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Monday, January 24, 2022

State Department Report on Chinese Claims in the South China Sea

State Department Report on Chinese Claims in the South China Sea

 


The following is the January 2022 Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the U.S. Department of State report, Limits in the Seas No. 150 People’s Republic of China: Maritime Claims in the South China Sea.

From the report

This study examines the maritime claims of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea. The PRC’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“Convention”).

The PRC asserts four categories of maritime claims in the South China Sea:

  • Sovereignty claims over maritime features. The PRC claims “sovereignty” over more than one hundred features in the South China Sea that are submerged below the sea surface at high tide and are beyond the lawful limits of any State’s territorial sea. Such claims are inconsistent with international law, under which such features are not subject to a lawful sovereignty claim or capable of generating maritime zones such as a territorial sea.
  • Straight baselines. The PRC has either drawn, or asserts the right to draw, “straight baselines” that enclose the islands, waters, and submerged features within vast areas of ocean space in the South China Sea. None of the four “island groups” claimed by the PRC in the South China Sea (“Dongsha Qundao,” “Xisha Qundao,” “Zhongsha Qundao,” and “Nansha Qundao”) meet the geographic criteria for using straight baselines under the Convention. Additionally, there is no separate body of customary international law that supports the PRC position that it may enclose entire island groups within straight baselines.
  • Maritime zones. The PRC asserts claims to internal waters, a territorial sea, an exclusive economic zone, and a continental shelf that are based on treating each claimed South China Sea island group “as a whole.” This is not permitted by international law. The seaward extent of maritime zones must be measured from lawfully established baselines, which are normally the low-water line along the coast. Within its claimed maritime zones, the PRC also makes numerous jurisdictional claims that are inconsistent with international law.
  • Historic rights. The PRC asserts that it has “historic rights” in the South China Sea. This claim has no legal basis and is asserted by the PRC without specificity as to the nature or geographic extent of the “historic rights” claimed.

The overall effect of these maritime claims is that the PRC unlawfully claims sovereignty or some form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea. These claims gravely undermine the rule of law in the oceans and numerous universally-recognized provisions of international law reflected in the Convention. For this reason, the United States and numerous other States have rejected these claims in favor of the rules-based international maritime order within the South China Sea and worldwide.

https://www.state.gov/limits-in-the-seas/

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/LIS150-SCS.pdf

Vietnam acknowledges US “Limits in the Seas”

Vietnam acknowledges US “Limits in the Seas”

 


 In its latest study, Washington rejects both Beijing’s geographic and historic claims in most of the resource-rich sea.

Hanoi said it appreciates the US’s detailed study “Limits in the Seas” on Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

“Vietnam acknowledges the US Department of State’s publication of Report No. 150 on maritime boundaries regarding the disputes in the East Sea (referred to the South China Sea),” Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on January 14, two days after the release of the document.

“Vietnam has repeatedly affirmed its consistent and clear position, both within the bilateral and multilateral frameworks, according to which Vietnam always opposes and does not accept all related claims that are inconsistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Hang said in a statement. 

“On this occasion, Vietnam once again asked relevant parties to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the East Sea, respect diplomatic and legal processes, and make active contributions to maintaining peace, stability, security, and freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with UNCLOS and the rules-based order,” she stated.

The “Limits in the Seas” study, which was issued by the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, and the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, examines China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. It said that China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea are inconsistent with UNCLOS.

This study builds on Limits in the Seas No. 143 (2014), which analyzed China’s ambiguous “dashed-line” claim in the South China Sea. The document in 2014 concluded that China’s dashed-line claim was neither a valid national boundary nor a valid claim to historic rights in the South China Sea.

In 2016, having considered China’s dashed-line claim, an arbitral tribunal convened in accordance with the UNCLOS (Convention) reached a similar conclusion in The South China Sea Arbitration (The Philippines v. China). The arbitral tribunal issued a unanimous decision, which is final and binding on the Philippines and China, finding that:

“China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention [and that] the Convention superseded any historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction in excess of the limits imposed therein.”

Washington rejects China’s both geographic and historic claims, saying they are “unlawful”, gravely undermining the rule of law in the oceans and numerous universally-recognized provisions of international law reflected in UNCLOS.

For this reason, the United States and numerous other States have rejected these claims in favor of the rules-based international maritime order within the South China Sea and worldwide.

 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

 UNSC Meeting: Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposes global solutions for maritime security

UNSC Meeting: Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposes global solutions for maritime security

 


Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh attended the high-level open debate on Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case for International Cooperation as a part of the three meetings being hosted by India during its rotational presidency of council in August. The theme marks the first time the UNSC has held a separate official meeting on the topic of maritime security.

In the speech at the virtual meeting, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh expressed the appreciation for the cooperation mechanisms, both bilaterally and multilaterally, at the regional and global levels that international community has successfully established, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has served as the Constitution of the Seas and Oceans, an important legal framework of integrity and universality that governs all marine activities and serve as the basis for international cooperation to address global challenges.

Despite of the fact, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh underlined that the world is facing many complex maritime security challenges. "Unilateral acts that violate international law, even threats or use of force, have escalated tensions and affected peace, friendship, security, safety and freedom of navigation and trade, as well as efforts to address non-traditional security challenges," he added.

Maritime security is a global issue and therefore requires global solutions

To cope with those challenges, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made three proposals. Firstly, the PM emphasized that states and international organizations develop a comprehensive, extensive and broad awareness of the importance of oceans and seas, and the threats to maritime security. Such awareness will form the basis for greater responsibility and political will to strengthen confidence and develop more cohesive and effective cooperation, in order to preserve and utilize oceans and seas in a sustainable manner, and safeguard a peaceful and stable maritime environment. In addition, resources should be made available for the implementation of national strategies and regulations to meet this end.

Secondly, calling for a joint effort from all countries and territories, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh stated that maritime security is a global issue and therefore requires global solutions, which requires a comprehensive and holistic approach based on cooperation, dialogue and international law, and forge stronger cooperation through bilateral and multilateral channels and at regional, inter-regional and global levels to effectively address maritime security challenges.

In order to practice these global solutions, Vietnam proposes the development of a network of arrangements and initiatives for regional maritime security with the United Nations working as coordinator, to bolster information and experience sharing, coordinate actions, and address common challenges in a timely manner. He reaffirmed Vietnam values and actively takes part in initiatives and mechanisms in ASEAN and between ASEAN and its partners for practical cooperation in the South China Sea. They provide forums for dialogue and confidence building, and help coordinate maritime security cooperation.

"Vietnam is determined to work with ASEAN and China to seriously, fully and effectively implement the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and negotiate an effective and substantive Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC)"

He also stressed that Vietnam is determined to work with ASEAN and China to seriously, fully and effectively implement the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and negotiate an effective and substantive Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC) consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS 1982. In addition, Vietnam calls upon all countries and multilateral institutions, especially UN agencies, to step up assistance and pay due attention to the hardships and interests of developing countries.

As the third proposal in the speech, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the policies, regulations and conduct of states at sea must be in line with international law, especially the United Nations Charter and UNCLOS 1982. To realize that, states shall uphold fully their legal obligations under the convention, respect the sovereignty, interests and legitimate economic activities of relevant states, settle disputes through peaceful means in line with international law, respect diplomatic and legal processes, and ensure freedom, safety and security of navigation and overflight, without resorting to acts that would complicate the situation or create tension.

 

 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

US, China clash over South China Sea at high-level UNSC meeting chaired by India

US, China clash over South China Sea at high-level UNSC meeting chaired by India

 


The US and China clashed over the South China Sea during a high-level UNSC meeting on maritime security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

The US and China on Monday clashed during a high-level meeting on maritime security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with Washington asserting it has seen "provocative actions" to advance unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea by Beijing which retorted that America is not qualified to make "irresponsible remarks" on the issue.

Prime Minister Modi chaired the virtual high-level open debate on maritime security, one of the three signature events of India’s current Presidency of the powerful 15-nation UN body. The meeting was later chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar as foreign ministers and UN envoys made their national statements.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of "some of the critical areas where we see maritime rules and principles under threat."

"In the South China Sea, we have seen dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims," Blinken said, in a thinly-veiled attack on China which claims almost all of the 1.3 million square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory.

China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

"The United States has made clear its concerns regarding actions that intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources. And we and other countries including South China Sea claimants have protested such behavior and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea," Blinken said.

"Some may assert that resolving the dispute in the South China Sea is not the business of the United States or any other country that is not a claimant to the islands and waters. But it is the business, and even more, the responsibility of every Member State to defend the rules that we've all agreed to follow and peacefully resolve maritime disputes.

"Conflict in the South China Sea or in any ocean would have serious global consequences for security and for commerce. What's more, when a State faces no consequences for ignoring these rules, it fuels greater impunity and instability everywhere,” Blinken said.

China’s Deputy Permanent Representative Dai Bing, speaking last in the meeting, said that he wishes to "point out that the Security Council is not the right place to discuss the issue of the South China Sea. The US just mentioned the South China Sea issue and China firmly opposes this act."

He said that at present "with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea remains generally stable. All countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law."

The Chinese diplomat said that Beijing is "determined and able to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Hitting out at Washington, he said the US itself is not qualified to make irresponsible remarks on the issue of the South China Sea.

"The US has been stirring up trouble out of nothing, arbitrarily sending advanced military vessels and aircraft into the South China Sea as provocations and publicly trying to drive a wedge into regional countries, especially countries concerned.

"This country itself has become the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea. The US itself does not join the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) but considers itself a judge of the Convention pointing fingers at other countries," he said, adding that Washington has no credibility on maritime issues.

 

"The United States'' hype in the Security Council is entirely politically motivated. The South China Sea arbitration tribunal violated the Principle of State consent," the Chinese diplomat said, adding that "there were obvious errors in the determination of facts and application of the law and its award was invalid and without any binding force."

He said China and ASEAN countries are committed to fully and effectively implementing the declaration under the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and strive to reach the code of conduct in the South China Sea at an early date.

Blinken referred to the unanimous and legally binding decision five years ago by the arbitral tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention "firmly rejecting unlawful, expansive South China Sea maritime claims as being inconsistent with international law."

He stressed that Washington has consistently called for all countries to conform their maritime claims to the International Law of the Sea as reflected in the 1982 convention.

"This is in keeping with the peaceful resolution of disputes and the sovereign equality of member states, which are core principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” he said, adding that efforts to resolve maritime disputes through threat or use of force flout these principles.

Blinken conveyed Washington’s gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for “bringing us together for this critically important discussion” on maritime security and for “India's leadership on these issues,” especially in the Indo-Pacific.

He said despite having a clear body of international law that nations have committed to abide by and uphold and despite the indispensable role the maritime order has played in fostering economic activity, security cooperation, scientific innovation, environmental sustainability, “the order is under serious threat.

"That's why I'm grateful for India's leadership in bringing us together today and calling on all nations to recommit to defending and strengthening the maritime rules and principles that we forge together and committed to uphold.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

28th ARF calls for maintenance of security, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea

28th ARF calls for maintenance of security, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea



The Chairman’s Statement of the 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has called for the maintenance of security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and acceleration of talks for the prompt signing of the Code of Conduct in the waters (COC).
 TheChairman's Statement of the 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has called for the maintenance of security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and acceleration of talks for the prompt signing of the Code of Conduct in the waters (COC).
The statement noted that the 28th ARF reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, prosperity, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea
and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes, without coercion, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 
The meeting underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the
South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety. 
The forum also noted the positive progress in the ongoing negotiations on the COC despite the challenging COVID-19 situation, including the recent resumption of the textual negotiations of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text (SDNT), which has resulted in provisional agreement on the Preamble section, and looked forward to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

This year, the ARF stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance trust and confidence amongst parties, and reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
Some delegates voiced their concerns on the land reclamation, activities and serious incidents in the area, including damage to the marine environment, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
Participants reaffirmed the need to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
They also emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants, and avoidance of other activities that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the
South China Sea.
Regarding the situations in Myanmar, the meeting welcomed Myanmar’s commitment to the Five-Point Consensus adopted at the ASEAN Leaders Meeting on April 24 and acceptance for the timely and complete implementation of the agreement; along with the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei to be the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar.
The statement reaffirmed ASEAN’s support for diplomacy and dialogue in achieving complete denuclearisation and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula./.

Monday, August 2, 2021

US Defense Secretary blasts ‘baseless’ Chinese aggression

US Defense Secretary blasts ‘baseless’ Chinese aggression

 


China has been urged to temper its aggression and resolve regional tensions through constructive dialogue, with the US warning it “will not flinch” if its interests are threatened.

In an address to Singapore’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for a “stronger rules-based international order” in the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tension sparked by Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and across the Taiwan Strait.

Austin stressed Beijing's claim to the majority of the South China Sea “has no basis” in international law, adding that China’s assertion “treads on the sovereignty” of nations occupying the region.

“We continue to support the region's coastal states in upholding their rights under international law [and] we remain committed to the treaty obligations that we have to Japan in the Senkaku Islands and to the Philippines in the South China Sea,” he said.

 Secretary Austin lamented Beijing’s reluctance to resolve the disputes peacefully, claiming that China’s indifference to international law has also been on display through its land border dispute with India, its military flyovers in Taiwanese airspace, and humanitarian abuses within mainland China.

“Now, these differences and disputes are real. But the way that you manage them counts,” Secretary Austin continued.

“We will not flinch when our interests are threatened. Yet we do not seek confrontation
Vietnam's position in US defense strategy in Southeast Asia

Vietnam's position in US defense strategy in Southeast Asia

 


The US Secretary of Defense is on a trip to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. This is the first visit to Southeast Asia by a top official in the Biden administration.

In Singapore, Mr. Lloyd Austin spoke at an event organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The visit of the Pentagon leader demonstrates that the Biden-Harris administration considers Southeast Asia an important part of the Indo-Pacific region.

The US Secretary of Defense’s two-day visit to Vietnam has just concluded.

America's commitment to the region

This visit underscores the United States' enduring commitment to the region and its interest in upholding the rules-based international order in the region and promoting ASEAN’s central role.

As US Defense Secretary, Mr. Austin has visited Europe twice to mend relations with allies. He also visited Japan, Korea and India. Mr. Austin was due to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June, but the event was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), noted that Mr. Austin was visiting three of America's most important political and security partners in Southeast Asia. Singapore is the most important security partner; Vietnam is increasingly becoming a close partner with the US, and the Philippines is America's oldest Asian ally.

According to Poling, Singapore is currently a closer regional security partner than Manila, when in 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he would cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that the most important thing is that Duterte needs to win the support of the Philippine military if he wants to run for the position of Vice President in 2022.

Some analysts say the Philippines will be a difficult test for the US defense secretary during this trip, but he was still able to make progress on security issues with Manila.

For the US, improving relations with Manila will be key to the US’ “pivot to Southeast Asia” strategy. The Biden administration aims to complete this fall a report with a focus on the importance of establishing a stronger presence in the region.

Practical cooperation between Vietnam and the US

Vietnam - US relations are developing strongly. As one of only two Southeast Asian countries specifically mentioned in the Biden administration's interim national security strategy guidelines, Vietnam is increasingly becoming an important part of US defense strategy in the region.

Bilateral trade turnover has increased more than 200 times since the normalization of relations in 1995. The relationship between the two peoples has also been strengthened as Vietnam's tourism industry develops. Vietnam has entered the list of countries most interested in by US investors. US foreign direct investment in Vietnam grew from less than $1 billion in 2011 to more than $2.6 billion in 2019.

On July 19, 2021 the US Department of Finance and the State Bank of Vietnam reached an agreement to resolve Washington's concerns about the Vietnamese currency issue.

While Vietnam is trying to increase and diversify vaccine supply, the US has been actively providing vaccines for Vietnam, which helps to strengthen trust between the two countries.

Professor Carl Thayer said that Vietnam is a close comprehensive partner and is on the list of priority countries to receive vaccines from the US. In Southeast Asia, in addition to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the US also donated vaccines to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The fight against Covid-19 must be done globally so that there are no "hot spots" and the US has provided the vaccine in good faith.

Mr. Thayer also added that the two sides are cooperating practically. It benefits the US when Vietnam becomes a powerful economic player, and also contributes to the stability of the region. America can trust Vietnam to act independently and constructively.

 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

 U.S.-EU Summit Statement

U.S.-EU Summit Statement

 


On June 15, 2021, the United States and European Union (EU) issued a joint Summit Statement trumpeting a “renewed transatlantic partnership” at the conclusion of President Joseph Biden’s first trip abroad as president.  The statement establishes a Joint Transatlantic Agenda “for the post-pandemic era, and … regular dialogue to take stock of progress.”  The leaders committed to: (i) end the COVID-19 pandemic and “prepare for future global health challenges, and drive forward a sustainable global recovery”; (ii) protect the Earth and foster green growth; (iii) strengthen trade, investment and technological cooperation; and (iv) “build a more democratic, peaceful, and secure world.”  They also committed to uphold and advance “the rules-based international order with the United Nations at its core, reinvigorate and reform multilateral institutions where needed, and cooperate with all those who share these objectives”.

Read the full joint statement

 "We intend to closely consult and cooperate on the full range of issues in the framework of our respective similar multi-faceted approaches to China, which include elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry. We intend to continue coordinating on our shared concerns, including ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet; the erosion of autonomy and democratic processes in Hong Kong; economic coercion; disinformation campaigns; and regional security issues. We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions. We reaffirm the critical importance of respecting international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) noting its provisions setting forth the lawful maritime entitlements of States, on maritime delimitation, on the sovereign rights and jurisdictions of States, on the obligation to settle disputes by peaceful means, and on the freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea. We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. We intend also to coordinate on our constructive engagement with China on issues such as climate change and non-proliferation, and on certain regional issues".
 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

G7 Expresses concern over situation in East and South China Seas.

G7 Expresses concern over situation in East and South China Seas.

 


  Group of Seven leaders on Sunday scolded China over human rights in its Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and demanded a full and thorough investigation of the origins of the coronavirus in China.

After discussing how to come up with a unified position on China, leaders issued a highly critical final communique that delved into what are for China some of the most sensitive issues, including also Taiwan.

The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.

China's rise has also unnerved the United States: President Joe Biden casts China as the main strategic competitor and has vowed to confront China's "economic abuses" and push back against human rights violations.

"We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration," the G7 said.

The G7 also called for a transparent, expert-led Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including in China, to be convened by the World Health Organization (WHO). Reuters earlier reported the finalised version of the draft communique.

"We haven't had access to the laboratories," Biden told reporters.

Biden said it was not yet certain whether or not "a bat interfacing with animals and the environment... caused this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory".

Before the G7 criticism emerged, China pointedly cautioned G7 leaders that the days when "small" groups of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone.

The G7 also underscored "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues".

"We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions," they said.

FORCED LABOUR

Biden said democracies were in a global contest with "autocratic governments", and that the G7 had to deliver viable alternatives.

"We're in a contest, not with China per se, ... with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century," Biden told reporters.

"As I've told (Chinese President) Xi Jinping myself, I'm not looking for conflict. Where we cooperate, we'll cooperate; where we disagree I'm going to state this frankly, and we are going to respond to actions that are inconsistent."

The G7 - comprising the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada - said it was concerned about forced labour in global supply chains including in the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors.

Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China. It says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China.

U.N. experts and rights groups estimate that more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang in northwest China.

China denies all accusations of forced labour or abuse. It initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated”.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Vietnam asks related parties to respect its national sovereignty

Vietnam asks related parties to respect its national sovereignty

 


Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang has repeated Vietnam’s opposition to violation of sovereign rights and jurisdiction rights of Vietnam in Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagoes.
During an online press conference in Hanoi on Thursday ( May 27, 2021), the spokeswoman asked parties to respect the rights of coastal countries in line with international law. She responded to the Philippine’s recent announcement to repair and upgrade runways and other facilities on Thi Tu Island, part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago. Hang says, 'As repeatedly asserted, Vietnam has sufficient historic evidence and legal grounds about its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in line with international law. All acts of violation of Vietnam’s national sovereignty and related rights in Truong Sa archipelago are illegal and invalid. Vietnam asks related parties to respect its national sovereignty, international law, comply with the DOC, UNCLOS 1982, not complicating the situation and contributing positively to peace in the East Sea, as well as facilitating negotiation for the COC.'
The spokeswoman commented on China’s recent live-fire drills in the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea): 'Maintaining peace, stability, freedom of aviation and navigation, respecting sovereignty and the rule of law by all countries in the East Sea is the objective, responsibility and common aspiration of all countries and the international community. Vietnam wishes parties to contribute responsibly to this issue.”
Regarding the US’ transfer of coast guard ship John Midgett to Vietnam late this month, the spokeswoman said this is part of a national defense cooperation agreement. “Comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the US has witnessed strong development, including national defense and security. Both sides will continue to promote bilateral cooperation, maritime security and capacity building in law enforcement at sea with signed documents for peace, cooperation and development in the region and the world,” says Hang.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

 


The EU and its Member States have long enjoyed a broad and comprehensive relationship with its partners in the Indo-Pacific, a region spanning from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific Island States. Today, the Indo-Pacific is the focus of the world’s attention as the socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic gets underway whilst geostrategic uncertainty in the region increases.
The Council Conclusions on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific adopted by 27 Foreign Ministers of the EU’s Member States today demonstrate the EU’s recognition of the growing importance of the region and its commitment to reinforcing its role in cooperation with its partners there.
The Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic centre of gravity. It is home to 60% of the world’s population producing 60% of global GDP, contributing two thirds of current global growth. By 2030, the overwhelming majority (90%) of the 2.4 billion new members of the middle class entering the global economy will live in the Indo-Pacific.
Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Over the years, the EU has consistently made significant contributions in the region in terms of development cooperation and humanitarian assistance, tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and contributing to upholding international law, including human rights and freedom of navigation.
The EU, therefore, has a big stake in the Indo-Pacific region, and has every interest that the regional architecture remains open and rules-based. However current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, , have given rise to intense geopolitical competition, adding to increasing pressure on trade and supply chains as well as in tensions in technological, political and security areas. The universality of human rights is also being challenged. Sixty percent of world maritime trade passes through its oceans, including a third through the South China Sea. Its passages need to remain free and open.
This is why the EU’s Foreign Ministers have decided to reinforce the EU’s strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific. The approach and engagement will be principled with a long-term perspective, with the aim of contributing to the stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development of the region, based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law.
This renewed commitment to the region is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with the EU. The strategy is deliberately pragmatic, flexible and multi-faceted, allowing the EU to adapt and build its cooperation according to specific policy areas where partners can find common ground based on shared principles, values or mutual interest.
The EU will deepen its engagement on the Indo-Pacific in particular with those partners that have already announced Indo-Pacific approaches of their own.
The adoption of the Council Conclusions allows the EU to enhance cooperation further in many areas such as ocean governance, health, research and technology, security and defence, connectivity, and strengthen working together on tackling global challenges such as climate change.
The EU looks forward to working with all its partners in all these areas, especially on the common task of addressing the devastating human and economic effects of the COVID19 crisis, ensuring a sustainable and inclusive green socio-economic recovery and creating more resilient health systems.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Suga vows to lead 'free and open digital space' in Indo-Pacific

Suga vows to lead 'free and open digital space' in Indo-Pacific

 


 Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that he wants to lead the formation of international standards for next-generation communications and build up Indo-Pacific digital infrastructure, trumpeting a broad and ambitious agenda for the post-COVID era.

In a speech at Nikkei's Future of Asia conference, held in Tokyo and online through Friday, Suga also reiterated hopes to expand the Trans-Pacific Partnership and vowed to step up efforts to provide fair access to vaccines.

"We will work on research and development for the 5G and 6G era, and take the lead in creating international rules for telecommunication standards," Suga said. "To further develop a free and open digital space in the Indo-Pacific, we have been working on the development of legal systems, infrastructure and human resources."

Suga pointed to projects such as an IT system for customs clearance operations in Vietnam, and a facility in Thailand that trains government agencies and important infrastructure companies in Southeast Asia.

The commitment to support Asia's digital shift comes amid growing awareness of China's digital rise, with the country outpacing Japan in rolling out 5G and making aggressive investments in cutting-edge technologies.

Regarding the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP11, Suga said Japan "will lead discussions toward the steady implementation and expansion of the TPP11 not only in the area of market access, but also on rules."

Suga urged other countries to cooperate in establishing a free and open Indo-Pacific. "We strongly oppose any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea," Suga said, noting that Japan's rule-of-law based approach is "widely supported by the international community."

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, Japan itself has lagged behind developed countries in getting shots in arms. But Suga said Japan "will continue to make efforts to ensure equitable access to safe and effective vaccines throughout the world, including developing countries."

These efforts will include co-hosting a summit next month, in which Suga said he will "call for strong commitments from each country" in expanding aid for free coronavirus vaccine supplies to countries in need.

Suga said Japan will support the development of cold chain logistics as well -- vital for vaccine delivery.

Suga also reiterated his commitment to hold the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, despite strong opposition from the public. The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and elsewhere, placing restrictions on restaurants and other facilities to curb the spread of the virus.

At a climate summit last month, Suga laid out a 2030 target of cutting Japan's emissions by 46% from fiscal 2013 levels. The new goal, part of Suga's long-term target of net-zero emissions by 2050, is more ambitious than the country's original target of a 26% reduction.

"In order to achieve these goals, we will use the newly created 2 trillion yen fund, tax measures, regulatory reform, standardization, international cooperation and will mobilize every other possible measure," Suga pledged.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Locsin orders filing of protest over presence of 287 Chinese vessels in WPS

Locsin orders filing of protest over presence of 287 Chinese vessels in WPS

 


Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday ordered the filing of a diplomatic protest over the presence of 287 Chinese vessels scattered in the West Philippine Sea.
“@DFAPHL (Department of Foreign Affairs), fire diplomatic protest,” Locsin said on Twitter, tagging the official account of the DFA.
Manila’s top diplomat, meanwhile, scored the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) for issuing a press release on the presence of the vessels supposedly without informing the DFA first.
“Maybe these idiots will have learned the protocol next time. I took this up with the President in Davao. We have a disease: everybody and his uncle wants to be a hero fighting China from the anonymity of a task force,” Locsin stressed.
@DFAPHL fire diplomatic protest. Maybe these idiots will have learned the protocol next time. I took this up with the President in Davao. We have a disease: everybody and his uncle wants to be a hero fighting China from the anonymity of a task force. https://t.co/vqEqjQsrkl
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 13, 2021
On Thursday, the NTF-WPS reported that at least 287 China vessels were spotted in the West Philippines Sea based on a maritime patrol conducted last May 4.
Locsin: ‘Outburst of temper’ due to 'repeated provocations' by China 'won’t happen again'
The Philippines has filed numerous diplomatic protests over the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in the area, most notably in the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

 China’s Deep-Sea Motivation for Claiming Sovereignty Over the South China Sea

China’s Deep-Sea Motivation for Claiming Sovereignty Over the South China Sea

 

At the bottom of the contested waters lies a supply of the rare earth minerals crucial to China’s tech ambitions.
In March of this year, over 200 Chinese marine militia ships gathered at Whitsun Reef in the Spratly Islands. Their presence was an ominous reminder of China’s intention to claim large swaths of the South China Sea, enclosed by the so-called “nine-dash line,” as its sovereign territory. Philippine officials sounded the alarm and reiterated the 2016 ruling of an international arbitral tribunal that denied the legality of China’s previous claims. Chinese officials dismissed the ruling and its implications and downplayed the military presence. But quietly, China continues to fortify a new and controversial presence in the South China Sea that risks triggering conflict. At least one American pundit is already warning of the risk of war between the United States and China.
Among the many issues at stake is the free and unlimited access to these international waters and the critical trade routes that run across them. These top-water issues are important and have drawn the attention of the largest navies in the world. China’s naval presence in the region has reached record levels with a plan for even more growth. The United States has enhanced its naval presence in the region as well, and President Joe Biden signaled his intent to maintain a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific. The European Union has released its long awaited Indo-Pacific Strategy, which re-emphasizes the need for free and open access to international waters and trade routes. The United Kingdom is sending a fleet of warships to the region that is its largest deployed fleet since the 1982 Malvinas/Falkland Islands War. Given all this intensification, one might wonder if we are experiencing the precursor to war.
A war in the South China Sea, however, is unlikely. These recent events are playing out in the latest chapter of what is becoming a very long playbook for China. Similar chapters have already unfolded in Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef. Each time, China gradually asserts its presence and influence in disputed areas, like the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal, wrapping “cabbage leaves” of sovereignty around these remote outposts while dismissing legal resolutions and avoiding large-scale conflict with a slow and patient approach we call strategic delay. We expect that China will continue on this course for the foreseeable future, relying on small-scale “gray zone” tactics to expand its reach in the South China Sea.
To see why, we need to look beneath the surface of what is happening now, both figuratively and literally.
China is aggressively competing with other global powers in what is becoming the great economic race of the 21st century: the quest to dominate the market for a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. China has made no secret about its intentions to be a world leader in the production of batteries that will fuel the transportation needs of the future, power the sophisticated electronic devices that allow us to communicate and do business, and potentially reduce the extent of climate change. At the same time, China is aiming to become a leading global manufacturer of advanced electronics. With “Made in China 2025” as a key economic platform for President Xi Jinping, high-priority manufacturing sectors such as semiconductors, aerospace technology, and robotics are primed to expand and innovate.
These batteries and advanced electronics rely on the cumbersome extraction and refinement of rare earth elements. Access to an ample supply of these rare earths will be critical to unfettered growth in these sectors in the coming years. In our research, we have found that a core strategic goal for China is to maintain its market power in the rare earths market. Over the last three decades China has dominated the market for the production and export of rare earths. Often producing well over 90 percent of the world’s consumption of rare earths, China has the market power to control the prices and the quantities of these essential commodities. Much like Saudi Arabia functions as the swing state in the world’s oil market, China can constrict or expand its exports of rare earths to maintain its preferred prices and supplies.
What does China’s role in the rare earths market mean for the politics of the South China Sea? China is currently facing two potential threats to its supply of rare earths. First, as China’s economy develops and its middle class evolves, the Chinese government likely anticipates a declining appetite for huge land-based rare earth mines at home. Second, China has successfully leveraged raw rare earth materials from states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the long-term stability of access to these external sources remains an issue.
In response to these threats, China has begun to look offshore for a way to augment its supply of rare earths. The seabed of the South China Sea contains an abundant supply of small lumps of minerals known as polymetallic nodules. China has developed the most advanced deep-sea extraction technology in the world, and its ability to harvest polymetallic nodules and the rare earths within them is unparalleled. With the emerging mining code coming out of the International Seabed Authority, the best way for China to ensure continued access to these seabed minerals and an offshore supply of rare earths would be to treat these waters as sovereign territory.
If China’s goal is to control the supply and price of rare earths for at least the next quarter-century, fighting a war would be counterproductive. Indeed, China is quite familiar with the limits of its current market power over rare earths. In 2010, a Chinese fishing trawler in the East China Sea was seized by the Japanese Coast Guard after a collision near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The resulting dispute rattled the region, and China imposed a ban on rare earth exports to Japan as well as quotas on rare earth exports to the rest of the world. Huge price spikes of as much as 2,000 percent ensued, but what happened next is key.
The spike in prices and drop in supply attracted new entrants into the rare earth extraction business. The United States’ Department of Defense launched an inquiry into its reliance on Chinese minerals, and dozens of private firms launched into the market. In what became known as the “Rare Earth Crisis of 2010-2012,” China learned that constricting supply or raising prices too much would erode its own market position. By 2014, China had removed its quotas, restored exports to Japan, and prices dropped. The new entrants into the rare earths market faded away, but the threat of their reemergence lingers.
With that lesson learned, China’s goal is not to deploy its market power to erode global access to rare earths. Instead, we expect that China aims to ensure a steady and stable supply of rare earths for an expanding domestic need while continuing to dominate the global market. If China can guarantee plentiful and low-cost rare earths for its own manufacturing needs, it will be well-positioned to succeed in its ambitious economic efforts in the coming years. Profits gained from the global market make it easier to subsidize China’s domestic needs.
As such, we do not expect these confrontations to go away anytime soon, just as we do not expect any of them to trigger war. China’s market power goals will continue to motivate it to gradually expand its maritime reach and reassert its claims in the South China Sea. At the same time, as its rejection of the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling demonstrates, any proposed solution to these repeated territorial disputes that ignores the economic imperative of China’s rare earth market power is likely to fail. No matter how tense things seem to get on the surface, the economics of what lies beneath cannot be ignored.

 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Philippines tells fishermen to ignore Beijing's ban on fishing in South China Sea

Philippines tells fishermen to ignore Beijing's ban on fishing in South China Sea

 


The Philippines has rejected an annual summer fishing ban imposed by China in the disputed South China Sea and encouraged its boats to keep fishing in the country's territorial waters.

The fishing moratorium imposed by China since 1999 runs from May 1 to Aug. 16 and covers areas of the South China Sea as well as other waters off China.

"This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen," the Philippines' South China Sea taskforce said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The taskforce opposed China's imposition of the ban over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines, adding "our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS (West Philippine Sea)"

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manila, which refers to area as the West Philippine Sea, has for years been embroiled in a dispute over Beijing's sweeping claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea.

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China's claims, but China has rejected the ruling.

Tensions between the two countries have recently escalated after Manila accused China of territorial incursions by hundreds of its vessels in the resource-rich waterway.

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests against China over what it calls the "illegal" presence of the Chinese vessels, which it says are manned by militia. read more

Chinese diplomats have said the boats were just sheltering from rough seas and no militia were aboard.

The Philippines' South China Sea taskforce said it spotted seven "Chinese Maritime Militia" at the Sabina shoal in the disputed Spratly archipelago on April 27, which dispersed after being challenged by the Philippine coast guard.

Five returned two days later but left after the Philippine coast guard arrived, it said. Sabina shoal is around 130 nautical miles from the western Philippine island of Palawan.

"The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony, and our dignity as a people with all that we have," the task force said.