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Home Weekly Bulletin Weekly Bulletin 1/5-7/5

Weekly Bulletin 1/5-7/5

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Hanoi rebukes China’s fishing ban in South China Sea; Philippine Justice launches e-book challenging China's sea claims; US Secretary of State meets with ASEAN foreign ministers…

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Activities of the related Parties

China

China welcomes ASEAN summit declaration on South China Sea

Regarding the information that China exerted pressure on ASEAN to ensure that the chairman's statement did not include land reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuan on May 2 stated: “The situation in the South China Sea has since last year stabilized, thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries including the Philippines. What we have seen at the ASEAN summit reconfirms the positive changes in the South China Sea and demonstrates regional countries' shared aspiration for stability, cooperation and development, which should be respected and supported by all. Going forward, the Chinese side will continue to properly address.” According to Geng, China is willing to work with ASEAN countries to fully implement the DOC, deepen maritime practical cooperation, arrive at a COC. China and ASEAN countries is expected to finish consultation on the draft framework of the COC in the first half of this year. On the information that US Secretary of State Tillerson is going to host ASEAN foreign ministers, Geng said: “The issue of the South China Sea is an issue between China and some of the ASEAN countries, rather than between China and the entire ASEAN or between China and the US, still less between the US and ASEAN. Working together, China and ASEAN countries have stabilized and improved the situation in the South China Sea. We also hope that relevant countries outside the region will respect joint efforts by countries within the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

Vietnam

Hanoi rebukes China’s fishing ban in South China Sea

Regarding China’s fishing ban to be applied in part of the South China Sea from May 1 to August 16, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said: ““Vietnam vehemently opposes China’s unilateral ban on fishing as it violates Vietnam’s authority over Hoang Sa (Paracels) archipelago and its legitimate rights and interests regarding its seas. The action goes against the DOC signed by ASEAN and China in 2002.”

The Philippines

Philippine Justice launches e-book challenging China's sea claims

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on May 4 lauched "The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea". Carpio said his e-book can be downloaded for free in English now and will be made available online later in Mandarin, Vietnamese, Bahasa, Japanese and Spanish to help more people understand the basis of the Philippines' stand against China's territorial claims. "This book in its printed form can never be distributed in China. It will be banned," Carpio said. "The only way this e-book can reach the Chinese people is in electronic format through the internet." In his book, Carpio uses old maps, photographs, excerpts from the arbitration ruling, Chinese government statements and documents to question the validity of China's claims.

Philippines open to joint war drills with China: Duterte

Speaking to reporters after visiting the Chinese warship docked in Davao City wharf on May 1, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to the idea of conducting joint military exercises with China. "I agree (to the idea). They can have joint exercise(s) here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea". He said the visit to the warship is part of the confidence building and good will between Manila and Beijing.

Singapore

Asean is focused on settling code of conduct for South China Sea

During an interview on May 5, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan rejected speculation that Asean was caving into China over disputed territory in the South China Sea and it was more important to "have light rather than generate heat" on the issue. "What we want is a rules-based world order that complies with international law and has access to peaceful ways of resolving differences." Dr Balakrishnan cautioned that "territorial disputes by definition will always be difficult to resolve." "What Asean is focused on right now is to settle the framework for a Code of Conduct.” Asked about the possibility of China filling a "vacuum" left by America's withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Dr Balakrishnan said the economic logic for relating with South-east Asia was powerful and "we hope that in some fashion America will continue this journey of building economic ties with us".

The U.S.

Trump's nominee for China ambassador takes tough line on South China Sea

U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to China took a tough line on May 9 on China's development of "artificial islands" in the South China Sea. "China cannot be allowed to use its artificial islands to coerce its neighbors or limit freedom of navigation or overflight," Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

US is not relaxing its position on the South China Sea

In a meeting with Indian Navy Chief Sunil Lanba and Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar on May 5, Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet said that China's 'One Belt, One Road' project has caused "anxiety" in the region. The top American Naval Commander made it clear that US is not relaxing its position on the South China Sea issue to garner China's support to ease tension in the Korean peninsula. He also said that Trump regime hasn't changed its position on the South China Sea dispute.

Envoy says US not changing Spratlys stand

Speaking to reporters at a event on May 7, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim reiterated his government’s commitment to keep freedom of navigation intact in the South China Sea. “Freedom of navigation  and freedom of flight … these are very fundamental rights not just strategically but in protecting the flow of international trade … so our position has not changed,” he added.

Japan

Japan seeks to give patrol planes to Malaysia

Japan is looking to donate retired military patrol aircraft to Malaysia, letting that Southeast Asian country keep closer watch over the South China Sea to rein in China's maritime expansion. Parliament is currently weighing revisions to the foundational law of the Ministry of Defense that would allow equipment to be given to other nations at no cost. The Maritime Self-Defense Force has 60 or so of the aircraft in operation, and plans to retire those that have logged around 15,000 hours in flight.

Second MSDF destroyer joins mission to protect U.S. Navy ship

A second Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel has joined the first-ever mission to escort a U.S. Navy supply ship, a move allowed under new security legislation, government and other sources said on May 2. After the mission, the two MSDF vessels are due to take part in an international fleet review in Singapore on May 15.

Regional Snapshots

Thai junta leader says Trump sees ties 'closer than ever'

The leader of Thailand's military junta said on May 2 U.S. President Donald Trump assured him that ties would become "closer than ever", marking an abrupt change in stance from the one taken by Washington following a 2014 coup. Trump invited Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to visit the White House in separate telephone calls over the weekend. Earlier, the readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha‎ of Thailand noted “the two leaders underscored their commitment to the longstanding alliance between the United States and Thailand, which actively contributes to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Duterte, Xi discuss South China Sea in phone call

The tense situation in the South China Sea dispute was among the topics tackled by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their phone call on May 3. Their conversation lasted around 26 minutes. Xi supposedly spoke of a "channel of dialogue and consultation" on the South China Sea issue during the conversation, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua. For his part, Duterte said he was happy to see Philippine-China friendship and solidarity enhanced and their exchanges and cooperation in various areas restored and pushed forward.

US Secretary of State meets with ASEAN foreign ministers

The Readout of the meeting between US Secretary of State and ASEAN foreign ministers noted that “Secretary Tillerson and the Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their adherence to a rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific and to the common principles articulated in the 2016 Joint Statement of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit, including the peaceful resolution of disputes, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, and in accordance with international law. The Secretary noted shared concerns by many in the region regarding militarization and land reclamation in the South China Sea.”


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