Chinese carrier enters South China Sea amid renewed tension; Philippines Duterte says no concern about China militarization, manmade isles; Philippines may relocate naval drills with US to appease China...
A group of Chinese warships led by the country's sole aircraft carrier entered the top half of the South China Sea on December 26th after passing south of Taiwan, the self-ruled island's Defence Ministry said of what China has termed a routine exercise. "Staying vigilant and flexible has always been the normal method of maintaining airspace security," said ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi, declining to say whether Taiwan fighter jets were scrambled or if submarines had been deployed. Chen said the ministry was continuing to "monitor and grasp the situation."
The new missiles have been seen by American intelligence satellites on China’s provincial island province of Hainan. While Hainan is not part the disputed islands, officials say this location is “only temporary” and anticipate the missiles will be deployed soon to the contested Spratley Islands or Woody Island. The two missile systems seen on Hainan island are known as the CSA-6b and HQ-9. The CSA-6b is a combined close-in missile system with a range of 10 miles and also contains anti-aircraft guns. The longer-range HQ-9 system has a range of 125 miles, and is roughly based on the Russian S-300 system.
In his New Year speech in Beijing, December 31st, while not directly mention the South China Sea disputes, Chinese President Xi Jinping asserts that "We adhere to peaceful development, and resolutely safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests". "Chinese people will never allow anyone to get away with making a great fuss about it!"
During an interview with CNN on December 29th, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the failure of the United States to thwart China's island-building in the South China Sea showed there was no serious concern about its militarization or reclamation work. The firebrand leader reiterated he wanted to avoid confrontation with China and saw no need for urgency in pressing it to abide by a July ruling by an international tribunal on its South China Sea claims that went in favor of the Philippines. Answering the question when he would address the issue, Duterte said it would happen "during my time" but he was not yet ready to discuss the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and neither was China.
Speaking to reporters in a military ceremony on December 30th, Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that President Duterte had advised him to seek a new location for joint naval exercises with the U.S. “We might move the naval exercises facing the South China Sea to Mindanao area to avoid annoying our neighbour, so let us be sensitive of our neighbours,” he said.
Speaking to AP on January 2nd, the new Philippine ambassador to China, Jose “Chito” Sta. Romana, said that “we are not abandoning our alliance with the [United States]… We are basically trying to normalize our relations with China,” he added. He said that the move represented “a strategic shift in our foreign policy.” “The Chinese viewed the Philippines as a geopolitical pawn or Trojan horse of the [United States]. Now they look at us as a friendly neighbor.” He added that relations with the United States plunged after Washington criticized Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on drugs. “The problem came after they began lecturing him. The President considers it an internal affair,” he said. “The Chinese don’t comment on your internal affairs.”
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