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Home Weekly Bulletin Weekly Bulletin 6/2-12/2

Weekly Bulletin 6/2-12/2

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Chinese bank branch on Vietnam’s Phu Lam island is illegal; PLA Navy to conduct far-sea training; US Navy is planning fresh challenges to China's claims in SCS…

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Activities of Related Parties

China

China responds to US Defense Minister’s comments

Regarding US Defense Minister’s comment that the US did not see any need for dramatic military moves at all in the waters of the South China Sea and China's certain actions has shredded the trust of nations in the region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang on February 6th said that: “There is no trouble to speak of in the South China Sea. Thanks to the concerted efforts of China and relevant neighboring countries in the South China Sea, the situation on the sea is back to normal, to the track where directly concerned parties engage in dialogue and consultation to manage differences, and China and ASEAN countries work together to maintain the sound state of regional peace, security and stability. As for Defense Secretary Mattis' remarks on seeing no need for dramatic military moves and resolving relevant issues through diplomatic means, we also believe that relevant issues shall be worked out through diplomatic means by parties directly concerned and disputes managed through consultation and negotiation. That is the right thing to do.”

Wang Yi Advises the US on the South China Sea issue

During a press conference after the meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop,Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed upon enquiry that “I just want to offer a piece of advice to the US friends: review the history of World War II. As a victory result of World War II, the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation clearly stipulate that Japan must return the stolen Chinese territory to China, including the Nansha Islands (Spratly Island). Later on, some countries around China illegally occupied parts of the islands and reefs of Nansha Islands, which leads to the so-called South China Sea dispute. In this regard, China always insists on a peaceful settlement through dialogues and consultations with parties directly concerned and on the basis of historical facts and international laws. This position will not change in the future.” He also stressed that there cannot be conflict between China and the United States because both will lose and both sides cannot afford that.

PLA Navy to conduct far-sea training

Three new-type Chinese naval battleships left a military port in Sanya, south China’s Hainan Province, for a far-sea training exercise on February 10th. The far-sea training taskforce including the guided-missile destroyers Changsha (Hull 173) and Haikou (Hull 171), and the comprehensive supply ship Luomahu (Hull 964) will begin their training with a joint exercise with the aviation force and other troops in the waters of the South China Sea. The taskforce will conduct exercises on the joint air defense, escort, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy, and maritime defense operations in the South China Sea, the eastern Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific Ocean. The confrontation drills during the exercises will involve aviation forces of the South Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army(PLA) Navy, garrison troops in the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands, and some troops from the East China Sea Fleet and the North China Sea Fleet.

Vietnam

Chinese bank branch on Vietnam’s Phu Lam island is illegal

A Chinese bank branch established in the so-called Sansa city on Phu Lam island in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago is illegal, stated Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Le Hai Binh. “We have repeatedly affirmed that Vietnam has indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes. Therefore, every activity carried out by foreign countries in this area, if there is, without Vietnam’s permission is illegal and does not change the fact that Vietnam has full sovereignty over the area,” Binh said.

The Philippines

China likely to build more islands—Lorenzana

In an interview with AFP on February 7th, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he believed China would eventually reclaim the Scarborough Shoal, which sits just 230 kilometers from the main Philippine island of Luzon. “If we allow them, they will build. That’s very, very disturbing. Very much (more) disturbing than Fiery Cross because this is so close to us,” Lorenzana added, referring to one of the Philippine-claimed reefs China has built on.

PLP makes formal request for Chinese military equipment

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on February 7th the Philippines has formalized its request for precision-guided munitions (PGM), fast boats and drones from China as part of the assistance offered by Beijing to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism. Lorenzana said he has submitted the letter to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua regarding the $14-million arms package that China pledged to the government. After the warming of relations between the two countries, China also offered a $500-million long-term soft loan for other military equipment. This is apart from the $14-million grant.

The U.S.

U.S., China military planes come inadvertently close over South China Sea

A U.S. Navy P-3 plane and a Chinese military aircraft came close to each other over the South China Sea in an incident the Navy believes was inadvertent, a U.S. official said on February 9th. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft came within 1,000 feet (305 meters) of each other on February 8th in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, between the Philippines and the Chinese mainland. The official added that such incidents involving Chinese and American aircraft are infrequent, with only two having taken place in 2016. The U.S. aircraft was "on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," U.S. Pacific Command told Reuters in a statement. "The Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces," Pacific Command added. "We will address the issue in appropriate diplomatic and military channels."

Tillerson tones down rhetoric on South China Sea

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to have toned down his unexpectedly stern words on China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea made during his confirmation hearings, an apparently leaked document has shown. The document, a series of written responses to questions by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin during Tillerson’s confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was posted to the websites of environmental advocacy groups earlier this month. In the new document, Tillerson voiced the need for the United States and its allies to be able to prevent Chinese access to the islets in the event of a “contingency.” “If a contingency occurs, the United States and its allies and partners must be capable of limiting China’s access to and use of its artificial islands to pose a threat to the United States or its allies and partners,” he wrote. Tillerson also appeared to advocate for a more robust U.S. policy toward the contested waterway — and the increased risk associated with such a move.

US Navy is planning fresh challenges to China's claims in the South China Sea

U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders want to ratchet up potentially provocative operations in the South China Sea by sailing more warships near the increasingly militarized man-made islands that China claims as sovereign territory, according to several Navy officials. The freedom of navigation operations, also known as FONOPS, could be carried out by ships with the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group. The military's plans likely call for sailing within 12 nautical miles of China’s newly built islands in the Spratly and/or Paracel islands. The plans are heading up the chain of command for approval by President Donald Trump, and set the stage for a transnational guessing game about what the Trump administration wants its Asia policy to be.

Russia warns other states against interfering in South China Sea dispute – Envoy

Speaking to reporters, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said that: “Our position regarding the territorial disputes in the South China Sea has not changed and cannot change. It cannot change as it is a balanced, verified and logical position… We are not interfering in these disputes and we are warning others against such interference." According to the ambassador, any external interference will have a negative effect, as a third party is unable to maintain neutrality is a specific regional dispute and will only complicate the issue.

Regional Snapshots

Philippines interested in buying Russia's weapons

In an interview with Sputnik, Lyudmila Vorobyova, Director of the Third Asian Department of Russia’s foreign ministry, said that "Cooperation in the defense sector is a prospective course in bilateral relations with the Philippines. It is known that our country is one of the greatest producers of military products. Therefore it is not surprising that the Philippine partners are showing interest in purchases.”

China, Australia to boost bilateral relations

On February 7th, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held the 4th round of China-Australia Diplomatic and Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of Australia in Canberra. Wang Yi said that “this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. Both sides should take this as an opportunity to review experience, plan the future, and constantly expand all-round cooperation in line with the principles of mutual trust and mutual benefit, so as to enrich the connotation and upgrade the level of the comprehensive strategic partnership.” On her part, Australia’s Foreign Minister said that: “Australia attaches great importance to developing its relations with China, especially against the current international situation filled with increasing uncertainties. Australia and China should further intensify bilateral cooperation and also strengthen coordination and cooperation in international affairs, which is of great significance.”

US, Japan oppose changes to status quo

Speaking after the meeting with US President Donald Trump at The White House on February 10th, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that: “we have completely agreed on the importance of the early solution for the abduction issue in East China Sea, South China Sea, and Indian Ocean -- everywhere we need to maintain the freedom of navigation and rule of law.  And such international order there must be maintained. Japan and United States have confirmed that we will strongly protest any use of force, as well as coercion to change the status quo. I and the President will address not only bilateral but regional issues.”


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