Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions to South China Sea disputes


REFERRING to “Ripples and rumbles in South China Sea” (see below) by K. Thanabalasingam, I wish to share a few more points vital to the issue.

Conventional knowledge is that China’s claim to the islands is arbitrary and violates International Law. But what is left out is an impartial overview of the whole situation based on historical considerations and facts on the ground.

Claims made by Vietnam and China are mostly centred on history. The rest of the claimants are late comers after the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

To avoid complicating the issue, knowledge of history has to be put in perspective. Since there are no “historical titles” to validate, then whatever historical facts, maps or records have to be considered as evidence. At least it sheds light to validate its case.

China has been consistent in her claims since 1279. Marker stones and light houses were on the islands but most were destroyed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Even early European records affirmed Chinese fishermen took annual sojourns on Spratly islands for part of the year.

One interesting event that happened in 1953 involved a Tomas Cloma, (director of the Maritime Institute of the Philippines) who threw away all the marker stones and made a unilateral claim on some Spratly islands and later in December 1974 was forced to sell to the government for 1 peso only, now known as Kalayaan.

All these facts are buried and often not revealed by the West.

The infamous Treaty of San Francisco, also known as Treaty of Peace with Japan, was drafted by US and Allied Powers to settle post-war issues affecting nations. Whatever the circumstances, China/Taiwan and Korea were not invited to attend the negotiations which deprived them of a fair chance and the right to present their cases. This also breached the Cairo/Potsdam declarations.

After the devastating long war, China got the raw end of the deal with unsettled lands and islands. Scholars and historians viewed this as a deliberate manoeuvre by Western Powers especially the US to create ambiguities to serve their covert interests.

I totally agree with Thanabalasingam on the recent statement by the US and Allies to pre-empt the tribunal’s verdict in favour of the Philippines is an act of prima facie and undermines the whole proceedings of the court. That is why under Article 298 of UNCLOS, China declared that it does not accept compulsory arbitral procedures relating to sea boundary delimitation in 2006. Without guessing, one could easily decipher why the Philippine chose the arbitration court.

On the ground, it doesn’t need a military expert to see what’s happening in the region. It is a tussle between China and US with puppets (the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Vietnam) joining in the fray.

The US’s sole interest is to maintain her status quo and dominance in the region. China, a rising power, is a direct competitor. When Obama announced the pivot to Asia in 2012, tensions started building up day by day with increasing deployment of military assets to frightening level.

More bases have been opened to the US in the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and some Asean nations, creating a “ring of fire” to contain China.

To harness support US raises up the heat and false alarms on China’s threat to “Freedom of Navigation”, etc. Do you expect China to remain docile and silent? Freedom of navigation was not an issue for decades. Deliberately intruding into sovereign territory with frigates, spy planes, etc are direct provocations.

Sad to see nations taking sides just to gain a little leverage to support their claims. As far as I can see, these islands are “bread crumbs” created to inflict tension and even wars among nations. Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions. Don’t allow a Middle East or Ukraine crisis in Asia.

I trust my country will take the path of engagement and diplomacy.

By Ali Saw Kuala Lumpur The Sundaily

Ripples and rumbles in the South China Sea

AFTER the conclusion of the 27th Asean Summit and Related Summits chaired by Malaysia here in late November 2015, I felt optimistic the year 2016 might see a lessening of tensions in the South China Sea and perhaps even witness a Code of Conduct being signed between all the claimant states. I suppose this was hoping too much.

What we have seen instead is a rapid increase in tensions caused by China’s actions in the South China Sea. Understandably, claimant Asean states are anxious and concerned over these latest developments.

Since the start of this year, China has conducted several test flights from its airfield in the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands Group. There was also news reports that China had moved an oil rig into disputed waters between China and Vietnam.

This brings to mind the January 1974 Chinese/Vietnamese clash over the Paracel Islands with Vietnam suffering heavy losses and being evicted from the Paracels.

More recently it has been reported and confirmed that China has installed long-range anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the disputed Paracels chain.

This does not auger well for calm and confidence-building between the various Asean claimant states and the Republic of China.

In addition, the occasional reported intrusions of Chinese coastguard vessels into other nations’ territorial waters is cause for concern.

The recent statement by the US and some European nations that China must abide by the decision to be made by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, hearing the Philippines request to invalidate China’s claims, is rather premature in my humble opinion.

The US and other western nations’ statement would have been better coming after the tribunal’s verdict expected sometime near the middle of this year, if it turns out to be in Philippines favour. As it is, I feel the statement pre-empts the tribunal’s verdict.

I had written an article on the South China Sea dispute and stated my personal views in June 2015. I am of the firm belief, based on International Law and UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), that China’s claim to virtually the whole of the South China Sea is arbitrary and unprecedented.

No country has ever claimed such a large expanse of international maritime waters before. There is no provision anywhere that I am aware of for a historical claim, especially when such a claim has never been exercised or enforced until more recent times. China is not only a party to UNCLOS but it has also ratified it. Therefore, China is bound by UNCLOS.

A point to bear in mind is that there are laws and rules to what constitutes an island. Under UNCLOS no shoal or reef can be reclaimed and turned into an island.

A reclaimed land is artificial and not natural. Hence the question of territorial waters or other claims for the artificial island does not arise.

The Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by all members of Asean and the People’s Republic of China on Nov 4, 2002 unfortunately has a number of setbacks. There is also a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). Although this is mainly to avoid any untoward sea incident between US Navy ships and Republic of China Navy (ROCN) ships. I feel that CUES should also be used more by Asean claimant states’ naval ships and the ROCN ships.

Although I am disheartened by the latest developments in the South China Sea, I sincerely hope that these ripples and rumbles do not develop into a full blown hurricane or typhoon.

By Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam was the third chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the first Malaysian to be appointed to the post.Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The U.S. should keep away from the South China Sea for regional peace

China is forced to deploy defensive facilities on islands in the South China Sea in response to early militarization action from other parties and to the U.S. close-up reconnaissance in this region, said a China’s professor who specializes in international affairs.

Shen Dingli, a professor specializing in international affairs from Fudan University, wrote in a column that if the U.S. expects fewer disputes in the South China Sea, the country should not choose any side and not support those who infringe upon China’s national interests. The U.S. should make those countries withdraw from the region.

Shen stated that the U.S. should reduce its close-up reconnaissance in the region so that China will not need to spare much time to deploy forces in the region.

According to Shen, statements of spokespersons from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense clearly show China’s attitude towards this issue.

First of all, China deploys defensive facilities in order to cope with other countries’ militarization in this area. Secondly, China benefits from freedom of navigation and China is willing to maintain this freedom within the international law in cooperation with ASEAN countries. Thirdly, China urges the U.S. to respect its legitimate interests when it comes to sovereign of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Shen also said that if the U.S. really cares about China’s deployment of radars and missiles on relevant islands, it should reduce the close-up reconnaissance by its missile destroyers and strategic bombers in this area.  By Yuan Can (People’s Daily Online)

US militarizing South China Sea

Compared with the progress Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry seem to have achieved on sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, finding common ground to resolve their differences over the South China Sea has proved more difficult.

Just as Wang has stressed, the responsibility for non-militarization of the South China Sea is not China’s alone. The United States should lend an attentive ear to China’s stance.

On Tuesday, at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said China’s deployment of missiles and new radars on its islands and reefs in the South China Sea and its building of airstrips are “changing the operational landscape” in the waters.

The media in the US also hyped up China sending Annihilates-11 fighters to the Xisha Islands. These voices may be a prelude to Washington escalating the flexing of its muscles in the South China Sea.

Yet as a non-regional country, it is irresponsible of the US to intervene in the South China Sea in disregard of the possibility that has emerged that China and the other parties to the disputes in the waters will be able to stabilize the situation rather than let it spiral out of control.

If those in the region were allowed to settle the disputes themselves, the South China Sea would be free from concerns and troubles within the foreseeable future.

It is the US’ direct interventions in the South China Sea that are exacerbating tensions and adding uncertainty.

The US’ provocative signals have seriously increased Chinese people’s sense of urgency to strengthen the country’s military capabilities. When US military vessels and warplanes intruded into the 12-nautical-mile territorial seas around China’s islands and reefs, Chinese people have reasons to believe their country should not remain indifferent even if its military might is still inferior to that of the US.

On issues concerning national sovereignty, the Chinese military will follow the will of its people.- Global Times

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Beijing is home to the world’s most billionaires, edging New York City out


Night view of Central Business District with the new CCTV Tower, right, and other skyscrapers and high-rise office buildings in Beijing. Beijing is home to the world’s most billionaires, pushing New York City out of the top slot. [Photo/IC]

Story Highlights:

–Beijing is home to 100 billionaires

–Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda is the richest Chinese

–China overtakes the US with the most billionaires

Beijing is home to the world’s most billionaires, pushing New York City out of the top slot it had held for years, according to a Shanghai-based research and media outlet that keeps track of the world’s wealthiest.

Despite a slowing economy, the Chinese capital added 32 billionaires, bringing its total to 100 and New York added four, giving it 95 billionaires, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2016.

Moscow came in third with 66, and Hong Kong and Shanghai came in fourth and fifth with 64 and 50, respectively, Hurun said in its ranking of US dollar billionaires as of Jan 15.

Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda, one of China’s top real estate developers, was the wealthiest Beijing resident with a net worth of $26 billion.

New York’s top billionaires were businessman David Koch and Michael Bloomberg, the city’s former mayor and media company owner. His wealth increased $16 billion to $37 billion, according to Hurun. Another city resident whose wealth increased is Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. He added $5 billion to go to $6.5 billion.

While China has passed the US with the most billionaires, the Hurun report noted that none of the richest billionaires are from China. Eight of the world’s 11 wealthiest, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the world’s wealthiest with $80 billion, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are from the US.

And the combined net worth of US billionaires is still nearly double that of Chinese billionaires, for a total of $2.4 trillion, just a little less than the GDP of France, according to the report.

Rupert Hoogewerf, the founder of Hurun, said initial public offerings are behind the rapid expansion of Chinese wealth.

In October, China overtook the US for the first time as the country with the most billionaires within its borders. About 568 billionaires now live in China and 535 in the US.

Hoogewerf said the number of billionaires for the rest of the world was held back by a slowdown in the global economy, the strengthening of the US dollar and the drop in oil prices. – China Daily/Asia News Network
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Philippines violated agreements and laws by filing arbitration over South China Sea


 

China: Rejection of the Philippines’ arbitration ‘in line with law’

 Foreign Minister Wang Yi says China’s rejection of arbitration filed by the Philippines over terroritorial claims, is in line with the law. His remarks came after talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Beijing on Wednesday, as Australia called for a resolution to the South China Sea disputes through peaceful means, including arbitration.

“China is actually following international law by not accepting arbitration regarding sovereign and maritime entitlements. Because after joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2006, China issued a declaration according to the rights given to China by Article 298 of the UNCLOS. We issued a government statement excluding China from being subjected to the compulsory settlement measures. The Chinese government will continue to stand by the declaration.” said Wang Yi.

China in 2006 declared it would not accept arbitration of disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Wang said.

“Chinese government will certainly stick to this position,” Wang said, adding that more than 30 countries, including Australia, have also made similar “exclusive” declarations.

He gave a list of reasons why the Philippines’ arbitration attempt is invalid and unacceptable, including unilateral moves without consulting China, which goes against international norms, as well as the common sense argument that arbitration applications are usually lodged only when all other means are depleted.

China and the Philippines have several agreements that disputes should be solved through dialogue and consultation.

The Philippines has also signed the fourth article of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which states that disputes should be solved by those countries directly related, through negotiation and consultation.

Wang said that the Philippines’ arbitration attempt violated previous agreements and raised suspicion of its complicated international background or even hidden political motives.

The minister listed reasons why the Philippines’ arbitration attempt, first made in 2014 to a UN tribunal, is invalid and unacceptable. He said it was a unilateral move by the Philippines, which goes against international norms on arbitration, and that they have not yet exhausted other means to reach a resolution. Wang Yi also said any deployment of defense facilities on China’s own territory would be legitimate.

Wang further said the Philippines not only violated a number of agreements by filing arbitration without China’s consent … but also did not follow the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea. According to him, any arbitration should only be filed after all possible solutions are tried and failed.

“The Philippines betrayed our trust and went against justice to file for arbitration. That made us wonder whether they are making these decisions following complicated international circumstances.   They may even have political purposes that they don’t want to share,” he said.

This was in response to western reports that an advanced surface-to-air missile system was deployed to one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

“I hope that media everywhere will turn their attention to the lighthouses that we have built on some of the islands in the South China Sea. They are in operation now and they have been very useful in ensuring the safety of passing ships in those waters. The meteorological forecast facilities and other facilities will provide assistance and rescue and emergency response to the fishing boats in those waters. Because I think all of those are actions China, as the biggest state in the South China Sea, has undertaken to provide more public goods and services to the international community and play a positive role there. ” said Wang, ” As for the limited and necessary self-defence facilities that China has built on the islands and reefs stationed by Chinese personnel, this is consistent with the self-preservation and self-protection that China is entitled to under international law. So there should be no question about that.”

The Chinese Foreign Minister also stressed that demilitarization benefits all, but it can not be applied to only one country, or with double or even multiple standards. He said demilitarization in the South China Sea needs joint efforts from countries both in and outside the region. The Chinese Foreign Minister said China noticed that during the just concluded meetings between the US and ASEAN, the two pledged to achieve demilitarization in the region. He said China hopes they can keep their word. Xinhua

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China responds to US’s militarizing the South China Sea

China responds to US’s militarizing the South China Sea


It is the US that is militarizing the South China Sea

The U.S. has recently been hyping the idea that China is militarizing the South China Sea. It first criticized China for deploying missiles in Yongxing Island, then claimed in a report that China is building a radar system on islands or reefs in the Nansha Islands.

However, plenty of evidence suggests that it is the U.S. rather than China who is actually militarizing the South China Sea.

First, the U.S. is clearly “a thief calling on others to catch a thief” when accusing China of escalating militarization in the South China Sea.

It is the U.S. that has been enhancing military deployment in neighboring regions of the South China Sea.

The U.S. not only acquired access to eight military bases in the Philippines, the superpower has also continued increasing its military presence in Singapore and sent warships and aircraft to the South China Sea.

What’s more, it has repeatedly pressured its allies and partners to conduct targeted military drills and patrols to play up regional tension.

Besides selling weaponry to the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, the U.S. also repeatedly sent missile destroyers, strategic bombers and anti-submarine patrol aircraft to approach or even enter relevant reefs and islands, as well as the adjacent waters and air space of China’s Nansha and Xisha Islands. Such acts betray ambition to provoke China.

Secondly, the U.S. obviously has a guilty conscience when criticizing China for deploying national defense.

As islands and reefs in the South China Sea have been an indisputable part of China’s territory since ancient times, China is entitled to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.

By deploying necessary defense for its own territory, China is exercising the right of self-preservation granted by international law to sovereign states. This has nothing to do with militarization and is completely legitimate.

China’s defense is not fundamentally different from the defense installation by the U.S. in Hawaii. If other countries have zero intention to threaten China’s sovereignty and security, they needn’t worry about defensive measures.

Thirdly, the U.S. revealed its double standard when criticizing China’s construction on the Nansha Islands.

Such construction falls completely within China’s sovereignty. The light houses built by China on its stationed islands and reefs, as well as the facilities for meteorological observation, emergency shelter and rescue, are public services and goods offered by China to the international community as the largest coastal state in the South China Sea.

They are by no means military facilities, but the U.S. has continued picking on China nonetheless.

In contrast, the U.S. turns a blind eye to military actions taken by the Philippines and Vietnam on the Nansha Islands, which they illegally occupy.

Lastly, so-called “safeguarding navigation freedom” is just a cover-up for the U.S. to destroy peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The U.S. military has been carrying out “navigation freedom” activities for a long time. Such activities, in essence, are challenges to other countries’ sovereignty and jurisdiction in their own waters and exclusive economic zones. The U.S. carries out these activities just to maintain its own maritime supremacy.

The freedom of navigation and flight over the South China Sea, to which all countries are entitled under international law, has never been threatened. Over 100,000 vessels from various countries pass through the region every year without a hitch.

However, the “navigation freedom” actions conducted by the U.S. destroy peace and tranquility in the South China Sea and escalate regional tensions.

Not only won’t this selfish and overbearing act help to peacefully resolve the South China Sea issue, it will further disrupt regional peace and stability.

The U.S. must realize that as a party not concerned in the South China Sea issue, it should respect the efforts of China and concerned nations to peacefully handle their own disputes and safeguard the stability of the region.

If the U.S. intends to make sincere contributions, the best way is to stop stirring up tensions through risky military actions in the South China Sea.

–  By Zhang Junshe – The author is a research fellow of China’s Naval Research Institute

China said on Friday that it does not intend to pursue militarization of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and criticized U.S. air and naval patrols in the region.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, adding “China is serious about its commitment not to pursue militarization of the Nansha Islands.”

Hong made the remarks after U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said commercial satellite imagery suggested “very recent” placement of missiles on Yongxing Island that goes against China’s pledge not to militarize the South China Sea.

“We see no indication that … this militarization effort, has stopped. And it’s doing nothing … to make the situation there more stable and more secure,” Kirby said at a regular news briefing on Thursday.

Hong said that demilitarization in the region is not a matter for just a single country. “There should not be double standards or multi-standards for demilitarization in the South China Sea, and the process requires joint efforts from countries in the region and beyond.”

He said the United States is strengthening military deployment in the South China Sea and frequently sends military vessels or planes to waters in the South China Sea to conduct close-in reconnaissance against China.

He also accused the United States of sending missile destroyer and strategic bombers into waters and airspace adjacent to the Nansha Islands and had its allies hold targeted joint military exercises or joint cruises in the region.

The U.S. actions have escalated tensions in the South China Sea and constitute the militarization of the South China Sea, said Hong.

Yongxing Island, the largest island in the Xisha Islands group in the South China Sea, is an inherent part of China’s territory, he said.

In 1959, the Chinese government set up an administrative office and the ensuing government facilities on the Yongxing Island.

The deployment of defense facilities on Yongxing Island amounts to China exercising its sovereignty and it has been going on for decades, he said, urging the U.S. side to learn the basic facts regarding the South China Sea before commenting on the issue.

HQ-9 missile prompted by US threat

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that “There is every evidence, every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another,” referring to the reported Chinese deployment of missiles in the “disputed” islands in the South China Sea. He said “it’s of serious concern” and the US will “have further very serious conversation” with China. The US media has responded strongly to the allegations that China has deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Yongxing Island, one of the islands in the Xisha chain. US Senate Armed Forces Chairman John McCain suggested the US consider “additional options to raise the costs on Beijing’s behavior.”

The HQ-9 missile is a typical type of defensive weapon. The Xisha Islands are Chinese territory and have long been under China’s actual control. Previous disputes in the South China Sea did not involve this area, but this time the US has targeted Yongxing Island in Xisha to attack China’s “militarization” of the South China Sea. Washington intends to not only tarnish China’s image, but also expand the disputes so as to contain China’s activities in the Nansha Islands.

The confrontation between China and the US in the South China Sea is likely to escalate. The whole of Chinese society should be cool-minded and be prepared for long-term competition with the US.

First, we should be clear about the country’s stance toward the South China Sea. We are safeguarding our legitimate rights without any radical moves. Island building in Nansha and missile deployment in Xisha are in accordance with international law.

Second, China cares about developing ties with all regional countries. The missiles in Yongxing do not target any South China Sea claimants.

Third, China should send clear messages to the outside world that its defensive deployment in Yongxing targets external military threats. The freedom of navigation in the South China Sea only applies to civilian vessels and aerial vehicles. Outside warships and jet fighters must obey the principle of “innocent passage.” American warships and flights have constantly made provocations in the South China Sea. The US is bold about imposing pressure on China, and China must make an appropriate response.

Fourth, how the PLA deploys weapons and the defense levels should be determined by the threat level from external military forces. If the US military stages a real threat and a military clash is looming, the PLA may feel propelled to deploy more powerful weapons.

Fifth, China does not want to see an escalation of Sino-US frictions in the South China Sea, but it should let the US know that its every single provocative act will face countermeasures from China.

Sixth, the main risks come from the uncertainty of intensity of China-US competition. It is unrealistic for relevant countries to woo the US to balance China.

Last, China should adopt an active approach to cope with an opinion war and express its stance to the world. China holds firm strategic initiatives in the South China Sea, and the US has no actual effective tools to contain China in the waters. It is best at rhetoric offense, so we must reason with it head-on. – Global Times

Washington’s destabilizing role in South China Sea

 

South China Sea. (Photo/Xinhua)

After failing to get its way at the first U.S.-ASEAN summit in California, Washington appears ready to grasp at anything that could be used against China.

And the media hype over China’s deployment of a surface-to-air missile system in Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, just provided Washington a much-needed excuse to once again criticize Beijing for its alleged role in “militarizing” the region.

For starters, China has indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and deploying limited and necessary national defense facilities on China’s own territory has nothing to do with militarization in the South China Sea.

China has repeatedly made it clear that it has no intention to militarize the region. Its activities are mainly for maintenance purposes, improving the living conditions for the stationed personnel there and providing more public goods in the region.

With trillions of dollars’ worth of goods traversing the patch of water every year, the South China Sea is vital both to global trade and to China’s development. Beijing has no reason to disrupt one of its own crucial arteries of trade.

Meanwhile, the United States, which has become fixated on the South China Sea since Washington announced a pivot to the Asia-Pacific, has been the primary source of destabilization in the area.

It has conducted a slew of naval and air patrol trips in the vicinity of the China-owned islands, which is in clear violation of China’s sovereignty, not to mention international law.

In addition, it has also reopened military bases in the Philippines, in a move widely interpreted as stirring up tension in the region.

Furthermore, some countries in the region are taking more provocative measures to press for illegitimate territorially claims ever since the U.S. put the South China Sea on its radar.

If there were a ranking for destabilizers in the South China Sea, there’s no doubt Washington would top the list.

China’s practices in the region are defensive in nature, and it sees direct talks between rival claimants rather than military means as the best way to resolve any dispute.

For the sake of regional stability and the common good, let’s hope the United States honor its previous commitment of not taking sides on the issue or stirring up tensions. Only then can the South China Sea be home to calm waters. Xinhua

Military factors injected by US provocation in the South China Sea

In an exclusive report, Fox News claimed that it obtained civilian satellite imagery which appears to show China’s HQ-9 air defense system on Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. Fox News used this as evidence that China is increasingly “militarizing” its islands and “ramping up tensions in the region.” Many Western media picked up the news.

They probably aren’t clear about the differences between the constructed islands in Nansha Islands and Yongxing Island in Xisha. The disputes over the sovereignty of islands in Nansha are sharp, while the Xisha Islands are under the actual control of China.

China has released the baseline of the territorial sea to the Xisha Islands and their sovereignty is not disputed. Meanwhile, Yongxing is the largest of the Xisha Islands and the location of the city of Sansha. Defensive weapons were deployed on the island in the past. Even if the presence of the HQ-9 system is true as the West has claimed, it is a matter of China’s sovereignty and it is fully legitimate for China to do so.

US authorities and opinion have paid particular attention to the “militarization” of the South China Sea, which shows the absurdity of US-style hegemonic mentality. The US, an outsider, has injected the most military elements in the region. It will reopen military bases in the Philippines. It also advocates its allies, Japan and Australia, to join its military navigation in the South China Sea. The biggest act of militarization is that it sent warships within 12 nautical miles of islands claimed by China.

Facing more frequent provocations from the US military, China should strengthen self-defense in the islands in the South China Sea. The deployment of defense systems is not in the domain of militarization, as militarization of islands often means they are built into a fortress to become an outpost of military contests.

Guam is a typical example of US militarization. In recent years, Guam has deployed offensive nuclear submarines and various missile systems which are aimed at deterring China, making it the new pillar of US military deterrence in the Pacific.

At least currently, China finds it does not need to militarize the islands to cope with the other South China Sea claimants. As long as Washington does not inject tensions, China has no motivation to do so. Uncertainties in the future come from the US side.

Once the US repeatedly sends warships to make provocations at Chinese islands and threatens the security of Chinese people and facilities on the islands, more military equipment should be deployed to counter US provocations. This is common in contemporary international relations.

Once the South China Sea is militarized, it will only add to China’s strategic costs. Therefore, China will hardly resort to the last choice. But China is not the decisive factor, as it is propelled to react due to provocations from the US and its allies.

China is serious about ensuring stability and prosperity around the South China Sea and has invested enormous energy and resources. The region is adjacent to the route of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and China’s efforts are eliminating vulnerability caused by a lack of security trust.

Even if the HQ-9s are deployed on South China Sea islands, regional countries would not raise much concern as these claimants have no intention to fight for air supremacy. Jet fighters from the US, an outside country, may feel uneasy when making provocative flights in the region. To us, that’s a proper result. – Global Times

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US militarizing South China Sea

On issues concerning national sovereignty, the Chinese military will follow the will of its people.

Commentary: U.S. has hard time justifying criticism of China’s actions in South China Sea

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — The U.S. government is recently
struggling China Sea, because it is clear that it is the United States,
not China, that is the real source of militarization of the region.

China’s deployment of a surface-to-air missile system on the Xisha
Islands, an inherent part of China’s territory, is defensive in nature
and falls within its sovereign rights and international law.Full Story

China Voice: Provocation no good for peace in South China Sea

BEIJING, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) — Sending a warship to another country’s
territorial waters without notice is hardly the right thing to do,
regardless protocols and codes.

The Saturday maneuvers of a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer 12
nautical miles off Zhongjian Dao, Xisha Islands, was “deliberate
provocation”, according to China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang
Yujun.

It also drew angry outcry from Chinese on the Internet, with many
comments much more radical than the official response. The Chinese
people have every reason to feel offended. Full Story 

U.S. should be more inclusive in diplomacy

When the U.S. is excluding others such as China, China pursues a philosophy of openness, transparenc[Read it]

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North Korea: launched a long-range rocket, cannot repeat China’s nuclear weapons path


North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday morning. Pyongyang authorities said they had successfully launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 earth observation satellite, while the US, South Korea and Japan considered the launch to be a long-range missile test.

Pyongyang has made progress in long-range rocket and missile technology, but it is far from mastering mature long-range missile system and building a strategic deterrence. North Korea hopes it can effectively threaten the US homeland, but it views the matter too simply. Washington regards Pyongyang’s rocket launch as “severe provocation.” The majority of the international community doesn’t believe that in the foreseeable future, Pyongyang can miniaturize warheads and have the long-range nuclear strike ability to coerce Asia-Pacific countries and the US.

Long-range missile technology is similar to rocket technology, but there are differences. The deterrence of long-range missiles using liquid propellant is limited due to their restrained mobility and slow response times. According to analysis from the US and South Korean side, Pyongyang’s liquid propellant is backward and unreliable. North Korea has no successful record in long-range missile launch. As long as the Kwangmyongsong-4 enters the target orbit, it can be considered successful. But after all, the launch of a rocket and a missile is different.

Long-range missiles need a huge supportive system, for instance, the ability to measure flight attitude, orbit accuracy and landing location, but Pyongyang doesn’t have any of this. Washington and Seoul believe that North Korea has a rather limited missile testing ability. With the missile and rocket launched by the North landing in the ocean with little possibility of it being retrieved, it is extremely difficult for Pyongyang to collect the test data. Its industry is also not able to manufacture all the materials necessary for developing long-range missile and nuclear bomb.

Some believe Pyongyang’s research into nuclear weapons and long-range missiles is similar to China’s atomic and hydrogen bomb development in the 1960s. Since China succeeded, so will North Korea.

This is a serious misreading. China faced a different environment than North Korea today in developing nuclear weapons. It was before the Non-Proliferation Treaty was adopted in 1968. Plus, China has a vast territory, and has nuclear test sites in the desert, while North Korea’s limited space makes this impossible.

China’s strategic deterrent power of nuclear bomb and missile, limited at the beginning, were enhanced as science and technology improved in the country. It has become even more credible with the mobility of land-based ICBMs and the upgrading of sea-based missile launching system.

Pyongyang is at the stage of developing nuclear equipment and long-range rockets, which however has developed far from the reality of the country’s technology and economic development. So far, it is hard to tell whether it brings more strategic security or strategic harm to Pyongyang.

How far can Pyongyang’s nuclear bomb and missile develop? It is not up to the political determination of Pyongyang, since it involves complicated geopolitical forces which North Korea can hardly harness. Pyongyang must think carefully how to extricate itself from the increasingly grave situation. – Global Times

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However, China’s determination to safeguard its national security should be clearly shown, so that the other stakeholders will have to think carefully before they make any decision that might challenge China’s position.

China will “by no means allow war on the Korean Peninsula” a foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday, stressing Beijing was deeply concerned over Pyongyang’s announced plan to launch a satellite later this month, only weeks after it tested a nuclear bomb in defiance of international sanction

Reconsider TPPA in public interest


Use the next two years to think about the TPPA and its many implications for present as well as  future generations of Malaysians.

LAST week, Malaysia’s Parliament authorised the government to sign and ratify the 6350-page Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Thankfully, as the Minister has emphasised, countries will not need to ratify the deal for about two years, and can withdraw after that, though neither option will be costless. Hence, it is important to use the next two years to have a careful consideration of the TPPA and its many implications for present as well as future generations of Malaysians.

Who gains how much?

Most people think the TTPA is about greater growth from freer trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the overly optimistic computable general equilibrium (CGE) projections, made on methodologically moot grounds, recognise that more trade does not mean more growth. After all, freer trade not only means more exports, but also more imports. Without adequate compensatory mechanisms, nothing guarantees that all will benefit.

The net gains for growth from increased trade are difficult to estimate reliably, and depend very much on crucial assumptions made for modelling. Even the CGE models used for TPPA advocacy acknowledge limited net economic benefits from trade liberalisation. Hence, while the TPPA will result in greater trade, there is no reliable basis for assuming that increased trade will improve economic welfare for all.

More production for export will partly replace production for domestic markets. Exports are less labour-intensive and use more imported inputs than production for domestic markets. Businesses become more competitive by cutting labour costs, negatively affecting income distribution, thus further weakening domestic demand.

Both the USA and Malaysia are among the world’s most open economies, with little more trade to be gained by further reducing tariffs. The TPPA does not address many non-tariff barriers, e.g. the campaign against Malaysian palm oil.

The only US government study of the TPP’s growth effects did not see much growth from increased trade. The World Bank and Peterson Institute studies claimed more significant growth gains from large, but dubious projected increases in foreign direct investment (FDI). But there is no evidence that FDI reliably increases tax revenue, especially with the generous tax incentives offered by the authorities.

Cheap labour

As a middle income country, it will be difficult for Malaysia to compete successfully with Vietnam and other such developing economies on the basis of labour costs for the labour-intensive primary commodity and export-oriented manufacturing envisaged by the TPPA. All this is likely to work to keep Malaysia stuck in the middle income trap.

Yet, despite the exaggerated claims of its advocates, the TPPA provisions for the trade in goods are probably its least dangerous aspects. For example, TPPA provisions for further liberalisation of financial services will undermine national prudential regulation, exposing Malaysia to greater vulnerability from abroad, as if we have not learnt from the 1997-98 Southeast Asian financial crisis as well as the 2008-09 financial meltdown and ensuing protracted Great Recession.

Partnership?

Many ostensible provisions and safeguards in the TPPA have asymmetric implications. For instance, compared to Malaysia, the US federal government has much less scope for discretionary spending compared to its state governments which are, in many instances, larger than many other TPPA economies. Thus, exempting state governments from TPPA provisions, e.g. on government procurement, will have very different implications in the two countries.

Instead of trade, for Malaysia, the TPPA is mainly about greatly strengthening investor rights, including intellectual property rights (IPRs). But stronger IPRs hardly promote research. Instead, most contemporary IPR regimes actually impede innovation, besides undermining public health and consumer welfare by limiting competition and raising prices. The TPPA will thus allow ‘Big Pharma’ longer monopolies on patented medicines, keep cheaper generics off the market, and block the development and availability of similar new medicines.

Corporate interests

The collective drafting of the 6350 pages of the TPPA was ‘assisted’ by over five hundred official corporate advisers to the US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman, greatly strengthening foreign investor rights at the expense of Malaysian business and public interests.

The TPPA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system obliges governments to compensate foreign investors for the loss of expected profits in binding private arbitration, even when profits are made by causing public harm.

US corporate interests claim that ISDS is necessary to protect property rights where the rule of law and credible courts are lacking. But instead of reforms to improve the judiciary’s performance and reputation, the TTPA will expose Malaysia to new risks and liabilities.

ISDS provisions make it hard for governments to fulfil their basic obligations such as to protect their citizens’ health and safety, to ensure economic development and stability, and to safeguard the environment.

For example, the world’s most widely used herbicide has been declared by the WHO to be carcinogenic. By banning such toxic materials, with the ISDS, the government would be liable to compensate its manufacturers not to harm our people, instead of forcing them to compensate those already harmed! Thus, the ISDS may even deter the government from banning the substance, putting people at risk.

Multilateralism

Like many other recent bilateral and plurilateral economic agreements, the TPPA has less to do with freeing trade, but instead advances the interests of powerful foreign business interests.

Concluding the TPPA before the mid-December Nairobi World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial was then used by USTR Froman to try to kill the WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations, apparently also in line with the current European Commission commissioner’s preferences. The negotiation had begun in late 2001, after 9/11, with the promise of rectifying the anti-development and food security outcomes of the previous Uruguay Round following the Seattle WTO ministerial failure.

In spite of their denials, Asean members joining the TPPA have also effectively undermined existing commitments to the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) and Asean Economic Community (AEC).

The main US motivation for the TPPA has been to exclude China. At his State of the Union address, President Obama triumphantly announced, “With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region, we do”.

After being blocked from greater commensurate influence in the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions, broad support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), even from traditional US allies, was a major embarrassment to the US.

Neutrality

The political re-alignment also abandons the late Tun Razak’s commitment to make Asean a ‘zone of peace, freedom and neutrality’ (ZOPFAN), an irony for the host of the last Asean summit.

One may understand why Vietnam, at war with the US until four decades ago, is keen to join the TPPA, to strengthen its hand viz a viz China, but it too will be compelled to pay a high economic price for Uncle Sam’s ‘protection’.

Yet, despite its own problems with China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino Jr chose not to participate in the negotiations. Pre- and post-military coup Thailand, with an economy even more open than Malaysia’s, also chose to stay away. Why?

Singapore’s existing bilateral economic arrangements with the US go much further than the TPPA in line with its own unique strategic considerations. Of course, no serving government leader is going to offend the US by rejecting the TPPA outright.

Misgivings

Already, some other, mainly European governments have privately expressed their dismay at the TPPA provisions as it will weaken their own negotiating positions for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It is the US which has secured ‘first-mover’ advantage. It is unclear to most observers what great advantage Malaysia secured beyond some NEP ‘carve-outs’.

Since negotiations ended in Atlanta in October 2015, the minister in the new centrist Liberal Party Canadian government, an experienced former Financial Times editor, has already called for reconsideration of the TPPA provisions.

Australia and New Zealand, the public and parliamentarians are outraged about the onerous investment provisions of the TPPA after a 2016 World Bank report projected paltry gains for them.

Despite touting the TPP in Asia as his main foreign policy priority for 2016, Obama only spent 28 seconds of his hour-long State of the Union address on it, triumphantly announcing, “With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region, we do” (China excluded), making clearly the main US motivation while realising its widespread unpopularity with the American public, including his Democratic Party base. Even the libertarian Cato Institute has denounced the TPP as the tool of corporate lobbyists.

Caution needed

More careful consideration through more informed public discussion of the TPPA’s many provisions can only help the nation.

According to a mid-2015 Pew Research survey, the strongest support for the TPP is in Vietnam, where 89% of the public backed it, while the weakest support was in Malaysia (38%) and the US (49%). The greatest outright opposition was in Canada (31%), Australia (30%) and the US (29%).

Malaysians (14%) were the least supportive of closer economic relations with the US while the most support for deeper economic ties with China was in Australia (50%) and South Korea (47%). Large numbers of Malaysians (43%) and Chileans (35%) wanted stronger commercial relations with both China and the US.

The greatest opposition to the US defence pivot was in Malaysia, where 54% believed it is bad because it could lead to conflict with China.

TPPA not costless

If the TPPA is simply a trade deal, there would be less grounds for concern. Unfortunately, its other provisions will undermine Malaysian development prospects and the public interest in the longer term, with diminished ability for the Government, Parliament and the public to set things right.

Many well-intentioned Malaysians opposed to abuses of various kinds, support the TPPA, hoping that it will somehow eliminate corruption, improve governance and address other problems in the country. Unfortunately, this is merely wishful thinking. The TPPA is not a costless ‘hop-on, hop-off’ option, as some think.

By Dr Jomo Kwane Sunddaram

Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General in the United Nations system from 2005 to 2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for advancing the frontiers of economic thought. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

 
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Support TPPA because Chinese control trade and business in Malaysia?

US playing a messy game of provocations in SCS; China build up defense to thwart the provocation

In October, the US guided missile destroyer USS Lassen conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation within 12 nautical miles …

US playing a messy game of provocations in SCS; China build up defense to thwart the provocation


In October, the US guided missile destroyer USS Lassen conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation within 12 nautical miles of China’s Meiji and Zhubi reefs.

In December, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber “accidentally” flew within 2 nautical miles of China’s Huayang Reef.

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced an “innocent passage” by the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within 12 nautical miles of China’s Zhongjian Island.

On the surface, these are “routine” operations US Senator John McCain says are “normal occurrences” China will have to accept.

Yet this is not a Tom-and-Jerry kind of game where no party gets seriously hurt.

There is real potential danger, because the US challenges to China in the South China Sea are showing a trajectory of escalation.

Zhongjian Island is part of the Xisha Archipelago, where there is no current, active dispute, and hardly part of the issue of the day.

The Pentagon did display some diplomatic sophistication this time, claiming that the USS Curtis Wilbur “challenged attempts by the three claimants-China, Taiwan and Vietnam-to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas”.

Ignoring the fact this violates the US’ recognition of “one China”, reaffirmed by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, the Pentagon’s statement raises legitimate suspicions that it has an agenda to further complicate the South China Sea issue.

As in the rest of the South China Sea, there is no evidence the named “claimants” are attempting to “restrict navigation rights and freedoms”. Enlarging the South China Sea issue by extending it to the Xisha Archipelago may be an attempt to drive a wedge between the mainland and Taiwan by dragging the latter into a long dormant and increasingly forgotten “dispute”.

The US wants a larger role in the Asia-Pacific. And it is bent on preempting a perceived Chinese challenge.

There is no better way to do this than by making things messier, to make itself “needed” and “wanted”.

What China needs and wants is peace, but as the Chinese saying goes, while the tree craves calm, the wind will not abate. Beijing needs to react accordingly, and prepare for all possibilities.

However, the country learned the significance of comprehensive national strength the hard way. It should not be distracted. It should rise above stress responses and stay focused on its development agenda. – China Daily)

Build up defense to thwart US provocation 

China firmly upholds her sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

The US on Saturday sent one of its naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. The move, according to the Pentagon, was about “challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others.” The Chinese side criticized the behavior of a “serious political and military provocation.”

Until recently, China-US frictions have been fixed on the Nansha Islands. The latest intrusion by US vessels is a high-profile US provocation that has expanded to the Xisha Islands. Xisha is under China’s actual control and China has released the territorial sea baseline of the Xisha Islands, including Zhongjian Island. Therefore, the US provocation this time is more vicious.

Currently, China and the US have been focused on making their own moves in the South China Sea disputes. China is building islands in accordance with the law, and the US cannot prevent China from doing so despite strong protests. The US sent warships to provoke, and China protests against it strongly, yet with few effective countermeasures.

It is hard to evaluate the strategic nature of Sino-US confrontations in the South China Sea. China seems to have more room to maneuver, while the US apparently has more control over the overall situation.

Since it happens at the door of China, China feels that the US is circling to contain it and the US vigilance against China is aggressive. There is a long way to go before China can have an equal footing with the US. Such equality can only be achieved with the build-up of strategic strength.

China’s military strength still significantly lags behind that of the US. If the US is ready for a face-off in the South China Sea, it can quickly gather its military strength despite the far distance.

We also face similar setbacks in the East China Sea. We bear enormous pressure from Washington in our peripheral areas, and the relative backwardness of China’s military might is the weakest link in our competition with the US. Chinese people must be clear about the broader strategic significance of this reality.

The US provocation comes ahead of the 2016 two sessions which are scheduled in March. This reminds us that we must retain a high growth rate of military spending in spite of the economic downward trend.

The defense expenditure of a big power must constitute a certain percentage of its overall expense. China’s military budget only takes up 2 percent of its GDP, much lower than the US figure of 4 percent. Before we reach the same ratio as the US, we should hold a cautious attitude toward decreasing the defense budget.

China needs to accelerate its speed of building up strategic strike capabilities, including a nuclear second-strike capability. The US provocation will not stop due to Chinese objections. In the short-term future, we will have limited means to counter the US.

It will probably take China a dozen years or longer of military build-up before it faces a different situation in the South China Sea. – Global Times

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