China’s big three near completion; China calls for cooperation on South China Sea; Philippine military gets 2 additional FA-50 fighter jets; PH, China to tackle maritime row in May...
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The 075 Landing Helicopter Dock, now under construction by a Shanghai-based shipbuilding company, is far larger than similar ships previously constructed for the PLA Navy. Construction of the Type 075 ships will take two more years. The 075 can serve as a form of aircraft carrier and military experts said it would give China’s navy the ability to launch various types of helicopters to attack naval vessels, enemy ground forces or submarines in the East or South China Sea.
According to Asia Maritime Transparrency Initiative (AMTI), major construction of military and dual-use infrastructure on the “Big 3”—Subi (Xubi), Mischief (Vanh Khan), and Fiery Cross (Chu Thap) Reefs—is wrapping up, with the naval, air, radar, and defensive facilities that AMTI has tracked for nearly two years largely complete. Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time. Construction of all the hangars at Fiery Cross Reef is enough to accommodate 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes (such as ISR, transport, refueling, or bomber aircraft). On Mischief Reef, the hangars for 24 combat aircraft have been completed and in early March construction teams were putting the finishing touches on five larger hangars. On Subi Reef, construction is complete on hangars for 24 combat aircraft and four larger hangars. China’s three air bases in the Spratlys and another on Woody Island in the Paracels will allow Chinese military aircraft to operate over nearly the entire South China Sea.
In a press Conference on March 27, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said during Boao Forum, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin made a proposal for cooperation on South China Sea between littoral states. “Realizing peace, stability, development and prosperity in the South China Sea meets the shared desire and responsibility of its coastal states and serves the common interests of these coastal states, among other members of the international community. China believes that the South China Sea coastal states can conduct practical and institutionalized cooperation in such fields as disaster prevention and reduction, maritime search and rescue, protection of marine environment and bio-diversity, marine scientific research and navigation safety. To quote a Chinese idiom, it is "of the right time, in the right place and with the support of the people." Regarding the information that China had completed the construction of facilities on some of its new airfields in the South China Sea, Hua on March 28 said: “China has stated many times that the Nansha Islands (Spratly) are its inherent territory. China's purpose to construct facilities on its own territory is to improve the living and working conditions for the personnel stationed there, to better defend its sovereignty, to strengthen the capacity of relevant islands and reefs for providing civil and international public services, and to allow China to better perform its international obligations. As for whether or not China deploys necessary national defense facilities on its own territory, it is within the scope of China's sovereignty.” Regarding the information that the Philippines has turned down China's request for scientific research on Benham Rise because China refused to take Filipino scientists on board for those research visits, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang on March 31 said: “I have not heard about that. But I know for sure that China is willing to engage in marine cooperation, including joint scientific research, with friendly countries like the Philippines, so as to bring benefits to people. We are willing to maintain close communication with the Philippine government over relevant issues.”
Speaking in a regular monthly news briefing, China’s defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian on March 30 said: “Firstly, there is no “man-made” islands. Secondly, the Nansha Islands (Spratly) are inherently Chinese territory. Whether we build facilities on these islands, what we do and how we do that are within our sovereign rights. Thirdly, the construction activities on the Chinese islands are mainly for civilian purposes. It also includes necessary defense facilities. Fourthly, the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and it is making a positive turn. That has made outsiders of the region uneasy or anxious.” He also confirmed “the first home-made aircraft carrier of China is conducting outfitting, and relevant work is forging ahead very smoothly.”
Responding to reporters’ queries on Vietnam’s reaction to Taiwan’s live-fire exercise in Ba Binh waters, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Le Hai Binh on March 30said: “Taiwan (China)’s live-fire drill in waters around Ba Binh in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over Truong Sa archipelago. It also threatens peace, stability and maritime safety and security in the East Sea, while elevating tension and complicating the situation in the waters. Vietnam resolutely protests against this move and demands that Taiwan not to repeat such activity.
The Philippine Air Force on March 29 said South Korea delivered two additional FA-50 PH fighter jets to the Philippine military, bringing the total number of fighter jets in the military's arsenal to eight. The newly-delivered jets are now parked at a hangar in Clark Air Base in Pamgpanga province, north of Manila. The two jets are part of the 12 supersonic trainers bought for 18.9 billion pesos (376.9 million U.S. dollars) in 2014 by the Aquino administration from South Korean defense contractor Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), under the military's modernization program. The first delivery of fighter jets arrived in the Philippines in November 2015. The rest of the jets are due to be delivered in September this year, the military said.
The Philippines said on April 1 it was planning to change the name of Benham Rise to "Philippine Rise,” in a bid to highlight its sovereignty over the area, which was surveyed recently by a Chinese vessel. The president ordered the foreign ministry and executive secretary's offices to study changing the territory's name to emphasize Philippine sovereign rights, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement. Earlier on March 30, the Philippines' acting foreign secretary, Enrique Manalo, said China has already been asking permission to survey Benham Rise "for a number of years" now, and some have been denied. However, China failed to comply with the condition that a Filipino scientist should be on board to observe their study, according to Manalo. "That’s one [requirement] where perhaps China didn’t want it, so the permission was denied," he said.
The sinking on April 1 was held simultaneously at 12 different locations across the country and supervised by the Indonesian military and police. This takes the total number of boats confiscated and destroyed to 317 since October 2014 when President Joko Widodo took office and called for tougher action against poachers. Among those sunk so far are fishing boats from Vietnam (142), the Philippines (76), Malaysia (49), as well as one from China. Most were caught by a special maritime task force known as Satgas 115.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on March 29 he has asked the U.S. ambassador on March 27 why America did not deploy an armada of warships to pressure China to stop constructing man-made islands. U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim was unable to reply to the question when they met Monday in southern Davao City. "Had America really wanted to avoid trouble, early on ... why did you not send the armada of the 7th Fleet which is stationed there in the Pacific, you just make a U-turn and go there and tell them right on their face, stop it?” he stressed.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry said Chinese and ASEAN representatives are meeting in Siem Reap to begin hammering out a code of conduct for the highly contested South China Sea on March 29-30. The announcement of the meeting was made following a meeting in Phnom Penh on Friday between Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese ambassador to Asean Xu Bu. In the meeting Mr. Sokhonn praised Cambodia’s efforts to protect the dialogue between Asean members and China to help keep the peace, stability, security and development in the region.
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose said China offered to host a meeting in May of a “bilateral consultation mechanism” to tackle issues related to the sea row between the two countries. “This is a new proposal, a bilateral consultation mechanism specifically on the South China Sea,” DFA spokesperson Charles Jose told reporters. “What is important
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