The dispute between China and the Philippines has heated up considerably since the UN tribunal in the Hague ruled that China is not the owner of the majority of the waterway in spite of the PRC’s claims. Shortly after the ruling last week that favoured the Philippine’s claims, China announced that the judgement was without merit.
Yesterday and today saw people in China demonstrating “rational patriotism” by demonstrating against the US at KFC outlets and smashing Apple iPhones. The PRC government is blaming the US for encouraging the Philippines to take their claims to the international court.
On video recorded by a CNN journalist riding in a reconnaissance plane over the artificial islands, one can see military runways and numerous ships in a lagoon. Island building on reefs has been going on for the past few years and to date about 2000 acres have been built atop coral reefs. As the surveillance plane flew near and over the disputed area, a voice came over the plane’s radio identifying itself as the Chinese navy telling the aircraft to leave the area. The request that the plane leave was repeated numerous times.
The South China Sea is one of the busiest transportation corridors in the world. At the same time that the US military plane was receiving messages to leave, a Delta aircraft was hearing the same message.
The People’s Liberation Army(PLA) has revealed to the public. The new weapons include missiles that can travel 1500 km, far enough to reach Okinawa. Also displayed were weapons geared to sink aircraft carriers and a new class of warplanes.
The PRC official news agency Xinhua News has pointed out that not all countries agree with the UN court. In particular, they point out that Sudan and Syria both support China’s claims. The area is looking to become further militarized as China has earmarked bomber, reconnaissance planes and refueling aircraft for regular patrols over the newly formed islands.
South China Sea Morning Post
Tensions ramp up another notch in the South China Sea as Malaysia has protested the incursion of fishing boats into what they claim is their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A flotilla of one hundred Chinese fishing boats were chased out of the Malaysian waters in March.
For their part, the Chinese have maintained that they are simply fishing in their traditional waters. The Malay minister of national security is not so sure. It could be interpreted as a message that China is pushing for control of the disputed sea.
Malaysia is building a new naval base in that area that will have helicopters, drones and a task force. The stated purpose of the new base is to ensure that extremists will not cause social disruptions.
The S. China Sea is claimed in part by seven nations, some with overlapping claims. China has made the biggest share. To bolster their claims they have embarked on a programme of island building on coral reefs in the area and militarized them. With an increasingly strong hold on some of the sea, they are now making moves to declare the airspace theirs to control -- Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIDZ). This would require passing aircraft to identify themselves and request permission to continue. This, the US Airforce has refused to do.
As well, the shipping through the sea, worth trillions of dollars per year and not now under the PRC’s control.
Malaysia is not the only country finding difficulties with the PRC fishing fleets. Vietnam has had hostile encounters with the Chinese navy while trying to enforce their claims to the sea.
Indonesia has gone one further and has taken to blowing up the seized Chinese fishing vessels. To date 174 vessels have been blown up.
The Philippines have had their fishermen harassed by Chinese boats using water cannons. Since their elections the harassment has eased off as Pres. Xi has made friendly gestures to the new Philippine president Duterte. It may be inspired by the recent announcements that the US and the Philippines will be conducting joint patrols in the disputed sea.
The Philippines have taken their claims to an international court for adjudication but the PRC does not recognize its status.
South China Morning Post
Stars and Stripes
In what looks like a deliberate provocation shortly after the elections in Taiwan which saw the PRC’s pushing for reunification robustly rebuffed, China has placed numerous surface to air missiles on the beaches of Woody Island.
The island is a disputed piece of territory claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. Currently the island is occupied by China. It is part of a chain of disputed islands in the South China Sea. Depending on which country is referring to the area, the chain is called the Paracel Islands, Xisha by China or Hoang Sa by Vietnam.
Satellite photos showing the deployment are just the latest issue to ramp up tensions in the region. China claims complete ownership of the shallow sea but that claim is disputed by six of its neighbours. The US is reviving its military presence in the Philippines, one of the claimants. Today Vietnam has requested help in its claim.
In addition to the revelation about the missiles, new photos show an expansion of island building by the Chinese. Massive dredging operations have created islands where reefs once existed and satellite images show military installations. The latest information shows two more island building projects. Currently an estimated 1 200 ha(3 000 acres) have been added.
China is pushing its claim to the area by attempting to restrict air and sea transportation through the area. The US has flown over the disputed area. In the last six months the US has also sailed two naval ships through the disputed area.
The S. China is believed to have large supplies of untapped petroleum products. It supports an important fishery. It is one of the busiest trade routes, accounting for approximately 30% of the world’s shipping. The cargoes are worth over US$5 trillion each year.
A U.S. P-8A anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft flew over waters off China's Nansha Islands in May, receiving repeated Chinese warnings. Xinhua News
Overflights by US air force planes have also enraged the Chinese government.
Not all bordering the S. China Sea are unhappy with the American transit of naval vessels. Vietnam has maintained an uneasy peace with its large neighbour while periodically breaking out in confrontations over fishing rights. In all, seven countries have claims of parts of the Sea.
It isn’t just the fishing rights that are important. Many maritime resources are exploited to feed the growing number of people in SE Asia and the Philippines. In addition, there is good evidence that abundant petroleum existed under the relatively shallow sea. The small kingdom of Brunei depends almost entirely on oil exploitation to run its country.
The importance of the trade routes in the area may ultimately become the most crucial element in the dispute. A lengthy report written in February 2012 titled Geopolitics of the South China Sea by Energy Intelligence predicted the action of an industrialized and increasingly robust China.
Radio Free Asia
Vietnam is arming itself. They have taken delivery of four Russian submarines and have two more on order. They have also purchased Russian missiles and are expected to eventually have a total of 50.
Countries that have no claim to the territories in the S. China Sea are also concerned about the bellicose actions of the Chinese. The trade routes annually transport $5 trillion in goods. Australian PM Tony Abbott is busy shoring up relations with his SE Asian neighbours, recently signing a mutual defense accord with Singapore. US Deputy Secretary of State called China’s island building “a threat to peace and stability”. He went on to draw parallels with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
South China Post
Sidney Morning Herald
International Business Times
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