US: CHINA 'OCCUPYING' SOUTH CHINA SEA AREAS, BREAKING VOWS

The reported Chinese reclamation work and large scale construction of outposts in the South China Sea are an affront to the multilateral Declaration of Conduct that China agreed to follow, a top official of the US Department of State said. Daniel Russel, chief of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, denounced China's moves "occupying uninhabited land features" as going "far beyond what a reasonable person would consider with the maintenance of the status quo." "The status quo as applied in 2002 when the ten ASEAN countries and China reached an agreement on a Declaration of Conduct that clearly and explicitly committed themselves to exercise restraint, to avoid occupying uninhabited land features, and—to paraphrase—to keep things as they were," Russel said in a phone conference with journalists in Burma on Tuesday. He said that China's behavior does not contribute to negotiations for a code of conduct that will effectively bind rival claimant states in the strategic waterway. Russel also reiterated Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's warning against coercion and use of force in the maritime areas as "unacceptable." READ MORE...

ALSO: China building school in disputed area

BEIJING – China is building a school on a remote island in the South China Sea to serve the children of military personnel and others, expanding the rugged outpost it created two years ago to strengthen claims to disputed waters and islands. China established the settlement of Sansha – which Beijing designates a “city” and has a permanent population of 1,443 – on tiny Yongxing island to administer hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of water where China wants to strengthen its control over the potentially oil-rich territory. Vietnam, the Philippines and the US criticized Beijing for establishing Sansha, saying it risked escalating regional tensions. The island is about 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of China’s southernmost province, in the Paracel chain, which is also claimed by Vietnam. The Sansha government said in a statement on its website that construction on the school started Saturday and was expected to take 18 months. It said there were about 40 children of school age on Yongxing Island, and the school could also educate the children of police, army personnel and civilians stationed on the islands, some of whom had to stay with grandparents in far-off hometowns. When China created Sansha in July 2012, the outpost had a post office, bank, supermarket, hospital and a population of about 1,000. By December, it had a permanent population of 1,443, which can sometimes swell by 2,000, according to the Sansha government. Now it has an airport, hotel, library and five main roads, mobile phone service coverage and a 24-hour satellite TV station. It also has its own supply ship that brings in food, water, construction materials as well as people who live and work on the island. The Philippine government, on the other hand, brushed aside fresh statements from Chinese diplomats in the UN criticizing the arbitration case filed against Beijing. READ MORE...

ALSO: US proposes freeze on provocative maritime action

A US official proposed Wednesday that China and Southeast Asian nations call a moratorium on actions seen as provocative in a bid to cool tensions in the South China Sea. Danny Russel, the top US diplomat on East Asia, said he made the suggestion as “food for thought” and not as a formal proposal as he met regional counterparts in Myanmar to prepare for a regional summit later this year. “The claimant states themselves could identify the kind of behavior that they each find provocative when others do it, and offer to put a voluntary freeze on those sorts of actions on the condition that all the other claimants would agree to do so similarly,” Russel, an assistant secretary of state, told reporters on a conference call. “So, for example, would they be willing to make a pledge as simple as not to occupy any of the land features in the South China Sea that are currently unoccupied?” The United States has pushed for years for a code of conduct to lay out rules to prevent the escalation of incidents in the South China Sea, an economically vital waterway in which China has overlapping claims with several other nations. But Russel acknowledged that tensions have been “going up quickly” in the sea. Riots erupted in Vietnam last month in anger against China’s deployment of an oil rig in contested waters. The Philippines, a US ally, has also seen increasingly tense tussles with China over control of islets and reefs in the sea. Russel said that the Chinese delegation at the talks in Myanmar offered a “spirited and vigorous defense” of its position, but voiced hope that Beijing understood that other nations’ statements were “offered not in the spirit of condemnation, but in the spirit of compromise.” President Barack Obama is expected to travel to Myanmar in November for the East Asia Summit on his second visit to the country formerly known as Burma, a onetime Western pariah which has embraced democratic reforms. READ MORE...

ALSO: Phl files another protest vs China reclamation

The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against China’s reclamation on Kennan (Hughes) Reef in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. “We lodged the diplomatic protest last week,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing. He said the government filed the protest after confirming China’s reclamation work on the reef. Last April 4, Manila protested China’s reclaiming of land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef. President Aquino brought up the issue of China’s reclamation on Mabini Reef during the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar. The issue was also included in the memorial or written argument of the Philippine position on the dispute submitted on March 30 to an arbitral tribunal based in The Hague. In the nearly 4,000-page memorial, Manila presented its arguments and evidence against China’s nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing’s expansive and excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea. The arbitration was initiated by the Philippines under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). After the DFA revealed China’s reclaiming land on Mabini Reef, Aquino made public reports that Chinese ships were spotted around Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef and Burgos (Gaven) Reef. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier told reporters of Manila’s plan to file diplomatic protest if the reported reclamation on Calderon and Burgos reefs were verified. “Once verified we will definitely lodge similar protest,” Jose added. The Chinese were also reportedly reclaiming land on Malvar (Eldad) Reef. Philippine authorities said Beijing was apparently planning more reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen its hold on territories it covets. The DFA said China is changing the feature of the areas it wants to wrest from the Philippines to discredit Manila’s case before the arbitral tribunal. But at Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is still verifying reports that China is reclaiming land on two more disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea. “I am aware of the reports (of reclamation). The President did mention, pretty recently, about movements that have been monitored in Calderon Reef. But I am not quite certain about the other two that have been mentioned, but we will check with the military,” Valte said in a press briefing yesterday. The STAR reported on Friday that China was into land reclamation activities on Kennan (Hughes) and Malvar (Eldad) Reef. READ MORE.. 


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US: China 'occupying' South China Sea areas, breaking vows


Ensign Jeremy Brooks communicates as the conning officer aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) during a signaling exercise with the Royal Malaysian Navy patrol vessel KD Pahang (172) in the South China Sea. US Navy/Paul Kelly

MANILA, JUNE 16, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Camille Diola - The reported Chinese reclamation work and large scale construction of outposts in the South China Sea are an affront to the multilateral Declaration of Conduct that China agreed to follow, a top official of the US Department of State said.

Daniel Russel, chief of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, denounced China's moves "occupying uninhabited land features" as going "far beyond what a reasonable person would consider with the maintenance of the status quo."

"The status quo as applied in 2002 when the ten ASEAN countries and China reached an agreement on a Declaration of Conduct that clearly and explicitly committed themselves to exercise restraint, to avoid occupying uninhabited land features, and—to paraphrase—to keep things as they were," Russel said in a phone conference with journalists in Burma on Tuesday.

He said that China's behavior does not contribute to negotiations for a code of conduct that will effectively bind rival claimant states in the strategic waterway.

Russel also reiterated Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's warning against coercion and use of force in the maritime areas as "unacceptable."

Countries embroiled in the sea row may choose diplomatic or legal means to settle outstanding issues instead, he urged.

He also maintained the US' neutral stance in the conflicting claims as it does not profit from the ultimate resolution of territorial differences.

"I think gives us a right to speak as a friendly but neutral party. And the heartfelt advice that we have issued to the concerned countries is that they should show restraint and find collaborative and diplomatic means to reconcile their differences," Russel said.

China, however, has maintained that it has the right to carry out construction activities in the South China Sea, an extensive part of which it claimed part of its inherent maritime territory.

Russel, whose position is critical in the execution of the Obama administration's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia Pacific, urged China to keep the South China Sea free.

"The South China Sea and its sea lanes are vital to the global economy ... The world needs those sea lanes to be secure. And the world needs the resources of that region to be managed in a responsible and sustainable way," he said.

He also explained that the disputed sea is home to a wealthy marine life and hydrocarbon and mineral reserves that would profit the region in its pursuit for prosperity.

Earlier this week, Russel informally proposed a moratorium on involved nations' coercive actions to assert maritime claims in the South China Sea.

He made the suggestion as “food for thought” and not as a formal proposal as he met regional counterparts in Myanmar to prepare for a regional summit later this year.

On Friday, the Philippines lodged another diplomatic protests against China’s reclamation on Kennan (Hughes) Reef in the contested maritime region.

China building school in disputed area By AP, Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 16, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


File photo shows the administration office building for the Xisha, Nansha, Zhongsha islands on Yongxing Island, the government seat of Sansha City off the south China’s Hainan province. AP

BEIJING – China is building a school on a remote island in the South China Sea to serve the children of military personnel and others, expanding the rugged outpost it created two years ago to strengthen claims to disputed waters and islands.

China established the settlement of Sansha – which Beijing designates a “city” and has a permanent population of 1,443 – on tiny Yongxing island to administer hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of water where China wants to strengthen its control over the potentially oil-rich territory.

Vietnam, the Philippines and the US criticized Beijing for establishing Sansha, saying it risked escalating regional tensions. The island is about 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of China’s southernmost province, in the Paracel chain, which is also claimed by Vietnam.

The Sansha government said in a statement on its website that construction on the school started Saturday and was expected to take 18 months.

It said there were about 40 children of school age on Yongxing Island, and the school could also educate the children of police, army personnel and civilians stationed on the islands, some of whom had to stay with grandparents in far-off hometowns.

When China created Sansha in July 2012, the outpost had a post office, bank, supermarket, hospital and a population of about 1,000. By December, it had a permanent population of 1,443, which can sometimes swell by 2,000, according to the Sansha government.

Now it has an airport, hotel, library and five main roads, mobile phone service coverage and a 24-hour satellite TV station. It also has its own supply ship that brings in food, water, construction materials as well as people who live and work on the island.

The Philippine government, on the other hand, brushed aside fresh statements from Chinese diplomats in the UN criticizing the arbitration case filed against Beijing.

China’s representative to the UN has accused the Philippines and Vietnam of making “groundless accusations” in their efforts to reassert their territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Deputy Permanent Representative Wang Min issued the statement during a recent meeting on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York even as he maintained that China will not abide by any arbitration ruling as formally sought by the Philippines to settle its claim over islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Wang said the Philippines has attempted to illegally occupy some of the Nansha islands (Spratly Islands).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines will continue to follow the rule of law in asserting its claim over the West Philippine Sea.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose cited several instances of intrusions and encroachments done by China in the West Philippine Sea that heighten tension and instability in the region.

US proposes freeze on provocative maritime action By AP (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 13, 2014 - 12:00am 4 0 googleplus0 0


Assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel. AFP FILE PHOTO

YANGON — A US official proposed Wednesday that China and Southeast Asian nations call a moratorium on actions seen as provocative in a bid to cool tensions in the South China Sea.

Danny Russel, the top US diplomat on East Asia, said he made the suggestion as “food for thought” and not as a formal proposal as he met regional counterparts in Myanmar to prepare for a regional summit later this year.

“The claimant states themselves could identify the kind of behavior that they each find provocative when others do it, and offer to put a voluntary freeze on those sorts of actions on the condition that all the other claimants would agree to do so similarly,” Russel, an assistant secretary of state, told reporters on a conference call.

“So, for example, would they be willing to make a pledge as simple as not to occupy any of the land features in the South China Sea that are currently unoccupied?”

The United States has pushed for years for a code of conduct to lay out rules to prevent the escalation of incidents in the South China Sea, an economically vital waterway in which China has overlapping claims with several other nations.

But Russel acknowledged that tensions have been “going up quickly” in the sea. Riots erupted in Vietnam last month in anger against China’s deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.

The Philippines, a US ally, has also seen increasingly tense tussles with China over control of islets and reefs in the sea.

Russel said that the Chinese delegation at the talks in Myanmar offered a “spirited and vigorous defense” of its position, but voiced hope that Beijing understood that other nations’ statements were “offered not in the spirit of condemnation, but in the spirit of compromise.”

President Barack Obama is expected to travel to Myanmar in November for the East Asia Summit on his second visit to the country formerly known as Burma, a onetime Western pariah which has embraced democratic reforms.

Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to visit Myanmar in August in preparatory meetings for the meetings, which also include a summit of Southeast Asian nations.

Buzzing incident

Japan, meanwhile, summoned the Chinese ambassador to complain about fighter jets flying “dangerously” close to two of its military planes over the East China Sea, officials said.

In the latest up-close confrontation between the two sides, Tokyo says two Chinese SU-27 jets flew just 100 feet away from its aircraft in a spot where the two countries’ air defense zones overlap.

“It was an action that was extremely regrettable, and which cannot be tolerated,” said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, of the Wednesday incident.

It was the second time in less than three weeks that Tokyo has accused Beijing of playing chicken in the skies near the hotly contested Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

“It comes after a similar event which occurred last month,” Suga said. “The government will continue urging China to prevent an accident and restrain itself. Japan will seek cooperation from countries concerned.”

Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Akitaka Saiki, called the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, to the ministry, where he was expected to have urged Beijing to create a maritime communication system with Tokyo.

The incident occurred as Japan and Australia held the fifth round of so-called “2+2” talks between their defense and foreign affairs chiefs in Tokyo.

The meeting was part of a trend in which military and political alliances are being forged and strengthened around the Asia-Pacific, as countries in the region look with alarm at China’s growing willingness to forcefully push its claims in territorial disputes.

The two sides reached a broad agreement on a legal framework to allow them to conduct joint research and trade in defense equipment.

That comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has relaxed strictures on his country’s arms industry to allow it to sell its high-tech weaponry abroad, and as Canberra is known to be shopping for submarines.

Abe has also made great play of offering Japan as a benign counterweight for countries looking askance at China’s recent heavy-handedness, which has seen it involved in destabilizing rows with Vietnam and with the Philippines.

Japan’s own dispute with China is heavily colored by differences over shared history, but is being played out on the seas and in the skies near the Senkakus, where boats and planes have sparred for nearly two years.

Phl files another protest vs China reclamation By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 14, 2014 - 12:00am 1 5 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against China’s reclamation on Kennan (Hughes) Reef in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“We lodged the diplomatic protest last week,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing. He said the government filed the protest after confirming China’s reclamation work on the reef.

Last April 4, Manila protested China’s reclaiming of land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef.

President Aquino brought up the issue of China’s reclamation on Mabini Reef during the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar.

The issue was also included in the memorial or written argument of the Philippine position on the dispute submitted on March 30 to an arbitral tribunal based in The Hague.

In the nearly 4,000-page memorial, Manila presented its arguments and evidence against China’s nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing’s expansive and excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea.

The arbitration was initiated by the Philippines under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

After the DFA revealed China’s reclaiming land on Mabini Reef, Aquino made public reports that Chinese ships were spotted around Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef and Burgos (Gaven) Reef.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier told reporters of Manila’s plan to file diplomatic protest if the reported reclamation on Calderon and Burgos reefs were verified.

“Once verified we will definitely lodge similar protest,” Jose added.

The Chinese were also reportedly reclaiming land on Malvar (Eldad) Reef.

Philippine authorities said Beijing was apparently planning more reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen its hold on territories it covets.

The DFA said China is changing the feature of the areas it wants to wrest from the Philippines to discredit Manila’s case before the arbitral tribunal.

But at Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is still verifying reports that China is reclaiming land on two more disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

“I am aware of the reports (of reclamation). The President did mention, pretty recently, about movements that have been monitored in Calderon Reef. But I am not quite certain about the other two that have been mentioned, but we will check with the military,” Valte said in a press briefing yesterday.

The STAR reported on Friday that China was into land reclamation activities on Kennan (Hughes) and Malvar (Eldad) Reef.

“Apparently they are very aggressive in pursuing their expansion in the West Philippine Sea and, obviously, these steps are designed to advance the theory of their nine-dash line... that will guide us in our next movements,” Valte said.

Valte said the Philippines filed an arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea precisely to question the nine-dash line position of Beijing.

“We have chosen those tracks. The legal, the political, as well as the diplomatic; and we will stick to that. Again, we will not respond to provocative acts,” Valte said.

Reclamation tit for tat

With no apparent letup in China’s reclamation activities in disputed waters, Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said yesterday the Philippines should consider undertaking its own reclamation projects in the islands it occupies.

Biazon, chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, and former Marine officer and head of a secret task force that occupied eight islands in the Spratlys in 1968, said such a move could be an appropriate response to the reported reclamation being conducted by China on five reefs in the disputed territory.

“Why not conduct our own reclamation?” Biazon told The STAR.

He said an airstrip in Pag-Asa Island, the biggest of the Philippine-occupied islands in the area, was built through partial reclamation.

“I don’t think we will be violating the Code of Conduct or anything because we were there ahead, a long time ago,” he said, referring to the 2002 declaration signed by parties to the territorial dispute including China and members of ASEAN.

Apart from the Philippines and China, other claimants in the Spratlys are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

He said during the time the Philippines started occupying the islands upon orders of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, only Taiwan and Vietnam had similar installations in the area.

He said a ninth island was occupied by the Philippines in 1970.

Biazon, however, said he was not sure if the government could afford such form of expansion.

When asked whether such a move by the Philippines could trigger a reclamation frenzy among other claimant countries, he said: “That’s speculative.”

Of the six claimants, only Brunei does not occupy any land feature in the Spratlys.

Vietnam currently controls 22 islands in the disputed waters, China occupies eight and Malaysia four. Taiwan has a garrison in the largest island, Itu Aba.

Dispute tops agenda

The maritime dispute between China and its neighbors is on the agenda of the two-day gathering of legal and security experts in Washington on July 10-11.

Attending the event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies are representatives from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Ernie Bower, CSIS senior adviser and Sumitro chair for Southeast Asia Studies, said China is also expected to attend the conference, titled “Trends in the South China and the US Policy.”

“The conference will shed light on recent developments in the South China Sea and assess the roles of outside powers in the conflict, with a special focus on US policy options for responding to the tensions,” Bower said.

A simulation, featuring possible US responses to a hypothetical crisis in the South China Sea, would also be featured in the conference.

The meeting aims to provide an opportunity for US and Asian policymakers, business executives and experts to discuss and draw lessons from global developments.

In China, officials marked the anniversary of the adoption of the UNCLOS by declaring their country’s adherence to international law.

While making the declaration, Beijing reiterated its rejection of Manila’s turning to international arbitration for help in contesting China’s expansive maritime claim.

The 24th Conference of Parties to UNCLOS held a special session in New York on June 9 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of UNCLOS.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China values UNCLOS because it establishes a basic legal framework for maritime order in modern times.

“China attaches great importance to the development of marine endeavors, takes an active part in international maritime affairs and stands for the establishment and maintenance of a harmonious maritime order,” she said.

In ensuring a harmonious maritime order, “we should respect not only the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of all the littoral states, but also every country’s right and freedom for the lawful and peaceful use of the sea,” Hua said.

“China firmly safeguards and promotes the rule of international maritime law and the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. The Chinese government upholds an independent foreign policy of peace, abides by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as well as the stipulation of the Convention, peacefully resolves maritime disputes and respects the lawful rights of all countries to independently choose peaceful means to resolve disputes,” Hua said.

When addressing items not covered in the convention, she said regulations and principles of general international law should apply.

“The most effective and widely accepted approach for the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes is negotiation and consultation between countries directly concerned based on the respect for historical facts and international law. There are plenty of successful experience on that,” she added.

The arbitral tribunal hearing the case filed by the Philippines against China gave Beijing until Dec. 15 to submit its response to Manila’s memorial or written position on the issue.

China’s aggressive staking of its claims has been causing jitters among its smaller neighbors. Chinese ships in April tried but failed to stop a Filipino vessel from unloading supplies and provisions on a grounded transport ship which serves as a garrison for Filipino troops guarding Ayungin Shoal. – With Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica


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