When the nail sticks out

rants, raves and randomness

The South China Sea Squabbles

Tensions have been rising. China is involved in a lot of territorial disputes, there is a whole “landing page” on Wikipedia about it. But I will not talk about Chinese continental disputes. Being a Filipino resident of Japan, I’d like to talk about something much closer to home- the South China Sea.

China's Nine dash maps from  http://english.vietnamnet.vn/

China’s Nine dash line.

Image from < english.vietnamnet.vn >

It is funny how globalization has lead, not only to territorial squabbles, but naming issues. The Vietnamese call South China Sea “East Sea”, the same name the Koreans prefer to call Japan Sea. And in the Philippines? We prefer to call this area “West Philippine Sea.” But whatever you call it, make no mistake about it, it is an important body of water that everybody is fighting about. As Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

*For this entry, I will call it South China Sea, but I will maintain West Philippine Sea if lifted directly from another article.

Some Filipinos were afraid that China is getting closer and closer to Palawan. Someone once commented jokingly, “We should visit Palawan now, before it becomes Chinese territory and we’d be required to get a visa.”

What is the situation now like in the South China Sea ?

Challenging Beijing in the South China Sea

Challenging Beijing in the South China Sea

Image from < blogs.voanews.com/state-department-news/2012/07/31/challenging-beijing-in-the-south-china-sea/ >

The biggest claimant against China is Vietnam, occupying 25 islands and reefs, 12 of which are currently occupied by China. The second biggest claimant is the Philippines, which occupies 8 islands and much of the South China Sea. Malaysia occupies five areas in Spratlys. Taiwan occupies Itu-Aba,   the largest island with facilities. All countries, except Brunei, have physical presence in the contested areas.

<swp-berlin.org/ fileadmin/ c ntents/products/projekt_papiere/ BCAS2012_Pham_Quang_Minh_web_final_ks.pdf >

According to Wikipedia, here’s the situation now :

  • The Spratly Islands, disputed between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Vietnam, with Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines claiming part of the archipelago
  • The Paracel Islands, disputed between the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam
  • The Pratas Islands, disputed between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • The Macclesfield Bank, disputed between the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
  • The Scarborough Shoal, disputed between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Philippines

Japan also has a dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, which Japan has occupied since 1895 through a Cabinet decision. The only time they fell out of Japan’s control was when they were placed under the U.S. administration as a part of Okinawa , from 1945- 1972.

Senkaku Islands disputes

Senkaku Islands disputes

Image from < cscubb.ro/cop/tag/senkaku-islands/ >
This article is will cover :

I What is behind China’s claims?
1) China’s historical fiction….
2) ..and its middle kingdom mentality

II Why can’t history be used as a basis for claims?
1) Because anybody can make old maps and invent historical fiction, as China is now doing.
2)Even if you have historical evidence on your side (which China doesn’t), who’s to say how far back should we go?
3) Historically, maritime boundaries were never defined. Sovereignty is a modern concept….
4) The Chinese names of the reefs/islands claimed are mere translations or transliterations of the British names.
5) There is no archaeological evidence to support their claim.
6) History doesn’t trump law indefinitely

III Problems about the Claims
1) Some points raised about China’s 9-dash Line
2) Other problematic ‘features’ of South China Sea
3) Not one definite body to settle disputes or enforce compliance

IV How serious is China about its claims?
1) Academics were tasked to provide a legal basis of the cow’s tongue.
2) China is appealing to international treaties
3) China is ramping up its naval capabalities
4) It is also increasing its maritime and political presence in the contested waters.
5) China does not and will not hesitate to use violence to protect its interests.
6) China is promoting hate to support its claims….
7) And when the hate tactic doesn’t work, China cries harassment…

V Why does China covet 90% of the South China Sea anyway?
1) Fishing grounds
2) Important trade route
3) Access to imported energy
4) (Alleged) Oil reserves
5) Flaunt power
6) For submarine strategy
7) A declaration to never be taken advantage of…again

VI Response of the ‘nervous neighbors’ to China’s Aggression
1) Asian states ramp up defense and increase budget
2) States Strengthen Bilateral ties
3) States team up
4) States seek closer ties with the U.S.
5) States consider changing policies or urge others to do so

I What is behind China’s claims?


1) China’s historical fiction….

Most Google results yielded articles AGAINST China’s incredulous claims rather than for it. I have to modify my keywords to find a Pro-China historical claims , which is, unsurprisingly, found on a Chinese website. This is what they say:

China’s full sovereignty over South China Sea has a sufficient historical basis, further supported by international law.

As early as the 2nd century BC, ancient Chinese originally discovered the Nansha Islands. With the development of the maritime industry, the Nansha Islands started to attract attention. China renamed the South China Sea islands as “Changsha” during Tang and Song dynasties, when dozens of names vividly described the islands, sandbanks, reefs, waterways size, topography, and orientation in the South China Sea.

The Chinese people first developed and managed Nansha Islands. The Odds Contents of the 1st century BC and the Guangzhou Records by the Jin-dynasty Pei Yuan recorded Chinese fishermen’s activities in South China Sea. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, more Hainan-Island fishermen made their way to Nansha Islands for fishing, and fixed operation lanes took shape. Furthermore, they also reclaimed the land and planted trees there.

In the 19th century, foreign navigators, based on the existing facts, admitted that it was Chinese people who originally developed and managed Nansha Islands. “Hainan fishermen, dotted on every island, live on sea cucumbers and shellfishes. Some of them also inhabit the islands,” noted the British Navy’s China Sea Guide.

China was the first country that exercised jurisdiction on South China Sea. The Zheng He Navigational Charts in the Ming Dynasty shows a record of the Nansha Islands. Two Qing-dynasty maps in 1716 and 1817 also include the Nansha Islands into its territory, calling them “Wanli Shitang”. In 1883, Germany stopped its investigation activities in Nansha Islands in the face of protest from the Qing government. In 1933, the French occupation of the Nansha Islands invited Chinese fishermen’s resistance, after which the Chinese government made firm its claim to the territory. France evacuated at last. In 1946, the Chinese government, according to the “Cairo Declaration” and “Potsdam Proclamation,” regained its sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and reefs and re-erected a monument of sovereignty on the main island.

In 1947, China made public the old and new name table of the South China Sea islands, which was put under the governance of Guangdong Province. In February 1948 the Chinese government released a “South Sea Islands Location Map” which was also re-adopted after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In 1951, the “Japanese Peace Treaty” draft and “San Francisco Conference Statement” announced by Chinese former premier Zhou Enlai pointed out that the “Xisha, Nansha Islands and Dongsha, Zhongsha Islands have always been Chinese territory.” In 1958, China proclaimed the “Declaration on the Territorial Sea.” Afterwards, in the face of violations by foreign countries, the Chinese government has, on many occasions, reiterated its indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.

china.org.cn/ opinion/2012-05/23/ content_25454569. htm >

As of writing this, I have yet to come upon an article by a non-Chinese that supports the Chinese claims. The international community obviously does not buy China’s assertions.

2) ..and its middle kingdom mentality

But if you think this is new, it’s not. The Chinese characters for China is 中国. From Wikipedia :

Zhongguo is the most common name for China. The first character zhōng (中) means “central” or “middle,” while guó (國/国) means “state” or “states,” and in modern times, “nation.”

Middle Kingdom. Central state. Whatever it is, China sure is suffering from what Robert Kaplan and other analysts call the “Middle Kingdom mentality“,  a very Sino-centric view of the world, where non-Chinese territories are considered less important. Think Greeks and the Barbarians.

The Middle Kingdom Mentality from GlobalIssues.Org

The Middle Kingdom Mentality from globalissues.org

 China uses folklore, myths, and legends, as well as history, to bolster greater territorial and maritime claims. Chinese textbooks preach the notion of the Middle Kingdom as being the oldest and most advanced civilization that was at the very center of the universe, surrounded by lesser, partially Sinicized states in East and Southeast Asia that must constantly bow and pay their respects. China’s version of history often deliberately blurs the distinction between what was no more than hegemonic influence, tributary relationships, suzerainty, and actual control.

< worldaffairsjournal.org/article/ historical-fiction-china%E2%80% 99s-south-china-sea-claims >

Personally, what I find completely absurd with the Chinese claims is that they like to refer to Ming or Qing Dynasty when making their claims, as if this present administration is but an extension of these dynasties. Much of the world has changed since then-including two world wars that influenced the geopolitics of our modern world- and trying to live up to the past to justify maritime expansion is being in a state of selective “willful” amnesia. Excuse me, but let me remind you that your great dynasty collapsed in 1644, 370 years ago.  Even Qing, which followed Ming dynasty, ended in 1912 (or 1917, if you include the restoration), which was a century ago. Get over it!

II Why can’t history be used as a basis for claims?


1) Because anybody can make old maps and invent historical fiction, as China is now doing.

“China’s claims are very dubious because you can make old maps say what you want them to say,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of the department of Government and International Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

< the australian.com.au / news/ latest-news/ china-claims-historical-right-to-sea/story-fn3dxix6-122 6527035050? nk=7b490c7fea60be11 6ae61ec948ebd228 >

2)Even if you have historical evidence on your side (which China doesn’t), who’s to say how far back  should we go?

Besides,  how far back we want to apply history to our territorial claims will be problematic. If history trumps all other arguments, then should the Philippines revert back to being a colony of Spain? Or continue further back when there were independent “states” ruled by Rajah? If we want to assert history over everything else, then maybe Mongolia should occupy a vast majority of Chinese land- after all, the  Yuan dynasty predates Ming dynasty.

Yuan Dynasty map. The brown area shows the Yuan dynasty territory that occupies almost all of present-day China.

Yuan Dynasty map. The brown area shows the Yuan dynasty territory that occupies almost all of present-day China. From jyuandynasty.blogspot.jp

3) Historically, maritime boundaries were never defined. Sovereignty is a modern concept….

Aside from that, here is a good argument why China’s claims are mere historical fiction :

An in-depth analysis of the “historical evidence” underlying China’s claims shows that history is, in fact, not on China’s side. If anything, Beijing’s claim to the Spratlys on the basis of history runs aground on the fact that the region’s past empires did not exercise sovereignty. In pre-modern Asia, empires were characterized by undefined, unprotected, and often changing frontiers. The notion of suzerainty prevailed. Unlike a nation-state, the frontiers of Chinese empires were neither carefully drawn nor policed but were more like circles or zones, tapering off from the center of civilization to the undefined periphery of alien barbarians. More importantly, in its territorial disputes with neighboring India, Burma, and Vietnam, Beijing always took the position that its land boundaries were never defined, demarcated, and delimited. But now, when it comes to islands, shoals, and reefs in the South China Sea, Beijing claims otherwise. In other words, China’s claim that its land boundaries were historically never defined and delimited stands in sharp contrast with the stance that China’s maritime boundaries were always clearly defined and delimited. Herein lies a basic contradiction (ji ben mao dun) in the Chinese stand on land and maritime boundaries which is untenable. Actually, it is the mid-twentieth-century attempts to convert the undefined frontiers of ancient civilizations and kingdoms enjoying suzerainty into clearly defined, delimited, and demarcated boundaries of modern nation-states exercising sovereignty that lie at the center of China’s territorial and maritime disputes with neighboring countries. Put simply, sovereignty is a post-imperial notion ascribed to nation-states, not ancient empires.

thediplomat.com/2013/08/history-the-weak-link-in-beijings-maritime-claims/ >

– and it was primarily a  land-based concept.

The notion of sovereignty is not a Chinese or Asian notion but a European one that originated with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It was primarily a land-based concept and did not apply to nation-states in Asia and Africa until the mid-twentieth century. The Westphalian state system based on the concept of legal equality or state sovereignty over clearly defined external boundaries distinguished itself not only from the old feudal system in Europe, but also from other forms of hegemony and suzerainty that existed at that time in Asia—in Persia, China and India. Before the Treaty of Westphalia, kingdoms and empires in Europe and elsewhere could not claim or exercise sovereignty.

thediplomat.com/2013/08/history-the-weak-link-in-beijings-maritime-claims/ >

4) The Chinese names of the reefs/islands claimed are mere translations or transliterations of the British names.

If China did have jurisdiction over these islands, why didn’t they have original names for these islands?

When a Chinese government committee first gave Chinese names to the islands in 1935 all it did was either translate or transliterate the existing British names. In the Paracels, for example, Antelope Reef became Líng yang (the Chinese word for antelope) and in the Spratlys, North Danger Reef became B?i xi?n (Chinese for “north danger”), Spratly Island became Si-ba-la-tuo (the Chinese transliteration of the English name). The Chinese committee simply copied the British maps, errors and all. The names were then revised, twice. Scarborough Shoal, named after a British ship in 1748, was originally transliterated asSi ge ba luo in 1935, renamed Min’zhu Jiao—Democracy Reef by the nationalist Republic of China in 1947 and then given the less politically-sensitive name of Huangyan (Yellow Rock) by the communist People’s Republic of China in 1983.

<  prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/chinas-false-memory-syndrome >

5) There is no archaeological evidence to support their claim.

A full examination of each justification put forward by the Chinese side would run to many pages but suffice to say that there is no archaeological evidence yet found that any Chinese ship travelled across the sea before the 10th century. Up until that point all the trading and exploration was carried out by Malay, Indian and Arab vessels. They may, from time to time, have carried Chinese passengers. The much-discussed voyages of the Chinese “eunuch admirals” including Zheng He, lasted a total of about 30 years, until the 1430s. After that, although traders and fisherfolk plied the seas, the Chinese state never visited deep water again until the nationalist government was given ships by the US and UK at the end of the Second World War.

The first time that any Chinese government official set foot on any of the Spratly Islands was 12th December 1946, by which time both the British and French empires had already staked claims in the Sea. A provincial Chinese delegation had reached the Paracels a few decades earlier, on 6th June 1909, making what appears to have been a one-day expedition, guided by German captains borrowed from the trading firm Carlowitz. On such humble claims rests international confrontations.

<  prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/chinas-false-memory-syndrome >

6) History doesn’t trump law indefinitely

Let’s face it, China had been a great nation that dominated this part of the world, a greater nation that what it is today. Lesser nations paid their respects and gave tributes.  But so what? We don’t give tributes now, do we? We are now in the modern times, operating under modern law and China has to learn to respect that instead of the repeated calls to history.

Historically, China was the dominant power in East Asia and considered lesser powers as its tributaries. By insisting now on territorial claims that reflect a historical relationship that vanished hundreds of years ago with the rise of the West, Beijing is, in a sense, attempting to revive and legitimize a situation where it was the unchallenged hegemon. []

The claims made by Southeast Asian countries rest primarily on the provisions of the Law of the Sea. China, however, is taking the position that its sovereignty over the territories concerned precedes the enactment of the Law of the Sea, and so the law doesn’t apply. History trumps law.

< thediplomat.com/2011/10/abusing-history/ >

The same argument goes for the Senkaku Islands.

Ever since it incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory through a Cabinet decision in 1895, the Japanese government has consistently taken the position that the islands are an integral part of the territory of Japan. This stance accords with both international law and the historical facts. The Senkaku have consistently been under Japan’s effective control, except for a period (from 1945 to 1972) when the islands were placed under the administration of the United States as part of Okinawa prefecture.

Based on this research, the Japanese government decided in January 1895 to erect national territorial markers on the islands, officially incorporating the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan. This administrative action was consistent with international law, namely the internationally accepted legal theory of terra nullius(land belonging to no one) concerning the rights of acquisition through occupation. 
thediplomat.com/2013/11/getting-senkaku-history-right/ >

China’s claim is vague, and is based on things such as a Chinese portolano from 1403 recording the islands. It all speaks to an earlier world in which China lay at the heart of an ordered East Asian system of tributary states—an order shattered by Japan’s militarist rise from the late 19th century. What this history tells you is not—contrary to modern Chinese claims—that China controlled the Diaoyus, for it never did. Rather, the islands were known to the Chinese because they served as navigational waypoints for tributary missions between the great cosmopolitan Chinese port of Quanzhou and Naha, capital of the Ryukyu island kingdom, China’s most loyal vassal. In 1879 Japan snuffed out the ancient kingdom. Naha is now the main town on the main island of Japan’s archipelago prefecture of Okinawa. Some Chinese nationalists call not only for the Senkakus’ return, but for Okinawa too.
< economist.com/ blogs/ economist-explains/ 2013/12/economist -explains-1#sthash.ukwErCEb.dpuf >

III  Problems about the Claims


1) Some points raised about China’s 9-dash Line :

A Claimed areas are intentionally unclear.

China has been deliberately vague about its claims and did not specify coordinates or whether the waters claimed related to EEZs, the continental shelf or both.

Evidence for the claim in the note verbale that China submitted to the United Nations in April 2011 is unclear. A note verbale does not require specific latitude or longitude, but while it mentions islands in the South China Sea and “relevant waters,” the meaning of the phrase “relevant waters” is unclear 

< islandstudies.oprf-info.org/readings/b00004/ >

B China enacted a law that that establishes its territory 12 nautical miles from its shores.



In 1992, China enacted a Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, establishing a territorial sea extending 12 nautical miles from its shores. In 1998 it passed a Law on the EEZ and Continental Shelf, setting an EEZ of 200 nautical miles. Since the U-shaped line predates UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the geographical designation of waters inside the line is undefined.

< islandstudies.oprf-info.org/readings/b00004/ >

C No origin point declared by China

China has not announced any origin point as a baseline for its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Such an origin point would be different from that of an island nation. Should China be claiming not “rocks” (defined as unable to sustain human life in UNCLOS Article 121) but islands, there are no more than 40 or so islands in the South China Sea, only 4–9 of which could be used as origin points. China must expand its territorial claims with islands as a basis and must clearly specify those islands.

< islandstudies.oprf-info.org/readings/b00004/ >

China’s evidence, so far,  is nothing but a house of cards. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Because whether the claims are valid or not, China is not backing down. If the US and other Western powers could do it, why not China? A professor all but spelled it out for us clearly in an interview with AFP :

Justifying China’s attempts to expand its maritime frontiers by claiming islands and reefs far from its shores, Jia Qingguo, professor at Beijing University’s School of International Studies, argues that China is merely following the example set by the West.

The United States has Guam in Asia which is very far away from the US and the French have islands in the South Pacific, so it is nothing new,” he told AFP.

< thediplomat.com/2013/08/history-the-weak-link-in-beijings-maritime-claims/ >


The geographical location of the island does not necessarily indicate to which country it belongs,”  Professor Jia Qingguo said.

< theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/china-claims-historical-right-to-sea/story-fn3dxix6-1226527035050  >

China believes might is right. If the rest of the world cannot be convinced by the evidence China has presented the world, then that’s hardly their fault.

China’s “irrefutable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands and the rest of the South China Sea is, of course, quite refutable. China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea based on its unilaterally-declared “nine-dash line,” a claim unrecognized by anyone but the Chinese themselves. Never mind — China will make up its own version of reality as it goes along, based on China’s own preferences without regard to what the rest of the world thinks. China is a master at creating works of pure geopolitical fiction, then convincing itself that that these are “irrefutable” facts. The trouble is, China can’t convince anyone else.

< usnews. com/ opinion/blogs/ world-report/ 2014 /06/10/ china-is- angry-at- vietnam-and-the- philippines -volleyball-diplomacy >

The Chinese Middle Kingdom dictates that what China wants, China gets.

2) Other problematic ‘features’ of South China Sea

How do we even apply the UNCLOS provisions when claimants cannot agree whether a geographic feature is an island or a rock formation?

Robert Beckman, author of Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources (NUS Centre for International Law series), writes :

[1]First, it is not clear how many geographic features there are in the South China Sea, and how many would be classified as islands, being naturally formed areas of land above water at high tide. One analyst has noted that there may be more than 170 geographic features in the South China Sea, but that only about 36 of them are islands above water at high tide.

[2]Second, it is also not clear how many islands in the Spratly Islands would be entitled to an EEZ and continental shelf because they are capable of sustaining human habitation or economic life of their own. []

According to the director of Asia-Pacific programs in the US Institute of Peace, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, although these land features form the basis of the claims and disputes, very few of them could sustain human life.

They’re not all habitable islands. The primary claims are to the Spratlys and the Paracels, and there are other small features in the area. The Spratlys themselves are a group of hundreds of mainly rocks and islets and these are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines,’ she said.

abc. net. au/radionational /programs/ rearvision/5145092  >

Let’s take Scarborough Shoal, for instance. Scarborough Shoal is 198 km from Subic bay. China claims it is an island, while the Philippines are struggling to have it internationally recognised as a rock formation.

Declare Scarborough Shoal as rocks, not island – Philippines

Declare Scarborough Shoal as rocks, not island – Philippines. From Globalbalita.com

If they’re only rocks, they’re only allowed the 12 nautical mile limit, and so that’s why the Philippines would claim them as such. If they were to be, for example, decided to be Chinese, then it would only give China a 12 nautical mile limit. []

So you see the type of feature that it is determines how much territorial waters it generates and that in and of itself shows who can fish in it. So that’s why it’s important to figure out the nature of the feature, to find out whether it’s an island—can it sustain life, is it submerged, is it considered a rock?’

abc. net. au/radionational /programs/ rearvision/5145092  >

[3]Third, another issue which could arise in the South China Sea is the status of features which are permanently submerged, even at low tide. The UNCLOS provisions imply that such features would be treated as a part of the seabed and subsoil.

If they were within the EEZ or on the continental shelf of a State, the State would have sovereign rights and jurisdiction to explre and exploit the natural resources.

If they were out the EEZ or continental shelf of any State, they would be part of the deep seabed, or ‘the Area’, and would be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Seabed Authority.

Beckman, Robert. Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources

Case in point : Macclesfield Bank

‘China claims the Scarborough Shoal as an island, part of its Macclesfield Bank claim, but there are a couple of problems with that argument. Scarborough Shoal is actually quite a distance from Macclesfield Bank, and under international law Macclesfield Bank may not be capable of being subject to a claim of sovereignty because it’s actually completely submerged,’ Ms Kleine-Ahlbrandt said.

abc. net. au/radionational /programs/ rearvision/5145092  >

3) Not one definite body to settle disputes or enforce compliance

There is no unified, centralized framework governing South China Sea.

China has frequently criticized the Philippines for trying to grab international “pity”.  It has always advocated that claimants settle disputes directly, through bilateral relations or direct negotiations and thereby prolonging the process. Why, China isn’t going anywhere, they are and will always remain at the heart of South China Sea. They know this, so they  are taking their sweet time “negotiating”.  And while at it, exploit the area by sending some oil rigs! In the first place, it says, history trumps law (see II.6 :History doesn’t trump indefinitely).Why, then, does China have to respect laws when it precedes law?! It also precedes the creation of such bodies such as ITLOS, International Court of Justice, arbitration under Annex VII, and special arbitration.

From the ITLOS website :

To be sure, the number, magnitude and complexity of the issues to be dealt with to conclude the UNCLOS have left a deep imprint on the structural and legal architecture of the ITLOS. Indeed, several states resisted the inclusion of a judicial body in the UNCLOS which could authoritatively settle disputes over its implementation and interpretation. As a result, unlike all other international judicial bodies, which are typically put at the center of the legal system that they have been created to preserve, the ITLOS is only one of four possible means available to parties to settle disputes. The other three options are the International Court of Justice, arbitration under Annex VII of the Convention, and special arbitration under Annex VIII. The ITLOS is not the default mechanism in case a state has not selected any of the four available fora. In that case, states are deemed to have selected arbitration under Annex VII.

And even then – even if international bodies vote against China – China can invoke the “China precedes the universe” argument and do as it pleases. Might is right. What China wants, China gets.  There are no provisions listed on Compliance and Monitoring section on the international waters governance.

< internationalwaters governance.com/ south-china-sea.html >


IV How serious is China about its claims?


A: Very. 

1) Academics were tasked to provide a legal basis of the cow’s tongue.  

To help support the claim, a group of 10 academics in China and Taiwan were last month tasked with providing “a legal explanation of the U-shape line” within a year, state media reported.

< theaustralian.com.au/news/ latest-news/china-claims-historical-right-to-sea/ story-fn3dxix6-1226527035050 >

Unfortunately for Beijing, only the Chinese seem to be convinced by their claims.

China hopes ancient maps and historical records will set the record straight, but Beijing’s attempts to convince its rivals through academic research may prove fruitless, according to foreign analysts.
< theaustralian.com.au/news/ latest-news/china-claims-historical-right-to-sea/ story-fn3dxix6-1226527035050 >

2) China is appealing to international treaties

..if it deems them in favor of its claims..

China and Vietnam are asking United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help end their dispute in the South China Sea.On Monday, China sent a letter to Mr. Ban. The letter accused Vietnam of, in its words, “illegally and forcefully” affecting Chinese oil drilling in parts of the sea claimed by both countries.

<  learningenglish. voanews.com/ content/ china-vietnam-take-south- china-sea-dispute-to-un/1933720.html >

Inconsistent? This writer thinks that China is doing this only because there is a big possibility the international law will rule in favor of China when it comes to the Paracel Islands.

In reality, China’s decision to raise the issue at the UN likely reflects Beijing’s growing concern over its neighbors’ use of international law to negate China’s military superiority. Besides the Philippines’ case mentioned above, Vietnam has threatened to appeal to international arbitration to resolve the Paracel Islands dispute ever since the oil rig row began last month. In doing so, it would likely have the full support of Japan, Australia, and the United States, among many others. [ ]On the one hand, this strategy makes sense for the Paracel Islands, where China’s sovereignty claims are fairly strong. Thus, Beijing is almost certainly hoping that the prospect of losing will force Vietnam to back off from its international arbitration threat, and that the futility of Hanoi’s attempts to use international law will deter other claimant states from doing likewise.This is a dangerous gamble, however, as China is internationalizing the dispute and lending credence to international law as a basis for sovereignty claims and resolving disputes. While this might work in China’s favor in its dispute with Vietnam over the Paracel Islands, Beijing’s nine-dash line claim more generally is fundamentally at odds with international law. China therefore risks establishing a precedent that it will not want to uphold in many similar cases.

< thediplomat.com/ 2014/06/ china-internationalizes-south-china-sea-dispute/ >

3) China is ramping up its naval capabalities

Chinese navy is now the world’s second most powerful naval service….

Meanwhile, the Chinese navy, the world’s second most powerful naval service, is growing rather dramatically. Rather than purchase warships across the board, China is developing niche capacities in subsurface warfare and ballistic missile technology (the DF-21 missile) designed to hit moving targets at sea, such as a U.S. aircraft carrier. If China expands its submarine fleet to 78 by 2020 as planned, it will be on par with the U.S. Navy’s undersea fleet in quantity.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P14

…and it is outbuilding the U.S. in new submarines…

China has over sixty submarines and will have around seventy-five or so in the new few years, slightly more than the United States. China is “outbuilding the U.S. in new submarines by four to one” since 2000, and by “eight to one” since 2005, even as the U.S. Navy’s ASW (antisubmarine warfare) forces have diminished, write James C. Brussert of U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center and Bruce A. Elleman of the U.S. Naval War College. Whereas many of China’s submarines are diesel-electric and all of America’s are nuclear, the latest Yuan-classic diesel-electric models are quieter than the nuclear ones, and because the Western Pacific constitutes China’s home waters, China’s submarines do not have to travel from half a world away to get to the Asian military theater as America’s must. The unstoppable buildup of military force by China means paradoxically that china can wait and adopt a benign foreign policy for the moment because time is on its side. By the late 2020s, at the current rate of acquisitions and decommissionings, China will have more warships in the Western Pacific than the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P34

In addition, China wants to buy more ships and planes..

China will speed-up the construction of 20 inspection ships this year and plans to purchase patrol ships and planes, SOA director Liu Cigui was quoted by the state media here.

China is also deeply apprehensive of US’ big push in the Pacific with plans to deploy 60 per cent of its naval fleet in the region.
Liu said more ships are expected to join the fleet. A 4,000-tonne vessel joined the fleet since the China Coast Guard was established in July.
With more countries challenging China’s territorial rights in recent years, the country has been strengthening its maritime law enforcement capacity to better safeguard its interests, they said.

< articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-01-17/ news/46302309_1_maritime-disputes-south -china-sea-ships >

In comparison to the Philippines :

The Philippine government, for example, has pledged to double its defence budget—to all of $2.5 billion. The US Navy will spend about that sum on its next Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. By contrast, China spent $91.5 billion this year according to official—and likely lowballed—figures. That’s over 36 times the Philippine budget. Another data point: the US Coast Guard recently transferred a 1967-vintage Hamilton-class cutter to the Philippines. This elderly law enforcement ship became the pride of the Philippine Navy, replacing a destroyer escort built for the US Navy in World War II. This speaks volumes about Manila’s weakness at sea.

< thediplomat.com/ 2011/10/ south-china-sea -is-no-black-sea/ >

4) It is also increasing its maritime and political presence in the contested waters.

By building facilities in the reefs

China has built concrete helipads and military structure on seven reefs and shoals. On Mischief Reef, which China occupied under the nose of the Philippine navy in the 1990s, China has constructed a three-story building and five octagonal concrete structures, all for military to use. On Johnson Reef, China put up a structure armed with high-powered machine guns.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P12

By planning to build more

China is reportedly undertaking several projects to build facilities on reefs in the region.

globalpost.com/ dispatch/news/ kyodo-news-international/140715/ china-warns-us-stay-away-s-china-sea-disputes  >

By looking to expand its existing installations

China is looking to expand its biggest installation in the Spratly Islands into a fully formed artificial island complete with airstrip and sea port, to better project its military strength in the South China Sea, a Chinese scholar and a Chinese navy expert have said.

scmp.com/ news/ china/ article/ 1527059/ china-plans- artificial- island-disputed-spratlys-chain-south-china-sea?page=all >

 By investing a lot of money

China’s state oil behemoth CNOOC Ltd has said it had four new projects scheduled to come on stream in the western and eastern South China Sea in the second half of 2014.
It was unclear if the four rigs were part of those projects. A CNOOC spokesman declined to comment, but the company has long said that in a bid to boost production it wanted to explore in deeper waters off China.
CNOOC has said it would increase by up to a third its annual capital spending for 2014 to almost $20 billion.

reuters.com/article /2014/06/20/ us-china-southchinasea-rigs-idUSKBN0EV0WG20140620  >

By electing a mayor

China has elected the first mayor of Spratlys. Now, in addition to Mr Eugenio Bito-onon, the Filipino mayor, Spratlys also has a Chinese mayor, Mr Xiao Jie.
Xiao Jie, 51, was elected the first mayor of Sansha City in 2012

gmanetwork.com/ news/ story/266505/news/ nation/china-mayor -officials-elected-for-new-chinese-city-in-spratlys >

5) China does not and will not hesitate to use violence to protect its interests.

Against Vietnam 

The most serious trouble in recent decades has flared between Vietnam and China. The Chinese seized the Paracels from Vietnam in 1974, killing more than 70 Vietnamese troops. In 1988 the two sides clashed in the Spratlys, when Vietnam again came off worse, losing about 60 sailors.

Beijing’s dispatch of an oil rig in May to waters near the disputed Paracel Islands has created a standoff in the surrounding area between Vietnamese and Chinese ships, in which each side is accusing the other of intentional ramming activities.

globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/140715/china-warns-us-stay-away-s-china-sea-disputes >

Unverified claims that the Chinese navy deliberately sabotaged two Vietnamese exploration operations in late 2012 led to large anti-China protests on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

< http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13748349 >

China's Campaign Against Vietnam from the Diplomat

China’s Campaign Against Vietnam from the Diplomat

Against Indonesia

“China has claimed Natuna waters as their territorial waters. This arbitrary claim is related to the dispute over Spratly and Paracel Islands between China and the Philippines. This dispute will have a large impact on the security of Natuna waters,” assistant deputy to the chief security minister for defense strategic doctrine Commodore Fahru Zaini said, according to Indonesia’s official news agency, Antara.

The Natuna waters (named after the islands they border) are part of Riau Islands Province in Indonesia, located along the southern part of the strategic Strait of Malacca. They are part of the South China Sea. Fahru explained that a new map on Chinese passports encompasses part of the Natuna waters, raising the irk of Indonesian officials.

“What China has done is related to the territorial zone of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia. Therefore, we have come to Natuna to see the concrete strategy of the main component of our defense, namely the National Defense Forces (TNI),” Fahru, who was visiting the Riau Islands, added. He went on to complain that China’s nine-dash line isn’t transparent owing to the fact that it doesn’t include precise

< thediplomat.com/2014/03/chinas-newest-maritime-dispute/ >

Against the Philippines

In early 2012, China and the Philippines engaged in a lengthy maritime stand-off, accusing each other of intrusions in the Scarborough Shoal.

news. yahoo.com/china-blames -philippines-latest-south- china-sea-incident- 101616152–finance.html >

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday accused China’s Coast Guard of firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen last month to drive them away from a disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

< globalnation.inquirer.net/99374/chinese-coast-guard-used-water-cannon-vs-filipino-fishermen-bautista >

THE crisis was born when a Philippine Navy surveillance plane detected eight Chinese fishing vessels near Scarborough Reef on April 8, 2012. As suspected, they were found with illegal and endangered giant clams, corals and live sharks, in violation of Philippine law. The Philippines then deployed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard cutter, to arrest the fishermen. What the Philippines reconnaissance plane had failed to see, however, was that Chinese maritime-surveillance vessels were also in the area. Despite the fact that the Philippines regularly uses naval vessels for interdiction operations (necessary because of its limited number of combined navy and coast guard ships), the Chinese acted incensed that the Philippines had employed a military vessel for law-enforcement activities.

nationalinterest.org/commentary/learning-the-lessons-scarborough-reef-9442 >

Against Japan

Airlines will have to warn China of their flight plans before entering airspace in the East China Sea, aviation officials have said, after it declared the creation of an “air defence zone” over islands that are also claimed by Japan.

Beijing announced co-ordinates for the zone on Saturday, along with rules ordering all aircraft to notify Chinese authorities as they entered – warning that it would take “defensive emergency measures” if necessary.

That sparked an angry response from Tokyo, which has administrative control of the uninhabited outcrops, and strong words from Washington.China and Japan have been locked in a row over the rocky islets known as the Senkaku by the Japanese or the Diaoyu by the Chinese for years. They are surrounded by fisheries and other natural resources.

< theguardian.com/ world/2013/ nov/25/china-air-defence-zone- japan-islands- diaoyu-senkaku  >

Against the US 

China has told the U.S to stay away from the growing disputes.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday warned the United States to stay out of territorial disputes in the South China Sea after a U.S. diplomat proposed a plan of action for managing the rows between China and some of its Asian neighbors.

globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/140715/china-warns-us-stay-away-s-china-sea-disputes >

Chinese naval vessel forces U.S warship to stop.

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.

The guided missile cruiser USSCowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.

< freebeacon.com/national-security/chinese-naval-vessel-tries-to-force-u-s-warship-to-stop-in-international-waters/ >

Against everyone 

China does not like it when the international community meddles in its business.They are the center of the world! China is now repeating the same words it had used to the international community when talking about Tibet: Stay away.  

China continued to demand the immediate withdrawal of personnel and equipment of countries which were “illegally occupying” China’s islands.

< reuters.com /article/2014/07/15/ us-china-usa-asean-idUSKBN0FK0CM20140715 >

6) China is promoting hate to support its claims….

 The truth was, that pushing the Philippines around served a purpose in nationalistic circles in Beijing that pushing Vietnam around just didn’t. Hating Vietnam was a default emotion inside China and therefore did not advance any Chinese official’s or military officer’s nationalistic bona fides; whereas, because the Philippines was a formal treaty ally of the United States, bullying the Philippines telegraphed that China was pushing back at the United States.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P131

And I can’t say it’s ineffective.

This shop does not receive the Japanese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese and dog sign at a Beijing restaurant

This shop does not receive the Japanese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese and dog sign at a Beijing restaurant. Image from the internet.

After seeing this photo, me and my husband (a Japanese national) vowed never to visit China anytime soon. I mean, why spend all our hard-earned Yen on a country that fosters hate toward us? So this year, we’re going to Vietnam.

Get rid of all Filipinos or we'll burn this town down. Photo from personal.anderson.ucla.edu

Get rid of all Filipinos or we’ll burn this town down. Photo from personal.anderson.ucla.edu

7) And when the hate tactic doesn’t work, China cries harassment…

China tells Vietnam to stop harassment.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official on Thursday urged the Vietnamese side to stop any form of disruption of Chinese company’s normal oil drilling in waters administered by China.

Yi said that since May 2, Vietnam has carried out intensive disruptions of Chinese company’s normal oil drilling in waters administered by China. China is deeply surprised and shocked

< china.org.cn/world/2014-05/09/ content_32335091.htm >

And gets upset at a friendly volleyball game…

“Don’t you think this small move together by Vietnam and the Philippines is at most a clumsy farce?” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a daily press briefing on Monday. “China has irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the seas nearby. … We demand that Vietnam and the Philippines stop any behavior that picks quarrels and causes trouble … and not do anything to complicate or magnify the dispute.”

< usnews. com/ opinion/ blogs/ world-report/ 2014/06/10/ china-is-angry-at-vietnam -and-the- philippines-volleyball-diplomacy >

V Why does China covet 90% of the South China Sea anyway?


1) Fishing grounds 

South China Sea is home to rich  fishing grounds. Remember, they are 1 Billion people and counting. They need more sources of food!

2) Important trade route

David Pilling, in his article, Asia follows China ito an old-fashioned arms race, says : It[China] is less keen to outsource control of vital sea lanes to the US

The South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans – the mass of connective tissue where global sea routes coalesce. Here is the heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland, punctuated by the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar straits.  More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P9

3) Access to imported energy

The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that transit the Panama Canal. Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60% of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80% of China’s crude oil import come through the South China Sea.

Whereas in the Persian Gulf, only energy is transported, in the South China Sea, you have energy, finished goods, and unfinished goods.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P9

4) (Alleged) Oil reserves

[]the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of seven billion barrels, and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If the Chinese calculations are correct, that the South China Sea will ultimately yield 130 billion barels of oil (and there is some serious doubt about these estimates), then the South China Sea contains more oil than any area of the globe except Saudi Arabia.  If there is really so much oil in the South China Sea, then China will have partially alleviated its “Malacca dilemma” – its reliance on the narrow and vulnerable  Strait of Malacca for so much of its energy needs coming from the Middle East. And the China National Offshore Oil Corporation has invested $20 billion in the belief that such amounts of oil really do exist in the South China sea.

China is desperate for new energy. Chinese oil reserves account for only 1.1 percent of the world total, while it consumes over 10% of world oil production and over 20% of all energy consumed on the planet.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P10

5) Flaunt power

China’s position vis-à-vis  the South China Sea is akin to America’s position vis-à-vis  the Caribbean Sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The United States recognized the presence and claims of European powers in the Caribbean, but sought to dominate the region, nevertheless. It was the Spanish-American War of 1898, fought primarily over Cuba, as well as the digging of Panama Canal from 1904 to 1914, that signaled the arrival of the United States as a world power. This development, not coincidentally, occurred following the closure of the American frontier, with the last major battle of the Indian Wars fought in 1890. Moreover, it was the domination of the Greater Caribbean Basin that gave the United States effective control of the Western Hemisphere, which, in turn, allowed it to affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere. Perhaps likewise with China in the twenty-first century.

To be sure, the South China sea is no Caribbean. In fact, it is more important. The Caribbean was far from the main sea lines of communication, while the South China Sea is at the heart of them.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. Pp13-14

6) For submarine strategy

To put it simply, South China Sea’s location is strategic enough to be used as bases for military activities : intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities. China also wants to use it as base points for claiming the deeper part of the South China Sea for PLAN ballistic missile submarines and other vessels.

Tetsuo Kotani of the Diplomat writes :

It’s clear that China’s claims and recent assertiveness have increased tensions in this key body of water. Yet while most attention has focused on Beijing’s appetite for fishery and energy resources, from a submariner’s perspective, the semi-closed sea is integral to China’s nuclear strategy. And without understanding the nuclear dimension of the South China Sea disputes, China’s maritime expansion makes little sense.

Possessing a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent is a priority for China’s military strategy. China’s single Type 092, or Xia-class, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, equipped with short-range JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), has never conducted a deterrent patrol from the Bohai Sea since its introduction in the 1980s. However, China is on the verge of acquiring credible second-strike capabilities with the anticipated introduction of JL-2 SLBMs (with an estimated range of 8,000 kilometres) coupled with DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). In addition, China plans to introduce up to five Type 094, or Jin-class, SSBNs outfitted with the JL-2 missiles, while constructing an underwater submarine base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

It’s clear, then, that China is making every effort to keep the South China Sea off limits, just as the Soviet Union did in the Sea of Okhotsk during the Cold War.

thediplomat.com/2011/07/why-china-wants-the-south-china-sea/ >

7) A declaration to never be taken advantage of…again

Yet there is something deeper that propel China forward into the South China Sea and out to the First Island Chain in the Pacific: that is, China’s own partial breakup by the Western powers in the relatively recent past, after having been for centuries and millenia a great power and world civilization.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P21

China wants to make sure it will never be sliced up again.

With its weakness exposed, China began to lose power over peripheral regions. France seized Southeast Asia, creating its colony of French Indochina. Japan stripped away Taiwan, took effective control of Korea (formerly a Chinese tributary), and also imposed unequal trade demands in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

By 1900, foreign powers including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Japan had established “spheres of influence” along China’s coast – areas in which the foreign powers essentially controlled trade and the military, although technically they remained part of Qing China. The balance of power had tipped decidedly away from the imperial court and toward the foreign powers.

< asianhistory.about.com/od/modernchina/f/Why-Did-Chinas-Qing-Dynasty-Fall-in-1911.htm >

Robert Kaplan writes :

There was a latent fear that “China was about to be dismembered, that it would cease to exist as a nation, and that the four thousand years of its recorded history would come to a jolting end.” An attendant horror was the China would return to the situation that had prevailed during the Warring States period of the third century BC; or to “shifting patterns of authority and alliances that typified China’s history” from the third to sixth century AD, and again from the the tenth to the thirteenth. China, having survived the nightmare, and having reached a zenith of land power and territorial stability not since the Ming dynasty of the sixteenth century and Qing dynasty of the late eighteenth century, is now about to press outward to sea, in order to guard its sea lines of communications to the Middle East and thus secure the economic well-being of its population. China’s very urge for an expanded strategic space is a declaration that it never again intends to let foreigners take advantage of it, as they did in the previous two centuries.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P21

VI Response of the ‘nervous neighbors’ to China’s Aggression


Submarines are the new bling, everyone wants them,”Bernard Loo Fook Weng of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore told me.

Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. P34

1) Asian states ramp up defense and increase budget

  • India, South Korea, Vietnam to acquire 6 subs by the end of the decade
  • Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia to acquire 2 subs by the end of the decade
  • Malaysia increases military spending 722 percent from 2005-2009
  • Singapore, now among top 10 arms importer
  • Australia looking to spend $279 billion in the next two decades
  • South Korea increases budget to $1.24 trillion
  • The Philippines to allocate $670 million for arms procurement, to purchase twelve fighter-trainer jets, eight utility helicopters, and two anti-submarine helicopters
  • Indonesia  to acquire 3 submarines and 2 frigates. Also upgrades facilities.

Less understood, however, is the effect China’s military build-up is having on Asia as a whole. In 2012, for the first year in modern times, Asian states spent more on defence than European ones. From India to South Korea and from Vietnam to Malaysia, governments in the region are ramping up defence spending. Even pacifist Japan, which for years has been cutting its defence outlays, has recently started to reverse the trend as it reorients its defence posture towards what it perceives as a growing Chinese threat.

ft.com/cms/s/0/9d83bf62-b9b9-11e3-a3ef-00144feabdc0.html#axzz37aviRcH2 >

Southeast, East Asia build up naval capabilities

Southeast, East Asia build up naval capabilities. Image from the internet.

Robert Kaplan writes :

India, South Korea, and Vietnam are expected to acquire six more subs a piece by the end of the current decade, while Australia will acquire twelve new subs within twenty years, though recent budgetary restrictions may affect this statistic downward. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia will shortly acquire two more subs apiece. Malaysia’s defense spending has more than doubled since 2000, with conventional weapons deliveries increasing 722 percent in 2005-2009 compared to the first half of the decade. (Malaysia originally thought of acquiring subs in the 1980s to counter Vietnam, which has just annexed Amboyna Cay in the Spratlys Islands, but with Chinese power now looming, it finds another use for them). Singapore, a tiny city-state at the southern extremity of the South China Sea, is now among the world’s top ten arms importer. Meanwhile, Australia was expected to spend a whopping $279 billion in the next two decades on new submarines, destroyers, and fighter plans, again, continued funds permitting. In all, given military modernization programs underway in South Korea and Japan, Asian nations are expected to purchase as many as 111 subs by 2030, according to AMI International , which provides market research to government and ship builders.

South Korea may be the best example of this defense (and particularly naval) craze in Asia-Pacific region. In 2006, South Korea decided to more than double defense expenditures by 2015, to $1.24 trillion. It is investing in-among other things like submarines and frigates for antisubmarine warfare -six new Sejong-class destroyers, each carrying 128 missiles guided by an advanced Aegis system. Then, there are the purchases of F-15 K Slam Eagle air-superiority fighter, four Boeing 737 AWACs aircraft, and probably F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Japan, at the end of 2009 green-lighted construction of an entire new generation of large helicopter carriers, the 22DDH, vital for anti-submarine warfare. Asia’s arm race may be one of the most underreported stories in the elite media in decades.
Kaplan, Robert. Asia’s Cauldron. Penguin Random House. 2014. Pp35-36

The Philippine president announces arms procurement. From the Diplomat :

Meanwhile, on March 16, in the midst of deteriorating relations with China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino announced in a speech during graduation ceremonies at the Philippines Military Academy new arms procurement totaling $670 million.

The funds will be used to purchase twelve South Korean FA-50 dual-role fighter-trainer jets ($420 million), eight Canadian Bell 412 combat utility helicopters ($100 million), and two anti-submarine helicopters. The new fighters will revive the air combat wing disbanded several years ago. The FA-50s are expected to enter service next year.

The Philippines, which is already committed to spend 40 billion pesos ($890 million) by 2017, has put out tenders for two frigates. It is negotiating with France for the acquisition of five patrol boats and with South Korea for several multi-role strategic sea lift vessels.


Indonesia upgrades facilities and in the process of acquiring subs.

Indonesia has already completed considerable upgrading of its facilities at the Ranai Air Base on Riau Island, including the installation of integrated radar and runway and taxi lights. The air base currently houses Hawk 109/209 light fighters.

Indonesia plans to extend the runway and build new hangers to accommodate Su-27 and Su-30 jet fighters as well as the more capable F-16 air superiority fighters.

Indonesia is in the process of acquiring three Type-209 conventional submarines from South Korea, and two Dutch Sigma frigates.

On March 12, Air Commodore Fahru Zaini, assigned to the defense strategy unit of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, revealed that China’s inclusion of part of the Natuna islands within its nine-dash line claims to the South China Sea affected “the Unitary State of Indonesia.”

In late March, Indonesia hosted the inaugural Komodo Multilateral Naval Exercise involving seventeen countries including ASEAN members and dialogue partners. The Komodo exercises will take place in the waters around Riau province, including Natuna. The exercise will focus on naval capabilities in disaster relief, but we will also pay attention to the aggressive stance of the Chinese government by entering the Natuna area. We want to explain that our laws stipulate that Natuna is part of Indonesia.

thediplomat.com/2014/04/south-china-sea-regional-states-push-back-against-china/ >

2) States Strengthen Bilateral ties

  • Vietnam, Philippines look to bolster ties amid China threat thanhniennews.com/ politics/vietnam-philippines- look-to-bolster-ties-amid-china-threat-27992.html >
  • Philippine president Backs Abe’s Military Pushonline.wsj.com/articles/philippine-president-backs -abes-military-push-1403594118 >
 Vietnam, Philippines look to bolster ties amid China threat Thanh Nien News

Vietnam, Philippines look to bolster ties amid China threat
Thanh Nien News

Philippine President Backs Abe's Military Push

Philippine President Backs Abe’s Military Push

3) States team up

  •  India kicks off sub training for Vietnamese navytimesofindia. indiatimes.com/india/ India-kicks-offs-sub-training-for-Vietnamese-navy/articleshow/26172370.cms >
  • Philippines, Australia to hold joint military drillenglish.cntv.cn/ program/newshour/20121022/105193.shtml >
  • Japan, Australia eye accord to facilitate joint military exercisesasianewsnet.net/Japan- Australia-eye- accord-to-facilitate-joint-mil-61995.html >
India kicks offs sub training for Vietnamese navy

India kicks offs sub training for Vietnamese navy

Philippines, Australia to hold joint military drill

Philippines, Australia to hold joint military drill

Japan, Australia eye accord to facilitate joint military exercises

Japan, Australia eye accord to facilitate joint military exercises

4) States seek closer ties with the U.S.

U.S. efforts to bolster ties with regional states such as Vietnam and to reassure nervous Asian allies such as Japan and the Philippines that it stands ready to defend them militarily have created a new narrative in Beijing — that the United States has encouraged China’s neighbors to push their territorial claims more aggressively.
washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinas-rise-and-asian-tensions-send-us-relations-into-downward-spiral/2014/07/07/f371cfaa-d5cd-4dd2-925c-246c099f04ed_story.html >

  • Amid South China Sea Tensions, Vietnam Seeks Closer Ties with US < thediplomat.com/2014/05/amid-south-china-sea-tensions-vietnam-seeks-closer-ties-with-us/ >
  • More US Boots on Philippine Soil atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/SEA-01-090913.html >
  • U.S., Philippines in joint exercises as tensions with China escalate  < metronews.ca/news/world/1022952/u-s-philippines-in-joint-exercises-as-tensions-with-china-escalate/ >
Amid South China Sea Tensions, Vietnam Seeks Closer Ties with US

Amid South China Sea Tensions, Vietnam Seeks Closer Ties with US

More US boots on Philippine soil

More US boots on Philippine soil

U.S., Philippines in joint exercises as tensions with China escalate

U.S., Philippines in joint exercises as tensions with China escalate

  5) States consider changing/adopting policies or urge others to do so

  • Ratify UNCLOS, Philippines’ lawyer tells US  rappler.com/ nation/63390-ratify- unclos-philippines-lawyer-reichler-us >
  • Pacifist Japan is inching towards being ‘normal’ < ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/284af0d2-0138-11e4-a938-00144feab7de.html#axzz37aviRcH2 >
Ratify UNCLOS, Philippines' lawyer tells US

Ratify UNCLOS, Philippines’ lawyer tells US

Pacifist Japan is inching towards being 'normal'

Pacifist Japan is inching towards being ‘normal’

Causing this man to self-immolate as protest.

 6) Backlash against China, its nationals or its products

  • Protests in Vietnam
  • Protests in the Philippines
  • Online campaigns
Anti-China Sentiments in Vietnam

Anti-China Sentiments in Vietnam

Anti-China Sentiments in Vietnam

Anti-China Sentiments in Vietnam

Anti-China Sentiments in the Philippines

Anti-China Sentiments in the Philippines

Anti-Made in China campaigns online

Anti-Made in China campaigns online

What China should remember..

is that no man is an island. You cannot make enemies everywhere and hope all works out for the best. The real world, outside China’s distortion field, does not work like that. Countries will not bend to accommodate China’s wishes forever. Countries will get fed up with being pushed around.
There are two things that China must remember :
1) The rest of the world is bigger than China
2) Let’s face it. We Asians hate each other. But..nothing unites people like a common, shared enemy. The enemy of my enemy is now my friend.

[to be continued]

5 comments on “The South China Sea Squabbles

  1. the muscleheaded blog
    July 17, 2014

    This is a highly detailed and thought-out explanation of the situation of the disputed area, and I enjoyed reading it.

    • ikalwewe
      July 17, 2014

      Hello, thank you for your comment. I spent some time researching and writing this. I think it is important to see the whole picture and see what’s going on now. I am really surprised that some aspects are so underreported in the media.

      • the muscleheaded blog
        July 18, 2014

        Yes, indeed — you’ll never get more than half the story in the professional media.

        You did wonderful work on this.

  2. Rin
    November 4, 2014

    Very useful for my research thanks 🙂

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