The East Sea

Xi Jinping calls on Trump to improve US-China relations amid Covid-19 crisis

Xi Jin PIngChinese president Xi Jinping has called on Donald Trump to take “substantive actions” to improve relations between the two countries, as China prepared to shut its borders to foreign arrivals amid fears of infections coming from abroad.

On Friday, Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping held a phone call about the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to repair strained relations, following weeks of traded barbs over the virus. According to state media, Xi told Trump in a phone call on Friday that US-China relations had reached an “important juncture”.

“Working together brings both sides benefits, fighting hurts both. Cooperation is the only choice,” he said. Xi said he hoped the US would take “substantive actions” to improve US-China relations to develop a relationship that is “without conflict and confrontation” but based on “mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation.”

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China’s use of force to take over features in Spratly Islands for monopoly of the South China Sea

ChinaIt was not until 1988 that there was Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands (Itu Aba Island was occupied by the Republic of China in Taiwan). Taking advantage of Vietnam’s difficulties in the late 1980s, China dispatched its navy to take over the features in the Spratly Islands, establishing a foothold in the south of South China Sea in pursuit of its ambition.

In late 1987 and early 1988, Vietnam was at the bottom of a socio-economic crisis with a stagnant economy and an extremely hard life of its people. At that time, the Soviet Union – Vietnam’s biggest backing – was also experiencing a socio-political crisis. Beijing took advantage of this opportunity to take over some features in the Spratly Islands. In early 1988, China illegally occupied the Fiery Cross Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Gaven Reefs, Subi Reef, and Hughes Reef of the Spratly Islands.

Beijing: Factor that stirs up the South China Sea in 2019

tải xuốngThe award of July 12th, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the Philippines vs. China case completely rejected China's "nine dash line" claim in the South China Sea. However, China neither followed the ruling nor ceased to promote field activities and propaganda to enforce their absurd claim, making the situation in the South China Sea in 2019 extremely tense.

In 2019, China has simultaneously increased the activities of survey, law enforcement, and militia vessels, increasingly violating the waters of Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and even Indonesia which are in the far south of the South China Sea.

The South China Sea File in ASEAN 2020

imagesVietnam takes on the rotating Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the situation in the South China Sea is extremely intense and the US-China strategic competition is getting fiercer over the South China Sea issue. Following the harassment and encroachment in Vietnam's waters from July 4 to October 24 of Chinese survey vessel group Haiyang Dizhi 8, which consisted of several coast guard and militia vessels, the fact that Chinese law enforcement vessels continuously violated Indonesian waters during the few last days of December 2019 signals a not so peaceful and calm South China Sea in 2020.

Observers question how Hanoi will handle situation in the context of an increasingly aggressive China in the South China Sea. This is considered a big challenge for Vietnam as ASEAN Chair. How should Vietnam handle this situation so that it does not become tangled in the US - China competition; at the same time, taking advantage of the support from the US as well as the international community to protect its legitimate interests in the South China Sea while saving face for its northern neighbor?

The South China Sea in 2019 and the vision in 2020

tải xuống 1The South China Sea in 2019 can be summed up with the following characteristics: China’s rise and increasing presence after the 2016 South China Sea ruling; the reaction of smaller countries wishing to restore the legal order based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) when ASEAN has yet to produce an unified stance; the United States and its allies’ attempt to shape the Indo-Pacific strategy, and the desire for more presence of countries outside of the region. The South China Sea with its role of business linkage between two oceans, geostrategic position, economy, and resources still catches the attention of international public opinion.

After the completion of military features in the Spratlys, China expanded its activities to increase the presence of maritime law enforcement forces in the South China Sea to assert its nine-dash line claim. These activities have directly violated the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and continental shelves of countries in the region as determined in accordance with UNCLOS 1982. From July to October 2019, Haiyang Dizhi 08 vessel conducted illegal exploration activities deep in Vietnam’s continental shelf and EEZ, sometimes only about 80 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast. The scope of the survey was within the 9 blocks that China National Offshore Oil Corporation called for bidding in 2012 on the basis of its nine-dash line claim which was rejected by the Arbitral Tribunal in 2016. In February and May 2019, Chinese vessels besieged the Thitu island to block Philippine supply vessels and intended to expand construction on the island[1]. Malaysia said that by October 2019, Chinese vessels spent 258 days in waters claimed by Malaysia[2]. In September 2019, there was a rumor about Exxon Mobil withdrawing from a project off the coast of Vietnam[3]. There were also several rumors and pieces of information about fishing boats being sunk. In January 2019, Vietnam accused Chinese coast guard vessels of sinking fishing boats and then leaving[4]. In June 2019, Vietnamese fishing boat rescued Philippine fishermen at sea whose boat got sunk[5]. In December 2019, China returned to Scarborough Shoal to chase away Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen. The bases being built on Scarborough Shoal will create the PSS (Paracels-Scarborough-Spratlys) diamond triangle which gives China control to all maritime and security routes in the South China Sea. China continues to carry out projects on rescue centers, coastal cities, floating nuclear power plants in Spratlys; launch submarines, large underwater research equipment, and do military exercises with aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. These activities are the largest ever in terms of scope, scale, and time. They aim at: (1) asserting the nine-dash line claim and rejecting the 2016 ruling – after the ruling, China made new arguments on the Four Sha that Nanhai Zhudao has an EEZ and continental shelf, which essentially is to defend the nine-dash line claim for a strategic purpose of total control of the South China Sea; (2) pressuring the parties concerned to give up settling disputes by legal means; (3) pressuring foreign investors in oil and gas exploration to abandon projects with countries adjacent to the South China Sea in order to implement the policy which allows no non-regional country to participate in resource exploration and exploitation in the South China Sea; (4) promoting "setting aside dispute and pursuing joint development"; (5) protest against freedom of navigation activities by the US and other countries; (6) promote COC negotiations in a way that benefits China; (7) creating a counterbalance for the "Belt and Road" initiative to the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US and its allies; (8) being a bargaining card when needed in strategic competition among great powers; (9) launching an oceanography research strategy for the next decade. Still, it cannot be denied that China makes itself available for negotiation through channels such as a bilateral consultation mechanism on maritime issues between Malaysia and China established in September 2019[6], the China – Philippines Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee and the Inter-Entrepreneurial Working Group on oil and gas development established on August 29th, 2019. The mechanism of the working group on maritime issues between Vietnam and China is still maintained. Nonetheless, given China’s ambition to control the South China Sea, such mechanisms can barely make smaller countries feel at ease.

The South China Sea: A prediction for 2020?

tải xuống
The year 2019 ended with the “swirling waves” in the South China Sea due to increased Chinese bullying, threats, and aggressiveness against neighboring countries in the South China Sea. All the three countries directly involved in the South China Sea disputes, i.e. Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam - had to cope with violations by the Chinese coast guards, maritime militia, and survey ships.

These waves came to their peak when Chinese geological survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 escorted by many coast guard and militia vessels went deep in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of Vietnam (sometimes only 100 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast ) with their threats to obstruct and disturb Vietnam’s regular and established oil and gas activities.

2019 is also the year that the United States strongly engaged in the South China Sea by increasing both the frequency and the scope of the freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) as well as American military air patrol; deployment of US Coast Guard coastal combat vessels; conducting joint exercises with ASEAN countries for the first time; coordinating with allies and partners for joint exercise, and encouraging them to increase their presences in the South China Sea.

US says Chinese warship fired military laser at US aircraft

VN MullsThe US Navy said Thursday that a Chinese military warship fired a military grade laser at US Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft last week while it was flying over the Pacific Ocean, an action that the US Navy called "unsafe and unprofessional."

The People's Republic of China "navy destroyer's actions were unsafe and unprofessional," US Pacific Fleet said in a statement Thursday.

"Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems," the statement added.

Military-grade laser beams, occasionally known as "dazzlers," emit a powerful beam of light that can travel great distances and be used to illuminate aircraft cockpits, temporarily blinding pilots.

Defense officials told CNN that a formal diplomatic protests known as a démarche is expected to be issued

The incident comes amid ongoing tensions between the US and Chinese militaries.

The Pentagon has repeatedly said that China represents an increasingly serious threat to regional security, saying that major Chinese investments in its military are aimed at achieving regional dominance.

"Over time, we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea, and rapidly modernize their armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor ... and often at the expense of others," US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier this month.

The US has similarly issued such diplomatic protests in the past due to what the US said was Chinese military forces using lasers against US aircraft.

One such incident took place in the East African nation of Djibouti where both the US and China maintain military bases. US officials in 2018 accused Chinese forces stationed in Djibouti of injuring US pilots with a laser that was fired at a US C-130J aircraft.

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Hun Sen is more worried about Beijing than the Coronavirus

GettyImages-1201955281As governments across the region scrambled to respond to initial news of the coronavirus outbreak last month, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-serving dictator, didn’t flinch. He saw an opportunity. While other countries enforced restrictions on Chinese travelers, Hun Sen sought to reassure not his citizens but Beijing, which he depends on for political and financial support. “Please continue our cooperation with China. Do not ban flights from China. Do not ban China’s sea transportation, and do not ban Chinese tourists,” he said at a press conference on Jan. 30.

Days earlier, Cambodia had recorded its first and only confirmed case to date: a 60-year-old Chinese man who had flown from Wuhan, where the outbreak began, to Sihanoukville, a casino town booming with Chinese investment.

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India - Japan - South China Sea

India - Japan - South China SeaOn November 30th, 2019, in New Delhi, India, Japan and India held the first 2+2 Security Dialogue with the participation of Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono and his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh.

At the dialogue, India and Japan discussed important issues in defense, fuel and ammunition supply, and arms development cooperation. After the dialogue, the two sides issued a Joint Statement, emphasizing that in the context of the complicated regional development, the need to deepen their defense cooperation and to hold mutual exercises between the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Indian Air Force in 2020.

South China Sea crisis: China preparing for ‘strong response’ as US conflict fears grow

South china sea crysisThe US mounted a record number of navy patrols in contested regions in 2019, displaying that Donald Trump’s determination to challenge China in the region hasn’t waned despite growing presence from Beijing forces. The South China Morning Post obtained data which outlined the persisting military operations in the South China Sea. In 2019, the US sailed within 12 nautical miles of features claimed or occupied by China seven times in 2019, according to data released by the US Pacific Fleet.

This is the highest number of so-called freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPs) since Beijing controversially began constructing artificial islands around disputed reefs in the waterway in 2014.

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International community opposes China's ploy in promoting irrational "U-shaped line" claim

thediplomat-2019-12-09-1Regarding the case of the animated film "Abominable" (released in Viet Nam under the name “Everest - The Little Snowman”), produced by US animation studio DreamWorks, promoting China's "U-shaped line" map in the South China Sea, causing outrage within countries in the region, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Malaysia have all expressed their anger at the map shown in the film, which includes China's "U-shaped line", calling it "an ambiguous boundary line, used to ambiguously mark" Beijing’s territorial claims of for most of the South China Sea.

Vietnam officially banned the film "Abominable" from all cinemas on October 14, 2019, after 10 days of screening. The Philippines did the same a day later. Malaysia refused to screen the film after the Malaysian government's demand for an edited version without the controversial scene was rejected. Such sly practice by China continues to cause outrage within the international community. Even Taiwan, which China has long regarded as "part of its territory," had to voice their criticism on Beijing’s dishonest conduct.

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