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Home Weekly Bulletin Weekly Bulletin 7/8 - 13/8

Weekly Bulletin 7/8 - 13/8

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U.S. destroyer challenges China's claims in South China Sea; AMTI refutes China’s statements that the country stopped its reclamation; Philippine foreign minister hails ASEAN Joint communique...

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Activities of Related Parties

China

China's Defense Ministry rebukes Japan's defense white paper

Speaking at a press conference on August 9, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said: “In disregard of facts and harping on the same string, Japan's new defense white paper once again made groundless accusations against China's normal defense and military activities, made irresponsible remarks on China's maritime activities and tried to stir up troubles on the South China Sea issue. In carrying out necessary and appropriate facility construction on parts of the islands and reefs of Nansha Islands [Spratly islands], China is exercising the legitimate rights that a sovereign state is entitled to under international law. It has nothing to do with "militarization", still less will it pose any threat to regional security. We hope the Japanese side to respect the efforts by China and ASEAN countries to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.” Earlier, China's Defense Ministry expressed strong opposition to Japan's defense white paper for 2017, saying the paper maliciously smeared China and blatantly deceived the international community.

The Philippines

'I'm your humble friend', Duterte tells Tillerson

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called himself a “humble friend” of the U.S. when he met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the presidential palace on August 7/8. “I am happy to see you ... and you have come at a time when the world is not so good, especially in the Korean peninsula, and of course, the ever nagging problem of South China Sea,” Duterte told Tillerson. “I know you’re worried there, because you also have domestic problems ... We are friends. We are allies,” said Duterte. “I am your humble friend in Southeast Asia,” he said. Tillerson was paying a visit to the Philippines to attend a regional security meeting.

Philippine foreign minister hails ASEAN Joint communique

Speaking at a press conference on August 8/8, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano insisted said the joint communique issued after an Asean-China foreign ministers' meeting was "very balanced", as it reflected compromises that all sides had to make. Mr Cayetano also revealed that the Philippines had pushed to drop references to "land reclamations" and "militarisation" in the South China Sea in the joint communique. "It's not reflective of the present position... (The Chinese) are not reclaiming any more," he said. On the COC Framework between China and ASEAN, Cayetano China pushed for a maritime code of conduct with Southeast Asian countries that would not be legally binding. Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on August 11 issued a statement on claims by CSIS-AMTI of ongoing reclamation activities in the South China Sea. “The position of the Philippines is to always reflect the current situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the foreign policy direction of the Philippines--which is not to surrender a single inch of Philippine territory while at the same time working towards good neighborly relations with other claimants--is always based on the latest intelligence we have on the ground. The Secretary explained that while the Philippines came into the talks at a time when it has received no further reports of island building in features claimed by the Philippines, he agreed with the other ASEAN Foreign Ministers that concerns over land reclamation would still need to be reflected in the Joint Communique, in consideration of the probability that land reclamation may still be occurring or may yet occur in features in the South China Sea outside of the Philippine claim. As Chair of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the Philippines’ primary goal was to ensure that the Joint Communique reflected the interests of the region and the ASEAN consensus.” Also on August 11, Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella “if the report and photos from a Washington-based think tank are accurate, these can be taken up by the ASEAN in future discussions, so we defer to ASEAN.”

Cambodia

Cambodia defends its position on South China Sea

Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn on August 9 defended the government’s stance on the South China Sea, saying Cambodia had acted in an “independent and neutral” manner at the recent Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in Manila, despite accusations that the Kingdom had helped water down a communiqué addressing China’s territorial ambitions in contested waters. Sokhonn attempted to equate the drafting of joint statements to making soup, where he said each country would like to add their own “ingredients” but that in the end the soup had to be palatable to all Asean member states. “But when the one who likes chili and puts a lot of chili, what about the country who does not like chili, should they agree with it?”he said.

Singapore

Singapore FM says China-ASEAN relations on "positive trajectory"

In a statement released to media on August 7, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan “ASEAN-China relations are in a positive direction, a positive trajectory.” Team-up between ASEAN and China hinged on "strong trade and economic ties," Balakrishnan said, citing that the relationship was "substantive, multifaceted and mutually-beneficial." “And this year the relationship is growing from strength to strength with each passing year," he said. Singaporean foreign minister also said that ASEAN and China adopting a code of conduct framework on the South China Sea is “good news.” However, he added “I think I don’t want to trivialise how difficult the negotiations will be going forward.” He acknowledged that the question of a legally binding code of conduct will be a key issue.

The U.S.

Rex Tillerson visits Thailand

On an official visit to the Kingdom of Thailand, Secretary of State of the U.S. Rex Tillerson, he met with his counterpart Don Pramudwinai on August 8. Both sides discussed ways to further enhance and expand cooperation in the areas of defense and security. Both Ministers also exchanged views on regional issues, such as the situation in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea as well as cooperation to strengthen peace, stability, and sustainable development in the region. In this regard, Secretary of State Tillerson took note of the positive role and contribution of Thailand and ASEAN, and reaffirmed his support for ASEAN centrality in resolving conflicts through peaceful means.

AMTI refutes China’s statements that the country stopped its reclamation

AMTI on August 9 refutes Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi statement that the country had stopped its reclamation since mid-2015. According to statelite images, Beijing continues to reclaim land farther north, in the Paracel Islands. The two most recent examples of this are at Tree Island (Cay Island) and North Island (Bac Island) in the Amphitrite Group. China has recently completed a new helipad and installed renewable energy infrastructure in the form of wind turbines and two photovoltaic solar arrays on Tree Island.

U.S. destroyer challenges China's claims in South China Sea

U.S. officials confirmed the USS John S. McCain carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on August 10, coming within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef (Vanh Khan). It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” during Trump’s presidency.

Regional Snapshots

Japan seeks Southeast Asia clout with chopper parts for Philippines military

Japan’s army will give thousands of helicopter parts to keep Philippine military choppers airborne, helping Tokyo gain clout with Manila in a contest with China to secure influence over the strategic South China Sea nation, four sources said. The pact could be the first in a series of similar deals as Tokyo cranks up defense diplomacy with Southeast Asian nations eager for hand-me-down patrol aircraft, ships and other military equipment. “This is a demonstration of the robust strategic partnership and cooperation of the two allies,” a senior Philippine Air Force commander told Reuters, adding that Japan would deliver around 40,000 parts under the deal. The value of the parts could not be determined.

USS San Diego Arrives In Cam Ranh International Port

The U.S. Navy's USS San Diego (LPD 22) arrived in the Cam Ranh International Port August 6, for a routine technical stop in Vietnam. The San Diego's stop is another example of the depth of the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership through the strengthening of civilian and military ties. The San Diego, an amphibious transport dock capable of carrying Marines and their equipment, has been at sea conducting training in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region over the past several weeks since departing its homeport of San Diego in early July.

Australia, Japan, U.S. call for South China Sea code to be legally binding

Australia, Japan and the United States on August 7 urged Southeast Asia and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draw up will be legally binding and said they strongly opposed “coercive unilateral actions”. also “voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”. They urged claimants to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts and militarization of disputed features, a veiled reference to China’s expansion of its defense capability on Mischief, Fiery Cross and Subi reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines to launch air patrols

Speaking to reporters on August 11, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said THE Trilateral Air Patrol (TAP) between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines will be launched at the RMAF Subang airbase in the near future as part of initiatives to enhance air and maritime security surveillance in the region. the patrols would also keep an eye on militants, including those from the Islamic State from making the Sulu Sea as an illegal route to intrude into Malaysia.


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