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BALIKATAN EXERCISE HIGHLIGHTS TERRITORIAL DEFENSE AND MULTILATERAL APPROACH

On April 4, the annual Balikatan joint military exercise began in the Philippines, with China’s state media lambasting it as an example of how Manila is “involving outsiders in the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.”

Balikatan, meaning shoulder-to-shoulder in Tagalog, started as an annual exercise between Philippine and U.S. armed forces focused on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations and conventional warfare. [READ MORE]

CREATING SEAMLESS MARITIME SECURITY COALITIONS IN THE INDO-PACIFIC

The rapid expansion of China’s political, economic, and military power in the Indo-Pacific presents both opportunities and challenges for the region. China’s rapid military build-up and assertive behavior could heighten tensions, especially over regional maritime disputes, and produce seriously adverse effects.

A policy of outright containment or isolation of China would be both inappropriate and counterproductive. [READ MORE]

US seeks China guarantee: Don’t militarize South China Sea

WASHINGTON/BEIJING—The Pentagon on Tuesday called on China to reaffirm it has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands after Beijing used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from a new airstrip on an island it has created in the disputed South China Sea.

China’s defense ministry earlier dismissed US queries as to why China had used a military aircraft rather than a civilian one in Sunday’s evacuation from Kagitingan Reef (international name: Fiery Cross Reef). [READ MORE]

Do the Obama Administration and PACOM Disagree on the South China Sea?

Over the past week, the apparent conflict between PACOM and the Obama administration has generated a pool of digital ink big enough to build a Chinese island in.

The apparent disinterest of the Obama administration in entertaining the more aggressive navigation and flight operations proposed by PACOM commander Admiral Harry B. Harris has produced a great deal of criticism, even as both sides sought to quiet the conflict. [READ MORE]

Democrat Attacks South China Sea Policy, Republican Defends It

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's policy on the disputed South China Sea came under attack Tuesday from a fellow Democrat, and in an unusual twist, it was a Republican adversary who leapt to the administration's defense.

State Department officials were testifying before a House foreign affairs subcommittee, requesting an increase in their budget for East Asia and the Pacific, which Obama has made a strategic priority even as he has been sidetracked by turmoil in the Mideast. [READ MORE]

America needs more than symbolic gestures in the South China Sea

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of US Pacific Command, was recently asked in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about China’s strategic goals.

“China seeks hegemony in East Asia. Simple as that,” he responded. Admiral Harris concluded: “China is clearly militarising the South China Sea and you’d have to believe in the flat Earth to think otherwise.” [READ MORE]

How China Upstaged U.S. With a ‘Great Wall of Sand’

SHANGHAI—Armed only with a set of revolving teeth, the Tian Jing Hao, Asia’s largest dredger, has pulled off a stunning naval upset.

Under the noses of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, this Chinese vessel led a civilian armada that built almost 3,000 acres of land atop submerged reefs in the Spratly Islands, altering a strategic balance that has held since the great naval battles of World War II established U.S. primacy in the western Pacific. [READ MORE]

Eye on China, U.S. and Philippines Ramp Up Military Alliance

MANILA — After a rocky patch of 25 years, the United States and the Philippines will solidify a new, increasingly complex military relationship this week, driven partly by China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea.

An agreement that allows the United States to build facilities at five Philippine military bases will spread more American troops, planes and ships across the island nation than have been here in decades. [READ MORE]

Pentagon chief to advance 'growing security network' in Asia Pacific

"Almost all the nations there are asking us to do more with them, bilaterally and multilaterally," Carter said at the Council on Foreign Relations ahead of a trip to the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Carter will be in India and the Philippines this week to advance growing military cooperation with the two countries, which are also warily eyeing China's rise.

Despite pledging in September not to militarize the disputes over islands and reefs in the South China Sea with five other nations, China has continued to build on and deploy weapons systems on the islands. [READ MORE]

Scarborough Shoal: The Next U.S.-China Showdown in the South China Sea

U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson told Reuters on March 19 that the United States was monitoring increased Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal. He warned, “I think we see some surface ship activity … survey type of activity … That’s an area of concern … a next possible area of reclamation.”

Satellite imagery from March 24 shows no Chinese dredging or construction activity at Scarborough Shoal. The only vessels present were a Chinese civilian ship anchored within the mouth of the lagoon, which has been typical for several years, and two Filipino trimaran-type fishing ships outside the shoal. [READ MORE]

Harrowing Trip for Chinese Trawler Before Bump in Territorial Tensions

BEIHAI, China — In the darkness of the tropical waters of the South China Sea, the shabby, blue-hulled Chinese fishing trawler edged closer to what was almost certain arrest for Zhang Deren, the boat’s engineer. He was more than 1,000 miles from his home here in southern China.

Earlier that day, the Indonesian maritime police had boarded his boat, accusing the crew of fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. After the rest of the crew was ordered onto their vessel, the Indonesians instructed Mr. Zhang, a 53-year-old with a weather-beaten face, to follow in the trawler. [READ MORE]

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