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Monday, October 3, 2022

DND chief: PH engaging with ‘like-minded’ countries to defend interests in South China Sea

DND chief: PH engaging with ‘like-minded’ countries to defend interests in South China Sea

 


Marcos Jr government racing to upgrade mutual defense alliance with eye on possible US-China conflict over Taiwan or South China Sea

For the first time, top defense chiefs from the United States and the Philippines personally joined detailed operational planning in the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, in a move to bolster their century-old alliance.
The unprecedented joint planning came almost exactly a week after Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first personal meeting with US President Joseph Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In a major departure from the anti-American tirades of his immediate predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, the new Filipino leader has praised America’s role as an anchor of stability in the Indo-Pacific, which “is something that is much appreciated by all the countries in the region, and the Philippines especially.”
Encouraged by Manila’s apparent new strategic orientation, Washington is doubling down on bilateral security cooperation. It’s a strategic objective that has become more important and urgent in Washington in light of rising tensions over Taiwan and across the South China Sea.
With its strategic geographic location, the Philippines would be at the heart of any potential major conflict between the US and China in the region. As such, the two allies are expected to increase joint military activities to as many as 500 next year, with the US expected to deploy a whopping 16,000 troops for the annual Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) wargames.
“Our countries share a vision of an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, free from coercion or bullying,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the recent unprecedented US Indo-Pacific Command meeting with his Filipino counterpart Jose Faustino Jr.
“The United States remains unwavering in our support for a strong and independent Philippines that can defend its sovereignty, ensure prosperity for its people and strengthen security in the region,” Austin said.
“Our two countries are working together to reach a common understanding of the importance of our defense alliance…in advancing our respective country’s interests and promoting peace and prosperity in the region,” Faustino told his American counterpart during his Hawaii visit.
Next year, the US and Philippines are expected to conduct more joint military exercises than any time in history and more than any alliance across the Indo-Pacific.
From 300 bilateral military activities in 2022, next year could see as many as 500 joint exercises, underscored by the doubling of US participation in the massive Balikatan exercises held on Philippine shores.
Those joint maneuvers, which in 2019 simulated warfighting including an amphibious seizure of an island in the South China Sea, have raised China’s hackles. This year they are expected to be expanded to involve amphibious and island protection drills in tandem with Australia and Japan.
After six years of uncertainty and mutual recriminations under Duterte, who repeatedly threatened to end the Philippine-US alliance after US criticism of his government’s human rights record, the two long-time allies are now racing to make up for lost time in upgrading the alliance, which is underwritten by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“We’re trying to do the kind of modernization process that we did with the Japan-US alliance in the 1990s – we’re trying to do it [for the Philippine-US alliance] in about two years, what took 20 years in the case of Japan,” Gregory Poling, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, told this correspondent.
In the past few months, the two allies have pressed ahead with full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which grants the American military sweeping access to a wide range of vital military bases across the Philippines.
By building advanced military facilities in strategically-located Philippine bases, the US Pentagon will in future be in an optimal position to build both a forward deployment presence as well as jointly respond to nearby contingencies.
In a statement, the Pentagon has recognized how the two allies are “deepening our enduring security alliance under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty and multiple other agreements, including the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement [EDCA].”
“Looking ahead, we seek to enhance the posture of our alliance to address new and emerging challenges,” a Pentagon spokesman said. “We intend to continue to implement infrastructure projects at current EDCA locations and explore additional sites for further development,” he added.
“[O]ur relationship with the United States is at its best right now,” Jose Manuel Romualdez, a close relative of the Philippine president and the country’s longstanding ambassador to Washington, recently told the Philippine Congress.
In particular, the Basa Airbase, which is situated strategically in the South China Sea and near Taiwan, has been the site of several recent big-ticket joint projects under EDCA.
“And that’s the sign of the urgency I think both bureaucracies [have] at least recognized…and Taiwan is a key part of this,” Poling told this correspondent, underscoring the broader relevance of the US-Philippine alliance amid rising US-China tensions in the region.
Throughout the Cold War, the Philippines’ hosting of America’s largest overseas bases was an essential component of US regional operations including military interventions in Korea and Vietnam. Over the past two decades, however, counterterrorism and, to a lesser degree, the South China Sea disputes have largely dominated bilateral security cooperation.
Now, the Biden administration is intent on fortifying the Philippines’ position in its “integrated deterrence” strategy for the Indo-Pacific, drawing on a wide network of bases and alliances across the First and Second Island Chains, stretching from Japan in the north to Australia in the south, with the Philippines along with Singapore and Vietnam serving as key Southeast Asian partners in between.
Aside from being America’s oldest ally in Asia, the Philippines’ geography is increasingly seen as vital to the Pentagon’s operational priorities in the region. In particular, the Philippines’ northernmost and essentially uninhabited island of Mavulis, located in the Luzon Strait, is only 140 kilometers from Taiwan’s southernmost tip.
It currently hosts a squad of Filipino soldiers in a small shelter, a desalination plant and a lighthouse – and obviously has the potential for US-assisted expansion under the EDCA. The Philippine military has also stepped up its efforts to build naval facilities on nearby Fuga Island.
The strategic relevance of those island posts came to light in 2019, when the Philippine military blocked attempts by several Chinese companies to invest in the strategically-located islands.
“The Chinese have no use for Fuga [Island]. It [the private investment bid was] really…about Taiwan, to deny us, and in extension the US, the use of those islands [in the event of war],” Colonel Michael Logico, director of the Philippine military’s Joint and Combined Training Center, recently told the media.
A number of high-profile war games conducted by top Washington-based think tanks showed that any major kinetic operation by China will likely concentrate on Taiwan’s southern shores. And America’s access to nearby Philippine bases proved a crucial element in a potential US victory against invading Chinese forces.
“We are a US ally, we are in a strategic location. We are so near that if anything happens in Taiwan, we will be involved,” former Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista recently told media.
The Philippines represents a “key terrain” for Sino-American competition, Bautista said, since it connects the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean via the Sibutu Passage in the south and Bashi Channel and Luzon Strait in the north.
While the Marcos Jr administration has so far tried to project “neutrality” on the Taiwan issue, and repeatedly called for peaceful management of the crisis, Manila has expressed new openness to allowing American access to its vital bases in the north in the event of a Taiwan or other contingency.
“Nobody wants to have any kind of war or confrontation,” said Romualdez, a key architect of the recent Philippine-US rapprochement. He recently said that the Philippines will allow US forces to access Philippine bases “if it is important for us, for our own security.”
For some experts, however, the Taiwan crisis, and the Philippines’ potential response, represents an existential challenge to the US-Philippine alliance.
“What would it do to the US-Philippine alliance if Americans were dying 50 miles from the shores of the Philippines and the Philippine government refused [to assist]”, Poling, who leads CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), told this correspondent.
“Allies cannot be neutral,” and the Philippines “has responsibility to Americans just like Americans have responsibility to Filipinos.”

Saturday, October 1, 2022

China increases warship capability with production of guided-missile destroyers, experts say

China increases warship capability with production of guided-missile destroyers, experts say



 Prof John Blaxland says China’s navy expansion is ‘in stark contrast’ to trajectories of other countries including Australia

China is “exponentially” increasing its warship capability and has reportedly re-started mass production of guided-missile destroyers.
The Chinese Communist party-controlled newspaper, the Global Times, reported on Tuesday that China would complete its military expansion and modernisation by 2035, “including the development of a blue-water navy, to match the country’s international status and better defend its interests”.
A blue-water navy is one that traverses deep oceans and operates globally.
Naval News has reported that five type 052D destroyers, capable of launching long-range missiles, are being built.
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John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University’s strategic and defence studies centre, said China’s military expansion was “deeply worrying”.
“When you look at capability it is growing exponentially,” he said.
“It’s going from being a brown-water navy designed for close protection of China’s shores to a true blue-water navy.
“They are designed to assert China’s influence to match its economic growth, not just in the South China Sea, not just in the first island chain [which includes Taiwan], but also more expansively through the Indo Pacific and the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s growing the navy to bolster its economic heft with military muscle.”
New modelling from a US thinktank suggests China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will dominate the region with a range of lethal warships and submarines by 2031.
In China’s Choices: A new tool for assessing the PLA’s modernization, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said in less than a decade, “the PLA may have sufficient resources to boast five aircraft carriers and over 60 cruisers and destroyers,” as well as a new fleet of submarines.
As part of the modelling, teams of national security experts used a simulation of China’s $300bn defence budget to predict what Beijing would do.
The consensus was that China would become a global military threat beyond the current sabre-rattling about Taiwan with enough resources for expanded sea and air capability.
That expansion is happening “in stark contrast” to the trajectories of other navies including Australia’s, Blaxland said.
The federal government has begun a defence strategic review that will examine the shifting strategic environment and Australia’s looming naval capability gap.
There is a range of suggestions on how to fill the gap that will occur between when the ageing Collins-class submarines retire and the new nuclear-powered fleet is commissioned.
Experts have argued for buying new submarines “off the shelf” from other countries; unions are pushing for conventional submarines to be built in Australia; the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has suggested buying US-built nuclear-powered submarines; defence is collaborating with private company Anduril to build robotic submarines; and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia has pitched the idea of building three more air warfare destroyers.
An autonomous underwater vehicle built by Anduril Industries.
Robotic submarines fast-tracked for build at site on Sydney harbour to plug capability gap
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On Wednesday morning the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported that a senior US official said if Canberra requested them, the US could provide B-21 Raider long-range bombers to boost Australia’s military firepower. The US would “be willing to talk to Australia about anything that there was an interest in from the Australian perspective that we could help them with”, US air force secretary, Frank Kendall, said.
Kendall said China was “as formidable a strategic opponent” as he had seen.
Blaxland said an increasingly nervous Australia had to realise there was “no silver bullet … [no] magic piece of kit that will solve all our problems”, and that the country needed to hedge its bets with a suite of different options.
“The more the merrier,” he said.
A spokesperson for the defence minister, Richard Marles, directed Guardian Australia to a recent speech in which Marles said China’s military buildup was “now the largest and most ambitious we have seen by any country since the end of the second world war”.
But China’s neighbours should not see that as a risk and upgrade their own capabilities in response, he said.
“Insecurity is what drives an arms race.”
Asked if all options for filling the capability gap were on the table, the spokesperson said they would not pre-empt the findings of the defence strategic review.

Friday, September 30, 2022

30 years’ implementation of Vietnam Marine Strategy: long stride in realizing strategic vision

30 years’ implementation of Vietnam Marine Strategy: long stride in realizing strategic vision

 


Ambassador Nguyen Hong Thao, the first Vietnamese to be elected to the International Law Commission and who is now serving his second term in the commission for the 2023-2027 tenure, has written an article looking back on 30 years’ implementation of Vietnam Marine Strategy.

The article was published recently in Vietnam News Agency’s Vietnam Law magazine. The following is the full text of the article.
Sustainable development of marine economy is an aspiration, a dream and goal of Vietnam’s socio-economic development policies which suits the world’s trend of development of blue marine economy. The Vietnam Marine Strategy for the 2007-20 period and the Strategy for sustainable development of marine economy for the 1993-2022 period implemented over the past 30 years have contributed to realizing such goal.
Strategic vision
Vietnam has been acutely aware of the importance of the seas to the economy, security and national defense and social development through its specific policy instruments enacted since the 1990s
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Resolution 03-NQ/TW issued in 1993 by the Party Central Committee’s Political Bureau sets the goal of turning Vietnam into a strong marine economy. Then, Resolution 09-NQ/TW on the Vietnam Marine Strategy through 2020 (the Marine Strategy) was adopted in 2007, placing a focus on making Vietnam a “strong marine economy” through “bringing into play all potentials from the seas”. It is aimed that by 2020, contributions from the marine and coastal economy to the country’s GDP would reach 53-55 percent and per-capita GDP in marine and coastal communities would double the country’s average growth level.
Later, Resolution 36-NQ/TW of 2018 on the Strategy for sustainable development of marine economy through 2030, with a vision toward 2045 (the Strategy for sustainable development of marine economy), reasserts the goal of turning Vietnam into a country that is strong and rich from the seas on the basis of sustainable development, prosperity, safety and security, laying an emphasis on sustainable development of marine economy based on green growth. Indicators related to sea and ocean governance and coastal zone management are required to meet international standards so as to lift Vietnam at least into the group of upper-middle income countries in the world. Contributions of its 28 coastal provinces and cities are set to account for 65-70 percent of the country’s GDP while per-capita income in these localities will be 1.2 times or higher the national average income.
Specifically, the Marine Strategy underlines the significance of the modernization of marine economy and environmental protection while giving priority to petroleum and ocean shipping development. Meanwhile, it places a focus on marine tourism, paying more attention to marine environmental protection and economic development.
Moreover, Vietnam has fully acceded to a raft of environmental and sea treaties and proactively built up a legal system on sea management. It has also promoted negotiations for settlement of sea disputes and signed three agreements on delimitation of and two others on joint exploitation in maritime zones, thus facilitating the establishment of maritime zones under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for implementation of its Marine Strategy. The state apparatus in charge of marine economy management has been reorganized, with priority given to the ministries engaged in sea-related activities according to an integrated approach.
Certain policies have been proposed and enforced, such as the policy on support for and development of offshore fishing, and the 2010 Strategies for fisheries, tourism, and transport development. At the same time, importance has been attached to public communication for raising the awareness and creating consensus among ministries, sectors, localities, businesses and the people.
Vietnam’s efforts and initial achievements
Over the past time, Vietnam has allocated significant finance, science and technology and human resources for marine industries like oil and gas, construction of seaports and fishing ports, and shipbuilding. It has formed the Coast Guard forces since 1998 and the Fisheries Resources Surveillance forces since 2014. The regimes of reporting and environmental impact assessment have been put in place under the Law on Environmental Protection.
The country has succeeded in applying the integrated management approach to its maritime zones and actively participated in programs of the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and other regional organizations. So far, 14 out of the 28 coastal provinces and cities have developed their strategies for integrated coastal zone management.
For marine economic sectors, relevant master plans and plans have been adopted as suitable to the characteristics of each locality toward sustainable development and protection of marine resources and environment.
The implementation of the Marine Strategy and the Strategy for sustainable development of marine economy over the past 30 years has produced initial outcomes with certain economic achievements, having set new orientations for economic development based on potentials and advantages of the seas.
In the 2011-20 period, marine economic sectors have made great contributions to the country’s GDP. In this period, the average annual growth rate of coastal localities rose to 6.4 percent.
In 2020 alone, GRDP (calculated at current price) of the 28 coastal provinces and cities surpassed 4,040 trillion VND, making up more than half of the country’s GDP. Meanwhile, per-capita GDP of these provinces reached 84.4 million VND compared to the country’s average level of 82.7 million VND. Some of these localities took the lead nationwide like Ba Ria-Vung Tau ranked first with 263 million VND, Quang Ninh ranked second with 164 million VND, Ho Chi Minh City ranked fourth with 148 million VND, and Hai Phong ranked sixth with 134.6 million VND.
Up to now, the country has 19 coastal economic zones and 241 coastal industrial parks and some modern ports like Cai Mep-Thi Vai in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province and Lach Huyen in Hai Phong city that are capable of accommodating large-tonnage ships.
The infrastructure systems in coastal areas and on islands have received due investment, thus having created fundamental changes in economic development and serving as a solid ground for advancing to the seas and, at the same time, can become defensive zones for protecting sovereignty, sovereign rights and national jurisdiction in the maritime zones and on the islands of the country.
Solutions for accelerating development of blue marine economy
Despite of having built a strategic vision and adopted the Resolution on the Strategy for sustainable development of marine economy early, Vietnam still confronts numerous challenges during their implementation. The limitations include the non-availability of a master plan on national marine space; and the lack of implementing regulations, a national database on the seas, and specific guidance for some contents of orientations, e.g., the definition of “blue marine economy”, “blue economy” or “purely marine economy”. Moreover, no full-time multidisciplinary administration agency has really been formed so far. Marine resources have been overexploited and ecosystems are in danger of degradation. Activities in response to climate change and sea level rise and combat against illegal fishing still see shortcomings.
The South China Sea (known as East Sea in Vietnam) dispute has affected the delimitation of boundaries and planning of the whole marine space. Weaknesses are seen in marine scientific research while resources for implementation are lacking and allocated in a thinned-out manner. Therefore, to ensure successful implementation of blue marine economy, Vietnam should take into account the following solutions:
Firstly, the country needs to promote negotiations for settlement of disputes in maritime zones so as to facilitate the delimitation of marine boundaries and serve the planning of marine space and sustainable economic development.
Secondly, it is necessary to complete institutions for sustainable development of marine economy, giving priority to improvement of the legal corridor, innovation and development of the model of green growth, environmental protection, and raising of productivity, quality and international competitiveness of marine economic sectors, maritime zones and coastal zones. It is also required to improve the mechanism for integrated and unified sea management, in addition to scrutinizing, modifying or formulating sea-related master plans, ensuring connectivity and synchronicity among sectors and localities (applying the integrated interdisciplinary approach).
Thirdly, Vietnam should proceed with science and technology development and training of high-quality human resources for marine economic sectors in tandem with promoting innovation, making use of scientific and technological advances as well as new sciences and technologies, and attracting leading experts and scientists and high-quality human resources.
Fourthly, it is a must to develop multi-purpose and synchronous infrastructure facilities with transport networks connecting major economic centers, industrial parks and urban centers around the country and maritime zones with seaports based on economic and natural ecosystems, ensuring the North-South and East-West strategic connectivity among different regions in the country and between Vietnam and other countries in the world.
Last but not least, the country should attach importance to attracting international investment, technology and finance to serve development of blue marine economy and, at the same time, accede to treaties on protection of marine resources and environment. As a first step in this path, Vietnam and Norway are expected to co-finance the initiative to formulate an international agreement on marine plastic litter./.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Biden, Philippines' Marcos discuss tensions in South China Sea

Biden, Philippines' Marcos discuss tensions in South China Sea

 


U.S. President Joe Biden and his Philippine counterpart, Ferdinand Marcos, underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea on Thursday, in response to China's efforts to exert its influence there.

Biden and Marcos held their first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Marcos, son of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, took power in June.
os, Jr. in New York, New York, U.S., September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and his Philippine counterpart, Ferdinand Marcos, underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea on Thursday, in response to China's efforts to exert its influence there.
Biden and Marcos held their first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Marcos, son of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, took power in June.
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"The leaders discussed the situation in the South China Sea and underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes," the White House said in a statement after the talks.
Biden said as the two men began their talks that he wanted to talk about the South China Sea, COVID-19 and renewable energy. He thanked Marcos for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine.
The United States has accused China of increased "provocations" against rival claimants to territory in the South China Sea and other countries operating there.
“The role of the United States in maintaining the peace in our region is something that is much appreciated by all the countries in the region and the Philippines especially," Marcos said.
The Philippines is a key ally in of the United States and vital strategically in case of any U.S. need to defend Taiwan militarily from Chinese attack, given its geographical position.
The United States is keen to arrange greater access to bases in the Philippines given the need to prepare for that contingency.
"The leaders reflected on the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance. President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines," the White House said.
Manila's ambassador to the United States, a relative of Marcos, told Japan's Nikkei newspaper this month the Philippines would let U.S. forces use the Southeast Asian nation's military bases in the event of a Taiwan conflict only "if it is important for us, for our own security."
The meeting with Biden underlines the stunning turnaround in fortunes for the disgraced former first family of the Philippines, 36 years after Marcos's father was driven into exile by a "people power" uprising.
The new president is on his first trip to the United States in 15 years. He is the subject of a U.S. contempt-of-court order for refusing to cooperate with a Hawaii court that ruled the Marcos family must pay $2 billion of plundered wealth to victims of abuses during his father's martial law era.
He has rejected allegations his family stole from the treasury and has diplomatic immunity as head of state.
India Vietnam second security dialogue: Focus on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific

India Vietnam second security dialogue: Focus on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific

 A Vietnamese delegation led by Deputy Minister of Public Security Senior Lt. General Luong Tam Quang visited India for the Second Security Dialogue and held discussions on the security issues comprehensively with his Indian counterpart. The mechanism for the Security Dialogue between the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam and the National Security Council Secretariat of India was established in 2016 when the relationship was elevated to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The First Security Dialogue was held in Hanoi, which was attended by the Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. This time the Indian side was led by Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri. The visiting Deputy Minister of Vietnam also met the NSA and the Foreign Secretary.

This mechanism is crucial in determining the priorities of both the countries on regional and international affairs and to review the progress on decisions taken by political leaders of India and Vietnam. Indian and Vietnamese leaders are meeting frequently and pace did not slow down even during the pandemic. Indian PM Modi and the then Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc co-chaired a virtual summit in December 2020 and issued the India-Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People containing the guidelines for future development of India – Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The significance of this document lies in the fact that it serves as the cornerstone for a new era of India – Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In addition, seven agreements were inked that included one on implementing arrangements on defence industry cooperation and another on nuclear cooperation between India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety.
The Summit spelt out seven steps to further strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries that inter alia covered defence and security partnership with the aim of maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region, maintenance of peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and the need to ensure that negotiations of the Code of Conduct (CoC) should not prejudice the interests of other countries in the region. Both the PMs also agreed to intensify efforts to promote partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, including the shared focus on ASEAN-centrality as also to foster practical cooperation between ASEAN and India in the key areas and in line with the objectives and principles as stated in the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).
Subsequently in 2021, PM Modi spoke with the current PM Pham Minh Chinh and noted that the Indo-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership can contribute to promoting regional stability as both the countries share a similar vision of an open, inclusive, peaceful and ruled based Indian Ocean region. In April 2022 to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the establishment between the two countries, PM Modi held a telephone call with H E Nguyen Phu Trong General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. During the call PM Modi emphasised Vietnam’s stature as a pillar of India’s Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific Vision and desired to broaden the scope of the bilateral ties.
This year also saw two important delegations from India visiting Vietnam. In April, Sri Om Biral Speaker of Lok Sabha led a delegation of law-makers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations. During the visit, his Vietnamese counterpart Mr Hue spelled-out an action plan for further cooperation between the citizen representatives of the two countries.
This was followed by the visit of the Indian Defence Minister Sri Rajnath Singh in June, during which three important decisions were taken. First, India and Vietnam signed a Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030, “which will significantly enhance the scope and scale of existing defence cooperation”. Second, the Indian and Vietnam Defence Minsters agreed on the early finalisation of the $500 million Defence Line of Credit extended to Vietnam and the “implementation of the projects shall add substantially to Vietnam’s Defence capabilities” and will also push the Indian government’s vision of “make in India, make for the world’. Third, India and Vietnam also inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Logistics Support. Sri Singh visited Vietnam’s military training facilities and handed over twelve high-speed patrol boats to the Vietnamese naval fleet that was built with a $100 million line of credit and technical assistance from India, and is expected to be soon deployed along the South China Sea coast.
The Second Security Dialogue between the Public Security Ministry of Vietnam and the national Security Council Secretariat took place in the backdrop of above interactions and decisions. In this meeting the two sides reiterated their commitment for peace and security in the region. The Vietnamese delegation appreciated the Indian role in shaping the Indo-Pacific architecture. The Indian side stressed the need for implementation of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). This was earlier suggested by PM Modi as the action plan for achieving the objective of Free, Open and Inclusive Indo-Pacific (FOIP) that has seven pillars. This has similarity with the ASEAN Outlook of Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Vietnam has played an important role in the formulation AOIP.
In this security dialogue, the focus was on three aspects. First, Indian side emphasised the need for freedom of navigation and over-flights and unimpeded trade in national waters in accordance with international laws (UNCLOS). Second, the need to ensure that the proposed CoC should be fully consistent with the relevant UN convention and the negotiations should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not a party to the discussions. It may be mentioned here, that Taiwan, which has claims in the SCS, is not the party to the CoC negotiations.
Third, the two sides discussed the ways to combat terrorism and worked out the plan to cooperate to deal with the growing nexus of radicalism, terrorism and trafficking of narcotics and arms.
Both the countries have joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and are collaborating on number of critical issues including cyber security. India is also assisting Vietnam in capacity building in the defence sector. The Security Dialogue between the Ministry of Public Security and the National Security Council Secretariat constitutes an important process for frankly discussing the issues to work out plans for cooperation based on pragmatism. India looks at ties with Vietnam with a long-term and strategic perspective, and firmly believes that cooperation between the two countries can substantially contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Malaysia urges China to comply with UNCLOS

Malaysia urges China to comply with UNCLOS

 


Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said ASEAN countries are once again calling for an expedited negotiation of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (COC).

He said the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) should be complied with by China, so that the situation improves.
Vietnam and the Philippines are among countries that are directly affected by China's policies, especially in relation to the position of these countries on the so-called ‘nine-dash line’.
If China can comply with the COC, many issues will be resolved, the PM said, adding that freedom of navigation needs to be respected by all parties.
He expressed his belief that Indonesia as ASEAN Chair in 2023 can resolve issues related to the South China Sea (called the East Sea in Vietnam) and the political crisis in Myanmar, among others.
 Philippine, Singapore leaders discuss South China Sea issue

Philippine, Singapore leaders discuss South China Sea issue



Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wrapped up a two-nation Southeast Asian tour in Singapore on Wednesday, where he and local government leaders agreed to boost counter-terrorism cooperation and affirmed the importance of peace in the South China Sea.
Marcos arrived in Singapore on Tuesday after completing a state visit to Indonesia – his first foreign trip as president since he was elected in a landslide in May.
Marcos, together with Singaporean President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, agreed to strengthen cooperation on information and telecommunications technology, according to a joint statement.
“The leaders welcomed the wide-ranging and robust cooperation between both countries, including in trade and investment, counterterrorism, healthcare and digital cooperation,” said the statement issued after they met on Wednesday.
They also reaffirmed long-standing bilateral and defense ties and welcomed the signing of an agreement between their militaries to set up a joint team to be based in Singapore and that would work on “counter-terrorism information” sharing.
The two countries’ leaders also discussed topics that affect the region, including peace amid competing claims in the South China Sea, as well as the deepening political crisis in Myanmar where four activists opposed to the military regime were recently executed.
According to the joint statement, the Philippine and Singaporean leaders agreed on the importance of a “peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
They also emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the negotiations for a code of conduct on the South China Sea issue, in accordance with the same principles.
“They underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety, and to conduct substantive negotiations towards the conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea….”
On Myanmar, Marcos and Singapore’s leaders expressed “deep concern” about the post-coup political situation and called for the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

“While upholding [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’] principle of non-interference, the leaders expressed support for ASEAN’s active role in assisting Myanmar, an integral member of the ASEAN Family, to overcome the current crisis and to return to the path of democratization,” the statement said.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Việt Nam underlines international laws, solidarity at UN General Assembly's debate session

Việt Nam underlines international laws, solidarity at UN General Assembly's debate session



Vietnamese Deputy PM called on all parties in South China Sea to exercise self-restraint, refrain from unilateral activities and attempts to change the status quo, not to threaten or use force, and settle disputes by peaceful means

Vietnamese Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Phạm Bình Minh stresses multilateralisation and the need for international solidarity in his speech at the General Debate of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 24 (US time).
The Deputy PM said that "the world is at a turning point in history" when confrontations, conflicts and violations of international law continued to escalate, reflecting increasing great power rivalry and the trend of unilateralism.
Deputy PM Minh pointed out that global military spending surged to US$2.1 trillion while the international community failed to raise $100 billion tackling climate actions, threats to global security and poverty exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this dire context, he reaffirmed his support for multilateralism and emphasised the need for international solidarity and partnerships at all levels.
On a national level, he affirmed that cooperation was indispensable during the đổi mới (renewal), resulting in Việt Nam being on track to become a developed, high-income country by 2045. Emphasising that his country is not an exception, he encouraged the international community to choose partnership over mistrust to bring about positive change.
"The world needs to move on from the win-lose and confrontational mindset, and pushes for open, inclusive, equal, win-win international cooperation."
"We express our consistent stance of solidarity with the Cuban people and call for the immediate lifting of unilateral embargoes against Cuba that are contrary to international law," he noted.
Deputy PM Minh emphasised that it was necessary to respect international law and respect the UN Charter, especially respect for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of countries, and underlined the need to settle disputes by peaceful means.
On this note, he called for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, and offered his country’s support towards diplomatic efforts and the country’s reconstruction.
At the same time, it was necessary to build strong and effective multilateral institutions, with the UN playing the central role, to promote global partnerships, taking into account the important role of regional organisations in the response to common challenges.
Regarding the regional situation, the Vietnamese leader highlighted that Southeast Asian countries were making efforts to build a strong and united ASEAN Community, which would play a central role in the regional security architecture and promote cooperation with partners.
The Deputy PM also highly appreciated ASEAN's efforts to find comprehensive solutions to problems in the region, including the situation in Myanmar.
He noted that it is imperative to maintain peace, stability, security and maritime safety in the South China Sea (known as the East Sea in Việt Nam) and called on all parties to exercise self-restraint, refrain from unilateral activities and attempts to change the status quo, not to threaten or use force, and settle disputes by peaceful means, respecting legal and diplomatic processes, in accordance with international law, the UN Charter, and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Recalling the statement of the President of the 32nd UN General Assembly that Việt Nam’s accession to the UN was an important step in strengthening peace and security in the world, Deputy PM Minh said that assessment was still valid to this day, reflected in Việt Nam’s efforts in maintaining international peace and security, increasing participation in UN peacekeeping activities, and promoting a balanced and constructive approach to jointly seek long-term solutions to international problems, for the common interest of all member states.
He noted that "Việt Nam always promotes mutual understanding and respect, cooperation and dialogue" at the UN Human Rights Council and looks forward to receiving support from other countries for Việt Nam’s candidacy as a member of the council for the 2023-2025 term, adding that “In unity there is strength, with solidarity and partnerships there is power.”

Saturday, September 24, 2022

UNCLOS values remain fresh 40 years after coming into force

UNCLOS values remain fresh 40 years after coming into force



 The final document of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was adopted on April 30, 1982, after nine years of negotiations, and was opened for signature on December 10, 1982.

Signed in 1982 and then enforced in 1994, the convention is considered the ‘Constitution of the Oceans’ as it serves as the legal framework governing all activities at sea and is the only legal basis comprehensively defining the scope of the maritime entitlements of nations. To date, the Convention has been ratified by 167 countries and the EU.
Vietnam, together with 107 countries and territories globally, signed the document on December 10, 1982. The National Assembly of Vietnam then issued a resolution on the ratification of the document on June 23, 1994. Eighteen years later the Vietnam Maritime Law was promulgated on the basis of the provisions of UNCLOS and international law.
‘The Constitution of the Oceans’
For the first time, UNCLOS clearly defines all oceanic spaces on Earth, all living and non-living natural resources, as well as all marine utilities on an equitable basis in an attempt to protect the legitimate interests of small and developing countries.
Most notably, the document fully clarifies seven sea areas, from internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, high seas, and the seabed. On this basis, coastal states have a full legal basis to be able to establish and protect their rights and obligations at sea.
UNCLOS serves to create legal and institutional frameworks for the management of sea and ocean related activities. On the basis of the principle that ‘the land dominates the sea’, the Convention allows coastal states to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, as measured from baselines. In this area, countries are able to enforce their own laws on customs, tax, immigration, and environmental protection, among other things.
Furthermore, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extends to 200 nautical miles from the baseline, from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. Within the exclusive economic zone, countries are able to enjoy exclusive rights to natural resources. To a certain extent, this legal framework serves as a reference for states when they make maritime claims.
Laos, despite being a landlocked country, has also ratified the UNCLOS because “it not only grants coastal states access to economic opportunities, but also allows landlocked countries to access the sea and freely navigate the seas,” according to Ambassador Mai Sayavongs of the Institute of Foreign Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos.
Furthermore, UNCLOS also creates legal frameworks for the use of marine resources, as well as for sustainable and effective socio-economic development, while simultaneously ensuring the preservation of the marine environment. This is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 14 on “Marine Life” conservation.
“Serving as a constitution, UNCLOS defines a legal order, the rights and obligations of not only coastal but also landlocked states and those with special geographical circumstances. Based on the document, countries have had a complete basis for sustainable management of the sea as well as for peaceful settlement of disputes in order to bring common prosperity to all countries,” states Dr. Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, acting director of the East Sea Institute under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.
Most important achievement of international law
UNCLOS is widely considered to be one of the most important achievements of international law and the UN of the 20th century as it serves as the basis for the formation and protection of the legal order at sea in a comprehensive manner.
It can be assessed that UNCLOS is the most complete and comprehensive document which creates a legal order at sea, unlike previously when countries were able to extend their waters without limits. It identifies seas belonging to national sovereignty, national jurisdiction, and the whole of humanity, and it is apparently a great contribution of the legal document.
The Convention also lays down rules for activities at sea as a whole, contributing to shaping a legal regime at sea. Assoc. Prof. & Dr. Ambassador Nguyen Hong Thao affirms, “The value of UNCLOS is great as it is the first convention with a binding dispute settlement mechanism when countries that have joined UNCLOS have the right to choose one of four forms of settlement if there is a dispute.”
States can also choose either the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), or arbitrators according to Annex VII and Annex VIII of the Convention, in order to settle a dispute. Arbitrators are requested to resolve disputes between parties, as was the case back in 2013 between the Philippines and China.
Rudiger Wolfrum, former president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, has said UNCLOS plays a fundamental role in terms of the development of international law of the sea as it helps to promote peace, security, and co-operation among states, as well as sustainable development of seas and oceans globally.
Amid increasing challenges at sea, the international community is required to uphold the rule of law and fully comply in good faith with legal obligations under the Convention, especially in terms of making claims and conducting operations at sea. States should therefore strive to promote co-operation at international and regional levels for the conservation and sustainable use of seas and oceans, while ensuring that freedom of navigation and lawful navigational activities continue.
“Over the past 40 years UNCLOS has created universal values. Many provisions of UNCLOS that have come into practice are applied as customary international law and are generally legally binding on states regardless of their membership status. States, whether large or small, with development potential or not, share an equal obligation to implement the universal values of UNCLOS in order to contribute to the general peace and stability of the marine environment and the world,” emphasises Dr. Lan Anh.
UNCLOS values remain fresh
All countries agree that UNCLOS is the “Constitution of the Ocean” which has been observed for 40 years. No one had expressed any need to revise the document until the Philippines filed a lawsuit against China in the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, in 2013. In doing so, some arguments were raised that UNCLOS does not provide a comprehensive legal framework for the oceans, or that UNCLOS should be developed and improved, and that UNCLOS is vague and incomplete.
Ambassador Nguyen Hong Thao, a member of the UN International Law Commission (ILC) for the 2017 to 2021 and 2023 to 2027 tenures, stresses that, “UNCLOS is the constitution of the ocean. As the constitution, it sets out the principles and basic issues, as opposed to going into details. It is not advisable to ask for a constitutional amendment because of a specific issue. When there are major problems, countries will meet and discuss to address issues on the basis of the Convention.”
He continues by saying, “UNCLOS, like other international conventions, is based on the agreement and concessions made by the states, so there may be provisions that are not clear. That depends on the interpretation and application of international law. We do not say who misinterpret the matter, but this is a cognitive process. These also cannot be called loopholes, because UNCLOS is the Constitution of the Oceans.”
In fact, several additional agreements have been introduced in order to enforce UNCLLOS, including an agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the document and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. These agreements have been adopted as a means of further developing issues as opposed to changing UNCLOS.
Currently, negotiations are underway to form an agreement regarding the conservation of biodiversity in the seas beyond national jurisdiction. Only a few countries hold that the management and conservation of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) be a change.
According to Dr. Lan Anh, it is inevitable that some of UNCLOS regulations are not strict enough due to the intertwined interests of groups of countries and compromises are required to achieve a complete convention. However, the reality of the past 40 years has proved that UNCLOS is not outdated and still remains a legal framework which provides a foundation for countries to develop.
As time flies, there will also be fresh challenges to the seas and oceans that UNCLOS have yet to adjust to, such as those related to climate change, sea level rise, or the disposal of waste, especially plastics, at sea. Countries will therefore continue to meet and discuss to address all the new issues arising in a constructive manner.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

South China sea patrols to continue as RAAF declares China's air defences are 'not impenetrable'

South China sea patrols to continue as RAAF declares China's air defences are 'not impenetrable'



 Australia's new Air Force Chief has declared surveillance missions will continue in the South China Sea despite a "recent spate of unsafe incidences" in the contested international airspace claimed by Beijing.

Earlier this year Defence revealed a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft had conducted a "dangerous" intercept of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) surveillance plane in the region, prompting a diplomatic protest.

During the May 26 confrontation the Chinese military plane released aluminium chaff that was ingested by the Australian P-8's engines, a move Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned as dangerous and aggressive.
Air Marshal Robert Chipman has described recent encounters with the People's Liberation Army as "robust to say the least" and demanded the Chinese military adhere to higher standards of "professionalism".
"We see the Chinese as an incredibly capable, modern military — what should follow is high standards of professionalism, and we would like to see the same standards of professionalism from the Chinese that we extend to them," the RAAF Chief said.
In his first comments to the media since his appointment last month, the RAAF Chief also warned China had established a "formidable aerospace capability" in the South China Sea, but military operations could still be conducted there.
"It doesn't make it impenetrable and it doesn't mean you can't deliver military effects to achieve your interests when you are operating against China, so I don't think to that extent it's an exclusive area to us," he said.
Speaking alongside the visiting US Secretary for the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Marshal Chipman said he didn't believe there would be an increase in confrontations with Australian aircraft.
"Certainly, we have seen a recent spate of unsafe incidences, but it's not a trend line that we can see sustained," he told media inside Defence Headquarters in Canberra.
"Our operations haven't changed, it is still business as usual for us, we force generate our crews to a very high standard, they're capable of operating in contested environments and so we think they're well equipped to keep operating in the South China Sea."
Last month the ABC revealed Australian warship HMAS Parramatta had been closely tracked by the Chinese military during a recent operation in the South China Sea, including being followed by a nuclear-powered submarine.
Secretary Kendall described China's increasing militarisation in the South China Sea as an attempt to develop capabilities to keep nations away from its shores.
"They are as formidable a strategic opponent as I have seen, we are in what I consider to be a race for military technological superiority with the Chinese," he said.
Both men spoke to the media after holding top level talks on deepening air force and space co-operation with a particular focus on projects such as the Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft.

Monday, June 6, 2022

United States extends support to Philippines in criticising China's fishing ban in South China Sea

United States extends support to Philippines in criticising China's fishing ban in South China Sea

 


The US backed the Philippines in opposing China's unilateral seasonal ban on fishing in the disputed South China Sea. The US also asked China to abide by its obligations under international law.

The United States on Thursday extended support to the Philippines in opposing China's unilateral seasonal ban on fishing in the disputed South China Sea, reported AFP. The US State Department cited a 2016 ruling by a court in The Hague to criticise China's move.
Notably, the court had rejected Beijing's claims as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by China. "The PRC's unilateral fishing moratorium in the South China Sea is inconsistent with the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling and international law," State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter.
The US also asked China to abide by its obligations under international law. Earlier this week, the Philippines had also filed a diplomatic protest with China over the unilateral ban. Manila also complained of harassment by China's coast guard.
The Philippines foreign ministry accused China of disrupting a joint marine scientific research mission and energy exploration activities in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). On Thursday, Beijing rejected Manila's protest, reported the Philippines' digital portal, Philstar.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the ban. He said that the ban is a standard measure to safeguard Beijing's resources. China's ban on fishing in the South China sea is in effect from May 1 to Aug. 16.
Last week, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos vowed to defend the sovereignty of his country and to stand up against China's encroachment policy, reported Reuters. The Philippines and China shared bitter relations in the past due to territorial disputes in the South China sea.
Richard Marles reveals what happened when Chinese J-16 jet intercepted RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft over South China Sea

Richard Marles reveals what happened when Chinese J-16 jet intercepted RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft over South China Sea



 The Defence Minister has revealed further details about what happened when a Chinese military jet intercepted an Australian aircraft last month in what has been described by Defence officials as a "dangerous manoeuvre".

Defence Minister Richard Marles has revealed details into the incident between a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and a Chinese military jet in the South China Sea.
The Defence Department released a statement on Sunday to announce a P-8 plane was intercepted by a jet during "routine maritime surveillance" in international airspace.
A "dangerous manoeuvre" by the Chinese aircraft left the Australian crew on the P-8 maritime plane fearing for their safety.
"Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace," it said in a statement.
Mr Marles was briefed on the "very dangerous" incident and detailed what occurred last month on May 26 over the highly disputed body of water.
"What occurred was that the J-16 (Chinese) aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 (Australian) maritime surveillance aircraft," he said.
"In flying close to the side, it released flares.
"The J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance.
"At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff, which contains small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.
"Quite obviously, this is very dangerous."
He said the crew, who were uninjured, responded "professionally and in a manner which would make us all proud" by returning the plane to its base.
The Australian Government have expressed their concerns and flagged the issue with Beijing.
Mr Marles said China have responded but he would not reveal what Chinese officials have said, adding it was a "matter for them" to address.
He defended the actions of the Australian crew who were in the region for surveillance activity which it has regularly undertaken in the South China Sea "for decades".
"Other countries do the same," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
"We are operating completely within our rights in international law because the South China Sea matters to Australia because most of our trade traverses the South China Sea.
"We are deeply invested in the rights of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
"And so, to that end, I want to make it very clear this incident will not deter Australia to engage in these activities which are within our rights at international law to assure there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea that is fundamentally in our nation’s interests."
He was then quizzed whether tensions could further escalate between Beijing and Canberra after the latest incident between their aircrafts.
Mr Marles stressed he did not want to see an increase in militarisation in the South China Sea.
"This is a body of water that is deeply connected to Australia because of our trade which goes through there," the Defence Minister said.
"What’s important is to let the Australian public know what has occurred and the representations we have made to China."
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese repeated the remarks from Defence during a press conference in Western Australia prior to Mr Marles revealing the details.
"I won't be making further comment on it, other than to say that in the Australian Government's view, in the Defence Department's view, this was not safe, what occurred, and we've made appropriate representations to the Chinese government expressing our concern at this," he said.
The 59-year-old was questioned if he was sending "mixed signals" as the statement could insist Australia viewed China as a rival instead of a partner.
"We have strategic competition in the region," Mr Albanese said in response before he jets off to Jakarta to meet dignitaries alongside Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
"What we need to do is to make sure that we have competition, recognise that it's there without catastrophe. And I certainly seek peaceful relations with all of our neighbours, recognising the challenges, though, which are there."
He is expected to speak to Indonesia Prime Minister Joko Widodo in a bilateral leaders' meeting about China's growing influence in the Pacific region and discussions about his pledge of further aid and a special envoy for the region.