With these activities, China aims to use the East Sea as a springboard to achieve its dream to replace the US as a world superpower.

With these moves, China has showed that it has always used force or threatened to use force to monopolise the East Sea. In the coming time, if responses and policies by regional and international countries see no progress, China will make other moves, including dispatching more military forces and war vehicles to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. In the short run, China will demonstrate its strength to scare weaker countries in the region if the superpower countries maintain their might in a balanced manner. This is meant to challenge concerned countries like the US, Japan and Australia. China could use its power to expand the area it illegally occupied in Truong Sa or acquire a number of shoals in the East Sea where military forces are absent; monitor and control air and marine traffic in the East Sea; hinder law-abiding oil and gas production, and fishing operations conducted by regional countries; and continue conducting natural resource research activities. It’s likely that China will carry out oil and gas exploitation in several oil blocks lying within the continental shelves of Vietnam or other countries bordering the East Sea.

Regarding diplomacy and communication, China keeps applying the “stick and carrot” tactic, as well as making more promises to please the public. It will use political and economic relations to buy, divide and pressure the public so it can easily implement the motto “peaceful rise”.

3. What is the purpose of China’s recent activities?

3.1. A current priority that China is pursuing is to take control of all international air and marine activities through the East Sea as soon as possible. In the meantime, public opinion is divided on whether China will establish the “Air Defense Identification Zone” (ADIZ) in the East Sea or not.

China has explained that it applied the ADIZ for the East China Sea with the aim to control and prevent international surface and marine crossing in the sea and considered it a military measure taken to win a territorial claim in the East China Sea. If the zone is applied for the East Sea, it will serve China’s ambitious “cow-tongue” claim in the waters. From what happened in the East China Sea, China realised that if it announces the ADIZ for the East Sea now, it will be strongly protested by the international community. However, there is a possibility that when it finds the time and conditions are ripe, China will ignore public opinion as it did recently in the East Sea and debut the ADIZ in the area, likely for Hoang Sa archipelago first.

3.2. The fresh deployment of the surface-to-air missile system in Phu Lam island of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago is one of the military escalations thoughtfully calculated and taken by China in a well-designed scenario to monopolise the East Sea, which could enable it to rise and take over the US’s role as the world superpower. Public opinion is hardly alien to the military moves that China had taken or is taking in the East Sea. Of course, there are also those who are “thoughtless”, intentionally turning a blind eye, supporting and extolling the move in exchange for economic and political gain. At present, though, militarisation has triggered worries and disagreement, and a number of countries have promptly voiced their condemnation for the following reasons:

China has deployed the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile in Phu Lam Island of Hoang Sa archipelago

– It is a continuous, serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa archipelago, defying international law and disrespecting political commitments reached between the two countries, aside from Chinese leaders’ commitments to the regional and international communities that “China is not militarising the East Sea and pledges to work together with the ASEAN community to create a Code of Conduct soon”. This has again helped the public realize that what China has done is not what China said it would do. It clearly showed that China is inconsistent in its attitude in international relations, not to say irresponsible, as it is in its role as one of the most powerful countries in the world. Complications are taking place and people are on the brink of war due to disputes pertaining to borders; territory; religion; race; and geo-political, geo-economic and strategically geographical interests between countries, especially super powers, and the fight for interests among international arms traders.

– It can be said that this action manifested China’s military threat that targeted ASEAN countries at a time when inter-bloc relations and the relations between ASEAN and the US are enjoying gains, especially after the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Summit. These gains are not welcomed by China, as they will likely hinder China’s efforts to implement its ambitious “China dream”.

– It can be said that with this adventurous military action, China challenged and sent a warning to countries outside the region, especially the US, Japan, India and Australia, which are making efforts to counter China’s attempts to control and prevent international surface and marine operations through the East Sea by sending warships and surveillance crafts to operate in the radius of 12 nautical miles surrounding the submerged shoals and reefs currently occupied by China.

– The above-mentioned move clearly constitutes a new military escalation of extreme danger, disclosing the East Sea militarisation strategy that China has endeavored to hide. This poses a real danger to defense and security of the East Sea-shared countries, directly that of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, and threatens marine and aviation security and safety in the East Sea. That situation would definitely lead to a new arms race, in which countries will purchase more arms equipment and vehicles to fortify their defense capacity to protect their rights and interests. And that situation will trigger possible clashes and conflicts in the East Sea.

As analysed above, this action has clearly posed a serious threat to sovereignty and interests of countries surrounding the East Sea – especially Vietnam, a country with sovereignty over Hoang Sa archipelago, which is illegally being occupied by China and where China is brazenly positioning its war vehicles. This move infringed on Vietnam’s sovereignty, put the country’s defense and security under threat, hampered the traffic and natural resource exploitation being undertaken by Vietnam in its legally recognised waters, and threatened the life and assets of Vietnamese fishermen.

4. What should Vietnam and other countries do to deal with that situation?

4.1. Before this action, we couldn’t do anything but voice our strong and clear opposition through the highest diplomatic channels. Vietnam should send a diplomatic note to the UN requesting it to intervene and take tough measures against China. It’s time for the UN to join in protecting its Charter and international law in the East Sea. Under the light of international conventions, especially the UN Charter, the 1974 Hoang Sa and 1988 Gac Ma events featured serious violations of international law, especially as China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

More dangerous was the likely repetition of the use of force and the threat to use force in the East Sea. That could harm not just Vietnam, but also the entire Southeast Asia and many other countries around the world who rely on the maritime route through the East Sea.

The UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) have never been brazenly challenged and trampled as China has done in the East Sea, regardless of protests from concerned parties.

Even international tribunals like the one established under UNCLOS 1982’s appendix VII, which is processing the Philippines’s lawsuit against China in the East Sea, are being disrespected and opposed by China.

If we let China continue taking aggressive action in the East Sea that threaten other countries and disregard international law built to protect peace worldwide, it is likely that Beijing will throw basic principles and universal values of humankind, as well as the UN Charter, into the rubbish bin.

It’s time for concerned parties like Vietnam, the US, the Philippines and Japan to raise their voices at UN forums to deter destructive consequences of escalating tensions in the East Sea and protect laws and justice, especially concerning the UN court that is handling the Philippines’ lawsuit against China in the East Sea.

I believe that the Barack Obama administration would consider taking the East Sea issue to the UN Security Council and other forums. Justice and public opinion are as important and efficient as the weapons China has positioned in the East Sea, but the remaining issues are to have unanimity, unity and joint action.

4.2. Vietnam should step up communication campaigns in and beyond its borders to help the public grasp a thorough understanding of China’s militarising operations in the East Sea. It should point out that these actions violate international law, and threaten security, peace, and marine and air freedom in the East Sea. It should also confirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. This would garner international friends’ support and create an internal consensus in the fight to defend the country’s sea and island sovereignty, and promote the peace-loving spirit. On the other hand, we should be prepared and remain ready, even with our forces, for the worst circumstances that could arise.

4.3. Vietnam needs to reinforce cooperation and push ASEAN member countries to build and implement measures to build trust. It should deliver initiatives to maintain the status quo, hinder conflicts, and maintain peace, stability, and aviation and maritime freedom in the East Sea.

4.4. Vietnam also needs to rally the nation’s strength for the protection of the country’s sea and island sovereignty, along with reinforcing its defenses, boosting the defensive capacity of its forces, and increasing the legal fight through diplomatic channels and proper international arbitrators to protect its legitimate sovereignty and interests in the East Sea against China’s unilateral actions infringing its national interests and sovereignty in the waters. These are strategic and decisive solutions.

This article is originally published  at Korea IT Times

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Second test flights performed at Nansha Islands

China determined to project forces in the South China Sea – Bang Tran | Futura Institute

27 January 2016

China’s expansion in the South China Sea: From small steps to a giant leap

On January 2, 2016, a Chinese Cessna Citation Sovereign 680 landed on the airfield on Fiery Cross Reef, one of the 7 features occupied by China in Spratly Islands. On January 6, China carried out test flights of two large commercial airliners at this newly built airfield,. People cannot help but wonder how that could happen on a submerged feature by nature. Indeed, the airfield was not built in one day; eventually the work already began in 1987.

Second test flights performed at Nansha Islands

Airbus A319 (China Southern Airlines) and Boeing B737 (Hainan Airlines) on Fiery Cross Reef. Jan 6, 2016. ©Xinhua

According to IHS Jane’s report and CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, in March 1987, China agreed to build 5 weather monitoring stations, including one in the South China Sea, for an UNESCO project. China used this to justify its occupation of features in Spratly Islands. The Chinese occupation of features led to confrontations with Vietnam. The most serious incident was the March 1988 Johnson Reef skirmish where Chinese navy attacked, killed 64 Vietnamese, sunk 3 Vietnamese ships and finally occupied Johnson South Reef. Aftermath, China moved quickly to consolidate its presence. By the end of 1988, China had occupied six reefs and atolls in the Spratly Islands. In 1990, China built a two-story concrete structure on Fiery Cross Reef, believed to be an observation post, and then added a helipad as well as a pier shortly. Within 14 years, China had added to the facility a soldier’s garrison, a helipad, a wharf, a greenhouse, communication equipment and coastal artillery.

August 14, 2014

Fiery Cross Reef, August 14, 2014. © CSIS

September 3, 2015

Fiery Cross Reef, September 3, 2015. © CSIS

It was the turning point in summer 2014 when China started land reclamation in all of 7 occupied features, and then accelerated with the completion of airstrips and ports. However, this went unnoticed as the world was distracted by the Hysy-981 standoff, which happened at the same time as China started to speed up work in Fiery Cross Reef as well as in other 6 features. One year later, from small military outposts, China had built bases that can be used for both civilian and military forces. In the near future, once all the facilities are installed, the artificial islands would become strategic bases for China to control and project forces to the South China Sea.

Strategic values of the artificial islands: securing China’s core interests

With all Paracel islands and the 7 artificial islands in Spratly islands, which are much larger than all the natural ones in Spratly islands, China now holds a strategic position in the South China Sea. The airstrips and ports can serve as logistics and frontier command posts for intelligence, patrol and force projection. Before the construction of airstrips and large ports, China was unable to control the South China Sea where China claims for almost all the waters despite the protest of ASEAN countries (Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei). Lacking of efficient air, navy tankers or long range systems, China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and Air force cannot operate thousand kilometers far from its farthest southern bases in Hainan with the current combat systems. The 3110m length, 200-300m width airstrips meet the requirements to support all kinds of aircrafts, from UAVs, fighters, early warning aircrafts to medium and heavy transport aircrafts.

Furthermore, the bases provide China facilities and the real ability to control a vast area next to its border, which is vital for its economy. China, the world second largest economy, imports more and more fossil fuel and natural resources from Africa and Middle East. The lion share of China’s import and export pass through the South China Sea, Malacca strait and Indian Ocean. Without supports from coastal military bases, these sea lanes are vulnerable. Hence, China would need to secure these lanes with its navy. Analysts believe that the sea ports in Malaysia (Klang), Myanmar (Sittwe and Kyaukpyu), Bangladesh (Chittagong), Sri Lanka (Hambantota and Colombo), and Pakistan (Gwadar) could play a bigger role rather than commercial ports, especially in crisis. Those who do not believe in the “spring of pearls” strategy develop a theory saying that China is not able to build military bases in South and Southeast Asian countries, at least in short or mid-term, due to the “swing” policy of these countries. Also, as the matter of fact, China does not have sufficient experience and technology in that area. They might be right but in reality China still continues building ports wherever they can for potential military purpose. To date, China has established bases in Paracel and Spratly islands and continues to negotiate with Djibouti to set up a military base.

Other than territorial claim and maritime transport security, China might want to keep away threats coming from other global and regional powers such as the US and India far from its border. The bases in Paracel and Spratly islands allow China to access to the deep blue waters. 30 years on, China has been building its navy from a near shore, purely defensive force to a blue sea navy. The announcement of building indigenously a new aircraft carrier is merely the emerging part of an iceberg. China has reorganized and modernized not only the PLA structure but also its defense technology and industrial base. Without a comprehensive organization, the PLA in general and the PLA Navy in particular, does not have any chance to neither challenge the US in the Pacific and Indian oceans nor dominate the regional powers’ navies.

In the South China Sea, the 7 artificial islands occupied by China is the real game changer. Before the land reclamation in 2014, these outposts were small, isolated and ill-supplied. They could be accessed by helicopters and maritime supply ships only. Upon the completion of airfield, ports and necessary military equipment, it fully unleashes the potential of those artificial islands. In war time, especially short and local scale war, military aircrafts and warships from Fiery Cross Reef and Cuarteron Reef could deny access between the southern part and the central part of Spratly islands. And in a very short time, the bases in Subi, Hughes, Gaven, Johnson and Mischief Reefs could effectively overwhelm the much less powerful Vietnamese or Philippines outposts in the center of Spratly islands. In such scenario, if China succeeded to isolate and overwhelm parts of Spratly islands, they could rapidly take over a large number of features in Spratly islands in a considerable short time, before any agreement of ceasefire. There is a chance for such scenario given what happened in Paracels islands in 1956 and 1974, Spratly islands in 1988 and 1995, and in Scarborough Shoal in 2012, where China all gained control and access.

China’s commitment: DOC and the future of COC?

In 2002, China and ASEAN members signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). In the DOC, China and ASEAN member states declared to “reaffirm their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and other universally recognized principles of international law which shall serve as the basic norms governing state-to-state relations” and “ are committed to exploring ways for building trust and confidence in accordance with the above-mentioned principles and on the basis of equality and mutual respect”. China and ASEAN also committed to “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability”. However, in reality, since 2002, China law reinforcement force and China fishing boats have rammed, harassed and sunk Vietnamese fishing boats,,, fired at fishermen, cut the cable of Vietnamese survey boat, etc. In 2014, China anchored the Hysy-981 in the EEZ of Vietnam. And the most aggressive move is the land reclamation in summer 2014 in all 7 features occupied by China.

In the declaration, ASEAN and China reaffirmed that “the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability”. Given the actual situation in the South China Sea, the future of the COC is still unknown.

Bang Tran is president of X-Vietnam (Association of Vietnamese students of Ecole Polytechnique) and Futura Institute (a Paris-based think-tank on Asia-Pacific issues). Contact: bang.tran@polytechnique.org

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China’s expansionnism protested in France: Press release | Collectif Vietnam

25 January 2016

More than 300 Vietnamese and international friends of Collectif Vietnam gathered on January 23, 2016, in front of the Wall for Peace (Paris 7th) to call the international community to strongly protest against “Chinese expansionnism” in the South China Sea (” East Sea “for Vietnam,” West Philippine Sea” for the Philippines) to protect freedom of air and maritime navigation, as well as to avoid risk of war.

The appeal says that “;China, since 1974, has been violating Vietnam’s sovereignty, undermining respect for international law, and threatening the security, peace and freedom of navigation, not only to coastal countries but also to all countries with vessels circulating this route, including France and Europe”.

This gathering is the culmination of protest of 30 Vietnamese associations in France against China’s recent installation of the drilling platform HD-981 and against China’s test flights in the disputed area, respectively in the Gulf of Tonkin and Fiery Cross Reef (Chu Thap). These acts are considered “illegal” by the organizers according to the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

To recall, it was the fourth time since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 that the Vietnamese community and their international friends took to the streets of Paris to protest against the provocative actions of the Chinese government with the creation of the city “Tam Sa” in 2007, the violent incident between Vietnam drilling ships and those of China surveillance in 2011, the installation of China’s drilling platform in 2014 and in 2016, test flights and installation of another drilling platform. All of these incidents occurred in areas contested by several countries, especially China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

About South China Sea: The South China Sea is located in a strategic area in Southeast Asia, bringing together three main archipelagos (Paracels, Spratlys, Pratas), Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Reef. It is part of the sea routes and the busiest straits in the world. Several territorial conflicts have been observed in these areas. The Philippines has demanded for international justice at the Court of Arbitration in The Hague regarding their maritime disputes with China, challenging the legal basis of the territorial claims of China.

About Collectif Vietnam: Collectif Vietnam is a collective gathering of Vietnamese citizens or Vietnamese origin and Vietnam’s friends of all generations, living, studying and working in France, who support Vietnam.

Press Kit: https://goo.gl/Zm6wfH

Contact: Tuong Nguyen, Associate Editor, SEAS Issues (nhtuong@gmail.com)

Annex 1: Photos (cf. https://goo.gl/nWLkm5)

© Duc Truong, UGVF

© Duc Truong, UGVF

 

 © Duc Truong, UGVF

 © Hoai Tuong Nguyen, Future Institute

 

Annex 2: Videos

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Toward a freeze of five lighthouses in the South China Sea at ASEAN Regional Forum 2014 | Tuong Nguyen, SEAS Issues

09 August 2014

SEAS Issues/PARIS – According to the state-run China News Service, China’s Navigation Guarantee Center plans to build five lighthouses in the Paracels (including North Reef, Antelope Reef, Drummond Island, South Sand and Pyramid Rock). The plan has been announced as a response to the Triple Action Plan (TAP) of the Philippines and the joint stance of the Foreign ministers of Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam to freeze provocative and destabilizing acts in the South China Sea.


ASEAN Foreign Secretary in January 2014 at Bagan, Myanmar. Photo (C) AFP

The Chinese officials and experts said that “the lighthouse is a symbol of the country’s sovereignty in the islands”, and placing lighthouses will help boost the maritime navigation in the region because these reefs, islets are not on the detailed maps for civilian ships.

Yesterday, August 07, 2014, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly criticised that the move is illegal under the routine formula: “Vietnam has  indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos. Therefore, all Chinese activities in the two groups of islands are null and void”.

Today, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejects Philippines’s TAP and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defends China’s lighthouse plan: “China has long been building and maintaining lighthouses on its “inherent” islands and provides necessary measures relevant to international rules for navigational safety of vessels passing by.”

The US also call for a “freeze” on provocative acts, proposing that “when there are disagreements, the claimant states would decide among themselves what type of specific activities are considered provocative or out-of-bounds, offer to put a voluntary freeze on any such actions if other claimants would commit to do so likewise”.

This recent move in these small islets and reefs in Paracels occupied by force since 1974 by China and continuously claimed by Vietnam, shows Beijing’s ambition to assert its territorial claims in the disputed area. While the US hope that the Code of Conducts (COC) would be a particular topic of conversation at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on August 10 in Naypyidaw, the Philippines focus on their TAP to “freeze” China’s lighthouse plan.

Tuong Nguyen is a contributor at SEAS Issues and a free commentator on the South China Sea affairs on Global Post and Eurasia Review. The author would like to thank Thuy Linh Le and BDTP Group for the proof reading.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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In the heart of the Vietnam China standoff at sea – Eunice Yoon | CNBC

14 July 2014

 

Eunice Yoon | CNBC – It’s not often you get a chance to see one of the most dangerous flashpoints in Asia.

We went on a boat to the South China Sea to check out the latest standoff between Vietnam and China.

Hanoi believes that the waters near the Paracel Islands are part of Vietnam’s own economic zone. The Chinese, who control the Paracels, claim the waters. To make their point, in May, Chinese state oil companyCNOOC put an oil rig in the disputed waters, sparking a tense standoff.

The Vietnamese government, which is on a PR offensive against Beijing, organized the trip for a handful of other journalists. We were told it would take about one week and require that we transfer boats.

We cast off from the port city of Da Nang with the Vietnamese coast guard,traveled overnight, and by morning got a glimpse of the conflict. When we got up to the deck, we saw a Chinese warship.

As we drew nearer to the rig we switched boats. Our hosts said a bigger boat would better outrun the numerous Chinese vessels they expected we would face.

After jumping into a dingy, we sped across the open ocean to CSB-8003 – a 1,600 ton vessel – ordered by the Vietnamese authorities to patrol the area near the rig.

There, I met the crew of CSB-8003 led by Captain Hung Nguyen Van.

Every day, Captain Hung and his some 30 crewmen attempt to get their vessel close to the rig – and remind the Chinese that Vietnam still claims these waters. I was told that day the Chinese ships outmanned Vietnam’s 110 to 5 though the odds didn’t seem to deter Captain Hung.

Getty Images

“The rig is clearly inside Vietnam’s waters, Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and Vietnam’s continental shelf,” he said.

We headed towards the rig.

The HD-981 oil drilling platform is one football field long, 40 stories high and is said to be worth $1 billion according to CNOOC.

The lookout warned us that eight Chinese ships were headed towards CSB-8003.

We were eight nautical miles – 15 kilometers – from the rig when a Chinese coast guard vessel blocked our path. Another charged towards us.

The Vietnamese coast guard vessel blasted its recorded broadcast in English, Chinese and Vietnamese, warning the Chinese to cease drilling activities and leave the disputed waters. The broadcast had the opposite effect, making the Vietnamese a target.

On the horizon, Chinese reinforcements moved in. We soon found ourselves surrounded and were forced to fall back.

Close call

The next day, we watched a ceremony where the crew salutes Vietnam in front of local reporters who will broadcast the event across the country. Vietnam is facing its worst confrontation with China since the two countries went to war in 1979. Their government wants its people to know that Vietnam is prepared to stand up to China.

Many countries with coastlines along the South China Sea fear that as China gets wealthier and more powerful, the fight will become more unequal. They worry China wants to dominate the sea, its rich fishing, shipping lanes and potential energy resources. So they are all willing players in the endless cat and mouse game at sea.

Minutes later, duty calls and our vessel headed back to the rig.

A Chinese coast guard boat came hurtling towards us. The Vietnamese counted that it was one of nine Chinese ships suddenly on our tail. It was agile and moving fast – ready to collide at any moment. It got about 100 meters behind us before drifting back the further we sped away.

The smaller fishing surveillance ships are particularly vulnerable to ramming and water cannons, I was told.

One of the crew members, Colonel Tran Van Hau, told me that in early June, the Chinese attacked a ship he was on.

“At first, there was only one Chinese ship chasing after us, then there were two more ships on both sides of our boat. One Chinese ship accelerated with very high speed and hit the right side of the back of our boat directly. Then it sped up again and kept ramming our boat leaving four holes,” he explained.

But, to the Chinese, there is no question who the aggressor is at sea.

 

The view from China

Only a short flight from Vietnam, I find people in China have a completely different view of the standoff.

On Hainan Island, Chinese fishing communities thrive. The southern island is a launch pad for seafarers and naval forces heading into the South China Sea.

Veteran maritime scholar Dr. Wu Shicun of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies took me into the archives to show me numerous maps including a collection with U-shaped lines – often referred to as a “nine-dash line” – which Beijing believes outlines China’s territory in the South China Sea.

Dr. Wu said this is why China feels it has the right to place its oil rig close to the Paracels Islands and why they’re so angry Vietnam’s vessels have rammed their ships, they claim, more than one thousand times.

“What China is doing is to react to the ramming activities conducted by the Vietnamese,” he said. “What China is doing is to protect our oil rig.”

Currently the Paracels are in Chinese hands. China gained full control after defeating what was then South Vietnam in a battle in 1974. However, Vietnam, now unified, still claims the islands. And both countries have competing evidence to support their arguments.

Wu said Beijing believes the current standoff is Hanoi’s attempt at a land grab – by seeking sympathy from an international community adjusting to a rising China.

“The fact is that China now is becoming an influential power,” he said. “So China has [its] own interest to safeguard.”

Beijing sounds in

Over in Beijing, one of the government’s top maritime authorities said China feels it’s the victim. In a rare interview, a senior China diplomat on maritime affairs, Yi Xianliang, told us, China has been taken aback by Vietnam.

Beijing blames the U.S. for stirring up trouble at sea with its pivot to Asia – by emboldening neighbors like the Philippines and Vietnam to stand up to China.

Yi says Washington isn’t playing by the rules of an honest broker.

“The U.S. would like to be coach for some countries. [On] the other side, the U.S. would like to be a referee or a judge and sometimes the U.S. [is] like a sportsman or a player. So this gives us some confusion,” Yi said.

The U.S. has called on China to remove the rig and for all countries to withdraw their drops and resolve the tensions diplomatically.

Yi insists China will keep the rig where it is but hopes to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

“Of course, we will not push our Vietnam friends in the corner because this is not China’s style,” Yi said.

(Original version is available at CNBC)

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Vietnam, drilling rig, tensions in East Sea

“If you claim to be scientists, why act in unscientific manner?” – Hoang Tuong | VNA

07 June 2014

(VNA) Countering inaccurate allegations and arguments by a number of Chinese scholars concerning China’s illegal placement of the drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, researcher Hoang Truong published an article under the above title, highlighting the historical truth.

Vietnam, drilling rig, tensions in East Sea

At the beginning of May, China illegally positioned its rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnam’s waters and sent a large number of armed and military ships to defend it. Photo: VNA

Following are excerpts from his article.

Recently, a number of relatively official media outlets in China, such as the Global Times and International Herald, published a series of articles by Ke Xiao Zhai and Lu Jian Ren, who are working at the Guangxi Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, on China’s illegal placement of the drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

In the general definition, scientific research means collecting and processing information so as to find out the nature of events, phenomena and processes. But it is regrettable that these “scholars” have messed them up.

To create a “scientific” air, Mr. Ke has fabricated and analysed four mazes. The first is that Vietnam “always naturally wants to attack China”. Don’t you know that the Vietnamese have never invaded China? Have you ever seen Vietnamese troops in Guangxi, which shares mountains and rivers with Vietnam, except for once when they joined the China People’s Liberation Army in Xi Kun Ling?  As for the other side, it is clear to everybody that we, the Vietnamese, always cherish peace and friendship, having experienced bloodshed time and again. It is also clear that we are ready to put the past aside to look to the future. This is a natural characteristic of the Vietnamese towards our northern neighbour.

Mr. Ke fabricates a claim that in 2007, when the demarcation of the land border between Vietnam and China had not been completed, Vietnam worked out its “sea strategy towards 2020” aiming to expand the area of the East Sea, and that this is the cause of the escalation in the conflict between the two countries.

For millennia now, we the Vietnamese have known only too well the legend which has it that Lac Long Quan and his wife Au Co divided their brood into two; 50 of the children followed their father to the sea and the other 50, their mother to the mountains. This shows that our sense for the sea of our nation has been nurtured for millennia, not from 2007, simply because all one side of our country faces the sea and 28 out of Vietnam’s 63 provinces and cities are located along the coast. The strategy mentioned is not the first; such a strategy has existed for a very long time, and did not need to wait for the completion of the demarcation of the land border to come into being.

If Mr. Ke wishes to touch upon the occupation of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, I would like to say that in Hoang Sa, Vietnamese have been present for several centuries now while the Chinese are nowhere to be seen there. Even China’s maps for centuries have marked Hainan Island as China’s southernmost border. Only in 1956 did China send troops to occupy the eastern part of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and in 1974, it occupied the western part. Similarly, Vietnam has been continuously and peacefully present in Truong Sa archipelago for a long time now; only in 1988, 1989 and 1995 did Chinese troops jump in to occupy seven shoals. So the question here is who expanded the presence and occupation?

Moreover, it is China, not Vietnam, who claimed the huge “nine-dot” line that covers almost all the East Sea on the basis of no law; while Vietnam has only drawn up its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf exactly as prescribed by international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, to which China is a signatory. So who expands its area of sovereign right?

Mr. Ke also says that visiting Vietnam last year, Premier Li Keqiang raised the “nice idea” of joint exploitation but Vietnam refused on the grounds that Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf are undisputed. It’s true, Mr. Ke! On its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, Vietnam has been conducting joint exploitation with tens of foreign companies on the basis of exercising Vietnam’s sovereign right. Vietnam has more than once invited Chinese companies, including the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, to join but you have been insisting on “joint exploitation” in the sense that the “nine-dot” line invented by China belongs to China, and now it gives Vietnam a favour by joining the exploitation. Is there any garden in the house left to you by your forefathers? If yes, will you be willing to let your neighbour raise his chickens there at his will with the argument that the garden is not completely yours but an area disputed by the two families? I also heard that your ambassador in the US complained that China placed only one drilling rig while Vietnam had many. When it is not yours, one is illegal but when it is truly mine, even thousands are legal.

The second maze Mr. Ke fabricates is that Vietnam wants to use this to realise “national reconciliation”, sacrificing the Vietnam-China relationship in exchange; and as the situation spills out of control, the power of an anti-Communist and an extremist national force has taken shape. If somebody placed a huge drilling rig in the water belonging to China, as prescribed by international law, how would the Chinese, including those working and residing in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, think and act? The root cause of the situation is China’s wrongful act that violates Vietnam’s sovereignty and sovereign right, not what Mr. Ke imagines; that Vietnam wants to take advantage of this to achieve national reconciliation. In the blood of the Vietnamese, there is nothing like extremist nationalism because we have been invaded by major powers, one after another, which forced us to shed blood to safeguard our country. If we keep hatred in our hearts, with whom can we live then?

The third maze Mr. Ke wishes to drive us down is the slanderous allegation that Vietnam hopes to take advantage of schemes by some countries who want to use Vietnam to “contain” China, availing itself of the chance of the drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 to “cry out, exaggerate and jump”.

Still a developing country after having experienced years of war, Vietnam has only one desire, for peace and stability for national construction. “Containing” major powers is simply not our goal. In history, Vietnam has repeatedly been taken advantage of and suffered from bargaining behind its back and, subsequently, contained. Mr. Ke has taken a wrong turn, and I urge him to please study again the history of 1954, 1972, 1979, 1989 and so on. Having learnt those unpleasant lessons, we have always persisted with the foreign policy of independence and self reliance. We do not join anyone against any other.

Mr. Ke also says we “cry out” by denouncing China at every international forum for support from the international public. Is it true that we should be banned from crying when we are hurt?

Mr. Ke also accuses us of having “exaggerated” right at the beginning of the incident and blamed China for “undermining peace and stability”. Well, I say this to Mr. Ke. It is best for China not to cause any incident, and then Vietnam will have no grounds to exaggerate anything. It is a great pity that the Haiyang Shiyou-981 case is so big and brazen that the principle of considering a major case to be a minor one and a minor one to be nothing can no longer be applied. As for the question of who is undermining peace and stability; the international public is wise enough to make a judgement without needing us to “exaggerate”.

The fourth theory that Mr. Ke suggests is that we are using the lessons of national strength and a united people, which he himself recognises as “valuable experience helping Vietnam to win the two wars of resistance against the French and the Americans,” and applying it to educate and encourage the whole population to determinedly safeguard our interest in the sea and islands. In this, Mr. Ke is quite right, but I want to add some points. First, this is not a lesson drawn from only the two wars, but also from thousands of years of national building and defence. Second, our nation is “blessed” to always fight foreign aggressors who are, materially speaking, many times more powerful than us. If we do not use our people’s strength, unity and wisdom, how can we fight them? And third, our state is of the people, for the people and by the people, so who else should we rely on if not our people?

As for other articles, I shall comment on them in due course.

 

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China’s South China Sea Play: The End of Beijing’s “Peaceful Rise”? – Ha Anh Tuan – The National Interest

19 May 2014

Over the last decade, China has made every effort to persuade the world that it has been rising peacefully. The term “peaceful rise” was first employed as early as 2003, when Zheng Bijian, the then Vice Principal of the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China delivered a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia. It was then used by Chinese leaders, such as Premier Wen Jiabao, in various international relations contexts.

The main principles of China’s “peaceful rise” theory, which was replaced by “peaceful development” since 2004, are that China will not seek hegemony, its economic and military rise will not pose threats to regional and international peace and stability, and other countries will benefit from China’s growing power and influence. In order for this vision to materialize, Beijing values the role of soft power and contends that promoting good relations with neighboring countries will enhance rather than undermine its comprehensive national power. As such, the peaceful rise thesis emphasizes a cooperative approach towards China’s territorial disputes, including various maritime disputes in the seas around China.

One reason for the emergence of the peaceful rise theory is to counter those who see China as a threat. Speaking broadly, the “China threat theory” argues that, Beijing’s sustained economic growth will enable it to invest in military expansion and modernization. China’s rising power capabilities will shift the regional and international balance of power in it’s favor, threatening the interests and national security of other states. Many in China believe that, this theory is being cultivated by the U.S. as a part of a strategy to contain Beijing’s rise.

Events in the Asia-Pacific since 2007, however, have proven that the China threat theory has been unintentionally cultivated by China itself, as Beijing has been taking an increasingly aggressive approach towards various neighboring countries. Chinese maritime authority vessels have been active in enforcing Beijing’s territorial claims in the East China Sea (EAS) and South China Sea (SCS). They have captured and attacked Southeast Asian fishing ships in their traditional fishing waters, harassed U.S. naval vessels when they operate in the waters in the EAS and SCS, and brutally intervened in incidents in which Chinese fishing vessels were inspected by foreign authorities accused of illegal fishing activities.

Beijing has also made various moves to challenge the status quo in territorial disputes in the SCS. In 2009, China for the first time officially submitted the now infamous nine-dash line. This claimed over 80 percent of the SCS. In 2012, China dispatched numerous vessels to challenge the Philippine presence at Scarborough Shoal and eventually took control over the Shoal. In that same year, it established Sansha city on Woody Island of the Paracels contested by Vietnam, and stationed a military garrison there to protect its territorial claims in the SCS.

From 2011, China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has expanded its reach further southwards, drawing oil blocks for international cooperation inside Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In the last several weeks tensions have reached even new heights. In one of the most serious incidents in recent years China moved a giant oil rig to a location only 120 miles from Vietnam’s coast. To protect the rig from Vietnam’s maritime authority ships, many Chinese vessels, including several warships have been dispatched to the region. Chinese vessels deliberately rammed Vietnamese ships while they were attempting to approach the rig. The situation is very dangerous, risking further escalation of tensions between the two countries.

China’s behavior can only prove that its “peaceful rise” theory is dead. Beijing’s assertiveness and aggressiveness have driven many of its neighbors away. Only by respecting regional and international peace, security, and international laws can Beijing lessen regional tensions while sustaining its long term-development.

Ha Anh Tuan is a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Image: Wikicommons.

(Source: read more...)

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EU High Representative on the recent escalation of tensions in the South China Sea

10 May 2014

Statement by the Spokesperson of the EU High Representative on South China Sea Tensions, 8 May 2014:

We are concerned about recent incidents involving China and Vietnam relating to the movements of the Chinese oil rig HD981.

In particular, the EU is concerned that unilateral actions could affect the security environment in the region, as evidenced by reports about the recent collision of Vietnamese and Chinese vessels.

We urge all parties concerned to seek peaceful and cooperative solutions in accordance with international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to continue ensuring safety and freedom of navigation.

We also call on the parties to undertake de‐escalating measures and refrain from any unilateral action which would be detrimental to peace and stability in the region.

The EU will keep following these developments closely.

 

Fulltext in PDF: 140508_04_en.pdf

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