CHINA BUILDING AIRSTRIP ON REEF IN PH WATERS

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose (photo) delivers a statement about the Philippine protest against China’s reclamation of land in a disputed reef in the South China Sea as he faces the media at the Philippine Foreign Affairs headquarters in suburban Pasay City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land in a disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country’s top diplomat and other officials said. The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land on a reef in the West Philippine Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base, in yet another provocative move by Beijing in the disputed waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday. President Aquino raised the Chinese activity in Philippine waters at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Burma (Myanmar) on Sunday, the DFA said in a statement. “The Philippines protested the Chinese reclamation on Mabini Reef (international name: Johnson South Reef). The Chinese side rejected the protest,” the DFA said. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines filed the protest on April 4, but Beijing rejected it on grounds that the reef was part of Chinese territory. Asked if China was building an airstrip on the reef, Del Rosario said, “That’s one possibility.”
The Department of National Defense (DND) also reported the Chinese activity on Mabini Reef on Wednesday and demanded that Beijing put a stop to it. “This activity contravenes the spirit of the [Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea] and is a security concern of all in the region,” DND spokesman Paul Galvez said, referring to the nonaggression and keeping of the status quo agreement that Asean and China signed in 2002.READ MORE...

ALSO: On high seas, Vietnam and China play tense game

ABOARD VIETNAMESE COAST GUARD SHIP 4033 – Each day the Vietnamese ships tried to get close to the rig. And each day they were driven back by the much larger Chinese ships. But before they sped away, laboring engines spewing black smoke, the Vietnamese delivered a message: “Attention! Attention! We are warning you about your provocative act,” blasted out a recording from a loudspeaker in Vietnamese, Chinese and English. “We demand you respect Vietnam’s sovereignty. Please immediately halt your activities and leave Vietnamese waters.” Occasionally colliding with or firing water cannons at each other, Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been shadow boxing in a sun-dazzled patch of the South China Sea since May 1, when Beijing parked a hulking, $1 billion deep sea oil rig, drawing a furious response from Vietnam.
Vietnam, ten times smaller than its northern neighbor and dependent on it economically, needs all the help it can get in the dispute. Its leaders believe international opinion is on their side. This week they invited foreign journalists to get a closer look at the standoff, the most serious escalation between the countries in years over their overlapping claims. Vietnam is determined to defend what it regards as its sovereign territory against China, which insists that most of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands it took from U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1974 belongs to it. But Hanoi lacks options in dealing with Beijing, as China uses it burgeoning economic and military might to press its claims in the seas.READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino, Vietnam premier likely to touch on China in WEF talks—Palace

China’s growing aggressiveness in the South China Sea is expected to top discussions between President Benigno Aquino III and visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week. The Vietnamese prime minister, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Myanmar Vice President Nyan Tun, and other leaders are converging in Manila this week for the World Economic Forum on East Asia.
Aquino and the Vietnamese premier will touch on the sea dispute with China during their meeting on the sidelines of the WEF which Manila will host for the first time, Malacañang said. “It will be probable [that they discuss it] given that’s the current issue in their country,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over State-run dzRB. Vietnam is now locked in a tense standoff with China over the installation of an oil rig by China’s state-owned oil company in contested waters within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. China’s action has set off violent riots against factories with Chinese links across Vietnam that had left some people dead, and others hurt. In Manila, Filipinos joined Vietnamese in Friday’s protest rally in front of the Chinese consular office in the financial district of Makati.READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama opens 9/11 memorial museum, a ‘sacred place of healing and hope’

President Barack Obama led an emotional dedication on Thursday of a museum that commemorates the traumatic events of Sept. 11, 2001, built on the "ground zero" site of the twin towers that fell that day. Obama and his wife, Michelle, joined by Bill and Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, toured the museum, which includes artifacts from many of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the hijacked-plane attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. "Here we tell their story so that generations yet unborn will never forget," Obama said in dedicating a museum that he called "this sacred place of healing and hope." The ceremony was held in a cavernous, underground hall where what remains of the foundation of the twin World Trade Center towers can still be seen, along with a retaining wall that survived the blasts. In the center of the room, a 36-foot-high column covered with posters of those missing after 9/11 and names of units of fire and emergency workers who died responding to the tragedy. Obama singled out 9/11 victim Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader known simply as a man wearing a red bandana who saved a dozen lives on the South Tower's 78th floor. His body was recovered at ground zero in 2002. A red bandana of the type he wore that day is displayed at the museum, donated by his mother, Allison, who spoke at the ceremony along with Ling Young, a woman Welles led out of the building. Also on display is the charred watch worn by Todd Beamer, the software salesman who led a passenger revolt against the hijackers on United Airlines flight 93 before it crashed into a field near Shanksville. The museum includes emotional telephone messages left for loved ones by those who would die in the towers, and cockpit recordings from the doomed planes. During the tour, the Obamas walked through a hall with row upon row of photos of those who perished: old, young, some in firefighter and police uniforms, before entering a hall inscribed with Virgil’s “No day shall erase you from the memory of time." They paused beside what was left of a fire truck, scarred by flames, its ladders twisted beyond recognition. READ MORE...


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China building airstrip on reef in PH waters


Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose delivers a statement about the Philippine protest against China’s reclamation of land in a disputed reef in the South China Sea as he faces the media at the Philippine Foreign Affairs headquarters in suburban Pasay City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land in a disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country’s top diplomat and other officials said. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

MANILA, MAY 19, 2014
(INQUIRER) By Marlon Ramos, Tarra Quismundo - The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land on a reef in the West Philippine Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base, in yet another provocative move by Beijing in the disputed waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.

President Aquino raised the Chinese activity in Philippine waters at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Burma (Myanmar) on Sunday, the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippines protested the Chinese reclamation on Mabini Reef (international name: Johnson South Reef). The Chinese side rejected the protest,” the DFA said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines filed the protest on April 4, but Beijing rejected it on grounds that the reef was part of Chinese territory.

Asked if China was building an airstrip on the reef, Del Rosario said, “That’s one possibility.”

The Department of National Defense (DND) also reported the Chinese activity on Mabini Reef on Wednesday and demanded that Beijing put a stop to it.

“This activity contravenes the spirit of the [Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea] and is a security concern of all in the region,” DND spokesman Paul Galvez said, referring to the nonaggression and keeping of the status quo agreement that Asean and China signed in 2002.

“These provocative acts, which they should immediately stop, further disturb the fabric of regional peace and stability,” Galvez said.

Discovered 6 months ago

Galvez said Philippine surveillance planes first detected China’s reclamation activity six months ago.

Philippine aircraft searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner in March also spotted the continuing reclamation on the reef by at least one Chinese ship backed by smaller vessels.

“We can confirm that there is an ongoing reclamation or earth-moving activities [there],” Galvez said.

“Is that a possible airfield? We cannot speculate at this point,” he said.

“It has been getting bigger and bigger,” he added.

30-ha landmass

The government estimates that the reclamation has turned the submerged reef and a sandbar into a 30-hectare landmass that transformed the submerged coral outcrop into an islet, The Associated Press reported, quoting an unnamed government official.

The discovery of the reclamation, and the possibility of China building an airstrip on the reef, would likely raise alarm among rival claimant countries because it would bolster Beijing’s naval and air force mobility in a South China Sea region far from the Chinese mainland.

Mabini Reef, which the Chinese call Chigua Reef, is 300 kilometers away from Palawan province, well within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Also claimed by Vietnam

Vietnam is also claiming Mabini Reef, but Beijing seized the reef and other coral outcrops in the area from Hanoi after a deadly naval skirmish in 1988.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Wednesday.

‘Renovation’

Last week, the Chinese press played down the reef reclamation and construction.

Quoting an unnamed source described as close to the construction, the Global Times reported China was merely “renovating the living facilities for troops stationed on the reef.”

In the statement issued Wednesday, the DFA said the Philippines asked the United Nations to “clarify Mabini Reef’s physical character” in its “memorial,” or brief, submitted to the United Nations Tribunal for the Convention on the Law of the Sea on March 30, which details the merits of its case against China in their territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ EEZ, but China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters close to its neighbors’ shores.

Beijing has refused to take part in the arbitration, the case for which Manila filed in January last year in a bid to stop Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea.

Rivals for territory

The Philippines has also asked the arbitral court to nullify China’s claim over almost the whole South China Sea.

That extensive claim has set China against not only Vietnam and the Philippines, but also against Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, which claim parts of the sea that are crisscrossed by sea-lanes where a third of annual cargo passes and where islands, islets, reefs and shoal are believed to be sitting on vast energy and mineral reserves.

China continues to assert “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters and has accused other claimant nations, including the Philippines and Vietnam, of undertaking provocative actions pending resolution of the dispute.

Tensions in the South China Sea have flared up recently following the Philippines’ arrest of Chinese fishermen caught poaching sea turtles at Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal), 93 km off Palawan, and China moving a deepwater drilling rig near the Paracel Islands in the East Sea, within Vietnam’s EEZ, sparking confrontations between dozens of Chinese and Vietnamese ships.

‘Provocative’ actions

Disturbed by confrontations in the East Sea, US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday and told him China’s installation of an oil rig and the deployment of vessels in the disputed waters were “provocative.”

The Chinese side responded by saying that words and actions by the United States had “emboldened” other claimants to take provocative actions in the sea.

“It is true that provocative actions have been seen in the South China Sea recently. But they are not taken by China. It is nothing but the wrong words and actions made by the US side on maritime issues that have emboldened some countries to take provocative actions,” Hua said in a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

Security analysts believe moving the drilling rig into the East Sea is China’s response to US President Barack Obama’s four-nation tour of Asia in April and his assurance to allies Japan and the Philippines that the United States would defend them if they were attacked.—With reports from AFP and AP

On high seas, Vietnam and China play tense game Associated Press
2:44 pm | Saturday, May 17th, 2014


In this photo released by Vietnam Coast Guard, a Chinese ship, left, shoots water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel, right, while a Chinese Coast Guard ship, center, sails alongside in the South China Sea, off Vietnam’s coast, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Chinese ships are ramming and spraying water cannons at Vietnamese vessels trying to stop Beijing from setting up an oil rig in the South China Sea, according to Vietnamese officials and video evidence Wednesday, a dangerous escalation of tensions in disputed waters considered a global flashpoint. AP

ABOARD VIETNAMESE COAST GUARD SHIP 4033 – Each day the Vietnamese ships tried to get close to the rig. And each day they were driven back by the much larger Chinese ships.

But before they sped away, laboring engines spewing black smoke, the Vietnamese delivered a message:

“Attention! Attention! We are warning you about your provocative act,” blasted out a recording from a loudspeaker in Vietnamese, Chinese and English. “We demand you respect Vietnam’s sovereignty. Please immediately halt your activities and leave Vietnamese waters.”

Occasionally colliding with or firing water cannons at each other, Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been shadow boxing in a sun-dazzled patch of the South China Sea since May 1, when Beijing parked a hulking, $1 billion deep sea oil rig, drawing a furious response from Vietnam.

Vietnam, ten times smaller than its northern neighbor and dependent on it economically, needs all the help it can get in the dispute. Its leaders believe international opinion is on their side. This week they invited foreign journalists to get a closer look at the standoff, the most serious escalation between the countries in years over their overlapping claims.

Vietnam is determined to defend what it regards as its sovereign territory against China, which insists that most of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands it took from U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1974 belongs to it. But Hanoi lacks options in dealing with Beijing, as China uses it burgeoning economic and military might to press its claims in the seas.

Vietnam has accused Chinese vessels of deliberately and dangerously ramming its ships. TV footage recorded last week from a Vietnamese ship showed a Chinese vessel smashing into the stern of the Vietnamese ship then backing up and ramming it again, damaging its side. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday released three photographs purportedly showing a Vietnamese vessel ramming a Chinese maritime ship. The media onboard this week did not witness any ramming.

“It is not that we want to be in confrontation with the Chinese, but it’s our duty to carry out daily patrols in Vietnamese territory,” said Col. Le Trung Thanh, the skipper of the Vietnamese coast guard ship 4033. “We want to get close to the rig to persuade them that their actions are illegal and they must leave Vietnam’s water unconditionally.”

That seems unlikely, however many patrol boats Hanoi sends to the area, or pleads its case to the world. For China, a withdrawal would signal weakness.

Beijing has said it plans to keep the rig until August. While most analysts think neither side has any interest in an armed conflict, the longer the confrontation lasts, the greater the risk of an unplanned incident that could lead to a shooting match.

China has set up a 10-kilometer (6.21-mile) exclusion zone around the rig, which was visible on the horizon. On occasion, Chinese surveillance planes flew over the Vietnamese vessels. Both sides have deployed dozens of vessels, mostly coast guard and fisheries protection fleets. At least one of the Chinese ships had cannons, which were uncovered.

In 1974, China ousted the South Vietnam navy from the Paracel Islands, close to where the rig is currently deployed, killing 75 South Vietnamese sailors. The two countries fought a brief but bloody border war in 1979. In 1988, 64 Vietnamese sailors were killed in another skirmish in the nearby Spratly Islands, where territorial spats between China and the Philippines have recently heated up.

As the latest standoff plays out on high seas, Hanoi’s Communist government has been struggling to contain rising popular anger against China, never far from the surface in Vietnam. Protesters this week vandalized foreign-owned factories and killed at least one Chinese national, further inflaming the situation.

Beijing has accused Hanoi of not doing enough to stop the violence. On Friday, it criticized Vietnam for organizing the media trip.

“It is clear that the aim of the Vietnamese side is to escalate the situation and create tension, or in other words, to generate media hype and put up a show in front of the international audience,” said Ouyang Yujing, the director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Ocean and Boundary Affairs.

Vietnam’s Communist Party has been trying to leverage its links with the party in China to quietly resolve their differences, mindful of the economic importance of good relations. Just last month, one of the coast guard ships stationed close to the rig took part in joint fishery patrols with Chinese vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin, said Vietnam’s coast guard Col. Dinh Quoc Ruan.

Unlike in the Paracels, the two countries settled their maritime border in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2000.

Crew members boarded each other’s boats to share fruit with each other and take photos, Ruan said.

“I’m not surprised when the Chinese switched from being friends to being opposed so quickly,” he said. “Being friends with China is not so easy.”

Aquino, Vietnam premier likely to touch on China in WEF talks—Palace By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:11 pm | Saturday, May 17th, 2014
 


Vietnamese expatriates and Filipinos display placards as they join together in a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig near the Vietnamese-claimed Paracels off the contested Spratlys group of islands and shoals in the South China Sea Friday, May 16, 2014. The protesters, led by Philippine Congressman Walden Bello, claimed that Vietnam and the Philippines are “natural allies as both countries suffered the same territorial struggles against China.” JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, Philippines—China’s growing aggressiveness in the South China Sea is expected to top discussions between President Benigno Aquino III and visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week.

The Vietnamese prime minister, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Myanmar Vice President Nyan Tun, and other leaders are converging in Manila this week for the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Aquino and the Vietnamese premier will touch on the sea dispute with China during their meeting on the sidelines of the WEF which Manila will host for the first time, Malacañang said.

“It will be probable [that they discuss it] given that’s the current issue in their country,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over State-run dzRB.

Vietnam is now locked in a tense standoff with China over the installation of an oil rig by China’s state-owned oil company in contested waters within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

China’s action has set off violent riots against factories with Chinese links across Vietnam that had left some people dead, and others hurt.

In Manila, Filipinos joined Vietnamese in Friday’s protest rally in front of the Chinese consular office in the financial district of Makati.

The Philippines this week protested China’s construction of an airstrip on Mabini Reef within the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.

Vietnam and the Philippines raised China’s incursions in the South China at last weekend’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Nay Pyi Taw, Burma.

China is claiming 90 percent of the 1.35-million-square-mile South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, and non-Asean member Taiwan claim parts of it.

China is not sending a representative to the WEF summit that will gather 600 leaders from business, government, civil society and the academe from more than 30 countries.

The three-day summit, which begins Wednesday in Makati, will tackle the plan to create by 2015 an integrated Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Economic Community, as well as economic issues affecting the region, among others.

Aquino will give the keynote address.

“Our security preparations are also in place, and are now ongoing,” Valte said, referring to over-all security plan by the Philippine National Police. With a report from INQUIRER.net

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Obama opens 9/11 memorial museum, a ‘sacred place of healing and hope’ By ROBERTA RAMPTON, ReutersMay 16, 2014 9:57am 58 6 0 70


US President Barack Obama speaks at the dedication ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York on Thursday, May 15. The museum, commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington opens to the public on May 21, with wrenchingly familiar sights as well as artifacts never before on public display. Reuters/Mike Segar

NEW YORK - President Barack Obama led an emotional dedication on Thursday of a museum that commemorates the traumatic events of Sept. 11, 2001, built on the "ground zero" site of the twin towers that fell that day.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, joined by Bill and Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, toured the museum, which includes artifacts from many of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the hijacked-plane attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"Here we tell their story so that generations yet unborn will never forget," Obama said in dedicating a museum that he called "this sacred place of healing and hope."

The ceremony was held in a cavernous, underground hall where what remains of the foundation of the twin World Trade Center towers can still be seen, along with a retaining wall that survived the blasts.

In the center of the room, a 36-foot-high column covered with posters of those missing after 9/11 and names of units of fire and emergency workers who died responding to the tragedy.

Obama singled out 9/11 victim Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader known simply as a man wearing a red bandana who saved a dozen lives on the South Tower's 78th floor. His body was recovered at ground zero in 2002.

A red bandana of the type he wore that day is displayed at the museum, donated by his mother, Allison, who spoke at the ceremony along with Ling Young, a woman Welles led out of the building.

Also on display is the charred watch worn by Todd Beamer, the software salesman who led a passenger revolt against the hijackers on United Airlines flight 93 before it crashed into a field near Shanksville.

The museum includes emotional telephone messages left for loved ones by those who would die in the towers, and cockpit recordings from the doomed planes.

During the tour, the Obamas walked through a hall with row upon row of photos of those who perished: old, young, some in firefighter and police uniforms, before entering a hall inscribed with Virgil’s “No day shall erase you from the memory of time."

They paused beside what was left of a fire truck, scarred by flames, its ladders twisted beyond recognition.

Obama said the memorial "reaffirms the true spirit of 9/11—love, compassion, sacrifice, and enshrines it forever in the heart of our nation."

"I think all who come here will find it a profound and moving experience," he said.

Obama noted that it was three years ago this month that "our SEALS made sure that justice was done," a reference to the secret US mission he ordered that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideaway.

"Nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans," Obama said. —Reuters


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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