Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tension in disputed South China Sea

Update 20 Dec 2015: U.S. Bomber Flies Over Waters Claimed by China

An American B-52 bomber on a routine mission over the South China Sea unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of an artificial island built by China, senior defense officials said, exacerbating a hotly divisive issue for Washington and Beijing.

Pentagon officials told The Wall Street Journal they are investigating why one of two B-52s on the mission last week flew closer than planned to Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly Islands, an area where China and its neighbors have competing territorial claims. A senior U.S. defense official said that bad weather had contributed to the pilot flying off course and into the area claimed by China.

Beijing filed a formal diplomatic complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which prompted the Pentagon to look into the matter.

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US says bombers didn't intend to fly over China-held island


The United States said its two B-52 bombers had no intention of flying over a Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea, after Beijing accused Washington of "a serious military provocation" in the strategic waters with overlapping claims.

China's Defense Ministry on Saturday accused the U.S. of deliberately raising tensions in the region, where China has been aggressively asserting its claims to virtually all islands, reefs and their surrounding seas. It reiterated that it would do whatever is necessary to protect China's sovereignty.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said that the Dec. 10 mission was not a "freedom of navigation" operation and that there was "no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature," indicating the mission may have strayed off course.

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China urges U.S. to stop provocative actions

China on Saturday urged the United States to stop provocative actions following the flight of two B-52 bombers over the area near China's Nansha islands.

"China takes the incident seriously and has lodged solemn representation with the United States," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press release.

Two U.S. bombers flew into the airspace near an island and reef of the Nansha Islands early on Dec. 10. Pentagon said the flight might have strayed off course due to weather and an investigation had been launched.

related:


China accuses US of serious provocation by flying bombers

China's Defense Ministry said Saturday that the U.S. committed "a serious military provocation" by recently flying two Air Force B-52 bombers over a Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea, a mission that the U.S. appeared to indicate had strayed off course.

The Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of deliberately raising tensions in the disputed region, where China has been aggressively asserting its claims to virtually all islands, reefs and their surrounding seas. It also reiterated that it would do whatever is necessary to protect China's sovereignty.
As is China's usual practice, the Foreign Ministry took a more diplomatic tone, saying the situation was stable.
US B-52s ‘stray’ over China-held isles, spark Beijing outrage
In this May 16, 2007 file photo, a B-52 passes overhead at the National Security Forum air demonstration at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. AP

The United States said its two B-52 bombers had no intention of flying over a Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea, after Beijing accused Washington of “a serious military provocation” in the strategic waters with overlapping claims.



China’s Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of deliberately raising tensions in the region, where China has been aggressively asserting its claims to virtually all islands, reefs and their surrounding seas. It reiterated that it would do whatever is necessary to protect China’s sovereignty.



Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said that the Dec. 10 mission was not a “freedom of navigation” operation and that there was “no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature,” indicating the mission may have strayed off course.





Full Coverage:

US B-52 bombers fly near disputed South China Sea islands
The B-52 bomber planes, seen here in a file picture, continued the mission despite warnings from the Chinese

Two US B-52 bomber planes have flown near artificial islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said.

Their mission continued despite being warned by Chinese ground controllers.

The incident comes ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama to a summit in Manila next week, which China's President Xi Jinping will also attend.

related:
China's Island Factory
US-China tensions rise over Beijing's 'Great Wall of Sand'
Q&A: South China Sea dispute
China 'building runway in Spratlys'


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China says US guilty of "political provocation" in South China Sea

China said on Sunday that the United States (US) was making political provocations with its patrols in the disputed South China Sea, as tensions around the strategic waterways mount.

China will continue to construct military facilities on artificial islands it is building, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. The facilities are needed to protect the islands, he said.

Washington was testing Beijing with its insistence on "freedom of navigation" in the strategic waterway, he said.

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China says has shown 'great restraint' in South China Sea
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. NAVY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

China has shown "great restraint" in the South China Sea by not seizing islands occupied by other countries even though it could have, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday ahead of two regional summits where the disputed waterway is likely to be a hot topic. Beijing has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Reclamation work and the building of three airfields and other facilities on some of China's artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago have alarmed the region and raised concern in Washington that China is extending its military reach deep into maritime Southeast Asia.

But China was the real victim as it had "dozens" of its islands and reefs in the Spratlys illegally occupied by three of the claimants, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a news conference in Beijing.

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China calls for direct negotiations on South China Sea disputes
China’s premier has called on South-east Asian nations to set aside their differences as tensions rise over the disputed South China Sea islands, state news agency Xinhua reported late yesterday (Nov 21)

At a meeting with the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, US President Barack Obama called on countries to stop building artificial islands and militarising their claims in the South China Sea.

The United States has sent military ships and war planes by China’s artificial islands in recent weeks to assert its “freedom of navigation” in the sea.

Premier Li said some countries outside the region are conducting a high-profile intervention.

“That is in nobody’s interest,” Mr Li said. “Only by expanding our common interests and seeking common ground can we narrow our differences,” Mr Li added. 

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South China Sea issue should be resolved peacefully, says China's Xi Jinping

China has always insisted that the dispute in the South China Sea be resolved peacefully through talks, said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday (Nov 7).

Freedom of passage in the South China Sea has never been a problem and will never be a problem, he added at the Singapore Lecture.

But he reasserted China's territorial claims in the South China Sea: "The South China Sea islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times. It is our duty to uphold sovereignty."

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China says U.S. has gone beyond freedom of navigation to 'test' Beijing

China said on Sunday that the United States is making political provocations with its patrols in the South China Sea, as tensions around the waterways mount.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin made the remarks at a briefing during a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Kuala Lumpur. He said the U.S. has gone beyond freedom of navigation to "test" China.

Earlier this month, U.S. B-52 bombers flew near Chinese artificial islands in the area, signalling Washington's determination to challenge Beijing over the disputed sea.

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China Maintains It’s Shown 'Great Restraint' in South China Sea Dispute

As Washington and its allies criticize Beijing for what they perceive to be aggressive actions in the South China Sea, the Chinese government has pointed out that it has demonstrated "great restraint," even as the Pentagon patrols its territorial waters.

The Obama administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing’s land reclamation efforts in the region, calling them a breach of international law. But on Tuesday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin reiterated Beijing’s claim to the Spratly archipelago. He also added that Beijing has shown "great restraint" in allowing other countries to illegally occupy its territorial reefs in the region.

"The Chinese government has the right and the ability to recover the islands and reefs illegally occupied by neighboring countries," Liu said during a news conference, according to Reuters. "But we haven’t done this. We have maintained great restraint with the aim to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea."

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Beijing has shown great restraint in South China Sea, says Chinese envoy

China has shown “great restraint” in the South China Sea by not seizing islands occupied by other countries even though it could have, a senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday ahead of two regional summits where the disputed waterway is likely to be a hot topic.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a news conference in Beijing that China was the real victim as it had had “dozens” of its islands and reefs in the Spratlys illegally occupied by three of the claimants. He did not name the countries, but all claimants (Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan) except Brunei have military fortifications in the Spratlys.

“The Chinese government has the right and the ability to recover the islands and reefs illegally occupied by neighbouring countries,” Mr Liu said. “But we haven’t done this. We have maintained great restraint with the aim to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

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US manoeuvre in South China Sea leaves little wiggle room with China
The USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailed past one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Barack Obama’s decision to send a US guided missile destroyer into disputed waters off the Spratly islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday has provoked predictable outpourings of rage and veiled threats from Beijing – but nothing, yet, in the way of a military response. The worry now is that the confrontation will catch fire, escalate and spread.

Both China, which claims the Spratlys as its own, and the US, which does not recognise Beijing’s sovereignty, have boxed themselves into a rhetorical and tactical corner. With the Pentagon insisting it will repeat and extend such naval patrols at will, and with the People’s Liberation Army Navy determined to stop them, it is feared a head-on collision cannot be far away.

China’s heated response to Tuesday’s manoeuvre by the USS Lassen off the Spratlys’ Mischief and Subi reefs, where Beijing is controversially building military airstrips and lighthouses on reclaimed land, left it little wiggle room. The American warship had been tracked and warned off, officials said, adding that what it termed an illegal incursion was a “threat to national sovereignty” and a deliberate provocation that could backfire.

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Chance of war between US, China moves up a notch

By flexing their muscles in the South China Sea, both China and the United States are increasing tensions in the region, French political experts told Atlantico.

Although the conflicting sides aren’t ready for an all-out war against each other, any incident might potentially lead to a military escalation.

Last week, the USS Lassen, a US Navy missile destroyer, sailed through the disputed waters in the South China Sea in an attempt to challenge Chinese territorial claims. China strongly criticized the action and immediately issued a statement saying that it would take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.

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China military keeping tabs on US Poseidon deployment in Singapore
A U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft at Perth International Airport March 31, 2014. Reuters file photo

China’s military is closely watching an agreement between the United States and Singapore to deploy the US P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane to the city state and hopes the move does not harm regional stability, said the ­Defence Ministry. “We are paying close attention to how the relevant situation develops, and hope ­bilateral defence cooperation between the relevant countries is beneficial to ­regional peace and stability and not the opposite,” said the Ministry in a brief statement.

The Foreign Ministry of China, which is at odds with Washington over Beijing’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea, said the ­deployment was aimed at militarising the region and was detrimental to ­regional peace. However, analysts ­TODAY spoke with noted that the move is ­unlikely to significantly affect US-China or Singapore-China ties.

In a joint statement after a meeting this week in Washington, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Singa­pore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec 7 to 14. A US defence official has said further deployments in Singapore could be expected.


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U.S. Warship Sails In China’s Disputed Territorial Waters In South China Sea
Early Tuesday morning, a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s claimed islands in the disputed South China Sea. Over the past year, regional tensions have increased as China has undertaken a bold land reclamation project to expand the size of its possessions in the region which has seen small outcroppings of rock transformed into large habitable islands, one large enough to now accommodate a 3,000 meter long airstrip. Beijing has stated that its actions are to make its possessions suitable to allowing for the facilitation of search-and-rescue missions and other humanitarian reasons in an area that is regularly prone to weather hostile to mariners

On Monday it was reported in various outlets that the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer planned to sail within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Mischief Reefs over the next 24 hours. As planned, the USS Lassen did sail within 24 hours on Tuesday morning. This follows months of deliberation in Washington over pursuing such a course of action. It was originally believed that the USS Lassen would be accompanied by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane and possibly P-3 Orion surveillance plane though this does not seem to have occurred. While the U.S. has conducted regular surveillance around the disputed South China Sea in the past, this move represents Washington’s most serious physical challenge yet to Beijing on this issue.

Both Subi and Mischief Reefs are found in the North East of the Spratly archipelago close to the Philippines.  It is believed that if land reclamation activities continue at Subi Reef, it will eventually be able of accommodating a 3,000 meter long airstrip similar to that being constructed at Fiery Cross Reef. The same holds true for Mischief Reef which is believed will eventually also accommodate a large naval base for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Tuesday morning saw the USS Lassen only sail within the waters of Subi Reef though.


This move by the U.S. comes in the wake of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first official state visit to the U.S. earlier this month. Furthermore, it comes just weeks ahead of a series of Asia-Pacific summits U.S. President Barack Obama and Xi are expected to attend in the latter half of November. Washington it appears kept Beijing in the dark about this operation though U.S. plans for such a move had been widely reported. State Department spokesman John Kirby said at  anews conference folowing the announcement of the operation, “You don’t need to consult with any nation when you are exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters.” Meanwhile U.S. officials have labeled the operation as a “freedom of navigation” exercise.

related: U.S. To Increase Surveillance In South China Sea

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US navy warns it will repeat South China Sea operations

The US will continue to conduct “routine” operations in the South China Sea, the head of the US Pacific Command told a Chinese audience on Tuesday, even as he called for closer ties between the American and Chinese militaries.

Admiral Harry Harris said US naval operations near territory claimed by China were not “a threat to any nation” but were designed to defend freedom of navigation in international waters.

“We are making it clear that . . . military will continue to fly, sail and operate whenever and wherever international law allows,” he said in a speech at Peking University’s Stanford Center. “The South China Sea is not — and will not — be an exception.”

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US is bringing storms to South China Sea

The 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting starts in Manila, the Philippines on Wednesday. The suspense is to what extent the US will foist the South China Sea disputes into this economic and trade meeting. Manila has made clear that territorial disputes will not be included on the agenda, but Washington is not resigned to letting it go, but apparently will bring forth the issue on the sidelines of the meeting.

Compared with the horrible terror clouding Europe, the bone of contention in the APEC meeting - the South China Sea disputes - is unworthy of equal attention. France has shut its borders, and several European countries and half of US states are considering whether to shun Syrian refugees. Chaos and turbulence caused by relentless wars continue in the Middle East, and with the path of fleeing blocked, hatred and resentment among the refugees will thrive.

Many believe the US should assume the primary responsibility for the turmoil in Europe. The US has managed to keep terrorism away from of its own turf after rounds of strong interventions in the Middle East with the aid of its European allies after the 9/11 attacks. However, unable to extend their reach to American soil, terrorists have sabotaged Europe time and again, from Madrid to London and recently, Paris.

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US boosting naval presence in western Pacific
The USS Ronald Reagan arrived at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, on Thursday, becoming the only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy

YOKOSUKA -- The USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, Thursday, replacing the USS George Washington. With a crew of 5,000 and up to 90 aircraft on board, the largest vessel in the U.S. Navy will be able to reach hot spots such as the South China Sea or North Korea weeks earlier than if it were based on the U.S. west coast.

The move makes the Ronald Reagan the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier. It will be the fifth carrier to be based in Japan, following the USS Midway, USS Independence, USS Kitty Hawk and George Washington. "We have had a carrier here continuously for 42 years. The critical importance of the carrier being here, both the substance and the symbolism, cannot be overstated," said Ray Mabus, the U.S. secretary of the Navy, who attended the arrival ceremony.

The carrier will be accompanied in Yokosuka by the flagship of the 7th Fleet, USS Blue Ridge, as well as 10 other escort ships equipped with the AEGIS radar system. The Navy plans to forward deploy another two escort ships by 2017, bringing the total presence in Yokosuka to 14 vessels.

related:
US-China friction set to drag on as Beijing flexes military muscle
China military buildup: Think tank warns of threat to US forces in Asia
South China Sea: Is one warship enough?

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US raises military aid to Philippines amid tension in South China Sea

The United States has raised its military aid to the Philippines this year to $79 million, the US ambassador said on Wednesday, as tension rises in the region over China's new assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Since 2002, the United States has provided the Philippines with nearly $500 million in military assistance as well as various types of military equipment.

"We have upped our foreign military funding for the Philippines," Ambassador Philip Goldberg told ANC television, without giving a percentage. "It will be somewhere in the range of $79 million this year. It's increasing and what has been proposed is something called a maritime security initiative in the region."

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US to Give Two Additional Ships to Philippine Navy to Boost Border Control

With an eye towards China, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced that the United States will transfer two ships to the Philippine navy to help it navigate and patrol its territorial waters.

Obama said the ships – one US Coast Guard cutter, one research vessel – were part of a broader American plan to scale up assistance to naval forces in Southeast Asia, the Associated Press reported. While the president never mentioned China by name, it is clear that the transfer comes in response to China's moves to assert control in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Obama said the United States had an "ironclad commitment" to the Philippines and a mutual commitment to free and safe navigation at sea. "More capable navies, in partnership with the United States, are critical to the security of this region," Obama said.

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They're Baaack: US Navy Returns to Philippines' Subic Bay Amid China Fears

After being kicked out 20 years ago, the US Navy has returned to the base at Subic Bay, Philippines, where American military personnel are being welcomed in the wake of Chinese assertiveness in the region.

The US Navy began using the base last year after the United States and the Philippines came to terms on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The deal grew from concern in the Philippines about China’s growing presence in the South China Sea.

Some 6,000 US personnel came to Subic in April, and are set to return for exercises in 2016 in agreement with Philippine authorities, the Christian Science Monitor reported. US ships are using Subic Bay as a resupply port, and American merchant marine ships docked there in late October.

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Tension in the South China Sea

The U.S. military commander in the Pacific warned Friday that the risk of a miscalculation that could trigger a wider conflict in a tense territorial standoff between China and Vietnam is high and urged both nations to exercise restraint.

Adm. Samuel Locklear also urged Southeast Asian nations and China to hasten the drafting of a legally binding “code of conduct” to prevent territorial rifts from turning into armed conflicts that could threaten the region’s bustling economies.

Southeast Asian diplomats have accused China of delaying the start of negotiations for such a nonaggression pact while it tries to consolidate its control of disputed territories.

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USS Theodore Roosevelt to dock in Singapore

After a 7-month long deployment in the Arabian Gulf and a month-long posting to the Bay of Bengal, the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is due for a stopover in Singapore on Saturday (Oct 24).

It will dock at Changi Naval Base as part of a routine port visit for resupply, commonly carried out by aircraft carriers and other US 7th Fleet ships while operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will arrive in Singapore on Saturday (Oct 24), returning from a six-month deployment in the Arabian Gulf as part of the fight against Islamic State extremists.

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China warns U.S. against making trouble in South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the U.S. not to "make trouble out of nothing" in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

Wang made the remarks during a seminar in Beijing when responding to a question on the U.S. Navy's intention of sending a warship within 12 nautical miles of China's islands in the sea.

"We are checking out the matter," said the foreign minister. "If it is true, we advise the U.S. to think twice before its action," he said, urging them "not to act in an imprudent way and not to make trouble out of nothing."

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Chinese government: Don't push us

On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of consequences if a country caused trouble or raised tensions in the territories China claims as its own.

"If any country thinks that, through some gimmicks, they will be able to interfere with or even prevent China from engaging in reasonable, legitimate and legal activities in its own territories, I want to suggest those countries give up such fantasy," ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

"In fact, if relevant parties insist on creating tensions in the region and making trouble out of nothing, it may force China to draw the conclusion that we need to strengthen and hasten the buildup of our relevant capabilities. I advise the U.S. not to create such a self-fulfilling prophecy."

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Beijing Calls U.S. Warship’s Route in South China Sea a ‘Provocation’

China on Tuesday accused the United States of committing a “deliberate provocation” by sending a Navy destroyer into waters claimed by Beijing, adding that such actions would force China to speed up its building program in the South China Sea.

“China will firmly react to this deliberate provocation,” Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a regularly scheduled news conference. He added, “China will not condone any action that undermines China’s security.”

The statements came hours after the Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of several artificial islands that China has built in the disputed Spratly Islands chain. The United States had signaled for weeks that it would undertake the mission, which it called an exercise of the right to freedom of navigation in international waters.

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US navy sail-by in South China Sea a threat to China's sovereignty: Beijing
China has criticised the US after the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (pictured) sailed near several artificial reefs built by Beijing in the South China Sea.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beijing slammed the United States for sailing a warship near its artificial islands in the disputed but crucial South China Sea on Tuesday (Oct 27), saying the move was a "threat to China's sovereignty".

The USS Lassen "illegally entered" the waters near the islands, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement, "without receiving permission from the Chinese government".

"China resolutely opposes any country using freedom of navigation and overflight as a pretext for harming China's national sovereignty and security interests," Lu added.

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U.S. Provocative Act in South China Sea Breaks Peaceful Commitment

The sailing of a U.S. warship within 12 nautical miles off China's islands in the South China Sea constitutes a blatant provocation to China's territorial sovereignty and puts on a show of force under the excuse of testing freedom of navigation and over-flight in the waters.

China has always respected and stood up for the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea and other major international passages all countries are entitled to under international law.

In his just-concluded state visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping has clarified that relevant construction activities China is undertaking on the Nansha Islands do not target or impact any other country.

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Senior official: US urged not to damage 'big picture' of ties
The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sails in the Pacific Ocean in a November 2009 photo provided by the US Navy. [Photo/Agencies]

Yi Xiaoguang, deputy chief of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, on Monday urged the US “not to do things that undermine the big picture of the China-US relationship” when he addressed the recent US navy entry into waters close to a Chinese island in the South China Sea.

Yi made the comment when answering a guest's question after he spoke at a dinner reception of the international conference “Understanding China” in Beijing.

When asked if the US takes similar action in future, Yi told China Daily that China ``will take all the necessary measures to champion national sovereignty."

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US, Japan push for mention of South China Sea in defence forum statement

The United States and Japan are pushing to get concerns about the South China Sea included in a statement to be issued after regional defence talks in Malaysia despite Chinese objections to any mention of the disputed waterway, officials said.

A senior U.S. defence official said Beijing had made clear as early as February that it didn't want the South China Sea discussed at the meeting between Southeast Asian defence ministers and their counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

"We've been very clear along with many other like minded countries that South China Sea language should be included but there are members who feel differently," said the U.S. defence official, adding China was the main obstacle.

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China should be concerned about The Hague Tribunal

On Oct. 29, in a unanimous decision, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague issued its first, preliminary ruling concerning whether the Tribunal had “jurisdiction” over the issues raised by the Philippines against China’s so-called “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea.

The Tribunal held that in about half of the Philippines’ 15 claims, it did have jurisdiction. The other claims will be treated as jurisdictional questions fused with the merits of the case, and the Tribunal will be rendering a final award in 2016.

The Tribunal’s preliminary award on jurisdiction and admissibility should prove to be a clear victory for international law, as well as a clear defeat for Chinese unilateralism.

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US Action in South China Sea Against International Laws: Experts

Chinese military observers are suggesting the US Navy's move to sail a ship into the Nansha Islands area violates international legal norms and threatens stability in the region.


On Tuesday morning, the naval destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Zhubi Reef in the South China Sea without notifying the Chinese government. This has raised strong oppositions from the Chinese side, as sailing within 12 nautical miles of a territory held by a different country is viewed internationally as a violation of territorial sovereignty. The US Defense Department claims the ship was conducting routine operations in line with the international law. Chinese naval expert Yin Zhuo says the US side is in the wrong.
"The right of "innocent passage" insisted by the US sounds plausible, but it has not received widespread recognition around the world. At the same time, international legal documents including the UN Convention on the law of the sea and Convention on the High Seas, along with domestic laws in many countries have clearly stipulated that any military vessels have to obtain permission from the local government before entering the country's territory. "
The US government has been promoting a Freedom of Navigation program around the world since 1979, insisting that it is within the framework of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the US itself has not formally ratified that UN treaty.

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What is the US protesting in the South China Sea?

Strong calls continue to be made in Washington for the US Navy to increase its freedom of navigation (FON) activities in the South China Sea. This is despite apparent differences of view between the Pentagon and the White House about the wisdom of such action. The US has done little in 2015 to ease concerns about whether it knows what it’s doing in the South China Sea. If anything, the rhetoric coming out of the Pentagon, and the US Navy in particular, has become stronger.

While extensive land reclamations in the South China Sea have not helped China’s image, none of its current actions justify deliberate provocations by the United States. It’s not clear just what Washington is protesting in the South China Sea. There are three possibilities, some or all of which may apply.

One explanation may be that the United States is protesting against China’s claim to sovereignty over disputed features. But Washington has repeatedly said that it doesn’t take sides in the island disputes. An authoritative report last year from the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington concluded that ‘[t]he absence of an unambiguous legal case in any of these disputes reinforces the wisdom of the US policy of not taking a position regarding which country’s sovereignty claim is superior’.

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China Warns Of 'Decisive Response' If US Vessels Sail Close To Disputed Islands In South China Sea
An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool

China’s official news agency has warned that proposed U.S. naval patrols close to islands China claims as its own in the South China Sea would be a "grave mistake," which could escalate tensions and lead to a "dangerous misunderstanding" between the two countries' militaries. The Xinhua News Agency said any such action would lead China to respond “appropriately and decisively.”

Tensions have risen over the past year, as China has reclaimed land on islands in the Spratlys chain, in waters also claimed by the Philippines and several other southeast Asian countries, and is reported to have built three air strips on them. Beijing says the facilities are for humanitarian use, and says it is only doing what other nations including Vietnam have done in the region. However, following a failure to reach a breakthrough in talks between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping last month, the U.S. has pledged to take action to show its displeasure.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week that the U.S. plans to sail within 12 nautical miles of the islands (the limit of territorial waters under United Nations conventions) in the near future, to stress that these are in international waters, and to "defend freedom of navigation."

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South China Sea ruling 'null and void', says ministry

The Foreign Ministry on Friday dismissed a ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal on the jurisdiction and admissibility of the South China Sea issue, saying it is null and void.

The ministry said in a statement released on its website that the result has no binding effect on China.

"The result of the ruling will by no means affect China's sovereignty and rights on the South China Sea," Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Friday at a media briefing.

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China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea

China's naval commander told his U.S. counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday.

Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement.

The two officers held talks after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago on Tuesday.

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Minor incident 'could spark war' in South China Sea
China's frigate 'Yulin' in action in the South China Sea Photo: GETTY

Warning to Americans from Admiral Wu Shengli, Chinese naval commander as tensions rise. China’s top naval officer warned his US counterpart that Washington’s “provocative acts” in the South China Sea could spark war, as the powerful maritime rivals held talks two days after a US destroyer sailed near man-made islands built by Beijing in the disputed waters.

Admiral Wu Shengli, China’s naval commander, spoke to US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, arranged after tensions escalated following the US vessel sailing past the contested Spratly Islands.

“If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a severe and urgent situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war,” Adm Wu said, according to a report from state news agency Xinhua which indirectly quoted him.

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European Union sides with United States on South China Sea incident

The European Union sided with Washington on Friday over a U.S.-Chinese patrolling incident in the South China Sea, in a move that may affect Brussels' discussions with Beijing at next week's Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of foreign affairs ministers.

On Tuesday, a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago, triggering a sharp reaction from China.

"The U.S. are exercising their freedom of navigation," a senior EU official said at a briefing, chiming with the U.S. line.

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Is the South China Sea Worth War?
USS Lassen conducts exercises with Korean and Turkish navy ships. U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Evan Kenny/Released

Trailed by two Chinese warships, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed inside the 12-nautical-mile limit of Subi Reef, a man-made island China claims as her national territory. Beijing protested. Says China: Subi Reef and the Spratly Island chain, in a South China Sea that carries half of the world’s seaborne trade, are as much ours as the Aleutians are yours.

Beijing’s claim to the Spratlys is being contested by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan. While Hanoi and Manila have occupied islets and built structures to back their claims, the Chinese have been more aggressive. They have occupied rocks and reefs with troops, dredged and expanded them into artificial islands, fortified them, put up radars, and are building air strips and harbors.

What the Chinese are about is easy to understand. Having feasted and grown fat on trade surpluses with the United States, the Chinese are translating their economic strength into military power and a new strategic assertiveness. They want to dominate East Asia and all the seas around it.

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US warship defies Beijing to sail within 12 miles of disputed islands in South China Sea
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

A US Navy ship has sailed near to China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, sparking anger from Beijing.

The patrol by the guided-missile destroyer, USS Lassen, was the United States' most significant challenge to the 12-nautical-mile zone China implements around the islands in the Spratly archipelago.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the USS Lassen “illegally” entered the waters around the islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government’s permission, adding they monitored, followed and warned the ship.

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America Challenges Beijing’s Ambitions in the South China Sea

America has long considered freedom of navigation a vital national interest. Since 1982, that right has been recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which guarantees countries unimpeded passage on the high seas for trade, fishing, oil exploration and other purposes and sets rules for how they should operate.

Those rights, responsibilities and benefits apply to China as much as anybody else. China ratified the treaty; the United States has not, but accepts its provisions. Yet Beijing has been trying to rewrite the rules by claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea and turning reefs and rocks into more substantial land masses, including some with military capabilities, as a way to reinforce its claims.

Such dangerous and unnecessary provocations have alarmed much of Asia. But China seems intent on moving ahead. The United States was therefore justified in sending a guided missile destroyer on Monday within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of the artificial islets China has created in the Spratly Island group. China not only claims the reef but the 12 miles of water that surround it. It was the most significant American challenge yet to China’s territorial claims around the disputed islands it controls.

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Why US South China Sea FON Operations Don’t Make Sense

There are three possibilities, some or all of which may apply:
  • One explanation may be that the United States is protesting against China’s claim to sovereignty over disputed features. But Washington has repeatedly said that it doesn’t take sides in the island disputes. An authoritative report last year from the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington concluded that “[t]he absence of an unambiguous legal case in any of these disputes reinforces the wisdom of the U.S. policy of not taking a position regarding which country’s sovereignty claim is superior.” But FON operations against only China’s claims suggest that the United States has taken sides. Washington hotly denies this, but it is how people in the streets of Beijing, Hanoi and Manila see U.S. actions. Resulting surges in nationalism in these capitals are not helpful for resolving the disputes.
  • A second possibility is that the United States is protesting China’s claim to a territorial sea around built-up, low-tide features in the South China Sea. But only three features fall within this category (Subi, Hughes and Mischief Reefs) and China has not actually made formal claims to any territorial sea from these features. It would be preferable to wait until such claims were made before responding with diplomatic protests rather than ‘rocking the boat’ now. In any case, it’s a fairly trifling issue on which to risk a dangerous incident between Chinese and American forces.
  • Finally, the United States may be protesting a general threat by China to FON in the South China Sea. But China has repeatedly denied it poses such a threat. And with so much of China’s own trade passing through the sea it’s nonsensical to suggest that it would. American commentators invariably overstate the value of U.S. trade passing through the South China Sea. They fail to recognize that the vast majority of U.S. trade with East Asia does not go through the area. For their part, Australian politicians also often grossly inflate the amount of foreign trade going through the South China Sea. In the event of some crisis, the trade of other Northeast Asian countries could readily be re-routed away from the South China Sea albeit at some cost in time and distance.
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China's Naval Chief to U.S. Naval Chief: Minor Incident Could Lead to War in South China Sea

China's naval commander told his U.S. counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday.

Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement.

The two officers held talks after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago on Tuesday,

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US warship defies Beijing to sail past South China Sea islands
USS Lassen, seen here in formation with ROKS Sokcho (behind) earlier this year, is sailing within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea. Photograph: Us Navy/Reuters

China has urged the United States to think twice about “making trouble” after Washington launched a direct military challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea with naval manoeuvres near two artificial islands in the region.


Chinese authorities say they monitored, followed and warned US warship USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near the disputed reefs, and urged Washington to “immediately correct its mistake”.


The USS Lassen warship began its mission through waters near the disputed Spratly archipelago at about 6.40am local time on Tuesday.


related: Australia strongly supports US activity in South China Sea, says Marise Payne


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US to sail again near islands built by China
The USS Lassen is anchored in Yokosuka near Tokyo (file Picture) Photo: AP

US Navy to send more warships to sail close to artificial islands built by Beijing despite Chinese rebuke

The USS Lassen guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one of the land formations claimed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands chain early on Tuesday local time.

The move infuriated Beijing, which summoned the US ambassador and denounced what it called a threat to its sovereignty.

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Beijing summons U.S. ambassador over U.S. navy patrol

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus on Tuesday, lodging "serious representations" and expressing "strong discontent" over a U.S. warship patrol in waters near China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.

"This action by the United States threatens China's sovereignty and security interests and endangers the safety of personnel and facilities on the reef, which is a serious provocation," Zhang said.

Earlier on Tuesday, USS Lassen entered waters near Zhubi Reef without the permission of the Chinese government.

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South Sea Fleet v Seventh Fleet

China's South Sea Fleet, which deploys in the South China Sea, was the largest of the country's three fleets with 116 vessels, according to a Pentagon study published in April.

It said China also had more than 200 coastguard ships over 500 tonnes, including many above 1,000 tonnes. China's coastguard fleet alone dwarves those of Asian rivals combined.

The US Seventh Fleet by comparison operates 55 vessels, including the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group, from its base in Yokosuka, Japan, where it covers the Western Pacific and much of the Indian Ocean.

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China's Supersonic Ship Killer Is Making U.S. Navy's Job Harder
The YJ-18’s speed and long range, as well as its wide deployment “could have serious implications for the ability of U.S. Navy surface ships to operate freely in the Western Pacific” in the event of a conflict

Increased interactions between the the Chinese and U.S. navy in the contested South China Sea risk becoming more complicated by the increasingly sophisticated missiles being carried by submarines.

A new report to the U.S. Congress assessing a Chinese submarine-launched missile known as the YJ-18 highlights the danger, noting the missile accelerates to supersonic speed just before hitting its target, making it harder for a crew to defend their ship.

Defense chiefs from several countries in Southeast Asia have warned in recent months of the danger of undersea “clutter” as countries build up submarine fleets and the U.S. challenges China over its claim to a large swath of the South China Sea. This week’s U.S. patrol inside the 12-nautical mile zone that China claims around its man-made islands in the waters saw the USS Lassen shadowed by two Chinese naval vessels.

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China’s supersonic ship killer makes US navy’s job harder
A Chinese navy submarine. Reuters file photo

Increased interactions between the the Chinese and US navy in the contested South China Sea risk becoming more complicated by the increasingly sophisticated missiles being carried by submarines.

A new report to the US Congress assessing a Chinese submarine-launched missile known as the YJ-18 highlights the danger, noting the missile accelerates to supersonic speed just before hitting its target, making it harder for a crew to defend their ship.

Defence chiefs from several countries in South-east Asia have warned in recent months of the danger of undersea “clutter” as countries build up submarine fleets and the US challenges China over its claim to a large swath of the South China Sea. This week’s US patrol inside the 12-nautical mile zone that China claims around its man-made islands in the waters saw the USS Lassen shadowed by two Chinese naval vessels.

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China has the edge in terms of numbers

When a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near one of Beijing's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea this week, it was operating in a maritime domain bristling with Chinese ships.

While the United States Navy is expected to keep its technological edge in Asia for decades, China's potential trump card is sheer weight of numbers, with dozens of naval and coastguard vessels routinely deployed in the South China Sea.

Asian and US naval officers say encounters with Chinese vessels, once relatively rare, are now frequent, even at the outer edges of the controversial nine-dash line that Beijing uses to stake its claim to 90 per cent of the waterway.

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The US. Must Accommodate China's Power in the Island Dispute - Or Be Willing to Pay a High Price

There are two ways to see the U.S. Navy's freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea. We can see it is as a modest legal maneuver, designed to assert Washington's interpretation of some rather arcane and contested points of international maritime law. Or we can see this week's operation as a big strategic move in the new power politics of Asia.

Seen this second way, it was designed to reassert America's naval preponderance in the western Pacific in the face of Beijing's increasingly bold and forthright challenge, and thereby to defend the traditional U.S.-led regional order from China's drive to displace American leadership and create a new Sino-centric strategic system in Asia.

Washington hopes that the rest of us will see it as both of these things -- a routine legal maneuver and a forthright assertion of strategic resolve. It is likely to be disappointed. This week's events may simply reinforce how badly Washington misunderstands the challenge it faces in Asia.

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US warship in South China Sea: What's at stake?

The passage of a United States Navy destroyer near one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea may mark the reemergence of traditional geopolitical tensions in a region long preoccupied with domestic economic concerns.

In other words, this is about much more than a warship far from home sailing within a few miles of a bunch of rocks.

In sending the USS Lassen into waters near the Spratly Islands, the US is pushing back – hard – against China’s assertion that the much-trafficked maritime area represents part of its territory. Washington and its regional allies say that piling up material on reefs whose ownership is contested does not constitute any kind of nation-building under international law.

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US threatens further activity in waters claimed by China

The destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago, one of the areas where Beijing has allegedly been building artificial islands, according to media reports. Photograph:Martin Wright/US Navy /EPA

The US has threatened further naval incursions into waters claimed by China after its naval manoeuvres near two artificial islands in the South China Sea prompted an angry rebuke from Beijing.

China summoned the US ambassador to Beijing following the incident and accused the US of a “serious provocation” after the guided-missile destroyer the USS Lassen sailed close to a Chinese artificial island.

But US defence secretary Ash Carter warned on Tuesday that naval operations in the area would continue.

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Obama was right to order a sail-by in the South China Sea
This 2009 photo shows the USS Lassen, which sailed near China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, on Tuesday. (HOANG DINH NAM/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

THE USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, on Tuesday sailed by a reef in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago that China has built up into an island capable of hosting an airstrip. Predictably, China’s foreign ministry quickly announced its “strong discontentment and resolute opposition” to what it regarded as a violation of its territory and pledged to “take all necessary measures as needed.” While that sounds like a potential recipe for conflict, the Obama administration was right to order the sail-by. In fact, the action was long overdue.

For nearly two years, China has been engaged in a massive and provocative effort to turn seven specks of land in the Spratlys into outposts it could use to fortify and defend its outrageous and legally indefensible territorial claims in the South China Sea. According to a recent Pentagon report, it has pumped sand onto coral reefs to build up 2,900 acres of new land, in the process creating islets that can accommodate airstrips, ports and barracks. The activity has alarmed the five other nations that claim parts of the Spratlys, including U.S. allies the Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia. And it has raised the prospect that China will use force to gain control over a region that is crisscrossed by international shipping lanes carrying 30 percent of the world’s maritime trade.

Almost as alarming to Asian governments has been the failure of the United States to respond to the Chinese activity until now with anything more than rhetoric. While U.S. commanders have been arguing for months that Beijing’s claims should be challenged by Navy ships, President Obama withheld permission before last month’s visit to Washington by Chinese President Xi Jinping . Mr. Xi pledged that China would not militarize the islets it is building — but that dubious promise, like his already-broken pledge to end cyberattacks on U.S. companies, needs to be tested in practice.

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China warns, follows US warship near reefs in disputed sea

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer close to China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it warned and followed the American vessel.

The patrol by the USS Lassen was the most significant US challenge yet to 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China asserts around the islands in the Spratly archipelago and could ratchet up tensions in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

One US defense official said the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. A second defense official said the mission, which lasted a few hours, also included Mischief Reef and would be the first in a series of freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China’s territorial claims.

related:
China warns US it will not allow violations of its waters
US navy to challenge Chinese claims in South China Sea

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China says it warned and tracked U.S. warship in South China Sea

China said it warned and tracked a U.S. Navy warship as it came very close to one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea's contested waters.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the vessel "illegally entered into the waters of China's Spratly Islands."

"The action taken by the U.S. warship has threatened China's sovereignty and security interest, and has put the safety of personnel on the reefs in danger," the ministry said.

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US Navy tests Beijing on South China Sea claims

The US Navy early on Tuesday started freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, in a high-stakes effort to push back against Chinese territorial claims in the disputed resource-rich waters.

The USS Lassen, a destroyer, sailed through the 12-nautical-mile zones of two artificial islands - Subi and Mischief reefs - that China has constructed in the Spratly chain. The warship began its mission at roughly 6.40am local time in the South China Sea, according to a senior US defence official.

The move will anger Beijing, which has warned it will not tolerate any violation of what it considers its territory. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said the government was still trying to verify the US claims, according to a statement on the foreign ministry’s website.

related:
South China Sea becomes more militarised
China warns US against maritime challenge

US warships to challenge China sea claims

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U.S. warship sails close to Chinese artificial island in South China Sea

The United States sent a warship very close to one of China's artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, a potential challenge to Beijing's territorial claims in the contested waters.

A U.S. defense official told CNN that the destroyer USS Larson "conducted a transit" within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands on Tuesday morning local time.

The operation put the ship within an area that would be considered Chinese sovereign territory if the U.S. recognized the manmade islands as being Chinese territory, the official added. The mission, which had the approval of President Barack Obama, has now concluded, the official said.

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Experts say U.S. naval patrol in South China Sea detrimental to regional peace

A U.S. warship sailing in the waters near Chinese islands in the South China Sea constitutes a grave challenge to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, foreign policy experts and regional politics observers said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. destroyer USS Lassen entered waters near Zhubi Reef without the permission of the Chinese government.

China is holding active consultations with partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea, based on the consensus they have reached in a joint declaration over the issue, noted Qian Feng, vice president of Thailand's Asian Daily.

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China, US differ on freedom of navigation

The Chinese National Defence Ministry has once again expressed resolute opposition over the USS Lassen's patrol near the related islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. The Military says it "has both the will and capability to tackle the issue, and will take measures needed." Such remarks are made by the National Defence spokesman at a regular press conference Thursday.

A true test in the China-US military ties. The USS Lassen's patrol off China's Nansha islands. The US says it's an exercise of freedom of navigation. China regards it a misuse of international law.

"China has always respected freedom of navigation and over-flight, according to the international law. But we are strongly against any kind of efforts, in the name of freedom of navigation, that may damage the interest of the literal states," Yang Yujun, spokesman Chinese Natinoal Defense Ministry, said.

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US, Chinese navies agree to maintain dialogue to avoid clashes
Fiery Cross reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in a satellite image taken September 3, 2015

The U.S. and Chinese navies held high-level talks on Thursday after a U.S. warship challenged China's territorial assertions in the South China Sea, and a U.S. official said they agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes.

After the talks between U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, scheduled port visits by U.S. and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior U.S. Navy officers remained on track, the official said.

"None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been canceled," said the official.

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US Navy sends destroyer to within 12 miles of Chinese islands
The USS Lassen is anchored in Yokosuka near Tokyo (file Picture) Photo: AP

The US Navy has sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, in the start of a series of challenges to China's territorial claims in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Two US officials said the White House approved the movement by the USS Lassen early on Tuesday near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.

The patrols marked the most serious US challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around the islands and are certain to anger Beijing, which said last month it would "never allow any country" to violate its territorial waters and airspace in the Spratlys.

related: China 'building third airstrip on disputed South China Sea islands'

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US Navy Set to Send Destroyer Within 12 Nautical Miles of Subi, Mischief Reefs
Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate2nd Class Inez Lawson

After weeks of signaling that it would initiate freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs), the U.S. Navy is set to deploy the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, within 12 nautical miles of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea. Reuters, citing a U.S. defense official, confirmed that operations were set to begin “within 24 hours” of its report, suggesting that the Lassen will sail near the Chinese artificial islands sometime on Tuesday, October 27, local time. Per the Reuters report, the Lassen will be accompanied by a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft. A P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft may support the Lassen as well.

The report confirms that the Lassen will sail only within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea. Subi and Mischief represent two of seven features where China has carried out substantial land reclamation and construction work. The two features are distinct from the other five features where China has carried out similar work, including Cuarteron, Gaven, Fiery Cross, Johnson South, and Hughes reefs, because the original reefs, prior to China’s island-building, were fully underwater at low tide.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), low-tide elevations receive no special consideration that would grant them rights to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. Similarly, artificial islands are not entitled to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, but are instead treated like oil rigs and similar installations, entitling them to a 500 meter safety zone. Thus, the Lassen will sail within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Mischief but will likely avoid entering the 500 meter safety zone.

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U.S. Navy destroyer nears islands built by China in South China Sea
USS Lassen (DDG 82), (R) transits in formation with ROKS Sokcho (PCC 778) during exercise Foal Eagle 2015, in waters east of the Korean Peninsula, in this March 12, 2015, handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy

The United States on Monday sent a guided-missile destroyer to challenge 12-nautical-mile territorial limits that China claims around artificial islands it built in the South China Sea.

A U.S. defense official said the USS Lassen was nearing Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.

The Lassen would be in the area for several hours in what would be the start of a series of challenges to China's territorial claims in one of the world's busiest sea lanes, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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China says freedom of navigation ‘should not be used as excuse to flex muscle’

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, responding on Monday to a US plan to sail within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands China has built in the South China islands, said the concept of freedom of navigation should not be used as excuse for muscle-flexing.

Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan said the United States should "refrain from saying or doing anything provocative and act responsibly in maintaining regional peace and stability."

"Freedom of navigation and overflight should not be used as excuse to flex muscle and undermine other countries' sovereignty and security," he said

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US Navy ship nears 12-mile limit around Chinese islands

The USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, is nearing a 12-nautical-mile limit around artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, and will be in the area for several hours, a US defense official said on Monday.

The Navy patrol marks the start of a series of challenges to China's territorial claims in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

The vessel began the journey early on Tuesday local time near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014

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China's Foreign Ministry urges Japan to act prudently

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the reform on the country's security legal system is targeting China on the South China Sea issue, this is according to a report from Japan's Gendai Business. He was quoted as saying that he sees China as the imaginary enemy of its Self Defence Force and the US troops.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urges Japan to act cautiously, stressing China's determination for national sovereignty.

"Japan should earnestly make explanations and clarifications if the relevant report is authentic. Recently there were a series of negative movements in Japan. It stepped up effort to revise its constitution and boost military expansion; and externally, especially on the South China Sea issue, it stirred up regional tensions. I want to stress that in regards to the South China Sea issue, China is resolute in safeguarding its national sovereignty and its legitimate maritime rights and interests," Hua said.

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Beijing urges US to stay objective over South China Sea
US Secretary of State John Kerry held a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after what was called as "provocative" actions from Beijing in the disputed South China Sea waters. (Photo: CNS)

The Chinese government has released a new statement, calling on the US to behave cautiously when it comes to issues in the South China Sea, amid tensions built up in the region after Chinese companies' controversial oil drilling actions off the coast of Vietnam.

The new comments come after a phone conversation between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his US counterpart, John Kerry, who underlined "strong concerns" of the White House over recent developments in the South China Sea.

Following that call, a spokesperson for the US State Department says Kerry reportedly told Wang Yi the Chinese side is acting "provocatively" in setting up an oil rig in a disputed area in the South China Sea claimed by both China and Vietnam.

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China Urges Kerry To Be 'Objective' On South China Sea Dispute
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to a question during a discussion with Chinese bloggers on a number of issues, including internet freedom, Chinese territorial disputes with Japan, North Korea, and human rights, on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the South China Sea dispute with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and urged him to speak and act cautiously, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Wang urged Kerry to be objective, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing.

Tensions rose in the resource-rich South China Sea last week after China positioned a giant oil rig in an area also claimed by Vietnam. Each country accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands.

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US, China spar again on South China Seas dispute
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks to reporters about Ukraine, at the State Department in Washington May 7, 2014

China hit back at the United States over the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recent Chinese moves in the resource-rich waters were "provocative".

Tensions rose last week after China moved a giant oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Each country accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

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China warns US against challenging S. China Sea claims
Admiral Harry Harris

China yesterday said it was "extremely concerned" about a suggestion from a top US commander that US ships and aircraft should challenge China's claims in the South China Sea by patrolling close to artificial islands it has built.

The United States has accused China of reclaiming land in the disputed waters, and building ports and air facilities on several reefs in the Spratly Islands - often interpreted as an increasingly assertive action to back up China's sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

The reclamation projects have rattled China's neighbours, in particular the Philippines, a close ally of the US, and raised concerns in the US.

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China's defense ministry urges US to speak and act cautiously

China's related activities in its islands and reefs are reasonable and legal and no country has the right to interfere, a spokesperson of the Information Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) said on Friday when answering a reporter's question.

During an official visit to Japan, the U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S.-Japan security treaty is applicable to all areas under the Japanese administration and the U.S. opposes any unilateral coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of the Diaoyu Islands.

Carter also expressed concerns over China's construction in the islands and reefs of South China Sea. He said that some Chinese activities have intensified the militarization in the islands and reefs of South China Sea and escalated regional tension, and it is inconsistent with China's commitment to the ASEAN.

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China urges U.S. to "speak, act cautiously" on South China Sea dispute

China urged the U.S. to "speak and act cautiously" on the South China Sea dispute, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks in response to the U.S. attitude towards China's construction in South China Sea at a daily news briefing on Thursday in Beijing.

"China is conducting construction within our own realm of sovereignty for maritime search and rescue, fishery safety, disaster prevention and control, and meteorological observation in South China Sea. The purpose of the construction fully shows its peacefulness and benefit to the public," said Hong.

He said the U.S. criticism is groundless and not conducive to the solution of the dispute, the building of mutual trusts among regions and countries, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea.

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CHINA URGES US TO ACT CAUTIOUSLY SOUTH CHINA SEA

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to fairly" look at the South China Sea issue, and "act and speak cautiously". repeating that China was urging Vietnam to "end its provocative actions"

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China urges US to act cautiously in South China Sea

China is still trying to verify whether a U.S. warship went within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea but, if true, the United States must think carefully, China's Foreign Minister said on Tuesday.

"If true, we advise the U.S. to think again and before acting, not act blindly or make trouble out of nothing," the foreign ministry quoted Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying.

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US to send warship close to South China Sea islets

In a move sure to anger Beijing, the US Navy plans to send on Tuesday (Oct 27) a destroyer close to artificial islands China is building in the South China Sea, a US official said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told AFP that the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen would sail within 12 nautical miles of the emerging land masses in the Spratly Islands.

Tensions have mounted since China transformed reefs in the area - also claimed by several neighboring countries - into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move the US says threatens freedom of navigation.

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The Truth About US Freedom of Navigation Patrols in the South China Sea US patrols within

US patrols within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands have a complicated legal basis.

Last week, the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Washington’s “Maritime Security Strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region.” The committee heard from Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and David Shear, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. The discussion included a particular focus on the question of U.S. freedom of navigation (FON) patrols within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands – leading to headlines like this, from Associated Press: “McCain: U.S. should ignore China’s claims in South China Sea.”

That headline seems designed to elicit groans from Asia analysts. In fact, media coverage in general of the Senate hearing – and, more broadly, the question of FON patrols in the South China Sea – conflated the issue of challenging sovereignty and asserting freedom of navigation. That misconception comes because the actual point being made by FON patrols hinges on arcane details of international law.

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Lassen enhances cooperation with JMSDF
Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) (right) conducts surfarce warfare operations with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's JS Kurama (DDH 144). Lassen is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. j.g. Lauren Chatmas/Released)

The Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) conducted bilateral operations with two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyers in support of region surface warfare operations, Feb. 11 and 13.

Lassen executed helicopter cross-deck operations, surface warfare tactics, flag hoist drills, communication drills, and personnel exchanges with JS Hamagiri (DD155) and JS Kurama (DDH 144), respectively.

“We always look forward to bilateral integration with the Japanese because they have very capable ships and the professionalism of their crew is second to none,” said Cmdr. Michael A. Smith, commander officer of Lassen. “Allied partnership and collaboration of forces is essential to mission accomplishment in this region.” 

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U.S. should ignore China's claims in South China Sea

Republican senators pressed the Pentagon on Thursday to flex U.S. military muscle by sailing Navy ships within 12 miles of artificial islands Beijing is building to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. needs to go within the 12-mile limit to make it clear that the U.S. does not recognize China's claim that the islands are its territory. "This is a dangerous mistake that grants de facto recognition of China's man-made sovereignty claims," McCain said at a committee hearing held ahead of the Chinese president's visit to the U.S. on Sept. 25.

While not violating international law, McCain said China sent its own naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands as President Obama concluded his recent visit to Alaska. The U.S. should assert its right of navigation "just as forcefully," McCain said.

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Sea spats splitting Asia into pro-US, pro-China camps

U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after a group photo shoot at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 22. © Reuters


TOKYO -- Even as East Asian economies become increasingly integrated, fault lines are spreading throughout the region over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.



The potential for lasting divisions is mounting as countries are forced to side with either the U.S. or China over the maritime disputes.



Politicians and government officials who have attended meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama mostly say he assesses human relationships as if they were something that could be measured on a balance sheet and prioritizes business over friendship. In other words, they say he is a pragmatist through and through.




The Chinese Submarine Threat

What is the scale of the threat to U.S. supercarriers of China’s growing undersea capabilities?

There has been extensive debate in recent years about modern Chinese anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems rendering the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy (USN) highly vulnerable if Beijing and Washington were to clash in the western Pacific. Particularly ominous is the growing undersea arm of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). According to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, China’s attack submarine fleet consists mainly of diesel-electric boats (SSKs) ­– there are 57 of them, as well as five nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). Of these, the more modern ones include two Shang SSNs, 12 Kilo SSKs, and 12 Yuan SSKs.

Experts often allude to the threat posed by SSKs to the U.S. flattop. This is because the SSK, which is quieter than its nuclear-powered counterpart, is seemingly often able to slip detection by the carrier’s escorts. There have been numerous instances of American carrier groups being surprised by SSKs, friendly or otherwise, during either training exercises or regular deployments. The most famous is arguably the 2006 incident of a Song surfacing at a distance within firing range of the Kitty Hawk battle group. Critics point out that if a relatively inferior sub like the Song was able to penetrate the carrier’s screen, a more capable one such as the Kilo would find the endeavor easier. And in a similar case in October this year, a Chinese boat reportedly “stalked” the Reagan carrier strike group (CSG), setting off alarm bells amongst U.S. defense officials. So the question is to what extent would PLAN submarines threaten U.S. carriers during a conflict? This questions has two parts: 1) assessing how likely it is that a Chinese boat would be able to locate and track the American capital ship, and, 2) if it is able to do so, the extent to which it damage or sink the flattop.

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Why the US is reluctant to take on China
China wants to use resources like these landing craft, pictured here parading through Beijing on Sept. 3. © AP

TOKYO -- Talks over China's island-building projects in the South China Sea at Sunday's East Asia Summit in Malaysia yielded no surprises. The U.S. and Japan expressed concerns about the new islands, and China defended their legitimacy.

Japan, the Philippines and Australia expect the U.S. to maintain a presence in the area and use its naval vessels and other military assets to counterbalance China's claims that its territorial waters extend throughout much of the South China Sea. The U.S., however, is caught in a dilemma. While it wants to quell China's unilateral attempt to change international order, it is reluctant to engage in an all-out battle with China.

There are three reasons:
  • The U.S. military is overstretched. It is engaged in the fight against the Islamic State group in the Middle East. It is also trying to prevent terrorist attacks at home and abroad. And the row with Russia over Ukraine continues.
  • U.S. military forces are weary. Many U.S. troops are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The mental condition brings back vivid memories of combat, makes sleeping difficult and changes how sufferers react to those around them and to the outside world. It is incurable. This is apparently holding back U.S. President Barack Obama from sending ground troops to Syria.
  • Finances. The federal government is being forced to spread its dollars thin, and the defense budget is getting squeezed.
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South China Sea disputes
Tensions in the South China Sea because of disputes with other claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam are leading to alarming headlines about possible conflict

China insists it is simply doing what all its neighbours are trying to do - but it is doing it at dizzying pace.

The US Department of Defense assesses that as of June 2015, China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months in the South China Sea than all the other claimants combined over the past 40 years.

China's exact intentions remain unclear, but the overall assessment is that Beijing wants to slowly push the US out of the area without causing a conflict.


Territorial disputes in the China Seas
Map showing territorial claims in South China Sea
Maritime claims in the South China Sea

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea; and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.

Shangri-La Dialogue serves as the "Track One" exchange forum on the security issues surrounding Asia-Pacific region including Territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific is the "Track Two" dialogue on security issues of Asia-Pacific.

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Tensions Running High In South China Sea

Two incidents over disputed territory in the South China Sea this week threaten to disrupt the tense status quo between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.


In Vietnam, China's dispatch of a state-owned oil rig into waters close to Vietnam sparked a face-off between Chinese and Vietnamese ships and anti-China protests. In the Philippines, China is protesting the detention of a Chinese fishing boat filled with illegal sea turtles and the arrest of its crew.

While the region has been home to competing territorial claims for centuries, increasingly assertive action by both China and its neighbors has raised concerns that more serious conflict could erupt.

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U.S. Clears Weapons Sale to Taiwan

In September, Taiwan held military exercises in Hsinchu. Beijing said this week it opposes U.S. $1.83 billion arms sales to Taiwan as ‘an interference’ in China’s internal affairs. Photo: Wally Santana/Associated Press

The U.S. on Wednesday approved its first major sale of weapons to Taiwan in four years and shrugged off criticism that it had held up the proposed $1.83 billion deal to limit expected criticism from China.


The State Department notified Congress of the long-discussed sale, which comes a month ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections and includes two decommissioned Navy frigates, air and ground missiles, amphibious vehicles and communications systems.

The Obama administration has come under fire from some U.S. lawmakers over the length of time it has taken to clear the deals after legislation was passed to approve the sale of the frigates a year ago.




Japan's far-flung island defense plan seeks to turn tables on China

Japan is fortifying its far-flung island chain in the East China Sea under an evolving strategy that aims to turn the tables on China’s navy and keep it from ever dominating the Western Pacific Ocean, Japanese military and government sources said.

The United States, believing its Asian allies - and Japan in particular - must help contain growing Chinese military power, has pushed Japan to abandon its decades-old bare-bones home island defense in favor of exerting its military power in Asia.

Tokyo is responding by stringing a line of anti-ship, anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands in the East China Sea stretching 1,400 km from the country’s mainland towards Taiwan.




Tensions rise over East China Sea

A Chinese SU-27 fighter flying over the East China Sea in this photo taken on May 24, 2014 and released by the Defence Ministry of Japan on May 25, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Japan and China yesterday accused each other’s air forces of dangerous behaviour over the East China Sea, with Japan saying Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen metres of its warplanes.

Japan’s Defence Minister accused Beijing of going “over the top” in its approach to disputed territory.

China’s Defence Ministry said Japanese planes had carried out dangerous actions during its joint maritime exercises with Russia.

related:
China, Japan exchange barbs over action by warplanes in East China Sea
Japan condemns China fishing curbs, vows to defend islands

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"Singapore - US" Bilateral Ties
Joint exercise kicks off with a focus on honing conventional maritime warfare capabilities

On July 13, the U.S. and Singapore navies began a joint maritime exercise at Changi Naval Base.

The 21st annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore exercise involves 1,400 personnel from both countries and will take place from July 13 to July 24. It is part of a series of bilateral naval exercises conducted by the U.S. Navy (USN) with partners and now involves nine countries in South and Southeast Asia – Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste (See: “US Eyes Expanded Military Exercises with ASEAN Navies”).

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Defense (MINDEF), this year’s exercise focuses on honing conventional maritime warfare capabilities – including anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine operations. In terms of assets, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force is contributing five ships, a submarine, a naval helicopter, a maritime patrol aircraft and a fighter aircraft, while the USN and U.S. Marine Corps is contributing three ships, a submarine, three naval helicopters and a maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

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Territorial Disputes: Malignant and Benign

Some things are worth fighting for. What about a few desert islands occupied mainly by birds, goats and moles? China and Japan seem to think so, the rest of the world is alarmed and a look at other territorial disputes around the globe shows that stranger things have happened. There are about 60 such conflicts simmering worldwide. Most will bubble along, unresolved but harmless, 400 years after the Peace of Westphalia established the notion of national sovereignty. Others are more dangerous.

The Situation - China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, where it has constructed artificial islands and built up its military presence. Five others — Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan — claim parts of the same maritime area, a thriving fishing zone through which more than $5 trillion of trade passes each year. In a case brought by the Philippines, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled against China in July, saying it had no historic rights to the resources within a dashed line drawn on a 1940s map that had formed the basis of its claims. While the court said the ruling was binding, China said the tribunal has no jurisdiction. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for restraint and in October held talks with China on contested territory.

The U.S., the longtime guarantor of freedom of navigation in the waters, has stepped up support for Southeast Asian maritime law enforcement agencies and Indonesia has accused Chinese fishing boats of increasingly encroaching into its waters. One thousand miles to the northeast, in the East China Sea, China is in dispute with Japan over century-old claims to a separate set of islands — called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese — that have been administered by Japan since 1972. U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 said a U.S.-Japan security treaty applies to the islands, meaning the U.S. military could act if Japanese waters were violated. Meantime, Donald Trump's election as U.S. president adds a new element of uncertainty. Trump has accused the Chinese of building a military fortress in the South China Sea and of doing so “at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.” China is also locked in a disagreement with India over the two countries’ land border.

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