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Monday, May 29, 2023

 US Senate delegation supports Vietnam's stance on South China Sea

US Senate delegation supports Vietnam's stance on South China Sea


The U.S. Senate delegation said they support Vietnam and ASEAN's stance on issues at the South China Sea during a Friday meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

At the reception for the delegation, led by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, Chinh said Vietnam has always valued its comprehensive partnership with the U.S. and the fact that both countries continued holding high-level exchanges over time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

Chinh requested both countries to continue bolstering cooperation regarding the economy, commerce, investment, science and technology, education and training, digital transformation and climate change response, among other fields.

He also hoped that the U.S. Senators would support opening up the market and limiting anti-dumping investigations and other trade defense measures on Vietnamese goods, especially agriculture and aquaculture products. Chinh also requested the U.S. Congress to use resources to cooperate with Vietnam to resolve wartime consequences, as well as providing opportunities for the Vietnamese community in the U.S.

The U.S. Senators said they support a strong, independent and prosperous Vietnam, as well as its independence, sovereignty and political institution. They said they would strive to bolster the two countries' relations, commerce and investment, as well as supporting negotiations for bilateral and multilateral trade agreements where the two countries are a part of.

The Senators said they support Vietnam and ASEAN's stance on issues at the South China Sea, stressing the need to maintain peace, stability, freedom, security and safety in the waterway, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

Vietnam and the U.S. normalized relations in 1995, and upgraded their relationship to comprehensive partnership in 2013. Bilateral trade between the two reached over $123.86 billion in 2022, a 11% increase from 2021. The U.S. is the largest export market, and the second largest commercial partner for Vietnam.

The U.S.'s direct investments into Vietnam reached over $11 billion, with over 1,200 projects, placing it 11th among all countries and territories that directly invest into Vietnam.

Around 30,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the U.S., contributing $1 billion to its economy.

In March, General Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had a dialogue with U.S. President Joe Biden, requesting the two countries to place economic, scientific and technological cooperation to be the centerpiece and drive for their relations. Biden meanwhile said Vietnam is an important partner and that the U.S. supports an independent and prosperous Vietnam.

Việt Nam demands China withdraw survey ship, vessels from Vietnamese waters

Việt Nam demands China withdraw survey ship, vessels from Vietnamese waters


Việt Nam on Thursday demanded China withdraw survey ship Xiang Yang Hong 10 and the escorting flotilla of coast guard vessels and fishing vessels from Vietnamese waters.

 Việt Nam on Thursday demanded China withdraw the survey ship Xiang Yang Hong 10 and its escorting flotilla of coast guard and fishing vessels from Vietnamese waters.

Deputy spokesperson for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng made the remark in response to a reporter's question on Việt Nam's reaction to recent Chinese intrusion by Chinese vessels into Việt Nam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the East Sea (known internationally as the South China Sea).

"As previously reported, the Chinese survey ship Xiang Yang Hong 10, along with a number of accompanying coast guard and fishing vessels, has violated Việt Nam's EEZ, which was established in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982," Hằng said.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant agencies have repeatedly communicated with Chinese authorities and implemented measures in accordance with international law and Vietnamese law to ensure Việt Nam's legitimate rights and interests, the deputy spokesperson stressed.


Việt Nam demands that relevant Chinese agencies comply with the common perceptions of the high-level leadership of the two countries, immediately end their provocative activities, withdraw the Xiang Yang Hong 10 and other coast guard and fishing vessels from Vietnamese waters, respect Việt Nam's sovereignty and jurisdictional rights, strictly abide by the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, towards the maintenance of peace, cooperation, and development in the East Sea, and contribute to the development of bilateral relations.

Earlier last week, at the 20th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC  held in the northern province of Quảng Ninh of Việt Nam, Ambassador Vũ Hồ, Acting Head of ASEAN SOM Việt Nam, said that given the complex situation and ongoing unilateral actions that violate international law in the East Sea, the ambassador suggested that countries should combine "words with deeds" by translating political commitments into specific and appropriate actions in the field.

In such spirit, he highlighted the need to use international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as a 'lodestar' for activities in the East Sea.




Wednesday, May 24, 2023

G7 declares support for South China Sea arbitral ruling

G7 declares support for South China Sea arbitral ruling


Japan – Leaders of seven of the world’s most powerful democracies or the G7 have declared support for the 2016 international arbitral ruling voiding China’s massive maritime claims, and asked Beijing to stop its militarization of the South China Sea where it has built military bases on reclaimed land features.

“There is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China’s militarization activities in the region,” the G7 leaders said in a communiqué issued yesterday during their three-day summit here, the first time in Asia in seven years. The summit ends today.

In the communiqué, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said they “are determined to work together and with

others to support a free and open Indo-Pacific and oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.”

They said they “remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas.”

“We emphasize the universal and unified character of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and reaffirm UNCLOS’s important role in setting out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and the seas,” the joint statement read.

“We reiterate that the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016 is a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties,” the G7 leaders said.

The G7 did not specifically mention the Philippines in its Leader’s Communiqué but it was Manila – during the Aquino administration – which won the case it filed in 2013 before the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, contesting Beijing’s so-called nine-dash line. China’s claims cover almost the entire South China Sea. Interestingly, China has a similar territorial dispute with Japan, over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The leaders also declared that they “will champion international principles and shared values by upholding and reinforcing the free and open international order based on the rule of law, respecting the UN Charter to the benefit of countries, large and small” while “strongly opposing any unilateral attempts to change the peacefully established status of territories by force or coercion anywhere in the world and reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is prohibited.”

The G7 leaders likewise reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, describing the same as indispensable to security and prosperity in the international community.

“There is no change in the basic positions of the G7 members on Taiwan, including stated one-China policies. We call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” they said.

“We reiterate the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive, prosperous, secure, based on the rule of law and that protects shared principles, including sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes and fundamental freedoms and human rights,” the G7 leaders added.


Despite their position on the South China Sea, the G7 leaders said they “stand prepared to build constructive and stable relations with China, recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China.”

“We act in our national interest. It is necessary to cooperate with China, given its role in the international community and the size of its economy, on global challenges as well as areas of common interest,” they said.

“We call on China to engage with us, including in international fora, on areas such as the climate and biodiversity crisis and the conservation of natural resources in the framework of the Paris and Kunming-Montreal Agreements, addressing vulnerable countries’ debt sustainability and financing needs, global health and macroeconomic stability,” the G7 leaders said.

“Our policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development. A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest,” they pointed out.

“We are not decoupling or turning inwards. At the same time, we recognize that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying. We will take steps, individually and collectively, to invest in our own economic vibrancy. We will reduce excessive dependencies in our critical supply chains,” they added.

The G7, they said, “will push for a level playing field for our workers and companies” with a view to enabling sustainable economic relations with China and strengthening the international trading system.

“We will seek to address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy. We will counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure,” they said.

The leaders also vowed to “foster resilience to economic coercion” and stressed the “necessity of protecting certain advanced technologies that could be used to threaten our national security without unduly limiting trade and investment.”

With the Hiroshima Summit, the G7 leaders said they are “more united than ever in our determination to meet the global challenges of this moment and set the course for a better future. Our work is rooted in respect for the Charter of the United Nations and international partnership.”

During the summit, the leaders have also issued joint statements and declarations on various issues including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, economic resilience and economic security, among other issues.



Sunday, May 21, 2023

 Vietnam opposes China opening restaurant at Paracel Islands

Vietnam opposes China opening restaurant at Paracel Islands


 Vietnam opposes China opening a restaurant on Woody Island in the Paracels, announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday, stating that the act would be a violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.

"We stress that Vietnam has the full legal basis for, and historical evidence to affirm, sovereignty over the Paracel Islands in accordance with international law," said deputy spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pham Thu Hang at a press conference.

Hang was responding to inquiries regarding China opening a restaurant on Woody Island, part of the Paracel archipelago, in April.

"Vietnam resolutely opposes all activities that violate its sovereignty and rights over the islands," Hang said.

The Paracel Islands, which Vietnam calls Hoang Sa, have been illegally occupied by China since 1974. Vietnam has voiced its opposition to China’s illegal activities at the East Sea multiple times.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Việt Nam is implementing "appropriate measures" to ensure its rights in South China Sea

Việt Nam is implementing "appropriate measures" to ensure its rights in South China Sea


 "Việt Nam holds sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction towards the waters in the South China Sea in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng said.

Vietnamese authorities are taking appropriate measures to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of Việt Nam in the East Sea (known internationally as the South China Sea).

Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng made the remarks on Thursday during the press briefing in Hà Nội, in response to questions over Việt Nam's reaction to reports of activities of a Chinese survey vessel operating within Việt Nam's waters in recent days.

"Việt Nam holds sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction towards the waters in the South China Sea in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Hằng said.

For incidents that infringe upon the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Việt Nam over these waters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Vietnamese authorities are implementing "appropriate measures in accordance with international and Vietnamese law to ensure the lawful and legitimate rights and interests of Việt Nam."

On a related issue, with regards to the recent opening of a Hong Kong restaurant in Phú Lâm (Woody) Island of Việt Nam's Hoàng Sa (Paracel) archipelago by the Chinese authorities, Hằng said Việt Nam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands accordance with international law.

"We strongly oppose any action that violates Việt Nam's sovereignty and sovereign rights over these islands," the foreign ministry's representative stressed.

On Philippine Coast Guard's installation of navigational buoys to assert sovereignty over Spratly Islands, the deputy spokesperson said that "As reiterated on numerous occasions, Việt Nam has sufficient historical ground and legal basis to assert its sovereignty over Trường Sa (Spratly) Islands in accordance with international law."

Việt Nam objects to all actions that breach the country's sovereignty and sovereign rights over the archipelago, Hằng said.

Việt Nam asks all relevant parties respect Việt Nam's sovereignty, international law, the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and to make meaningful and active contributions to the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea, as well as create favourable conditions for the negotiations of the Code of Conduct (COC). 



Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Restarting search and rescue cooperation in the South China Sea

Restarting search and rescue cooperation in the South China Sea


China’s easing of COVID-19 countermeasures in December 2022 spurred the resumption of several economic and social activities that were impossible six months prior. International travel and tourism have gradually restarted while international meetings and conferences can once again be held in China. China’s reopening provides hope for the resumption of state-to-state political cooperation too, especially on the South China Sea.

High on the agenda is the negotiation of the South China Sea Code of Conduct (CoC), which was delayed for more than two years due to the pandemic. Although parties hope for the CoC’s earliest conclusion, officials are still unable to give a clear timeline on when that might occur.

The conclusion and ratification of the CoC would be a major milestone for ASEAN–China relations and the South China Sea dispute. It would showcase the ability of both parties to accept differences and agree on a potentially legally binding document.

But the CoC should not be seen as a ‘Holy Grail’ that will automatically resolve the South China Sea dispute. The notion that the CoC will become a conflict resolution tool is debatable. At best, it may serve as a conflict management tool to facilitate the eventual resolution of conflicts. This would require a vast array of practical cooperation, such as marine scientific research, fishing, transnational crime prevention and search and rescue (SAR) cooperation.

SAR cooperation has seen a welcome development in 2023.

The ASEAN Agreement on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Cooperation was published in January 2023. The agreement is designed to develop and strengthen SAR cooperation between ASEAN member states and facilitate SAR cooperation without prejudice to the sovereignty of ASEAN member states.

Considering that not all ASEAN member states have ratified the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, ASEAN’s 2023 SAR document marks an important milestone in promoting SAR cooperation in the region after years of negotiation.

The agreement is still awaiting ratification from all ASEAN member states before coming into force. Once ratified, it will replace the 2010 ASEAN Declaration on Cooperation in Search and Rescue of Persons and Vessels in Distress at Sea.

It is now up to all ASEAN member states to maintain the momentum and confidence gained from the successful negotiation of the foundational SAR agreement. The agreement will also establish common standards across ASEAN members in SAR cooperation. Establishing harmonised standards is fundamental to ASEAN pursuing further cooperation with its external partners, such as China.

It is in the interest of all parties to respond quickly to any maritime incidents in the South China Sea. To respond properly to accidents and distress calls, South China Sea littoral states should have standard operating procedures.

A March 2023 tabletop exercise involving Southeast Asian and Chinese SAR officers noted that more joint exercises are needed to minimise miscommunication and mismanagement in joint SAR operations. Regular joint training and drills would also help to increase confidence between the countries involved and cement the personal relationship between the parties.

On the other hand, South China Sea littoral states in Southeast Asia face asset limitations. Deploying maritime vessels from each littoral state’s coastline to the middle of the South China Sea would require between 3–27 hours. Fixed-wing and rotary-wing assets would take significantly less time but have less endurance.

Littoral states should consider the possibility of adding more assets in the area, perhaps by positioning 

SAR vessels and aircraft in areas closer to the South China Sea. Such asset deployment may be misunderstood as a further escalation in the region, so it may be wise for countries to deploy assets that do not possess lethal or military-grade weapons.

China has offered the use of its facilities in the South China Sea as SAR staging grounds. But this is considered to be a ploy to normalise Chinese administration over disputed waters.

Enhancing response time should also come with more transparent and efficient information sharing between the countries involved. States are often reluctant to share sensitive information for fear of jeopardising their national interests or sovereignty.

SAR operations are supposed to be carried out without prejudice, as they strive to save lives. Hence, an effective SAR response mechanism will ensure an immediate and appropriate response to distress calls from the region.

States should not only be content with having the most up-to-date information at hand, but they should also start to develop the necessary analytical capabilities for SAR responses. Information processing to analyse key patterns in incidents and disaster occurrences, such as hazardous areas or weather anomalies, enables more effective responses.

With much international attention on the South China Sea dispute, it is time for ASEAN and China to demonstrate their ability to rise above their disputes to cooperate on saving lives.


Friday, April 28, 2023

 5,223 students gather to form giant map of Vietnam

5,223 students gather to form giant map of Vietnam


As many as 5,223 students of Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education (HCMUTE) have collaborated in creating a giant map in the shape of Vietnam to mark the 50th anniversary of National Reunification Day (April 30, 2025).

The students in uniforms of the university on April 23 came together to perform the same movements with melodies of the national anthem and the traditional song of the Vietnam Students' Association.

They made the shape of the nation, including the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes to confirm the country’s marine sovereignty.

Vietnam Records Organization (VietKings) recognised the performance as a national record for making a Vietnam map and singing the national anthem with most participants.

Nguyen Thi Quynh Ngoc, general secretary of VietKings, said the performance conveyed a message about the solidarity, creativity, and patriotism of young people.

So far VietKings has recognized more than 3,000 records in the country, and the latest event has brought plenty of emotion and pride, she shared.


 Overseas Vietnamese visit national sea and islands

Overseas Vietnamese visit national sea and islands


This was the tenth time overseas Vietnamese have visited the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago via a program co-held by the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Naval Service.


The delegation had more than 200 members, including 47 overseas Vietnamese from 22 countries across the world. They toured some islands and the DK1/16 Platform, and joined many meaningful activities, such as a flag raising ceremony in Truong Sa Island, offering incense to pay tribute to fallen soldiers, and art exchanges, among others.

Partaking in an art exchange with soldiers


Philippines reports ‘confrontation’ with China in South China Sea

Philippines reports ‘confrontation’ with China in South China Sea


Philippines Coast Guard accuses China of engaging in ‘dangerous maneuvers’ around Second Thomas Shoal

 The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has said two of its vessels were involved in a “confrontation” with the Chinese navy in the disputed South China Sea and accused the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) of engaging in “dangerous maneuvers” at Second Thomas Shoal, a long-running flashpoint between the two countries.

The first incident occurred when the Chinese navy ship “crossed paths” with the coastguard boats 7 nautical miles (13km) from Pag-asa Island on April 21, the PCG said in a statement on Friday. The rock in the disputed Spratly Islands, also known as Thitu Island, was occupied by the Philippines in the 1970s and is now home to as many as 400 people.

 The second incident took place at the same time as the PCG was taking a number of journalists on a tour of the area.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international court ruling brought by the Philippines that there was no historical basis for its claim.

The ruling also found that China’s actions had breached several articles under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on safety and navigation at sea following incidents at Scarborough Shoal in 2012, according to Lyle Morris, a senior fellow for foreign policy and national security at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis.

Despite the 2016 decision, Beijing has continued to expand and develop military outposts and deploy fishing fleets, its maritime militia and the coastguard to assert its claim to the South China Sea.

The PCG statement said its ships had also encountered more than 100 alleged Chinese maritime militia vessels during their weeklong patrol of shoals and features around the West Philippine Sea, which ended on April 24.

As well as China and the Philippines, states including Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as self-ruled Taiwan have claims on the South China Sea.

The Philippines in February accused China of using a powerful laser against one of its ships on a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal and lodged a protest.

The shoal lies about 195km (121 miles) northwest of the Philippine province of Palawan in the disputed Spratly Islands, and is home to a small group of Philippine soldiers who are living on board a rusting second world war-era ship known as the Sierra Madre, which was deliberately grounded there in 1999 to underline the Philippines’ claim to the island chain.

CCG patrols were also involved in a serious confrontation with Vietnamese vessels near key Vietnamese gas and oil fields last month, while tensions have been building too near Malaysia’s Kasawari gas development project, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.



Overhyped HIMARS ‘Hits & Misses’ 6 Times To Sink Its Target In Live-Fire Drills In The South China Sea

Overhyped HIMARS ‘Hits & Misses’ 6 Times To Sink Its Target In Live-Fire Drills In The South China Sea


One of the US Army’s most popular weapons, the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), missed its target during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on April 26.

The live-fire exercise was part of this year’s edition of the annual US-Philippines’ Balikatan’ military exercises, and the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. observed from a tower with US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson seated beside him as the much-touted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS missed its target, which was a decommissioned warship.

The two HIMARS launchers fired six times at the former Philippine navy corvette, BRP Pangasinan, and missed each time; however, a barrage of ordnance from the US and Philippine artillery and aircraft finally sank the vessel.

The Balikatan exercise, the largest even in terms of troop numbers with more than 17,000 US and Filipino troops, is said to demonstrate further evidence of a decided shift of the Philippines, under the leadership of Marcos, toward its longtime ally, the United States.

Whereas, under former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila seemed to be inching closer toward Beijing, despite the Philippines being among the several countries with a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea and China continuing to assert control over maritime territory claimed by the Philippines.

The location of the target vessel was monitored by Hermes 900 drone and other redundant sensors, which transmitted the information to a combined intelligence fusion effects center (CIFEC) at Camp Aquino in Tarlac, which in turn, handed orders to the firing units.

Meanwhile, a narrator over a public address system described the action down range, as the vessel was invisible over the horizon.

HIMARS’ Failure To Hit Its Target

To simulate a real-world scenario in which troops have to sink an adversary ship, the first HIMARS rocket was targeted at the center mast of the vessel to take out its communication system, while the rest of the five rounds were intended to sink it.

However, the first shot missed the target because the vessel was drifting and “was not in the correct location,” as announced by US military personnel. The first shot missed the target vessel by approximately six to nine meters, while the five other shots hit different points.

A second set of HIMARS rockets were then prepared for firing while the CIFEC calculated the new position of BRP Pangasinan; however, an aerial intruder was detected by the US and Philippine military radars, which delayed the exercise by a few minutes.

“The range is cold because of safety issues, because of an aerial interloper that was reported to have entered the opera box [operational box]. We are waiting for the range to clear. The interloper was a private unregistered single craft aircraft in the middle of the ocean,” a US military personnel announced.

Once the intruder was escorted out of the operational area, the second set of HIMARS rockets were fired, and the exercise continued.

“Shore-based fire against a ship is exceptionally hard,” Lt. Col. Nick Mannweiler, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said during the drill at Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui.

According to Mannweiler, the failure of the HIMARS to hit a vessel at sea was not a big deal. He said that the training tested the ability of the troops to sense a ship and pass on the targeting information to weapons operated by the US and the Philippines.

The training “sets the condition for more fruitful work like this in the future,” Mannweiler said.

The HIMARS launchers belong to the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash, and Marcos inspected one of the launchers before the live-fire exercise. That launcher, called ‘Wild Bill,’ is part of Outlaw Platoon, said Alpha Battery commander Capt. Cody Dobiyanski, who showed Marcos around.

After the HIMARS was fired, artillerymen from the 25th Infantry Division and their Philippine counterparts fired 105-millimeter and 155-millimeter rounds at the boat from their howitzers. The spokesperson for the 25th Infantry Division, Maj, said those rounds were on target. Jeff Tolbert.

Finally, the US and Philippine warplanes took turns attacking the vessel with guns and bombs. A US Air Force (USAF) MQ-9 Reaper drone flew overhead the vessel, providing images of the target to commanders calling in the strikes.

The final blow was delivered by a Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lighting II stealth fighter, and the vessel is said to have sunk at around 2:50 p.m.

Philippine Army Col. Mike Logico, director of the Joint Command Training Center, told reporters that Marcos understands the challenges of a large-scale bilateral exercise.

“What we demonstrated was the capabilities of the HIMARS and probably also its limitations,” he said.

In actual combat, the US forces would probably employ torpedoes or Harpoon missiles against a warship, Mannweiler said.

HIMARS Not Effective Against Mobile Targets?

The failure of the HIMARS system in a live-fire exercise is certainly newsworthy, particularly because of the fame it has risen to due to its involvement in the Ukraine war. However, this cannot be considered a reflection of the overall efficacy of the HIMARS MLRS system.

HIMARS have been credited with turning the tide of the ongoing war in favor of the Ukrainian armed forces, as they enabled them to destroy Russian positions far from the frontlines by leveraging the long-range HIMARS rockets.

The HIMARS MLRS provided Ukraine with a rapid precision strike capability at standoff ranges without needing air power, thereby allowing the Ukrainian military to compensate for the small size of its air force.

In fact, the effectiveness of HIMARS on the Ukrainian battlefield has been acknowledged publicly by pro-Kremlin figures, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

For example, in July last year, a former commander of Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, Igor Girkin, said that “the Russian air defense systems, which relatively (very relatively) coped with attacks with the help of “Tochek-U” and “Uraganov” – turned out to be ineffective against massive strikes by Hymers (HIMARS) missiles.”

There has also been some appreciation of the precision of HIMARS rockets from Russian eyewitness accounts, such as Roman Saponkov, a Russian military blogger, embedded with frontline Russian forces who were present during a HIMARS strike on Chernobaevka, Kherson, on July 9, 2022, which made quite an impression on him.

“As it happened yesterday, I watched the HIMARS strike on Chernobaevka, Kherson, almost before our eyes. I have been under fire many times, but I was struck that the package, 5 or 6 missiles, landed almost into a penny. Usually, MLRS fall over large areas and at maximum distance scatter in a fan-like manner,” Saponkov said in a Telegram post.

Notably, the HIMARS MLRS was instrumental for the Ukrainian forces during their counteroffensive in Kherson, as it enabled them to consistently pound the Russian supply bridges across the Dnipro River until they were rendered unusable.

Ultimately, the Russian forces were forced to withdraw from the western bank of the Dnipro River to the eastern bank, as they could not be supplied or reinforced without these bridges.

That said, it is also important to note that the target vessel was drifting during the recent live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, and the HIMARS system, as experts have previously told EurAsian Times, is more suitable against stationary targets rather than mobile targets.

This could perhaps help explain why the HIMARS failed to hit the target boat, notwithstanding its stellar performance in Ukraine.










Malaysia’s energy needs face Chinese pushback in South China Sea

Malaysia’s energy needs face Chinese pushback in South China Sea


Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has insisted gas and oil exploration will continue despite objections by Beijing.

When Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made his first official visit to China earlier this month, Chinese officials questioned Malaysia’s oil and gas exploration within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

China was concerned that state-owned energy company Petronas “carried out a major activity at an area that is also claimed by China,” Anwar said in response to a parliamentary question on April 4.

Anwar said he told his Chinese counterparts that Malaysia considers the area Malaysian territory and “therefore Petronas will continue its exploration activities there”.

The exchange highlights Beijing’s increasing efforts to pressure Kuala Lumpur not to exploit energy resources under its control, even as Anwar looks to deepen Sino-Malaysian ties, analysts say.

Beijing claims sovereignty over more than 90 percent of the South China Sea via its “nine-dash line”, which cuts into the EEZs of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

In 2016, an international arbitration panel at The Hague ruled that there was no legal basis for Beijing’s claims over the strategic waterway. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, countries have special rights to exploit natural resources within their EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles (370km) from the coastline.

“Given that it’s Anwar’s first visit to Beijing in his newfound capacity as Prime Minister, I believe China would have found it opportune to try to convince Malaysia to cease energy work in those concerned areas, especially off Sarawak,” Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Singapore-based Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, told Al Jazeera.

Koh said Beijing is aware of Malaysia’s deep economic ties with China and the economic leverage it is capable of using to prod Kuala Lumpur on the issue.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, with bilateral trade reaching $203.6bn in 2022.

While Anwar did not name the exploration site under dispute, he was widely understood to be referring to the Kasawari gas field located about 200 km (124 miles) off the coast of Sarawak state in Malaysian Borneo.

Chinese vessels and aircraft have repeatedly entered waters and airspace near the gas field in recent years, drawing protests from Kuala Lumpur.

In 2021, then Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he expected more Chinese vessels to enter the area “for as long as” Petronas developed the site, which was discovered in 2011 and contains an estimated 3 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas resources.

“Kasawari certainly gets as much pressure as any other drilling site in the South China Sea [from Chinese ships],” Greg Polling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative based in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera.

“We’ve historically seen the CCG [Chinese Coast Guard] focus on harassing the offshore supply vessels contracted to keep rigs and drilling ships operating,” said Polling, explaining that Chinese ships have been known to intentionally risk collision in order to pressure companies to stop taking contracts servicing the rigs.

Polling said that the Chinese Coast Guard disrupts operations at Kasawari, Vietnam’s Nam Con Son gasfield and Indonesia’s Tuna gasfield because they are the only major projects developed inside the nine-dash line.

Despite its expansive claims in the South China Sea, Beijing has said it wishes to work with Malaysia to handle its differences through dialogue and consultation.

Koh said Beijing and Kuala Lumpur have exercised restraint over the issue despite their differences.

“There’s as yet nothing drastic undertaken beyond the posturing of their maritime forces, whereas the diplomatic communications between these two capitals have largely stayed out of public limelight — to avoid inflaming the situation — via backchannel,” Koh said.

“China is keen to cultivate a friendly Malaysian government under Anwar, and it’ll appear that both countries continue to emphasise the so-called ‘big picture’ of their comprehensive relations that encompass areas of concord more than just the South China Sea dispute.”

The richness of the Kasawari field, which Petronas CEO Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz has said is big enough to ensure his company remains one of the world’s top five exporters of liquefied natural gas, demonstrates how high the stakes in the South China Sea have become.

Malaysia’s oil and gas industry is a major pillar of the economy, accounting for about 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority.

The Kasawari gasfield’s estimated 3 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves alone constitute approximately 10 percent of Malaysia’s natural gas reserves, said Yeah Kim Leng, an economics professor at Malaysia’s Sunway University who is a member of an advisory committee to Anwar.

“Slated to begin operations this year, the oil field is therefore a key asset to sustain the country’s oil and gas export earnings and meeting its domestic energy needs both directly and indirectly through imports,” Yeah told Al Jazeera.

The gas field is expected to produce up to 900 million cubic feet of gas daily once in operation.

Petronas declined to comment on China’s activities near its operations in the South China Sea.

A spokesperson, however, said the Kasawari development, which includes the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project, will be crucial to the company’s efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Kasawari Gas Field project, off the coast of Sarawak is the beginning of Petronas’ adoption of CCS for high carbon dioxide fields,” the spokesperson said, adding that the project is expected to capture more than 3.3 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year upon its completion in 2026.

Chinese coastguard ship blocks Philippine patrol boat near disputed shoal

Chinese coastguard ship blocks Philippine patrol boat near disputed shoal


A Chinese coastguard ship blocked a Philippine patrol boat heading into a disputed shoal in the South China Sea – causing a near-crash in the latest act of Beijing’s aggression in the strategic waterway.

The high seas face-off on Sunday between the larger Chinese ship and the Philippine coastguard’s BRP Malapascua near the Second Thomas Shoal was among the tense moments it and another Philippine vessel encountered in a week-long sovereignty patrol in one of the world’s most hotly contested waterways.The Philippine coastguard had invited a small group of journalists, including three from the Associated Press, to join the 1,038-mile patrol for the first time as part of a new Philippine strategy aimed at exposing China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, where an estimated £4 trillion in global trade transits each year.

In scorching summer heat but relatively calm waters, the Malapascua and another Philippine coastguard vessel, the BRP Malabrigo, journeyed to the frontlines of the long-seething territorial conflicts.

They cruised past a string of widely scattered Philippine-occupied and claimed islands, islets and reefs looking for signs of encroachment, illegal fishing and other threats.

In areas occupied or controlled by China, the Philippine patrol vessels received radio warnings in Chinese and halting English, ordering them to immediately leave what the Chinese coastguard and navy radio callers claimed were Beijing’s “undisputable territories” and issuing unspecified threats for defiance.

Hostilities peaked on Sunday morning in the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys archipelago, the most fiercely contested region in the busy sea channel.

As the two patrol vessels approached the shoal’s shallow turquoise waters for an underwater survey, the Chinese coastguard repeatedly warned them by radio to leave the area, which is about 121 miles west of the Philippine island province of Palawan.

After several radio exchanges, a Chinese coastguard caller, sounding agitated, warned of unspecified adversarial action.

“Since you have disregarded our warning, we will take further necessary measures on you in accordance with the laws and any consequences entailed will be borne by you,” the Chinese speaker said.

A Chinese coastguard ship rapidly approached and shadowed the smaller Malapascua and the Malabrigo.


When the Malapascua manoeuvred towards the mouth of the shoal, the Chinese ship suddenly shifted to block it, coming as close as 36 to 46 meters from its bow, said Malapascua’s skipper, Captain Rodel Hernandez.

To avoid a crash, Mr Hernandez abruptly reversed his vessel’s direction, then shut off its engine to bring the boat to a full stop.

Filipino personnel aboard the vessels — and journalists, who captured the tense moment on camera — watched in frightened silence.

But the Malapascua steered just in time to avoid a potential disaster.

Mr Hernandez later told journalists the “sudden and really very dangerous manoeuvre” by the Chinese coastguard ship had disregarded international rules on collision avoidance.

He had the Philippine vessels leave the area after the encounter for the safety of the ships and personnel.

Earlier, a huge Chinese navy ship shadowed the two Philippine patrol vessels in the dark of night as they cruised near Subi, one of seven barren reefs China has transformed in the last decade into a missile-protected island base.

The Chinese navy ship radioed the Philippine vessels “to immediately leave and keep out”.

The coastguard radioed back to assert Philippine sovereign rights to the area before steaming away.

China has long demanded that the Philippines withdraw its small contingent of naval forces and tow away the actively commissioned but crumbling BRP Sierra Madre.

The navy ship was deliberately marooned on the shoal in 1999 and now serves as a fragile symbol of Manila’s territorial claim to the atoll.

Chinese ships often block navy vessels delivering food and other supplies to the Filipino sailors on the ship, including just a few days earlier, Mr Hernandez said.

As hostilities between Chinese coastguard and navy ships and the Philippine patrol vessels were unfolding, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang was in Manila, where he held talks with his Philippine counterpart and President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr on Saturday.

China is willing to work with the Philippines to resolve differences and deepen ties, Mr Qin said.

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

In another Philippine-claimed reef called Whitsun, the Philippine patrol vessels spotted more than 100 suspected Chinese militia ships arrayed side by side in several clusters in the shallows.

China says the huge trawler-like ships are fishing vessels but Manila’s coastguard suspects they are being used for surveillance or to hold the reef for future development.

Filipino coastguard personnel aboard two motor boats approached the Chinese ships and ordered them through a loudspeaker to leave, but none did.

Philippine officials required participating journalists to not immediately release information about the trip to ensure the safety of the mission and to give the coastguard time to brief defence, justice and foreign affairs officials in charge of handling the touchy territorial conflicts.

Faced with a militarily far-superior China in the disputed waters, the Philippines launched the campaign early this year to expose the Asian superpower’s aggression, hoping public awareness and criticism will force Beijing to abide by international law.

He noted the Chinese ambassador in Manila was prompted to hold a press conference to explain Beijing’s side amid outrage over a publicly released video that showed a Chinese coastguard ship aiming a military-grade laser in early February that temporarily blinded two crew members of the Malapascua off the Second Thomas Shoal.

The territorial conflicts involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have long been regarded as an Asian flashpoint and a delicate fault line in the rivalry between the United States and China in the region.

While the US lays no claims to the South China Sea, it has deployed its warships and fighter jets for patrols and military exercises with regional allies to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight, which it says is in America’s national interest.

Beijing has criticised a recent agreement by the Philippines and the US to grant American forces access to additional Filipino military camps.

China fears the access will provide Washington with military staging grounds and surveillance outposts in the northern Philippines across the sea from Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, and in provinces facing the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety.

Washington has repeatedly warned it will help to defend the Philippines — its oldest treaty ally in Asia — if Philippine forces, ships or aircraft are attacked in the South China Sea.

With multiple conflicts looming in what appears to be a placid expanse of sea, where dolphins and starlit night skies send seafarers grabbing for their cameras, Malabrigo’s skipper Julio Colarina III said he will always strive to stay on the right side of a geopolitical minefield.

“As much as possible we’ll avoid conflict in the area,” he said. “All these competing interests just need one spark.”





 US and Philippine forces fire on mock enemy warship in South China Sea military exercise

US and Philippine forces fire on mock enemy warship in South China Sea military exercise


United States and Philippine forces fired on a mock enemy warship in the South China Sea on Wednesday, the latest display of American firepower in Asia as tensions with China continue to rise.

The exercise, watched live by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, was part of the annual Balikatan drills, which are scheduled to run until April 28 and involve more than 17,600 military personnel – the largest such exercises ever conducted by the two longtime treaty allies.

US aircraft, including F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as HIMARS rocket systems and Cobra helicopters joined with Philippine FA-50 fighter jets, helicopters and artillery to fire on a decommissioned warship towed to a site within Philippine territorial waters off the island of Luzon, a Philippine military release said.

Luzon, the northernmost of the Philippines main islands, is only 280 miles (452 kilometers) from Taiwan, the self-ruled island over which the Chinese Communist Party claims sovereignty despite never having ruled it. Earlier this month, China’s state-run media labeled the drills as an “attempt to target China.”

US and Philippine military leaders said Wednesday’s exercise was designed to synchronize combat forces.

“This training increased the exercise’s realism and complexity, a key priority shared between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military,” said Lt. Gen. William Jurney, the commander of US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, said in a statement.

“Together we are strengthening our capabilities in full-spectrum military operations across all domains,” Jurney said.

The exercises come against a backdrop of warming relations between the two treaty allies following the election of Marcos Jr, who has sought to develop closer ties with Washington in the face of a more assertive China.

The US and the Philippines have maintained a mutual defense treaty since 1951, but under Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte the Philippines tilted toward China, downplaying longstanding territorial disputes with Beijing while seeking to attract investment.

The Balikatan exercises – Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder – follow the announcement the Philippines will grant increased access by US forces to bases in the archipelago under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Arrangement (EDCA).

The four bases joined five included earlier, including three on the main island of Luzon, close to Taiwan, and one on Balabac Island close to Chinese installations on the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

HIMARS and Marines

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, including several islands claimed by the Philippines, despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling refuting its supposed “historical rights” of the area.

Regional tensions in the South China Sea spiked in February, when the Philippines said a Chinese Coast Guard ship aimed a “military grade” laser at some of the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard vessel, temporarily blinding them.

Besides Tuesday’s exercise, this year’s Balikatan drills have also featured weaponry battle-tested by Ukrainian troops defending against Russian forces, including handheld Javelin anti-tank missiles and HIMARS rocket systems.

Another key element has been the presence of US’ 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, a new concept for Marine Corps warfighting designed with a conflict against China in mind, analysts say.

The unit is designed to be highly mobile, conduct strike operations as well as air and missile defense and supporting naval surface warfare, according to Marine Corps releases.

The exercises have also included amphibious operations, maritime security, cyber defense and counterterrorism operations as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to a statement from the US Embassy in Manila.

Meanwhile, in another sign of increasing US-Philippine military cooperation, the US Pacific Air Forces said Tuesday a key air exercise will return to the Philippines next month for the first time since 1990.

Exercise Cope Thunder, to be held May 1 to 12, will feature US Air Force F-16 fighter jets deploying from Misawa Air Base in Japan and joining with Philippine Air Force units at Clark Air Base to “provide bilateral fighter training” and “improve combined interoperability,” a US Air Force statement said.

Cope Thunder began in the Philippines in 1976, but was moved to Alaska in the early 1990s as the US Air Force ended operations at Clark.

Philippines rebukes Beijing for 'dangerous manoeuvres' in South China Sea

Philippines rebukes Beijing for 'dangerous manoeuvres' in South China Sea


 The Philippines on Friday accused China's coast guard of "dangerous manoeuvres" and "aggressive tactics" in the South China Sea, in another maritime confrontation between the two countries at a time of simmering geopolitical tension.

The incident occurred on Sunday during a Philippine coast guard patrol close to the Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal, a flashpoint for previous altercations located 105 nautical miles (195 km) off its coast.

 wo Chinese ships acted aggressively and posed a "significant threat to the safety and security of the Philippine vessel and its crew", the coast guard said in a statement. One of the two Chinese vessels "carried out dangerous manoeuvres" about 150 feet (45.72 m) from a Philippine ship, it said.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Teresita Daza said China had interfered with a routine patrol and should "refrain from actions that may cause an untoward incident".

The Second Thomas Shoal is home to a small military contingent aboard a rusty World War Two-era U.S. ship that was intentionally grounded in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines' territorial claims. In February, the Philippines said a Chinese ship had directed a "military-grade laser" at one of its resupply vessels.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea with a "nine-dash line" on maps that stretches more than 1,500 km off its mainland and cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. An international arbitral ruling in 2016 dismissed that line as having no legal basis.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Friday said the Philippine vessels had intruded into Chinese waters and "made deliberate provocative moves".

"We urge the Philippines to respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights," Mao said, adding the Chinese vessels acted professionally and with restraint.

The incident took place the same weekend that Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Manila, where he met President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos will meet U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at the White House next week, which comes as the two countries rapidly increase defence engagements, including large-scale military exercises and a recent expansion of U.S. access to Philippine bases. China has objected to the bases agreement.

The Philippine coast guard said that during its April 18-24 patrol of disputed Spratly islands, and Philippine-held features, it spotted over 100 boats it believed were Chinese militia, as well as coast guard vessels and a Chinese navy corvette.




Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Vietnam Fisheries Society vehemently opposes China's wrongful fishing ban in the South China Sea

Vietnam Fisheries Society vehemently opposes China's wrongful fishing ban in the South China Sea


The Vietnam Fisheries Society called China's annual fishing ban an unilateral, unreasonable repeated act, which seriously violated Việt Nam's sovereignty, rights and interests of sea and islands; and violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); contrary to the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea (East Sea) (DOC). 

 The Vietnam Fisheries Society (VINAFIS) said it vehemently opposed China's wrongful annual fishing ban, which this year takes place from May 1 to August 16, over many stretches of the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).

The society called this a unilateral, unreasonable repeated ban by China, which seriously violated Việt Nam's sovereignty, rights and interests of sea and islands; and violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); contrary to the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea (East Sea) (DOC).

The VINAFIS has just sent an official dispatch to the Government Office, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs, and the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Publicity and Education on opposing China's unilateral fishing ban in the East Sea in 2023, including the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) archipelago of Việt Nam.

The organisation said that the ban on fishing in the East Sea for such a long time would hinder the normal operation of Vietnamese fishing vessels and fishermen in the waters under Việt Nam's sovereignty.

Therefore, this unreasonable ban will increase the risk of clashes between Vietnamese fishing boats and the Chinese coast guard; at the same time will adversely affect the fisheries sector and livelihoods of fishermen.

The VINAFIS vehemently opposed the above-mentioned wrongful fishing ban of the Chinese side and asked the Chinese side to immediately end this unreasonable fishing ban in Việt Nam's Hoàng Sa waters.

The VINAFIS also suggested that the relevant authorities strongly oppose and take drastic measures to prevent China's unreasonable fishing ban mentioned above, in order to protect marine resources and special aquatic resources, protecting the safety of Vietnamese fishermen when working in waters under national sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, as well as maintaining national security and national sovereignty over sea and islands.

The organisation said it will direct and guide the provinces, the Fisheries Association, localities’ Fisheries Societies to work closely with each other and relevant agencies to actively inform fishermen to ensure they comply with the law when fishing at sea while supporting fishermen to safely go out to sea for fishing activities, contributing to the firm protection of the country's sovereignty over sea and islands.

During a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held on April 20, Deputy Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Đoàn Khắc Việt said: "China's 'fishing ban' not only violates our sovereignty towards the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) archipelago, but also Việt Nam's sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as delineated under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

Việt Nam asks that China respect Việt Nam's sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Vietnamese waters, refrain from complicating the situation, and contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability, and order, according to the diplomat.