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    South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

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    June 17, 2011 1:19 PM GMT
    Although China has promised that it won't use force in the mounting face-off with Vietnam, the People's Republic is taking measures to show muscle in the disputed South China Sea.


    (Photo: REUTERS)
    Two Chinese trawlers stop directly in front of the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23) in the South China Sea, in this picture taken March 8, 2009 and released March 9, 2009. The United States on Monday urged China to observe international maritime rules after the Pentagon said five Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed the Impeccable while it was conducting routine survey operations in the South China Sea, 75 miles (120 km) south of Hainan Island, according to the Pentagon. The trawlers came within 25 feet of the Impeccable.

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    First there was maritime patrol ship that Beijing sent to the South China Sea from the southern Chinese province of Guangzhou yesterday.
    Where there's one, China plans to add hundreds more. China Daily is reporting that the China Maritime Surveillance force plans to beef up its serves with over 520 vessels by 2020.
    Still, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei maintains that China will "not use force" in the growing dispute with Vietnam and five other nations and territories for sovereignty for the valuable water space.
    It is still unknown just how much natural gas and oil is beneath the South China Sea's seabed.

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    Some Chinese sources estimate it's over 200 billion barrels, roughly 80 percent of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves, but others say that's an extreme exaggeration.
    The benefits may be unclear, but Beijing can calculate how much its mounting face-off with Vietnam over the sea space would cost the Chinese economy.
    At face value, the price tag is US $12.7 billion-- the amount of Vietnam's trade deficit with China in 2010, according to Vietnam's General Statistics Office.
    That's seven percent of China's trade surplus from last year, a small but significant chunk of the country's earnings.
    Still, analysts say all-out war would mean a much more complicated calculation of losses.
    Responding to the six-hour-long live-fire drills Vietnam conducted in the South China Sea-- one hour for each of the countries and territories laying claim on the waters, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei announced that China "won't use force" to respond to what it sees as offensives in an area where the People's Republic claims to have "indisputable sovereignty."
    "I think that economics definitely had something to do with the announcement," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the IHS Global Insight, a leader in economic analysis, on call from London.
    It has growing trade links with all Asian economies, especially the countries interested in Spratly," Behravesh said, referring to the disputed islands, located in the South China Sea, closer to the Philippines.
    Analysts believe that despite the ongoing deluge of strongly worded condemnations, accusing Vietnam of threatening Chinese autonomy in the region, China is likely to stand by its promise of detente.
    "There is a way to measure how likely things are to lead to military confrontation," said Dr. Donald K. Emmerson, Director of the Southeast Asia Forum at Stanford University.
    Emmerson attended the 2011 Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, after Chinese ships cut cords on PetroVietnam's survey ships late last month. Then, China's tone was conciliatory, until another subsequent attack on June 9, when another Chinese vessel cut cords on another PetroVietnam ship, in what Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Phuong Nga said was a "premeditated" offensive.
    "China relies increasingly on the import of fuels from the Middle East. Those fuels come from the Malacca Strait into the South China Sea. If China were to wage a war in the primary transit area for fuels, that would be an unwise decision," Emmerson said,
    That's one reason not to go to war over the South China Sea.
    Another reason for the Southeast Asian nations and territories laying claim to the sea-- there are six in total, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan-- not to engage China militaristically would be to preserve geopolitical stability in the region.
    "The border states realize that a full-scale war with tankers being blown up at sea would be so dangerous to the countries concerned," he said, explaining that the international economy would be greatly shaken by the disruption of the key shipping route.
    Half of the world's merchant fleet by tonnage sails through South China Sea every year, Emmerson said.
    "That's a huge artery of global trade. Although it's true that the South China sea is [the] main passage way, there are more costly alternatives, moving eastward through Philippines and Indonesia."
    As far as solutions, both Emmerson and Global Insight's Behravesh see cooperation in China's future with its ASEAN business partners to the South.
    And there's precedent.
    Emmerson explained that in July 2005, a joint marine seismic undertaking was founded by China, the Philippines and Vietnam -- the signatories included companies like PetroVietnam -- not the foreign ministers or prime ministers. It was in the name of joint work between the companies -- to begin finding out how much oil was beneath the seabed.
    "They at first wanted joint exploration and then joint exploitation.Then the project lapsed in 2008," he added.
    Where China clearly stands to benefit from an increased oil supply in its endless drive to fuel its growing economy, Vietnam also stands to benefit.
    "I certainly think Vietnam has the capability through joint ventures to exploit the reserves," said Behravesh, explaining that a win-win partnership on the oil could help cool geopolitical heat in the region and allow for the joint exploitation of the region's resources.
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  • #2
    Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

    China stages military drills in South China Sea
    (AFP) – 8 hours ago
    BEIJING — China is staging three days of military exercises in the South China Sea and plans to boost its offshore maritime patrol force, state media said, as tensions with its neighbours simmer.
    China has competing claims with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea which have flared in recent weeks.
    Beijing has pledged it will not resort to force to resolve the lingering maritime territorial disputes, after the Philippines this week sought help from the United States and Vietnam staged live-fire military exercises.
    According to the Global Times, 14 Chinese navy vessels recently staged drills in waters near China's southern tropical island of Hainan, including anti-submarine manoeuvres and the beach landing of troops.
    The exercises in the South China Sea were aimed at "defending atolls and protecting sea lanes," reports said.
    The China Maritime Surveillance force meanwhile will be bolstered from the current staff of 9,000 to 15,000 personnel by 2020, the China Daily reported.
    The force falls under the State Oceanic Administration, an agency that supervises China's coastline and territorial waters.
    The patrol fleet will have 350 vessels by 2015 and 520 by 2020, the report said, citing an unnamed senior China Maritime Surveillance official. It will also have 16 planes by 2015.
    Disputes at sea between China and other countries have been on the rise, a State Oceanic Administration report said last month.
    China said Thursday it had dispatched a maritime patrol vessel to disputed South China Sea waters but insisted it was committed to peace in the region.
    Taiwan's navy said this week it would proceed with scheduled patrol missions in the disputed waters, sending a naval fleet to Taiwan-controlled Taiping, the biggest island in the Spratlys, one of the disputed island chains.
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    • #3
      Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

      Philippines Sends Warship After China Boat Heads to Disputed Sea

      The Philippines announced it will send its biggest warship, a World War II vessel, to a disputed part of the South China Sea after China said it was deploying one of its new coastal patrol vessels in the waters.
      The BRP Rajah Humabon, used by the U.S. against German submarines in World War II, will patrol around Scarborough Shoal, within waters claimed by China, the Philippine Star reported on its website. China sent the Haixun 31, a 3,000 ton vessel with a helicopter landing pad, to inspect foreign ships and oil facilities in disputed waters of the South China Sea, Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper reported yesterday.
      “The Navy conducts regular offshore patrols and we should not connect the deployment of Rajah Humabon to the deployment of this maritime vessel of China,” Eduardo Batac, spokesman of the Philippines’ department of defense, said in a press briefing today. “It’s part of routine patrols that are being conducted by the Navy.”
      Tensions in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes have increased as the Philippines and Vietnam press ahead with oil and gas projects against China’s wishes. Exxon Mobil Corp., Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM), Forum Energy Plc (FEP) and Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, known as PetroVietnam, have operations in areas of the South China Sea claimed by China.
      Commander Miguel Jose Rodriguez, the spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the vessel was being deployed off the island of Luzon. Officials on the Chinese ship will discuss anti-piracy and sea rescue issues with Singaporean officials when it arrives, the official Xinhua news agency said.
      Defense Treaties

      The U.S., which has patrolled Asia-Pacific waters since World War II, has defense treaties with the Philippines and Thailand, and guarantees Taiwan’s security. U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington is “on a routine patrol of waters in the Western Pacific,” U.S. Navy spokesman Commander Jeff Davis said, without providing details of its planned route.
      “The South China Sea is international waters and we transit through there routinely,” Davis said by phone today from Jakarta. The carrier “has been through there many times before in the past and it’ll be through there many times in the future.”
      The U.S. sold a 378-foot Coast Guard vessel equipped with a helicopter launching pad and missile system to the Philippines earlier this year that will be its largest naval vessel when delivered in August, according to a May 12 statement by the Philippine Navy. Later this month, the U.S. Navy will send three ships to conduct joint exercises off of Palawan island “in a combination of Philippine waters and international waters,” Davis said.
      ‘What’s Ours is Ours’

      The Philippine Navy removed territorial markers placed by China on three reefs in the South China Sea near Palawan island in May, Armed Forces Naval Forces West commander Edgardo Tamayo said yesterday. Two months earlier, Chinese vessels chased away a survey vessel working in the area for Forum Energy, a U.K.- based company majority owned by Philex Mining Corp. (PX)
      “We are very concerned about these markers being placed in waters and areas, features that are clearly ours,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario told reporters in Canberra yesterday, where he met with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. “What’s ours is ours. We are free to do with that as we please.”
      Chinese ships have rammed survey vessels operated by PetroVietnam twice in the past month, according to Vietnam’s foreign ministry, with one incident occurring in an area where Calgary-based Talisman Energy planned a seismic program this year. China has disputed that version of events, saying it’s committed to maintaining peace in the seas.
      Beefing Up Forces

      China will beef up its maritime surveillance force, increasing the number of personnel from 9,000 to 15,000 by 2020, the China Daily reported today, citing an unidentified official with the China Maritime Surveillance Force. The number of surveillance vessels being operated by the CMS will increase from 260 to 350 by 2015, the report said.
      China has bolstered its forces over the past decade, procuring nuclear-powered submarines and developing an aircraft carrier, according to a U.S. Defense Department report in August. Its missile patrol craft, destroyers and frigates in the South Sea fleet “could alter regional balances,” the report said.
      To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at
      To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at
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      • #4
        Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

        This isn't a good situation.

        China... against Philippines, Vietnam?
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        • #5
          Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

          June 15, 2011 Philippines Removes Foreign Markers From Disputed South China Sea Reefs

          Simone Orendain | Manilla, Philippines

          [IMG]*329/Reuters_Philippines_Protest_Spratly_Islands_06_08_ 2011_480.jpg[/IMG] Photo: Reuters
          Demonstrators protest against what Manila claims to be Chinese intrusions into Spratly Islands territories claimed by the Philippines front of the Chinese consulate in Makati's financial district of Manila June 8, 2011.

          The Philippines navy says it has removed foreign marker posts that were placed on reefs and banks it says are part of its territory in the South China Sea.

          Military officials say the unidentified wooden posts were last week removed from Boxall Reef, which is part of the much-disputed Spratly group of islands.
          At the end of May, the navy says it recovered some other posts from the Amy Douglas Bank area, which is within waters the Philippines considers to be in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

          Military spokesman Major Neil Estrella says an investigation continues into where the posts came from. He says the navy recently added more patrol boats and is spending more time keeping watch on the waters of the westernmost part of the country.

          “And because of these maritime patrols we were able to locate markers. So we removed these markers.”

          Estrella says the navy has stepped up patrols to verify fishermen’s reports of seeing foreign vessels around territory claimed by both the Philippines and China.
          Rising tensions
          In the South China Sea, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim all or part of the Spratlys, which are believed to hold vast oil and gas reserves. In recent months, exchanges over the claims have grown more heated, particularly between China and Vietnam, and China and the Philippines.

          The Philippines says in recent weeks it had run-ins with China over several incidents on the South China Sea. One of the strongest allegations was that in March two Chinese patrol boats intimidated an exploration ship in waters within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone.

          Philippines officials have demanded that China follow the U.N. Convention on Laws of the Sea regarding territorial claims. China, however, says that it has held sovereignty over the South China Sea for centuries.

          Philippines authorities have indicated they plan to formally protest the issue to the United Nations.
          US reassurance
          While China has said it prefers to directly deal with individual countries over the territorial dispute, President Benigno Aquino has asked the United States for help.

          During a speech at a renewable energy forum in Manila this week, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas indicated Washington's support on the issue.

          “The Philippines and the United States are strategic treaty allies. We are partners. We will continue to consult and work with each other on all issues including the South China Sea and Spratly Islands.”
          Angry response

          China responded furiously last year after the United States joined several countries at a regional security summit in calling for a multi-lateral approach to resolving South China Sea disputes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also declared that the U.S. has a national interest in maintaining free navigation through the waterway.

          Philippines media is reporting China’s Foreign Ministry has reassured the Philippines it would not use force to settle the dispute.

          Related Articles

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          • #6
            Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

            Hanoi Tries to Ease Rift With Beijing

            By JAMES HOOKWAY

            Vietnam tried to ease a rift with Beijing after holding a live-fire naval drill in the disputed South China Sea, while China's inflation rose to 5.5%, reinforcing expectations of further tightening. WSJ's Jake Lee and Alison Tudor discuss.

            Vietnam changed its tone slightly in an emerging standoff with China as it held a live-fire naval drill off its coast that analysts had said reflects the increasingly uncompromising stance among countries competing with China to claim the vast energy resources believed to lie below the South China Sea.
            However, Hanoi sought to play down the drill Monday in an apparent attempt to avoid antagonizing its larger neighbor unnecessarily.
            The exercises around the island of Hon Ong, around 25 miles off the coast of central Vietnam, come after a series of clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels over oil exploration in the area and threaten to further ratchet up tensions.
            The maneuvers also follow Vietnam's announcement over the weekend that it would welcome foreign involvement to resolve rival claims to the potentially resource-rich waters—an apparent reference, analysts say, to the U.S., which last year infuriated Beijing by saying that resolving disputes in the hotly contested South China Sea is in America's national interest.
            Disputed Isles

            View Interactive

            Competing territorial claims have led to maritime disputes off the coast of Asia.


            A prominent U.S. senator Monday said the U.S. needs to signal its dissatisfaction with China's use of force in the area and push more forcefully for multilateral negotiations to resolve sovereignty issues there. Democrat Sen. Jim Webb, who heads the Senate subcommittee on U.S. policy towards East Asia, said Vietnam and other countries in the region were watching whether "we are going to back up those words with substantive action," the Associated Press reported.
            "That does not mean military confrontation, per se, but we have to make a clear signal," Sen. Webb said.
            A Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Nguyen Phuong Nga, said in a statement released late Monday that the training drill was a previously planned live-fire exercise and would continue Tuesday. Yet the fanfare with which Vietnam announced the exercises in recent days sent a rather different message.
            "The point of these exercises is to send a clear message that Vietnam is serious about protecting its interests in the South China Sea and that it won't be bullied by China," said Ian Storey, a specialist on the region and fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
            View Full Image

            European Pressphoto Agency A man holds a banner in Hanoi on Sunday during a rare public protest against China following a South China Sea spat.

            Tensions have been building for months in the South China Sea, which is claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei and also contains some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
            Vietnam last week accused a Chinese fishing vessel, backed up by two patrol boats, of snapping the cables of an exploration boat operated by state oil company PetroVietnam, prompting a sharp exchange of words between Beijing and Hanoi and triggering rare street protests in Vietnam's biggest cities.
            In late May, Vietnamese officials accused Chinese vessels of sabotaging another exploration vessel operating within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam's coast, which Hanoi regards as its own exclusive economic zone as provided under international law. The Philippines, too, has complained about Chinese military intimidation of survey vessels operating in Philippine waters and has accused China of attempting to build fresh structures near the Spratly Islands.
            Chinese Foreign Ministry officials couldn't be reached to comment. But Beijing previously has said it wishes to preserve stability in the South China Sea while insisting on its sovereignty over the whole area. Last week, China's ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jianchao, warned neighboring countries not to explore for oil without its permission.
            China and its neighbors are divided on how to reconcile their respective claims in the South China Sea. The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, are pushing for multilateral negotiations to resolve sovereignty disputes, particularly disputes over the semisubmerged atolls and reefs known as the Paracels and Spratly Islands. During its chairmanship of Asean last year, Vietnam initiated moves to internationalize the dispute, with the goal of providing a stronger counterweight to China's growing diplomatic and military powere. That move angered Beijing, which last year described the South China Sea as a core national interest and which prefers to negotiate settlements separately with each individual claimant country.
            The recent conflicts in the South China Sea are, in a broad sense, part of a long-established cycle of rival claimants probing one another's resolve. Occasionally, water-borne encounters lead to a loss of life. In 1988, more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died when Chinese vessels sank three Vietnamese navy ships near Johnson Reef. More often, tensions recede and the competing nations resume their slow progress toward negotiating a way to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the area.
            This time, Vietnam has responded to China's alleged infringements with a significantly harder line. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last week described Vietnam's claim to the area as "incontestable."
            In addition, the publicity which Vietnam conferred on what it later said was an annual training exercise also pointed to the depth of feeling in Vietnam regarding its claim to parts of the South China Sea.
            Still, Vietnam is unlikely to go much further in flexing its military muscle, analysts say. Carlyle Thayer, a professor at Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales, said that if Vietnam uses disproportionate force to make its point, China could seize on it to claim that Vietnam is the aggressor. "China's intent is to intimidate Vietnam into backing down or provoke it into taking action that would divide the other Asean members," Mr. Thayer said. Vietnam, he said, "must be careful not to take steps that make [itself] the problem."
            Write to James Hookway at
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            • #7
              Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

              Fight or flight in the South China Sea
              By David Brown

              Lately China has exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder in its approach to the thorny question of sovereignty over the South China Sea.

              Addressing Southeast Asian counterparts last weekend, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guangjie murmured familiar mantras about its outlook on the South China Sea: China will never seek hegemony or military expansion ... China is committed to maintaining peace and stability through security cooperation ... China unswervingly adopts the policy of forging friendly and good-neighborly relations.

              In his bilateral contacts at a regional security dialogue in Singapore, Liang seemed intent on persuading members of the

              Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to exclude the United States from discussions aimed at lowering tensions. Yet, scarcely days earlier, Chinese coast guard vessels were engaged in unprecedented thuggery against rival claimants to the 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean that stretch south from Taiwan to the Malacca Straits, activities Beijing describes as "regular maritime law enforcement and surveillance activities in the waters under the jurisdiction of China".

              Four ASEAN states, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, claim parts of this maritime area, claims based on application of the United Nations Charter on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rules on dividing up an enclosed continental shelf. Vietnam additionally asserts rights derived from its exploitation of the area's rich fisheries and seasonal occupation of certain islets rich in guano, abalone and sea cucumbers stretching back at least to the 1600s.

              Though quick to claim its UNCLOS rights when that suits it, China treats the charter as irrelevant in respect to its "irrefutable jurisdiction" over the South China Sea. Up against a Law of the Sea Convention deadline to declare all maritime claims, in June 2009, China simply tabled a crude map and did not bother to address the geological and geomorphological criteria established by the convention.

              Notwithstanding the broad signal that China is uninterested in compromise, ASEAN collectively has clung to the hope that Asia's emergent superpower can be persuaded to negotiate. They have but one success to show for that: in 2002, after years of trying, ASEAN nations at last persuaded China to sign on to a "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" or DOC. DOC signatories agreed to "exercise self restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes". Additionally, China forswore resort to force in the resolution of territorial claims.

              The next step in the DOC process was to be agreement on modalities for settling the rival claims. So far, however, ASEAN hasn't been able to lure Beijing's negotiators back to the table. The Chinese insist that they never intended to settle who owns what in a multilateral forum but are ready to work things out in bilateral negotiations with other claimants. Meanwhile, Beijing has systematically been creating ‘facts on the ground' in support of its contention that it owns the whole South China Sea, right up to 12 miles off the coasts of littoral states.

              In the northern part of the contested waters, China's bully boy tactics seem to have succeeded. Beijing has declared the Paracels, a group of reefs and islands that lies between its Hainan Island and Vietnam's central coast, now to be open for tourism and economic development by Chinese entrepreneurs. It ousted a small South Vietnamese force from the Paracels in 1974, and in recent years has all but driven Vietnamese fishermen from the surrounding waters. Hanoi clings doggedly to its claim, but its ASEAN partners show no signs of rallying in support.

              That leaves the sprawling Spratly archipelago and an expanse of empty sea southwards of the Paracels - roughly, the southern two-thirds of the South China Sea - still up for grabs.

              Incidents last month directed at non-Chinese fishermen and oil exploration ships in the Philippine and Vietnamese economic zones are new only in that they extend a now familiar pattern further to the south and closer to the coasts of rival claimants. Beijing has bluntly warned international oil companies against concluding exploration contracts in areas Vietnam claims as its EEZ. Manila sources report that Chinese naval forces are planting new outposts in Philippine territorial waters in defiance of the standstill required by the DOC.

              The massive disconnect that has emerged between what China says and what China does gives General Liang's insistence at last weekend's Singapore forum that "the involved countries should resolve their disputes over maritime sovereignty through friendly negotiations and bilateral talks" a distinctly hollow ring.

              What is driving China? Some analysts have speculated that policy incoherence is a temporary manifestation of rival power centers in Beijing. Others express confidence that the Chinese will not press their claims so hard or far that they alienate Indonesia, frighten businessmen or undo the US Pentagon's ambitions of military to military cooperation on a global scale.

              More and more, though, these seem to be forlorn hopes. By all the evidence, China is playing for keeps and the prize is energy - the very significant oil and gas deposits believed to be awaiting discovery and exploitation beneath the seabed of the South China Sea.

              One can argue - and petroleum geologists do - whether the oil and gas is really there, but it's beyond dispute that Beijing gives very high priority to securing energy supplies. China became a net oil importer in 1993; it now imports some six million barrels of oil a day, or some 60% of the oil it uses. By 2025, the Chinese economy will require oil imports on the order of 15 million barrels daily, according to BP's highly regarded annual review.

              The situation is similar though less acute with regard to natural gas, reports BP. Beijing began to import liquefied natural gas in 2007, and by 2025 is expected to source 40% of its needs from abroad. For a nation willing to spend heavily to build a navy capable of protecting supply lines to the Middle East, the hydrocarbons presumably beneath the South China Sea must look irresistibly like low hanging fruit. According to the International Energy Agency:
              The hydrocarbon resources of the South China Sea are little known. Several unconfirmed Chinese reports place potential oil reserves at 213 billion barrels, while the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated reserves in 1994 at 28 billion ... Some experts believe that natural gas comprises the largest component of the South China Sea's hydrocarbon deposits, but estimates of this resource vary widely as well ...
              The US Energy Information Agency comments thus:
              The fact that surrounding areas are rich in oil deposits has led to speculation that the Spratly Islands could be an untapped oil-bearing province. There is little evidence outside of Chinese claims to support the view that the region contains substantial oil resources ... Due to the lack of exploratory drilling, there are no proven oil reserve estimates for the Spratly or Paracel Islands.
              Is a fight inevitable?

              The Vietnamese have no illusions about Beijing's readiness to provoke. Vietnam has been fending off Chinese attempts to bring them to heel for over a thousand years. Managing its unequal relationship with its northern neighbor is the core concern of Hanoi's foreign policy. To avoid war with the northern colossus, history suggests, the Vietnamese will kowtow but finally fight rather than capitulate.

              A year ago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the South China Sea a region of American "national interest" - a posture fully consistent with US objectives of free access in Asia going back to the 19th century , but in the context uttered, a slap in the face to the Chinese. Clinton's remarks were closely coordinated with Hanoi, host of the 2010 Asian Regional Forum (ARF) and garnished by a lot of bilateral talk about a new US-Vietnam strategic relationship. She suggested that the US could play a role as an honest broker in resolving the South China Sea claims.

              Now, the US is on the spot to play that role. The 2011 ARF meeting is little more than a month away and will be chaired by Indonesia. The meeting will provide the best current opportunity for revitalizing a process that leads to a peaceful sorting out of rival maritime interests and claims.

              It's possible to imagine a negotiated outcome that satisfies no one claimant fully but all sufficiently. That's an outcome with several essential elements: that ASEAN is able to hang together and the ASEAN member claimants can agree how to parcel out the Spratlys amongst themselves; that the US engages effectively on the side of common-sense accommodations including joint development in some areas; and, hardest of all, that China backs away from its preposterous claim to 100% ownership of the South China Sea.

              At the defense ministers' forum last weekend in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates refused to be drawn out on the recent Chinese muscle-flexing, other than to say that he shared others' concerns and that there are multilateral mechanisms, ie the DOC and UNCLOS, that can be applied to resolve the issues relating to the South China Sea. Some reportage called this a sign that the Americans are pulling back from a confrontation.

              That's probably a wrong interpretation. The immediate challenge for the Americans is to work with Indonesia to put the territorial issues on a track toward solutions grounded in international law and diplomatic common sense. They must reassure the Vietnamese and Filipinos that the US will not back down. They must persuade Chinese doves that whoever owns the Spratlys, there will be unimpeded opportunities for Chinese enterprises to participate in the exploitation of those hypothetical hydrocarbons.

              Equally important, Washington ought to stand tough vis-a-vis China's hawks, putting Beijing privately on notice that provocative actions can only result in uniting other claimants, drawing the US further into the conflict and postponing the mutually beneficial development of the South China Sea's resources.

              David Brown is a retired American diplomat who writes on contemporary Vietnam. He may be reached at
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              • #8
                Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                US uses Safeguard for training in West PH Sea

                Posted at 06/14/2011 8:55 PM | Updated as of 06/14/2011 8:55 PM

                MANILA, Philippines - Navy units from the Philippines, United States and other Southeast Asian nations are doing training exercises in the West Philippine Sea, more popularly known as the South China Sea, amid territorial tensions in the area.
                Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the training, called Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), is only meant “to enhance interoperability and share practices.”
                The other delegates are from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei and Malaysia are also involved in the South China Sea territorial dispute.
                Tonsay said the Philippine Navy has deployed three ships for the training.
                The US, on the other hand, will be using the USNS Safeguard, which is a rescue and salvage ship.
                "They will participate together with the US Navy in a scenario-driven fleet training exercise against terrorism, transnational crimes and other maritime threats which focuses on real time information exchange, coordinated surveillance operations, tracking, and eventual conduct of Visit Board Search and Seizure to the maritime Contact of Interest,” Tonsay said.
                He explained the SEACAT is an annual event, with the venue determined in advance.
                "Venues have been determined in advance during coordinated planning sessions and are finalized following confirmation from all participating navies. This exercise aims to promote regional coordination, information sharing and interoperability in a multilateral environment," said Tonsay.
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                • #9
                  Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                  US Naval units due for exercises

                  TWO United States destroyers and a salvage ship are proceeding to the country later this month to take part in exercises with their Filipino counterparts off Palawan.
                  Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay however said the exercises, dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) has nothing to do with the renewed territorial dispute over the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea.
                  Tonsay said the annual training exercises would be pursued east of Palawan or in the Sulu Sea from June 28 up to July 8. The Spratlys - claimed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei - is located west of Palawan.
                  Tonsay said the three US ships taking part in the exercises are USS Chung-Hoon and USS Howard, which are classified as destroyer ships; and USNS Safeguard, a rescue and salvage ship. He could not immediately say how many US servicemen will take part.
                  He said the USS Chung-Hoon is currently somewhere in international waters in the West Philippine Sea.
                  The CARAT exercises have been held for more than 10 years. The US is also conducting similar exercises with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
                  Tonsay statement’s came after Vietnam began yesterday conducting live fire exercises in its claimed territory in the South China Sea.
                  Like the Philippines, Vietnam recently accused China of violating its sovereignty. – Victor Reyes
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                  • #10
                    Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                    US warships join naval exercises in Philippines


                    The naval training exercises will take place close to the disputed Spratley islands. [ABC]

                    VIDEO from Australia Network News

                    Vietnam navy drills in South China Sea

                    Created: Tue, 14 Jun 2011 08:29:12 GMT-0600

                    Shirley Escalante, Manila
                    Last Updated: Tue, 14 Jun 2011 13:26:00 +1000
                    Three American warships will take part in naval training exercises with the Philippines navy later this month.

                    The exercises will take place close to the disputed Spratley islands.

                    Two US destroyer ships and a salvage ship will join four Philippines navy vessels in the training exercises, which begin on June 28.

                    The naval drills at the Philippines' Sulu Sea comes at a time of renewed tension between the Philippines and China over territorial claims in the Spratley islands.

                    But navy spokesman Omar Tonsay said the timing of the exercises was coincidental and not related to the conflict.

                    The Philippines Government has started referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippines Sea in official statements as a way of asserting sovereignty over some areas in the disputed Spratley islands.
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                    • #11
                      Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                      Why the South China Sea is turning more turbulent

                      A US-China military rivalry may be behind China's recent aggressiveness in the South China Sea. On Sunday, Vietnam claims China cut the underwater cables of one of its survey ships.

                      Do Van Hau, of state oil and gas group Petrovietnam, speaks during a news conference in Hanoi May 29. Vietnam accused China on Sunday of increasing regional tensions and said its navy would do everything necessary to protect its territorial integrity after Chinese patrol boats "interfered with" a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship in the South China Sea.


                      3Share 0

                      By Simon Montlake, Correspondent / June 3, 2011
                      Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Nearly a year after the US stepped into a simmering dispute between China and smaller countries in the region over potentially oil-rich islands in the South China Sea, tensions are rising again.
                      Skip to next paragraph

                      A combination photo shows handout pictures of Vietnamese survey boat Binh Minh 02 (top) and two Chinese marine surveillance ships, offshore of Vietnam's central Phu Yen province May 26, and released by Petrovietnam May 29. Vietnam accused China on Sunday of increasing regional tensions and said its navy would do everything necessary to protect its territorial integrity after Chinese patrol boats "interfered with" a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship in the South China Sea.



                      Related stories

                      Since March, both Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese forces of aggressive acts in disputed areas. Military experts say China’s sustained military buildup enables it to project more naval power in an oceanic region where the US Navy has long held sway. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was due to meet Friday with his Chinese counterpart at a security summit in Singapore. “We are not trying to hold China down,” he told reporters Thursday.
                      Prior to the recent tension, however, analysts say China had begun to dial down its behavior and renew diplomatic efforts to win over its neighbors. The Chinese charm offensive began soon after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a regional security forum in Vietnam last July to stake out the US strategic interest in the South China Sea and offer to mediate peace talks.
                      RELATED: IN PICTURES – China's military muscle

                      While this offer hasn’t been taken up, the US intervention prompted Beijing to “recalibrate” its stance, says Susan Shirk, a former US diplomat and China expert who runs the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California in San Diego. As a rising military power, China wants to avoid a pro-US tilt in the region. “This recalibration is about trying to get back to a more pragmatic and cooperative approach that China has, by and large, pursued since the 1990s,” she says.
                      A regional flashpoint

                      But regional governments have made scant progress on resolving overlapping claims on two island chains. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a broad code of conduct with China in 2002 as a way to calm tensions. But subsequent talks to agree on the rules have broken down amid criticism that ASEAN is too divided to act. Asian diplomats say China has tried to pick off weaker countries and head off a firm joint position on the South China Sea. Last year, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said “internationalizing” the issue would only make it harder to solve.
                      Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN, wanted to firm up the code of conduct by year-end on an issue that posed a “real security threat” to the region. He admitted that further delays would be a sign of failure. “Ten years with a lack of [implementing] guidelines is a bit much,” he told a security conference in Malaysia.
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                      • #12
                        Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                        US warns Beijing over South China Sea

                        By Kathrin Hille and Demetri Sevastopulo in Singapore
                        Published: June 4 2011 09:39 | Last updated: June 4 2011 09:39

                        Robert Gates, US defence secretary, on Saturday warned that there were “increasing concerns” about recent Chinese provocations in the South China Sea and other disputed waters in Asia.

                        Vietnam and the Philippines have in recent weeks accused China of engaging in aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, escalating a long-running dispute over the waters.
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                        “I fear that without rules of the road and agreed approaches to dealing with these problems that there will be clashes,” Mr Gates told the Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile Asian defence forum.
                        But asked whether the Chinese actions undermined Beijing’s mantra that China was pursuing a “peaceful rise”, Mr Gates said: “I don’t think it has risen to that level yet”.
                        Just over a week ago, Vietnam accused China of a “serious violation” of international law after Chinese coast guard vessels cut the cables of an oil exploration ship of PetroVietnam, the state energy company.
                        Then, last week, Manila protested to China over the unloading of construction materials by a Chinese vessel on a reef claimed by the Philippines, which raised fears that Beijing might abandon a nine-year old commitment not to start new construction on disputed land features in the South China Sea.
                        While Mr Gates expressed concern about the increase in incidents, his comments appeared to mark a sharp reversal from the tougher approach taken by the US government last year. At the same conference in 2010, Mr Gates called on China to adhere to international law. The following month, Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, angered Beijing during a visit to Vietnam by declaring the South China Sea a national interest of the US.
                        Last year’s heightened US rhetoric came partly in response to appeals from south-east Asian countries for a stronger US role in the region to balance China. But the resulting tension between Beijing and Washington later raised concerns that the incumbent global naval power and a rising China could get into a conflict in their neighbourhood.
                        Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, highlighted those concerns on Friday in calling for a security order that would not force countries in the region to choose between two blocs.
                        “We must replace the old bilateralism of the Cold War,” he told the defence forum.
                        Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam’s deputy defence minister, reiterated such beliefs in an interview with the Financial Times.
                        “We welcome the presence of both the US and of China as long as they respect international law and respect the interests of the countries in the region,” he said.
                        Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center of Strategic & International Studies in Washington, said Mr Gates’ comments were intended as “a message to everyone else in the region that the US and China will get along”.
                        South-east Asian governments have often been reluctant to strongly criticise China in public, and Beijing continues to pledge that it is pursuing a “peaceful rise”. This doctrine includes assurances that China’s increasing economic, political and military clout will not pose a threat to any other country, and that Beijing will not seek the role of a hegemon.
                        General Liang Guanglie, China’s defence minister and the highest-ranking delegate Beijing has ever sent to the Shangri-La Dialogue, is expected to reiterate this message when he addresses the summit on Sunday.
                        Washington’s softer line on China comes as the two countries are seeking to deepen their military dialogue which the US is reluctant to see disrupted again.
                        On Friday, the US and Chinese delegations held bilateral talks which both sides described as cordial. Last month, Chen Bingde, the People’s Liberation Army’s Chief of General Staff, paid a week-long visit to the US.
                        Mr Gates, who was making his final visit to Asia before stepping down as Pentagon chief later this month, told the forum that the US would maintain “robust military engagement” and increase port calls and naval engagements in the region. He also dismissed concerns that pressures on the Pentagon budget, as the US addresses its fiscal deficit, coupled with rising Chinese military budgets meant US influence in the region would wane.
                        “I will bet you a $100 that five years from now the United States’ influence in this region is as strong if not stronger than it is today,” he said.

                        Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.
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                        • #13
                          Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                          DFA declares 'shaky' Spratlys situation

                          By ROY C. MABASA
                          June 17, 2011, 6:04pm
                          MANILA, Philippines — Shaky.
                          This was how Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario described the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as China’s biggest maritime patrol ship begins to sail to the disputed area.
                          Del Rosario is currently in Canberra attending the Philippine-Australian Ministerial Meetings.
                          “It’s a bit shaky there (in the Spratlys) now,” Del Rosario was quoted by reporters in Australia as saying.
                          The DFA secretary said concerned parties must exercise selfrestraint in the conduct of their activities as well as “an overarching goal, towards a rules-based regime in the area.”
                          Official media in China reported that Chinese Maritime Safety Administration’s “Haixun 3” vessel left south China on Wednesday and will head for Singapore, passing the island groups of Paracel and Spratly at the heart of disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in the region.
                          It has been reported that Haixun 31 will “monitor shipping lanes, carry out surveying, inspect oil wells exploring for undersea reserves and “protect maritime security.”
                          Malacañang said it sees no reason to be alarmed by China’s deployment of one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships to the area.
                          “From what we understand, it’s a civilian ship that is on its way to Singapore, that is something that happens ordinarily and there is no cause for alarm,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing Friday.
                          Valte said that though there is a need to further improve the country’s capability in guarding its territorial waters, modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is underway, including enhanced capability to protect territorial seas.
                          “Taking into consideration our limitations, we are doing everything to guard our territory,” Valte said. A Hamilton class cutter was acquired by the Philippine Navy from the US Coast Guard in line of the government’s modernization program.
                          The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it is set to send a patrol ship and place all its air assets on standby to conduct regular aerial reconnaissance operations to monitor the situation in the Spratlys.
                          Lieutenant Commander Algier Ricafrente, Coast Guard Public Affairs chief, said that PCG’s 56-meter search and rescue vessel and presidential ship BRP-EDSA (SARV-002) was already prepositioned in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan since last week.
                          The latest move by China comes at the heels of earlier declarations made by China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) Deputy Director Sun Shuxian that more than 1,000 people will join the CMS by the end of this year, thus, increasing the total number to at least 10,000.
                          The Philippines this month formally protested “the increasing presence and activities of Chinese vessels including naval assets” in the area.
                          Earlier this week, US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr. expressed the US government’s all-out support for the Philippines on the Spratlys issue, citing that the Philippines and the US are “strategic treaty allies” and “partners.”
                          Meanwhile, former Senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. said Friday that diplomacy and not saber rattling is the best avenue to resolve the contentious territorial dispute with China and other claimant countries.
                          Pimentel also stressed the need for the Aquino administration to speak with one voice on the territorial dispute. (With reports by Madel R. Sabater, John Carlo M. Cahinhinan, and Mario B. Casayuran)
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                          • #14
                            Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                            Del Rosario to take up Spratly row with Hillary Clinton—diplomat

                            By Jerry E. Esplanada
                            Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:36 pm | Thursday, June 16th, 2011

                            US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. AP/INQUIRER file photo

                            MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ “rules-based approach” to settling the Spratlys dispute and China’s use of its growing economic and military power to assert its claims will most likely be the main talking points during next week’s meeting in Washington between Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a senior Philippine diplomat disclosed Thursday.
                            The unidentified source noted that Clinton extended an invitation for Del Rosario to visit Washington last month when tensions between Manila and Beijing over the Spratlys flared up.
                            Foreign Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, who is also the department’s spokesman, confirmed that Del Rosario was making an “official trip to the US upon the invitation of Clinton” but did not provide details about the topics for dicussion.
                            Del Rosario said last week that “a rules-based approach provides the key to securing the country’s claims to the Spratly Islands and advancing the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.”
                            “Where there are disputes, rules provide an effective tool for peaceful and fair resolution,” he said, adding that the Philippine policy on the South China Sea was “grounded on an unwavering adherence to international law.”
                            “We expect nothing less from our international partners,” Del Rosario added, referring to the other Spratly claimants: China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.
                            Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia said that when Clinton called Del Rosario sometime in March to congratulate him on his appointment as foreign secretary, they agreed to meet.
                            “Clinton followed that up with the invitation,” Cuisia said, adding the DFA boss would be in Washington from June 20 to 24.
                            Last weekend, the US Embassy in Manila released Clinton’s message to the Philippines on its Independence Day in which she said both countries were “long-standing friends and partners.”
                            “We stood together during World War II to defend liberal democratic values. Today, we are working together on many new fronts. Whether we are working to find ways to catalyze economic growth, helping victims of natural disasters, combating extremism, or calling for greater protection of human rights, our two countries share a vision of a better world,” said Clinton.
                            Last October, Clinton told leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during the Asean summit in Hanoi that the US had a key stake in increasingly tense territorial disputes between China and its neighbors.
                            “The US has a national interest in the freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce. And when disputes arise over maritime territory, we are committed to resolving them peacefully based on customary international law,” she said.
                            Clinton said Washington had no intention of relinquishing its role as a dominant power in the region, stressing, “We will continue to leverage the strength of our bilateral relationships and continue expanding our emerging partnerships with a wide range of countries.”
                            “Her comments were couched in diplomatic niceties, but the message was clear: China must not use its growing economic and military strength to bully its neighbors. Previous similar remarks from Clinton and other US officials have drawn harsh criticism from the Chinese, who claim sovereignty over vast swaths of territory in the East and South China seas,” said an Associated Press report.
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                            • #15
                              Re: South China Sea: China shows more muscle in face-off with Vietnam

                              Progressive groups ask, why is the Aquino government suddenly engaging China over the Spratly Islands?

                              Published on June 17, 2011

                              • Tweet
                              • EmailIt is as clear as day,” declared Terry Ridon, chairman of League of Filipino Students, “that it is only when US interests are served shall it extend assistance to its semi-colony.”

                              By MARYA SALAMAT
                              MANILA – When US Ambassador Harry Thomas seemed to contradict this week the earlier statement of the US embassy about not intervening in the Spratly Islands issue, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III immediately welcomed Thomas’ statements. For weeks now, the Aquino administration has been loudly complaining of Chinese “intrusions” in parts of Spratly which the Philippines has been claiming as its territory. But to back up that claim the Philippine military installations and deployment in the disputed islets seemed puny against those of rival claimants. And so, the Aquino government’s solution has been to invoke its treaty partnership with the United States and expect US troops and military hardware to lend support.
                              “It is as clear as day,” declared Terry Ridon, chairman of League of Filipino Students, “that it is only when US interests are served shall it extend assistance to its semi-colony.”
                              “The Aquino government is allowing the Philippines to become the battleground of a US proxy war with China,” said Vencer Crisostomo, chairman of national youth group Anakbayan. Not only that, they called attention to the way the Aquino and the US governments have been insinuating the possibility of more US troops and arms arriving in the Philippines.
                              While the group Akbayan protested the Chinese “intrusions” in front of the embassy of China, the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) protested the way the Aquino government has been playing into the US’ “desperation to expand its military presence in the country and the region.”
                              The Aquino government’s assertion of sovereignty over the Spratly Islands is “hypocritical,” charged the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), considering that the Aquino government is at the same time “allowing the US imperialists to blatantly trample on Philippine sovereignty.”
                              Pro-US war-mongering
                              Aside from the Philippines, six other countries are laying claim, wholly or partly, on the Spratly group of islands, a group of tiny, rocky islands in the South China Sea believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. These islands were “discovered” under former strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who decreed that it would then be part of Philippine territory. This week, as Noynoy Aquino engages in a word war with China for parts of the Spratly, namely the Recto Bank (Reed Bank to China), Aquino has also ordered the renaming of South China Sea as “West Philippine Sea.”
                              All these claims to Spratly are unilateral, said Roland Simbulan, a UP professor and expert on geopolitics.
                              Prior to Marcos’ declaration which China regarded as an “invasion” of their Nansha islands, the Philippines, said China, has never referred to the Spratly islands as part of its territory, whereas China can boast of a long historical claim to it. The other claimants to Spratly are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. In 2002, these countries including China and the Philippines signed a Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) .
                              Since then, resolving the dispute has been on deadlock, and erupting from time to time with charges of “intrusions” as the deployed soldiers of each claimant, from time to time, confront fishermen from each other’s countries. Last month, Vietnam and China, two countries that have military installations in Spratlys and who are also wrangling over sovereignty in another archipelago, have agreed to set out a framework for talks aimed at settling the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in line with the UN conventions.
                              This state of affairs has gone on for years, but why the Philippines under Aquino is now “suddenly” making noises has become more suspicious to critics of US intervention, especially now that the US is reportedly in danger of losing a military base in Okinawa, Japan.
                              A new US military base in the Philippines?
                              A day after the US embassy in the Philippines reiterated its usual no-intervention line in regional territorial disputes, US Ambassador Harry Thomas “assured” an audience that included President Aquino that “in all subjects, we the United States, are with the Philippines.”
                              Thomas did not say that the US will automatically retaliate in the event of an attack on the territory being claimed by the Philippines, a key provision in the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). He just promised that as “partners” and “strategic treaty allies,” they “will continue to consult and work with each other on issues, including the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands.”
                              Based on its track record and past declarations, there is little reason to expect the US to actually side with the Philippines against China in the matter of claiming Spratlys, said Simbulan. He cited as example the fact that in past Philippine skirmishes for certain territories, for example Sabah where the Philippines has “stronger legal basis for claiming it,” the United States has not lifted a finger to help the Philippines and risk angering Malaysia, another US ally.
                              There is smaller hope today that the US will court the ire of a bigger trading partner such as China, for a territorial claim that is not as yet recognized by international law and is in fact still vying for that recognition along with five other rival claimants, explained Simbulan.
                              In the past when the US was not suffering from an economic malaise, it had not given the Philippines military aid for advancing its territorial claims, how much more today when the US is “too over-extended?” Simbulan asked.
                              He reckoned the US is probably after some concessions from China, given that a big bulk of US foreign debt, investment and market comes from China.
                              As such, contrary to what Aquino and Ambassador Thomas are implying about the Philippines fighting side by side with US against China, the US could just as easily sacrifice the claim of the Philippines rather than anger China, Simbulan said. He also doubted the US will fight a war with China for the Philippines, for a mere “claim” and not for a clearly and legally defined as part of its territory,” when the US is already “spread too thin” and slugging it out in Aghanistan and Iraq.
                              If the Philippines has little to none to gain then from its treaty partner and strategic ally in the matter of bolstering its claim to part of the Spratly Islands, what lies behind this latest war-mongering show of the Aquino government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)? As the progressive youths suspect, it all boils down to the US and the Aquino governments reopening US military bases in the Philippines.
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