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Thursday, January 18, 2024

The 1974 event and the sovereignty over the Paracel Islands

The 1974 event and the sovereignty over the Paracel Islands

 


In 1974, Taking advantage of an inevitable defeat of the South Vietnamese Government, China used force to grab the western part of the Paracel. From the angle of international laws, some conclusions can be made

First, China’s use of force to grab the islands and archipelagoes in the South China Sea was a serious violation of Article 2, Provision 4 of the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force in international relations, especially banning the use of force to infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries. The contents of this provision in the UN Charter are fundamental principles of international laws which require all member states of the United Nations including China to adhere to.

This principle was developed and specified in Resolution 2625 of the UN General Assembly dated October 24, 1970 which stipulates: “Every State has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate the existing international boundaries of another State or (the threat or use of force) as a means of solving international disputes, including territorial disputes and problems concerning frontiers of States.”

Secondly, the fact that China used force to grab the eastern part of the Paracel Islands in 1956 and then the western part in 1974 was, in it true natur, an invasion of Vietnam’s territory.

Thirdly, according to international laws, the occupation of the Paracel islands by means of force did not create evidence for China’s claim of its sovereignty over the islands and rocks they had seized by force. UN General Assembly Resolution 2625 on 24th October 1970 clearly stipulates: “The territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force. No territory acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.”

China’s invasion of the Paracel did not consolidate the legislation for Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea. Such act was condemned by international communities, and China’s legal profile once employed to prove Beijing’s sovereignty of the South China Sea would undoubtedly be rejected by international courts.

In conclusion, in accordance with international laws, China’s use of force to occupy the Paracel in 1956 and 1974 seriously violated the provision of UN Charter “Inhibition of the use of force in international relations” and is described as  an “act of invasion”. Even if China continues its occupation of the Paracel for another 100 years, it will have no sovereignty over the islands. As a proverb goes: “What belongs to Cesar must be returned to Cesar”, the Paracel that belongs to Vietnam will sooner or later be returned to Vietnam. It is a historical and unchangeable fact.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

A comparative study of Chinese and Vietnamese claims on Spratly and Paracel islands

A comparative study of Chinese and Vietnamese claims on Spratly and Paracel islands

 

The Chinese history books mention that China discovered the islands in the SCS as early as the Second Century B.C. and their exploitation and development followed and finally the islands were put under the Chinese administrative jurisdiction. However, there is no authentic evidence of the Chinese sovereignty on the islands. Most of these are tiny rocks, and many of them are frequently under water. Till recently, humans had not settled there, though fishermen of the neighbouring states have been using them as temporary encampment.

A 10th Century Arab traveller and a geographer al-Masudi had made reference to the Cham Sea (SCS) and trade between Champ (Vietnam) and Luzon (part of Philippines). There was no mention of the Chinese sovereignty in the Cham Sea.

China also claims that Emperor Cheng Zu of the Ming dynasty had sent Admiral Cheng Ho seven times between 1405 and 1433 to Southeast Asia, India, Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Africa that covered the SCS, and the Cheng Ho officers gave details of the features in the SCS, hence they belonged to China. These voyages of Cheng Ho were for the specific purpose of spreading knowledge about emperor’s majesty and virtue and not for any administrative function. Cheng Ho only passed through these features but did not occupy them.

In 1909, the last Emperor Xuantong, sent Zhang Renjun, Governor of Guangdong and Guanxi, Li Zhun, Admiral of the Guangdong Fleet, accompanied by 170 naval officers and men on an inspection tour of the Paracel islands in three warships and they inspected fifteen islands and set up stone tablets engraved with the names of the islands. This can be regarded as the first attempt to demonstrate the Chinese sovereignty over Paracel. All previous voyages may have mentioned these islands, yet there was no effort to establish control over the islands.

While now China has published maps showing the areas in the nine-dashed-lines as part of China and project the maps of Song and Ming dynasty having included these islands, an authentic map of China of 18 th Century given by Merkel former Chancellor of Germany to Xi Jinping in 2014 during the latter’s visit to Germany [a 1735 map of China made by French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville and printed by a German publishing house] revealed that China the was limited to the heartland only. This map shows “China Proper” — that is, the Chinese heartland mostly populated by ethnic Han people, without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, or Manchuria. Even the islands of Taiwan and Hainan were shown with a different colour border, indicating that then they were not the parts of China. The Paracel and Spratly too were not included in China. Crucially, a map of Kwangtung (Guangdong) Province and a description of the Quiongzhou Prefecture published in 1731 by China do not mention the Paracel and the Spratly islands as parts of China.

A Vietnam map drawn by French bishop Taberd in 1838
with accurate co-ordinates of Vietnam's Paracel islands

The Vietnamese White Paper (1974) mentions that the evidence of Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracel Islands can be found in the notes of Do Ba in a series of maps of Vietnam prepared in the 17th Century. The Nguyen rulers had commissioned a small naval fleet named Huang Sa Brigade for Paracel to carry out mapping, hydrographic surveys, erecting markers, fishing, planting trees and recover cargo from grounded merchant ships. Another unit known as the North Sea Brigade was formed for similar tasks in Spratly islands. This practice continued till the 19th Century. Between 17th and 19th Centuries several contemporary writings indicate that these were parts of Vietnam. In 1836 Emperor Ming Mang after the unification of Vietnam sent the Royal Navy to carry out surveillance of the SCS and a temple was erected in Paracel to formally possess the marine area, which were of ‘great strategic importance to Vietnam’. Records suggest that these islands were annually surveyed and occupied. The de facto sovereignty over the Spratly chain of Vietnam is supported by European sources. Portuguese and Dutch maps drawn by navigators in the early 17th century identify the islands as Vietnamese.

A Vietnam map drawn by Dutch experts in 1594, which clearly points out that
Paracel Islands belongs to Vietnam

In 1884, when France consolidated its occupation of Vietnam, it signed the Treaty of Protectorate with the then Vietnamese rulers, under which France took the responsibility of looking after the Vietnamese foreign relations including the safeguarding the kingdom. Consequently, the French troops established their dominance up to Paracel and Spratly islands. Reports suggest that both the groups of islands were equipped with a radio station and a lighthouse.

Vietnam’s sovereignty stele on Paracel Islands in 1930


Vietnam’s lighthouse on Paracel Islands before 1945

Vietnamese soldiers salute the flag on Paracel Islands


In 1930s, Japan showed interests in acquiring the Paracel and Spratly islands but France established its control over them in 1933 amid the protests from Japan and China. The French region in the Indo-China was interrupted by Japan during the World War II but France regained control in 1947. In 1949, France and Vietnam signed an agreement, which provided for the transfer of administrative powers to the Vietnamese government.

However, developments in Vietnam leading to its division, and conflicting interpretation of the Potsdam declaration were used by China to occupy some portions of Paracel islands. Vietnam took up the matter at the San Francisco Conference and claimed both the groups of islands, which was not challenged. Later when the Geneva Conference divided the Vietnam into two parts, the two group of islands became the part of Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). In 1974, China brought Paracel island under its control after ousting the garrison of the South Vietnam. In 1988, PRC and Vietnam forces again fought at Jonson Reef in which the Vietnamese forces suffered a major blow. Though the land border issue was resolved in 1999, the Paracel and Spratly remain unresolved.

The matter has been examined scholars with legal and historical background and have supported the claims of Vietnam. The view of Captain Raul “Pete” Pedrozo, USN, Judge Advocate Corps (ret.), an authority on the issue, deserves attention. He concluded that “Vietnam clearly has a superior claim to the South China Sea islands.” On China, he stated that “the first demonstration of Chinese sovereignty over the Paracel island did not occur until 1909, two centuries after Vietnam had legally and effectively established its titles to the islands.”

However, PRC has launched a high-voltage propaganda campaign fabricating historical facts to justify its claims over these islands. China perceives history as an instrument of statecraft, which plays a crucial role in determining the fate of nation states and that historical facts can be manipulated to justify its ‘imaginary claims.’ Xi, who has sold the idea of rejuvenation to his population, is likely to intensify its propaganda and if the situation favourable, he can use force in accordance with his ‘policy of wining local wars’ or can change geographical features to China’s advantage. It is imperative for Vietnam to launch an effective publicity campaign to project facts and counter Chinese propaganda so that the International Community clearly understands the issue and adopt the right approach. A strong rebuttal would also ensure that Beijing does not become a victim of its own propaganda and perceive that the world has accepted its version pushing it to use force against Vietnam.

Old western maps affirm Paracel, Spratly belong to Vietnam

Old western maps affirm Paracel, Spratly belong to Vietnam

     From the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century, Paracel and Spratly islands were acknowledged by Western cartographers and navigators as the territories of Vietnam.

Western and Eastern history from the past to present has shown that sovereignty is a sacred matter for every single country. Thus, the development process of each nation has shaped the national awareness of country sovereignty and protection of its sacred sovereignty. The historical evidence which have been publicized are the historical and legal foundation affirming Vietnam’s sovereign over Paracel and Spratly archipelagos.

East India map by Pieter or Petrus in 1594

This map drawn by Petrus or Pieter in 1594 shows the two archipelagos of Paracel and Spratly.



The India Orientalis (East of India) was drawn by Jodocus Hondius in 1613. On this map, Paracel and Spratly islands were connected like a blade.

In the map made by Jodocus Hondius in 1613, the Frael (Paracel) archipelago includes all the islands located from the Tonkin Gulf to Vietnam’s southern sea, except for Condor (Con Dao) and Pulo Cici (Phu Quoc), which were drawn separately.

Carte de l'Asia map by Homann Heirs in 1744

Carte de l'Asia (Map of Asia) was created by Homann Herrs in 1744. On this map, the Paracel Islands (including the Spratly Islands) is noted as "I. Ciampa," which stands for "Islands Ciampa”, meaning "The islands of the Kingdom of Ciampa". Ciempa or Campala are the names of the Cochin called by Western countries at that time since they believed that this kingdom was the old land of the Champa Kingdom.

         
        The Great Annam Map

The Great Annam Map, by Bishop Jean Louis Taberd in 1838 has the caption Paracel seu Cat Vang (Paracel means golden sand), which was written in Chinese, standard Vietnamese and Latin languages. Bishop Taberd is the author of an article in The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, volume 6, second part, 1837, published in Calcutta, which confirmed "Paracels or Pracel belongs to Cochinchina" – that is, to Vietnam. The original map is now kept at the Richelieu National Library in Paris, France.

That’s the implicit way that the world has recognized that the Paracel Islands truly belong to the sovereignty of Vietnam for at least the past five centuries.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

ASEAN’s centrality in maintaining regional stability highlighted at East Sea Int’l Conference

ASEAN’s centrality in maintaining regional stability highlighted at East Sea Int’l Conference

 


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s centrality in maintaining peace and prosperity in the region was highlighted at the 15th East Sea International Conference that opened in Ho Chi Minh City on October 25. 
 
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s centrality in maintaining peace and prosperity in the region was highlighted at the 15th East Sea International Conference that opened in Ho Chi Minh City on October 25.

The two-day conference, themed “Luminate the Grey, Light up the Green”, is held by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, bringing together nearly 50 speakers who are reputable experts from nearly 20 countries.

Addressing the event, the UK’s Minister of State for the Indo-Pacific Anne - Marie Trevelyan stressed that her country is a “close partner with Vietnam on maritime security” and remains committed to strengthening the collaboration.

The UK seeks to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific, she said, adding that it wants to deepen relationships with its partners, support sustainable development, and tackle the shared challenges.

“We respect and admire the central role ASEAN has played in maintaining regional stability and prosperity,” she continued.

The UK will increase its commitments to ASEAN and its member nations through specific projects such as Blue Planet Fund and Just Energy Transition Partnership, the official noted.

 “In conclusion, the UK’s commitment in this region is steadfast. The peace and prosperity of the South China Sea (East Sea) must remain a priority for all,” she said.

Martin Thümmel, Commissioner for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific at the German Federal Foreign Office, expressed his concern over the recent escalating tensions in the East Sea, noting ASEAN plays the main role in defending international law and the constructive approach in the region.

The maritime boundary delimitation between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam and the ongoing negotiations have promoted regional cooperation, he said.

Delegates shared the view that the East Sea has been considered an international issue, with more risks of conflicts and if a conflict occurs, it would easily escalate and expand.

Countries are more interested in promoting dispute management measures such as the building of a Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC) which is making some positive progress, they said.

Participating experts also looked into a multilateral approach in the East Sea issue. From an ASEAN perspective, multilateralism plays an important role for small countries, contributing to minimising risks, especially when dealing with aggression by powers.

Most of them affirmed that ASEAN has played a central role and built and operated many mechanisms to guide regional countries and other multilateral groups.

ASEAN needs to carry forward its leading role in the issues that require joint actions and efforts, including maritime security, they said.

Some considered blue economy cooperation a way to ensure the balance between economic growth and the sustainable management of seas and oceans, during which countries are main actors and naval forces would play a role in ensuring the sustainable use of seas. /.
 South China Sea International Conference towards peace and sustainable development

South China Sea International Conference towards peace and sustainable development

 


The 15th South China Sea International Conference themed “Luminate the Grey, Light Up the Green”, jointly organized by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) and partner agencies, opened on October 25 in Ho Chi Minh City.

 The event witnessed the presence of more than 200 delegates attending in person and nearly 250 delegates via online platform, as well as nearly 50 speakers who are reputable experts from nearly 20 countries, alongside close to 70 delegates from foreign representative agencies in the nation.

As part of his opening speech at the event, Pham Lan Dung, acting director of the DAV, said that with a desire to become one of the leading research facilities throughout the region, the academy has increasingly shown its proactive role in promoting open, frank, and inclusive academic discussions on diverse topics and emerging issues that have both a regional and global impact.

Along with many initiatives, the DAV has been contributing to further connecting leaders, experts, scholars, and policymakers from many regions around the world, while creating constructive forums that promote dialogue, trust, and co-operation across a multitude of fields.

The conference concentrated on discussing how maritime forces and regional mechanisms are able to constructively contribute to the goal of a "greener" and "more peaceful" East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.

In his remarks, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Do Hung Viet stated that over the past 15 years the East Sea Conference series has been creating an open, frank, and friendly environment specifically for regional and international experts to gather together in order to enhance common understanding and narrow differences.

Viet expects that over the course of the next 15 years this dialogue will continue to become an important, open, inclusive, and creative regional maritime security forum, whilst also serving as a meeting place and intersection of interests from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific region and beyond.

Compared to 15 years ago, the situation in the East Sea is becoming increasingly complicated, although it remains an area that offers plenty of potential co-operation opportunities, the Vietnamese diplomat said.

Most notably, the latest agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is evidence that countries have a common concern for the sea. Indeed, Vietnam is proud to be one of the first countries to sign the agreement.

He went on to underline the need to respect and comply with international maritime law stipulated in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) as a means of moving towards peace and sustainable development.

Recent times has seen the country and ASEAN member states continue to strive towards a regional order, including a stable, rules-based maritime space.

The nation strongly supports the realisation and effective implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the Vision for Maritime Cooperation which was recently adopted by the bloc.

At the same time, the country always supports fresh initiatives to achieve common goals, through bilateral, multilateral, and new mechanisms, the official added.

The two-day event marked many new points in ideas and organization when for the first time it dedicated a discussion session between representatives from the Coast Guard forces of some coastal countries in the East Sea.

Moreover, the conference also upgraded a separate session of young leaders in the region to a plenary session on the agenda.

Upgrading the young leadership session to the main agenda aims to create awareness for the next generation regarding the importance of peace, co-operation, rule of law, and finding new perspectives on peaceful solutions to the East Sea dispute.

 

Int’l conference on East Sea promotes mutual understanding: experts

Int’l conference on East Sea promotes mutual understanding: experts

 


The international conference on the East Sea, which was held by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam on October 25-26, plays an important role in promoting international community’s joint efforts to maintaining peace, prosperity and sustainable development in the East Sea, according to experts. 
 
The international conference on the East Sea, which was held by the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam on October 25-26, plays an important role in promoting international community’s joint efforts to maintaining peace, prosperity and sustainable development in the East Sea, according to experts.

Emeritus Professor Carl Thayer at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) at the Australian Defence Force Academy told the Vietnam News Agency on the sidelines of the conference that Việt Nam has tailored the conferences increasingly to focus on issues of concern to the international community, and the conferences help participants learn more and go deeper into various issues in the waters.

Meanwhile, Professor Rober Beckman from the National University of Singapore’s Centre for International Law described the conference as useful and interesting with a lot of important discussions held.

Delegates, especially those from Europe and outside Southeast Asia, all want to gain better understanding about the difficulties and challenges with respect to the East Sea dispute. 

With a view to illuminating the grey zone and lighting up the blue, he said it will be useful to continue to have discussions about the grey zone, and have people analyse not only what’s happening in Southeast Asia, but also what’s happing in other parts of Asia.

Earlier, in his opening remarks at the conference, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Đỗ Hùng Việt said the East Sea Conference series has provided an open, candid, friendly environment for regional and international experts to come together to advance mutual understanding, and narrow differences.

The official said he hopes that in the next 15 years, the dialogue will further evolve into a key region-wide maritime security forum, one that is open, inclusive and innovative in nature, a meeting point and hub of interests spanning from the “Indo” to the “Pacific” and beyond.

The conference has contributed to promoting transparency, building a network of experts, and creating a platform to discuss regional issues.

Only maritime cooperation can help countries change the East Sea from grey to blue towards peace and sustainable development, he said, adding it is necessary to strictly follow international laws, including 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

15th East Sea Conference “Luminate the Grey, Light Up the Green” opened in Ho Chi Minh City

15th East Sea Conference “Luminate the Grey, Light Up the Green” opened in Ho Chi Minh City

 


On October 25, the 15th East Sea International Conference themed “Luminate the Grey, Light Up the Green” opened in Ho Chi Minh City in hybrid format, with more than 200 delegates attending in person while nearly 250 others participate via teleconferencing.
 
 

The event gathers nearly 50 speakers who are reputable experts from nearly 20 countries on different continents; nearly 70 delegates from foreign representative missions in Vietnam, including nearly 20 Ambassadors and Consuls General. Nearly 30 reporters from 21 domestic and foreign news and television agencies came to report on the Conference.

This year, the Conference marked many new points in terms of ideas and organization. For the first time, a discussion session was reserved for representatives from the Coast Guard forces of some coastal countries in the East Sea.

In addition, the Conference also upgraded a separate session of young leaders in the region to become a plenary session on the agenda. In previous years, the young leadership program in the region was designed as an activity on the sidelines of the East Sea Conference. This year, the elevating of the young leadership session to the main agenda aims to raise awareness for the next generation about the importance of peace, cooperation, respect for the rule of law and finding new angles, fresh look at a peaceful solution to the East Sea dispute.

Open, frank and comprehensive discussion

Elaborating on the theme of the conference, Acting President of Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Dr. Pham Lan Dung said that the Organising Board hopes that participants will analyse the state of play of the East Sea (also known as South China Sea) and the region, clarify the governing rules, identify policies that enhance trust and cooperation, and highlight activities that upset the rules-based order and create tensions.

“By illuminating grey areas, we hope to make the maritime domain more transparent, more tranquil,” she said.

At the same time, the conference is expected to “Light Up the Green” to shed light on the potentials of the sea and the future by promoting best practices in key areas of the green transformation, such as offshore wind energy, transformative marine technologies, research, and investments, said Dr. Dung, expressing her hope that participants will discuss how maritime capacities, such as law enforcement agencies and regional mechanisms, can contribute in a constructive manner to the development of a bluer, or greener East Sea.

Dr. Pham Lan Dung noted that promoting dialogue to preserve peace and stability has become even more urgent when confrontations and conflicts have broken out in places with geostrategic disputes in the world. This requires all responsible and peace-loving nations to engage in open and frank discussions, regardless of size, political ideology and vision, state of development or even geographical location to ask seriously: Why do these conflicts happen? What lessons can be learned from best practices to increase understanding, find ways to promote peace and stability, and prevent costly lessons?

"Geographically, at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, the East Sea has been and continues to be a testament to our ability to promote dialogue and cooperation, uphold the rule of law, promote good practices and prevent bad precedents," Acting Director of the Diplomatic Academy Pham Lan Dung emphasized.

Respect and comply with UNCLOS

In his key speech at the opening session, Deputy Foreign Minister Do Hung Viet said that over the past 15 years, the East Sea Conference series has provided an open, candid, friendly environment for regional and international experts to come together to advance mutual understanding, and narrow differences.

The Deputy Foreign Minister said he hopes that in the next 15 years, the dialogue will further evolve into a key region-wide maritime security forum, one that is open, inclusive and innovative in nature, a meeting point and hub of interests spanning from the “Indo” to the “Pacific” and beyond.

Deputy Foreign Minister Viet held that the global center of gravity continues to shift toward the Indo-Pacific, which is becoming the “Epicentrum” of global growth and a key locomotive for global recovery and future prosperity.

But this future cannot be guaranteed without sustained peace and stability, including in the regional maritime domain, he stressed.

He quoted UN Secretary-General Guterres as saying that strategic rivalries are creating “great divides” and “a great fracture”. Conflicts are breaking out in many regions, from Europe to the Middle East, he noted, adding that the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the maritime domain, is certainly not immune from risks of confrontations and conflicts.

The Deputy Foreign Minister underlined the need to constantly screen the maritime domain of potential dangers, to review existing cooperation mechanisms to address emerging challenges, and to act together to preempt those threats.

He said that in the past 15 years, the East Sea situation has grown increasingly complicated. At the same time, this is a region of tremendous opportunities. The recent agreement on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the BBNJ Agreement, of which Vietnam is among first signatories, has shown the common interests related to the seas far outweigh differences, said the Deputy Foreign Minister.

Therefore, the “Light up the Green” part in the conference’s theme this year will allow participants to explore those opportunities, and turn them into specific and concrete cooperation activities, said Deputy Foreign Minister Viet, stressing the critical need for respecting and upholding international law of the sea, as reflected in the 1928 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),

The Deputy Foreign Minister also highlighted the efforts by Vietnam and ASEAN countries in securing a stable and lawful regional order, including in the maritime domain.

“We are committed to the effective operationalisation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the recently launched ASEAN Maritime Outlook – a strategic guidance for ASEAN member states to expand their maritime cooperation regionally and internationally. We are open to new initiatives aimed at our common goals, through bilateral, multilateral or new frameworks,” he stated.


15th East Sea Conference “Luminate the Grey, Light Up the Green” opened in Ho Chi Minh City: An overview of a panel discussion of the 15th East Sea International Conference. (Photo: VNA)

Running through October 26, the conference comprises eight sessions covering diverse topics, such as: (i) East Sea: The past 15 years; (ii) Big Countries and Big Responsibilities: Cooperation and coexistence in the context of increasing competition?; (iii) Multilateral approach to the East Sea: A new trend?; (iv) A legal framework for legal battles? (v) The Coast Guard's role in enhancing cooperation in the East Sea; (vi) Decision time: Traditional energy or renewable energy; (vii) Essential infrastructure: New strategic implications of technology; (viii) Voice of the next generation.

.Besides, many senior officials, including MP, Minister of State at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for the Indo-Pacific region Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and European External Action Service (EEAS) Acting Managing Director for Asia and Pacific, deliver special speeches at the Conference.

Grey-zone conduct could threaten prospects of cooperation, peace in East Sea: Diplomat

Grey-zone conduct could threaten prospects of cooperation, peace in East Sea: Diplomat

 

“Grey zone activities are usually undertaken at the intersection between different domains between the civilian and the military, between peace and conflict, lawfulness and lawlessness, and between physical and cyber worlds,” the diplomat noted, saying that these conducts “have significantly heightened risks of confrontation and exerted destabilising effects on the rule of law and the regional order.” 
 
Grey-zone activities, if not handled properly, could darken the prospects of cooperation, peace and stability in the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) and in the region at large.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Đỗ Hùng Việt made the remarks on Wednesday as he addressed the opening of the 15th East Sea Conference themed “Luminate the Grey, Light up the Green” held in HCM City by the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam.

Calling attention to the tactics in the “critically important body of water that connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific” where the situation has grown increasingly complicated while territorial disputes remain unsolved over the last 15 years, Việt said “various shades of grey have emerged at sea, with 'grey' meaning areas that lack transparency, certainty, and predictability.”

“Grey zone activities are usually undertaken at the intersection between different domains between the civilian and the military, between peace and conflict, lawfulness and lawlessness, and between physical and cyber worlds,” the diplomat noted, saying that these conducts “have significantly heightened risks of confrontation and exerted destabilising effects on the rule of law and the regional order.”

He said grey-zone activities erode international laws, and at the same time, the need to ensure that the East Sea remains a sea of cooperation must be a top collective concern.

“This is a region of tremendous opportunities – from promotion of renewable energy, sustainable use of strategic minerals to management of critical infrastructure, from utilising emerging technologies, addressing climate change to building novel frameworks and rules for new domains.”

These initiatives and efforts will help foster cooperation at sea and help turn the dominant colour of the East Sea from “grey” to “green”, towards sustainable peace and development.

“And for that to happen, respecting and upholding international law of the sea as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is critical. UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. It is of strategic importance as the basis for national, regional and global maritime cooperation and therefore its integrity needs to be maintained,” according to the Vietnamese official.

“Việt Nam continues to be a strong believer in the rule of international law, and a strong proponent of UNCLOS. Việt Nam continues to believe in the indispensable role of UNCLOS, as highlighted by the UN General Assembly’s resolution and we are strongly committed to upholding UNCLOS and international law.”

Việt said together with ASEAN countries, they are striving for a stable and lawful regional order, including in the maritime domain.

“We are committed to the effective operationalisation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo Pacific and the recently launched ASEAN Maritime Outlook, a strategic guidance for ASEAN member states to expand their maritime cooperation regionally and internationally. We are open to new initiatives and our common goals through bilateral, multilateral, open new frameworks,” he stated.

Nguyễn Hùng Sơn, vice president of the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam, opined that the disputes on the East Sea have become a lot more multi-dimensional over the past 15 years – with more layers into it, more players, and more domains.

The disputes have also become multilateralised, as ASEAN is fully evolved, they want to be central in having a voice on how this should be resolved or how it should be managed.

“The East Sea issue was discussed even at forums like the G7, G20, or the UN, so there’s clearly an international and global interest on how such geopolitically or geostrategic contestation is managed,” he said.

He also noted that the East Sea has also become a lot more militarised, with the fortifications of several outpost and a lot more military assets in the region.

The East Sea issue has also gone multidomain as it no longer is the contestation merely in the sea surface, but has also gone into contestation in the submarine domain, in the air, in space, and recently, the seabed, and what is laid on the season on the seabed such as internet cables, according to the scholar.

Technology has become a critical part of how the East Sea disputes evolve, he noted.

“With remote sensing technology, with unmanned vehicles, with drones these days, we have seen in a more transparent East Sea,” adding that various transparency initiatives and maritime domain awareness systems is now “shedding light and trying to transparent-ise” the maritime environment.

Another positive development, according to Sơn, is that now the law has become a lot clearer in the East Sea, and "we have a much better understanding of the governing rules of UNCLOS and how it applies and how it should be integrated, and also we have also a lot clearer claims from several claimants".

He cited the examples of overlapping claims between Việt Nam and Indonesia or between Indonesia and Malaysia having been resolved under the light of international law.

The downside is there's also clear abuse or manipulations of how the law is interpreted and that has been done with the expansion of the grey zones.

According to the Vietnamese scholar, the grey zone activities are creating confusion or undermining the interpretation and understanding of the rule of law, which in turn, erodes trust in the region.

Sơn believes the best lesson learned over the past 15 years in the East Sea, at least what Việt Nam has done, is that when countries “try to interpret and try to implement international law in a faithful manner, you’ll have a better chance to cooperate and to talk to your neighbour and to resolve overlapping claims.”

He cautioned that as the East Sea disputes become internationalised, the risk of incidences is increasing due to “higher involvement of different stakeholders and because of the nature of the assets that are involved in those incidents.”

“Incidents once happen, we feel that the incidents can very quickly escalate and become an international crisis. Why is it so because the sea space is very transparent now, and everybody can see there's going to be tremendous pressure on the different governments involved or even on the governments not involved to express an opinion or to act on such an incident. And the pressure on the government by its domestic audience is also going to be very hard. Therefore, incidents are going to be a lot harder to manage or control when it erupts,” the scholar stressed.

For this reason, it’s important that the Code of Conduct be advanced and negotiated, as the Code is going to be primarily an instrument for incident management and risk reduction.

But Sơn also believes that there should be a much larger, broader code to handle all sorts of possible incidents in broader maritime domains in a future-proof manner, not just in the East Sea, but also in the seas of Southeast Asia, or even in the seas of the Indo Pacific.

Prof. Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales and Director of Thayer Consultancy, Australia, on whether COC could be sufficient, said the COC itself should be expanded to include attachments and appendices to include every possible detail – including what the chain of reactions should be when a specific incident occurs.

With regards to law enforcement, he said the provision in the draft text of the code is to take it to the ASEAN High Council, and that has to be voluntary, which is a weakness, and it needs to be compulsory and binding.

The professor also suggested that once COC is finished, ASEAN member countries’ national legislatures should ratify it, and ASEAN gives the instruments to the ASEAN Secretary General who will transmit the code to the UN General Secretary and make it a treaty.

Prof. Jay Batongbacal, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, University of Philippines, the Philippines, urged to refrain from taking unilateral actions that result in fait accompli in the East Sea while negotiations for COC is still going on.

"Good faith and self-restraint must accompany the talks. There should not be attempts to change the status quo, which could make the talks eventually irrelevant," he stressed.

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Why does China claim almost the entire South China Sea?

Why does China claim almost the entire South China Sea?

 


Beijing’s claim is embodied by its nine-dash line that an international court rejected more than seven years ago.

The dispute over the South China Sea has been thrust back into the spotlight amid increasing tension between the Philippines and China in the disputed waters.

On Sunday, there were two near collisions close to Second Thomas Shoal, which lies within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in the most serious incident this year.

 Beijing claims Second Thomas Shoal and almost the entire sea on the basis of its so-called “nine-dash line”, which it again featured in a new version of its national map earlier this year.

The map caused upset among Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which also claim the waters nearest to their coasts.

An international tribunal ruled as far back as 2016 that the map provided no legal basis for China’s claim, but Beijing has ignored that decision and continues to insist on the line’s legitimacy.

According to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, world powers like China use representational mediums like national maps to “justify their exceptionalism”.

The map allows Beijing to convey its “maritime territorialisation”, the think tank said.

Here’s all you need to know about the infamous nine-dash line and the long-running maritime dispute.

Historical waters

As far as China is concerned, its claim to the South China Sea can be traced back centuries and is embodied in the nine-dash line.

Voyages through the South China Sea can be dated back to the second century, during the Han Dynasty, when emperors sent out explorers and government officials to investigate other parts of Asia.

By the Song dynasty, China maintained that it was naming and claiming territory in the island chains it calls Nansha (the Spratly Islands) and Xisha (the Paracel Islands).

Trade also took Chinese explorers further into maritime Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Borneo and the Malay peninsula, mostly famously under Admiral Zheng He during the Ming Dynasty.

Beijing insists that its historical records show the then-powerful Chinese dynasties enjoyed near total control over the waters for centuries.

However, the arrival of Western explorers and the rise of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty in the 19th century challenged China’s claims over maritime Southeast Asia.

The eleven-dash line

Tempted first by the lucrative spice trade, the Europeans began establishing themselves in Southeast Asia from the 16th century.

After the Portuguese established a colony in Malacca on the Malayan peninsula, the British, Dutch and French also began to expand into the region, setting up colonies that lasted until World War II and, in some cases, beyond.

Many cities in China were also controlled by Japan, a then-militarised country that also took control of the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century.

By 1942, the Japanese had pushed out the Europeans and expanded their rule into mainland and maritime Southeast Asia, occupying many countries surrounding the South China Sea.

When Japan surrendered three years later, the then-Nationalist government of China (known as the Republic of China) seized the opportunity to stake its claim to the waters and published a national map of China in 1947, including an eleven-dash claim to the South China Sea.

The nationalists were in the midst of fighting a civil war with the rapidly growing communist party, but geological experts began cataloguing what the Kuomintang government considered China’s maritime treasures.

The two extra dashes on the map included Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin.

When the communists won the civil war, Beijing revised the national map, apparently abandoning the claim to the gulf (and the two lines marking the waters) due to its shared “comradeship” with North Vietnam, which was also communist.

Taiwan, where the nationalist government set up an administration following its defeat to the communists, dropped its claims to those historical waters in 2005.

Modern conflicts

The U-shaped, tongue-like line on the Chinese national map reached deep into the South China Sea; a visual representation of China’s professed right to waters sometimes hundreds of kilometres from the Chinese coast.

 

The other countries that claim parts of the sea and reject the nine-dash line say the Chinese claim encroaches onto their territory as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Under that law, each country has an EEZ extending 200 nautical miles (around 370km) from their coast over which it has sovereign rights.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has long been trying to conclude a code of conduct to reduce tensions over sea claims, but it has made scant progress since 2002 when a preliminary code was agreed.

In the 20 years since, China has reinforced the map with more concrete signs of its claim – building on rocks and islets and expanding its military facilities on these man-made outposts. It has also backed up its claims with ships from its coast guard, maritime militia and fishing fleets.

What is so attractive about the South China Sea?

By the late 1970s, the South China Sea had become one of the world’s most prominent trade routes, and Southeast Asian nations were discovering potentially lucrative oil and gas deposits.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “… the sea’s estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – have antagonised competing claimants Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.”

UNCLOS was agreed in 1982 and was signed not only by the countries bordering the South China Sea but also by China.

However, despite signing the law, Beijing continued to assert its sovereignty.

For example, in the UN’s archival end-notes: “On 12 June 1985, the Secretary-General received from the Government of China the following communication: ‘The so-called Kalayaan Islands are part of the Nansha [Spratly] Islands, which have always been Chinese territory. The Chinese government has stated on many occasions that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and at the adjacent waters and resources.’”

Often it has done more than send diplomatic notes.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, China took over control of much of the Paracel Islands in the northern SCS [South China Sea] and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands in the southeast quadrant of the SCS, both in Vietnam’s EEZ,” the United States department of defence wrote.

Tussles between China and other claimant countries have continued ever since, with many accusing Beijing of unlawfully encroaching into their EEZs.

In 2012, Beijing took control of Scarborough Shoal within the Philippines’ EEZ after a months-long standoff involving paramilitary ships.

In October, the two were at loggerheads over the reef again – with the Philippines removing a Chinese string of buoys that were preventing its fishermen from doing their work.

Even before Sunday’s incident, there had been numerous encounters between Beijing and Manila off Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines grounded the Sierra Madre in 1999 and which lies more than 1,000km from China’s nearest major landmass of Hainan island.

In August, the Philippines accused China of “dangerous manoeuvres” after its coast guard sprayed water cannons at Filipino boats trying to resupply those stationed on the Sierra Madre. Earlier this year, it accused China of directing a “military grade laser” at the ships.

China claims that its land reclamation on the waters’ rocks and reefs generates maritime entitlements.

UNCLOS says that while states are allowed to build artificial islands within their own EEZ, they “do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf”.

Arbitration Ruling

After the confrontation at Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines began arbitral proceedings against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The court ruled in the Philippines’ favour, concluding that UNCLOS “superseded any historic rights or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction in excess of the limits imposed therein”.

In other words, the nine-dash line provided no basis for China’s expansive claims.

However, the ruling has done little to rein in Beijing. It has continued to build islands and deploy the coast guard, fishing boats, and maritime militia in the disputed waters.

After the latest clash over the Scarborough Shoal buoys, there was no sign of contrition in Beijing.

After referring to the shoal by its Chinese name – Huangyan Island – Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin issued a warning: “We advise the Philippines not to provoke or stir up trouble.”

With Beijing’s growing assertiveness and uncompromising attitude, it is hard to see it abandoning the nine-dash line anytime soon.

 

 

 

PM's trip to UNGA, US, Brazil: To convey message of Vietnam's determination and global solidarity

PM's trip to UNGA, US, Brazil: To convey message of Vietnam's determination and global solidarity

 


 In the days of September (from September 17 to 26), far from Vietnam halfway around the world, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and a high-ranking Vietnamese delegation had a series of exciting multilateral and bilateral activities at the biggest multilateral organization on the planet - the United Nations, and during the stay in the United States and official visit to Brazil.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's trip once again demonstrated the image of Vietnam as a peace-loving, positive, and responsible member through effective and substantive contributions in all aspects at multilateral forums, especially at the United Nations.

With the Prime Minister’s trip to the United States, it took place immediately after President Joe Biden's state visit to Vietnam and the elevating relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace, security and sustainable development.

Therefore, the visit is important in concretizing and implementing agreements and commitments reached between leaders of the two countries.

With the Prime Minister’s official visit to Brazil, the trip is also extremely important in promoting bilateral cooperation in the future, and is a milestone in opening a new period of cooperation with Brazil.

Long lasting motivation

The new momentum of the relationship of Vietnam-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for peace, security and sustainable development can be clearly seen at every stop of the delegation of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to the United States. Certainly, the US side could see a Government of "action", a great determination of Vietnam to strongly and substantially develop new heights in the relationship that the two sides have just established.

"The Vietnam-US relationship is very unique and very special"; “making technology, innovation and real investment become important new pillars of the comprehensive strategic partnership”; "Let's take Vietnam as a base in Southeast Asia"; "Let's cooperate together, win together, benefit together in the spirit of harmonious benefits and shared risks", "come to Vietnam to witness Vietnam's innovation", "your success is also our success and vice versa", etc. Such strong and impressive messages were filled at every meeting of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh with leaders, officials, politicians, businesses, scholars, students, from San Francisco to Washington D.C or New York. So, people clearly feel a new spirit, rising in the Vietnam - United States Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Proposals and measures to promote bilateral cooperation "worthy" of the new framework of relations were highlighted very specifically by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. Accordingly, Vietnam identifies economic - trade - investment cooperation as the foundation, the "long lasting engine" of the comprehensive strategic partnership with the US.

To effectively implement the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposed that the United States soon recognize Vietnam's Market Economy status and encourage US high-tech enterprises doing business in Vietnam. Besides, the two sides need to create breakthroughs in science and technology cooperation, innovation, education and training; At the same time, the two sides strongly promote cooperation in combating climate change, green growth, and developing renewable energy...

“The Vietnamese Government is ready to open its doors to welcome all businesses to invest and do business in a legal, stable and effective manner for the strength and prosperity of each country, prosperity and happiness of the people... This is the best way to heal wounds, put the past behind, look forward to the future," Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh emphasized at the Vietnam-US Business Forum.

On the US side, in the discussions with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, US leaders, politicians and businesses all expressed their support for the further development of Vietnam-US relations, at the same time, believing that Vietnam becomes a country with an increasingly important role and voice in the region.

According to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, American businesses will invest heavily in Vietnam in the near future. A specific example, during Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's visit to Silicon Valley, Vice President of Meta Group Joel Kaplann emphasized the Vietnamese market is large with great potential and wishes to expand investment in the S-shaped land.

Symbol of reconsiliation

In New York, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and a high-ranking Vietnamese delegation attended a multilateral event of extremely important significance which is the high-level general debate of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly with the theme “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Acceleratingactionon the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towardspeace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”.

Within the framework of the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh participated many important activities such as attending and speaking at the high-level general debate of the General Assembly; attended and delivered speech at UN Summit on global issues such as climate change, pandemic response, and holding many bilateral meetings to convey consistent policies of the Party, State and Government of Vietnam to international friends about a Vietnam of peace, cooperation and integration, bringing Vietnam's relations with the UN and other countries to a new level.

“We are inching ever closer to a Great Fracture”, as a comment made by Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the Opening Session of the UN General Assembly, the Vietnam-US relationship was evoked by US President Joe Biden as a symbol of reconciliation. a model to overcome the past, for peace and the future.

It seems that no one could have imagined that one day the President of the United States would stand next to the Vietnamese Party General Secretary in Hanoi and declare his commitments to promoting cooperative relations at the highest level. This is a testament to the fact that countries can overcome the past, from rivals to partners in solving challenges and healing wounds.

For Vietnam, cooperation with the UN always holds an important position in the foreign policy of the Party and State in general and in multilateral diplomacy in particular. Since Vietnam became an official member of the UN in 1977, Vietnam - UN cooperation has continuously developed, bringing many meanings and practical results to both sides.


Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh meets with President of the 78th United Nations General Assembly Dennis Francis in New York on September 20 (local time). (Photo: WVR/Nguyen Hong)

On the journey of participating and cooperating with the UN, Vietnam has increasingly shown itself to be an active, proactive, responsible and effective member, being highly appreciated by the international community and holding great expectations.

Vietnam handles relationships in a balanced way, maintains a peaceful and stable environment and strengthens the country's position, and is trusted by international friends to be elected to many important positions and agencies. Vietnam currently holds many important responsibilities, notably being a member of the UN Human Rights Council (term 2023-2025), and continues to run for a number of positions and agencies of the UN.

Milestone promoting relations with Brazil

In Brazil, at the end of a long trip, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh had meetings and discussions with President Lula da Silva and other senior leaders of Brazil, with political parties, social organizations, some state authorities and businesses to help the two sides have new directions in promoting cooperative relations, deepening the Comprehensive Partnership, identifying specific projects and areas of cooperation, thereby bringing the relationship between the two countries into depth, substance and effectiveness.

Regarding the prospects of cooperation between Vietnam and Brazil, Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil Pham Thi Kim Hoa said that the potential for economic, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries is huge. Brazil is also the gateway for Vietnam to enter Latin American markets, just like Vietnam is the gateway for Brazil to enter ASEAN and Asian countries.

As Vietnam's largest trading partner in Latin America, Brazil is the largest economy in this region and always plays an important role in regional cooperation and association organizations. Brazil is also a member of the G20, BRICS and MECOSUR groups.

Combating climate change, developing new energy sources, digital transformation, ensuring energy and food security, regional integration and security, sustainable growth and equality in international relations, etc. These are all areas where the similarity of views between the two sides is very extensive.


Vietnam, Brazil issued Joint Communiqué on Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's official visit to Brazil: Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Photo: VNA)

According to Ambassador Pham Thi Kim Hoa, the two sides can learn from each other, help each other and rely on each other to solve related problems and take advantage of opportunities for mutual development. Vietnam is moving towards negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a group of countries in Latin America and Brazil's support is very important in the negotiation process.

In a policy speech at Georgetown University, USA, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said that the world is facing two choices: passively accepting challenges and risks at a very high price, or proactively adapting to, taking advantage of opportunities, solving challenges, and taking peace, stability and development cooperation as goals, the UN Charter and international law as the foundation, and dialogue and collaboration as tools. In particular, Vietnam chooses the second choice and hopes its partners also choose it, Prime Minister Chinh emphasized.

Perhaps, that is also the message throughout the Prime Minister's multilateral and bilateral trip to the largest multilateral organization on the planet and important partners of Vietnam.

 

 

 

Marcos promises coast guard upgrades to protect Philippine sea territory

Marcos promises coast guard upgrades to protect Philippine sea territory

 


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday promised upgrades to the coast guard to protect the country’s “sovereign maritime territory” amid Chinese incursions into its boundaries in the South China Sea. 

Marcos spoke during the 122nd anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Coast Guard, which has been at the forefront of thwarting challenges by China in disputed waters lately. 

“We are continuing with the upgrading of equipment and training and the capabilities of all our people, especially the Coast Guard, not only because they are on the frontline in the problems that we’re facing in the West Philippine Sea, but also because of the very important function that they play when it comes to search and rescue,” he said.

Marcos inspected the BRP Malabrigo, a Japanese-built 44-meter (144-foot) patrol ship, which is tasked with patrolling islets and reefs. Manila refers to South China Sea waters within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea. 

“Well, this was a vessel that was water cannoned,” Marcos said. “It only shows that our capability is increasing to defend our sovereign territory in the Philippines.” 

In August, a coast guard ship escorting boats delivering supplies to the country’s military outpost in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) was hit by a water cannon fired by the China Coast Guard.

“Despite all the challenges, the coast guard has unwaveringly answered the call of duty,” Marcos said. 

He said the government planned to add “40 more patrol vessels” to the Philippine Coast Guard. Details of the proposed acquisitions were not released. 

Adm. Artemio Abu, the coast guard chief, praised personnel for intensifying maritime security in the West Philippine Sea. 

“We handled the provocations, bullying and harassments of vessels on every resupply mission to the Philippine Navy’s BRP Sierra Madre anchored at Ayungin Shoal,” Abu said. 

The Philippines maintains a military watch over its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea by staffing the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era naval ship that Manila deliberately grounded near the shoal in 1999.

“Our personnel have courageously dismantled the foreign floating barriers, which were illegally installed in the West Philippine Sea. We installed additional navigational buoys, which also serve as markers of Philippine territory,” he said. 

On Sunday, the Philippine military accused China’s navy of “dangerously” shadowing a Philippine ship during a rare standoff last week between ships from their navies near Thitu, an island in the Spratlys. 

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the EEZs of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. While Indonesia does not regard itself as a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia’s EEZ as well. 

China took control of the Scarborough Shoal area in 2012 following a standoff between Manila and Beijing. In late 2016, Chinese ships allowed Filipino fishing boats into the area when then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pivoted to Beijing. 

Canadian-Philippines deal 

To address unauthorized fishing activities in Manila’s waters, the Philippines and Canada signed an agreement on Monday to utilize Ottawa’s advanced ship tracking system for identifying and addressing unauthorized fishing activities in Manila’s waters. The agreement was reached on the sidelines of the Sixth Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in Ottawa. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Canada’s Dark Vessel Detection System is employed to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing carried out by ships that intentionally deactivate their Automatic Identification Systems. 

On Tuesday, the Department of National Defense announced plans to acquire three C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft for the Philippine Air Force. Two of the aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2026 and the third in 2027.

“The additional cargo space of the C-130J-30, coupled with the reliability of C-130 aircraft we have in our current fleet, will provide our air force with greater operational flexibility,” department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.