Striking the balance between journalism, patriotism and commercialisation of media reporting

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd. Yassin reminded the journalism profession to stay true to their ethics and integrity of professional conduct, amidst mounting pressure to balance between journalism, patriotism and media being commercialised.

TEKS UCAPAN

Y.A.B. TAN SRI DATO’ HJ. MUHYIDDIN BIN HJ. MOHD YASSIN

TIMBALAN PERDANA MENTERI MALAYSIA

MALAM WARTAWAN MALAYSIA 2014

ANJURAN MALAYSIAN PRESS INSTITUTE (MPI)

JUMAAT, 18 APRIL 2014

DI HOTEL ONE WORLD, PETALING JAYA

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
Salam Sejahtera dan Salam 1Malaysia

Yang Berhormat Dato Sri Shabery Cheek,

Menteri Komunikasi dan Multimedia

Tuan Arif Mahmood

Naib Presiden Kanan, Perancangan Strategik Korporat Kumpulan Petronas

Yang Berbahagia Dato Chamil Wariya

Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Institut Akhbar Malaysia

Tan Sri-Tan Sri, Puan Sri-puan sri, Dato-dato, Datin-datin, Dato-dato ketua-ketua pengarang dari pelbagai media, pengamal-pengamal media, tuan-tuan dan puan-puan sekelian

1. Alhamdulillah, pertama-tama marilah kita sama-sama memanjatkan rasa syukur ke hadrat Allah S.W.T kerana dengan limpah kurnia dan izin-Nya jua, dapat kita bertemu pada malam ini bagi menjayakan Malam Wartawan Malaysia 2014.

2. Saya juga ingin mengucapkan terima kasih kepada Malaysian Press Institute (MPI), selaku penganjur majlis ini, kerana sudi mengundang saya sebagai tetamu kehormat dan seterusnya menyampaikan hadiah kepada para pemenang Hadiah Kewartawanan Malaysia 2013 tajaan PETRONAS sebentar lagi.

3. Bagi saya, penganjuran Hadiah Kewartawanan Malaysia (HKM) yang diperkenalkan pada 1980 dan mula ditaja oleh PETRONAS pada 1994 adalah satu usaha murni yang mempunyai matlamat tersurat dan tersirat yang tersendiri dalam mengangkat bidang kewartawanan di negara kita.

4. Secara tersurat, Malam Wartawan Malaysia bukan sahaja diadakan untuk mengiktiraf karya-karya terbaik para wartawan di Malaysia tetapi ia juga menjadi lambang semangat setiakawan yang tinggi dalam kalangan pengamal media di negara ini. Kehadiran para peneraju media dan para supremo editorial pada majlis tahunan ini adalah testimoni nyata hakikat itu.

5. Saya percaya masing-masing berkongsi matlamat yang sama iaitu mahu meraikan kejayaan para wartawan dan jurugambar merangkul anugerah serta membawa pulang hadiah, walaupun kejayaan itu belum tentu lagi milik organisasi mereka. Tetapi atas nama untuk mengangkat profesion wartawan dan meningkatkan mutu karya-karya mereka seperti yang diserlahkan pada malam ini, ternyata mereka nampaknya bersatu hati.

6. Hadiah Kewartawanan Malaysia juga adalah satu wahana untuk mencapai matlamat tersirat kewartawanan kita iaitu untuk memupuk kewartawanan yang bertanggungjawab atau responsible journalism berpaksikan acuan kita sendiri dalam kalangan pengamal media di negara ini.

7. Dalam perjalanan kita untuk membina sebuah negara bangsa Malaysia yang bersatu padu, stabil, aman, makmur dan berjaya, peranan kewartawanan yang bertanggungjawab ini adalah amat penting.

8. Namun saya harus akui bahawa mencapai matlamat tersirat ini adalah lebih payah berbanding memenuhi hasrat tersurat HKM. Barangkali analoginya adalah membina jauh lebih sukar berbanding menghancurkan.

9. Kewartawanan bertanggungjawab adalah untuk membina, menjaga dan memelihara apa yang telah kita bina sedangkan kewartawanan tidak bertanggungjawab adalah sebaliknya – memusnahkan.

10. Bagaimanapun, apa yang melegakan dan membanggakan saya adalah komuniti wartawan di negara ini, terutama dalam kalangan media arus perdana, mempunyai komitmen yang bersungguh-sungguh untuk menjadikan prinsip kewartawanan yang bertanggungjawab sebagai pegangan mereka.

11. Hal ini dapat kita saksikan dalam laporan mereka sewaktu kita menghadapi tragedi kehilangan pesawat MH370 yang sehingga sekarang masih kekal misteri, walaupun sudah memasuki hari yang ke-42 hari ini.

Saudara-saudari sekalian

12. Tragedi MH370 itu telah menarik perhatian media seluruh dunia pada tahap yang belum pernah kita saksikan sebelum ini. Boleh dikatakan sejak 8 Mac 2014 sehinggalah ke hari ini, kehilangan MH370 serta usaha kita mencari dan menyelamat serta cara kita menguruskan krisis itu menjadi makanan ruji liputan media global.

13. Boleh saya katakan laporan mengenai MH370 pada era moden ini lebih mendalam, lebih intrik, lebih misteri, lebih sofistikated, dan jauh lebih komprehensif berbanding dengan laporan media dalam tragedi-tragedi bersejarah lain dan sebanding dengan kisah tenggelamnya kapal RMS Titanic di utara Lautan Atlantik pada 15 April 1912.

14. Ketika tragedi itu berlaku kira-kira 102 tahun lalu, Titanic yang dalam pelayaran dari Southampton, United Kingdom ke New York, Amerika Syarikat membawa 2,224 penumpang dan anak kapal. Dalam tragedi itu, lebih 1,500 orang terkorban. Kisahnya menjadi berita besar di seluruh dunia pada era ketika dunia hanya dihubungkan dengan telegraf dan telefon berwayar.

15. Misteri kehilangan pesawat MH370 bersama 239 penumpang dan anak kapal ketika dalam penerbangan dari Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ke Beijing, China pula telah menarik perhatian komuniti jurnalisme global, daripada akhbar-akhbar, stesen televisyen dan radio serta portal berita di seluruh dunia.

16. Apabila kita meneliti kembali pendekatan kewartawanan dalam pelaporan MH370, kita akan dapati bahawa apa yang dipanggil standard antarabangsa dalam jurnalisme adalah sesuatu yang abstrak, tidak seragam dan tidak konkrit. Sebenarnya, tiada satu panduan yang jelas tentang standard tersebut.

17. Yang tergambar dalam laporan wartawan dan pengamal media mengenai tragedi MH370 ialah elemen patriotisme kumpulan wartawan dari negara-negara yang terlibat dalam pencarian MH370.

18. Wartawan Amerika Syarikat dengan caranya, China dengan pendekatannya, Australia dengan gayanya, tetapi semua wartawan daripada organisasi media yang berbeza itu diikat dengan suatu unsur psikologi yang sama. Mereka bersaing memaparkan kebenaran dengan objektif untuk mengekalkan rating bisnes media, tetapi pada masa yang sama menyerlahkan aspirasi nasional masing-masing.

19. Berdasarkan tingkah laku yang ditunjukkan oleh media-media dari pelbagai negara dalam melaporkan kehilangan MH370, kita harus sedar bahawa kepelbagaian itu adalah sesuatu yang bersifat global. Jadi, janganlah kita terikut-ikut dengan momokan kononnya wujud keseragaman atau standard tertentu kewartawanan. Kononnya set nilai antarabangsa perlu dipatuhi dan dilaksanakan oleh wartawan tempatan di mana-mana negara termasuk di Malaysia.

20. Saya harus menggunakan kesempatan pada Malam Wartawan Malaysia ini untuk memberi pujian dan mengucapkan jutaan terima kasih kepada semua wartawan dan media Malaysia yang terlibat dalam laporan tragedi antarabangsa kehilangan MH370.

21. Anda semua telah memainkan peranan masing-masing dan menjadi penyumbang kepada pembinaan negara bangsa. Adalah jelas bahawa kita bergerak melaksanakan tanggungjawab kepada audiens – dalam bentuk menyampaikan maklumat serta berjuang memaparkan kebenaran -dengan suatu kesedaran nasional.

Saudara-saudari yang dihormati,

22. Saya berharap wartawan di Malaysia sentiasa mempertahankan kepentingan nasional dan bumi yang kita pijak.

23. Akan ada usaha-usaha untuk mendominasi perdebatan mengenai isu-isu yang berlaku dengan sudut pandangan negatif oleh pihak-pihak tertentu dari dalam negara dan juga dari seberang laut, tetapi saya yakin media dan wartawan di Malaysia telah cukup matang untuk menanganinya.

24. Saya yakin komuniti media di Malaysia bersatu hati dalam tugas-tugas memperjuangkan kewartawanan yang kompeten, memiliki jati diri dan progresif.

25. Wartawan Malaysia tidak boleh lagi berasa apologetik apabila mempertahankan kepentingan nasional, kerana seperti yang telah diperlihatkan, media di negara lain juga mempertahankan kepentingan nasional negara masing-masing.

26. Menjadi responsif kepada kepentingan nasional dan memajukannya adalah sebahagian daripada karakter media global.

27. Apatah lagi dengan peledakan perkembangan teknologi informasi komunikasi maklumat, dunia jurnalisme yang menyaksikan kemunculan akhbar-akhbar dalam talian, penyebaran berita melalui twitter juga facebook, maka cabaran mempertahankan agenda nasional sesungguhnya menjadi amat besar. Portal-portal berita dan juga sosial media mengemaskini berita mereka hampir setiap minit. Aliran maklumat menjadi terlalu pantas, informasi samada yang sahih atau tidak disebar kepada orang awam dengan sekelip mata sehingga ada kalanya tidak memberi ruang kepada otak pembaca untuk mencerna intipati yang disampaikan.

28. Saya percaya biar secanggih mana pun teknologi yang digunakan dalam dunia kewartawan baik di media cetak, elektronik mahu pun portal-portal berita, etika serta tanggungjawab anda sebagai wartawan tidak pernah berubah. Arus pemodenan tidak boleh menyanggah prinsip asas pemberitaan yang hakikatnya bersifat universal dan terpakai dahulu, kini dan selama-lamanya. Berita yang ditulis tidak boleh semberono, mesti berpaksikan fakta dan paling penting adil kepada subjek yang ditulis. Kesungguhan untuk memartabatkan profesion kewartawanan dalam menyampaikan maklumat yang adil, tepat, jujur dan sahih harus diberi tumpuan dan penekanan yang jitu.

29. Tuntutan itu sejajar dengan peranan wartawan sebagai cerdik pandai yang tahu apa sebenarnya yang mereka ingin sampaikan. Terlalu ghairah menulis berita tanpa ada usaha untuk memastikan kesahihan fakta dan membiarkan maklumat tersebut sampai kepada pembaca adalah menyalahi etika dan boleh merosakkan profesion sebagai wartawan. Jangan jadi wartawan kering minda atau pun wartawan yang popular kerana menulis berita-berita tidak benar, mengejar sensasi dan didorong oleh agenda tertentu yang kemudiannya tanpa ada rasa bersalah menyebarkan pula kepada pembaca.

30. Peranan media bukan sekadar menyampaikan maklumat terkini kepada masyarakat, malah media juga melibatkan diri dalam pendidikan, perkembangan ekonomi negara, politik semasa, kebudayaan dan hiburan. Tanggungjawab media dalam menyampaikan informasi, mendidik, membentuk jati diri masyarakat dan seterusnya menjadi agen transformasi minda dalam kalangan masyarakat sehingga membentuk sesebuah masyarakat itu yang lebih bermoral, bermaruah dan berdaya saing merupakan prinsip yang harus dipegang teguh oleh pengamal media.

Saudara-saudari yang dihormati,

31. Berada bersama rakan-rakan wartawan pada majlis ini memberikan saya kegembiraan kerana saya dapat merakamkan sendiri penghargaan kepada wartawan dan pengamal media yang begitu banyak membantu pembangunan negara serta menjadi pengkritik yang membina selama ini.

32. Saya sekali lagi mengucapkan tahniah kepada MPI kerana berjaya menganjurkan Malam Wartawan Malaysia 2014.

33. Saya juga ingin mengambil kesempatan ini mengucapkan setinggi-tinggi tahniah kepada semua pemenang yang telah berjaya menghasilkan karya-karya cemerlang dalam pelbagai genre penulisan. Semoga pengiktirafan malam ini dapat meningkatkan lagi kualiti kewartawanan tanah air. Sekian, Wabillahitaufik Walhidayah Wassalamu’alaikum wbt. Terima kasih.

-end-

************

This message came in the episode over-zestful reporting by media, especially foreign, in the globally shocking yet highly mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines B777-200 scheduled flight to Beijing MH370 on the early hours of 8 March 2014.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 21:00  Leave a Comment  

Defending the Constitution and right of the majority

The action of Selangor State Government in the case of Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor’s raid on Bible Society Malaysia (BSM) is clearly upholding the concept and principles of democracy where as the Chinese Chauvinist party masquerading as ‘Democratic Action Party’, is blatantly defying what the majority decided through democratic channels.

Pro-minority news portal Riong Kali dot com story:

In Bible group’s move, DAP pressures Khalid to ensure minorities are protected

APRIL 16, 2014
LATEST UPDATE: APRIL 16, 2014 10:29 AM

The DAP today pressured the Selangor government to take full responsibility in ensuring that the rights of minorities are protected, following The Bible Society of Malaysia’s (BSM) shift to Kuala Lumpur to avoid being hassled by state Islamic authorities.

Party national publicity chief Tony Pua said: “BSM’s decision to move has embarrassed Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in our ability and sincerity to uphold the rights of minorities.

“There can be no biggest insult to PR when BSM chairman Lee Min Choon claimed that Putrajaya offered better protection to religious minorities.
“However, what was more disappointing was the response from Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who nonchalantly wished BSM ‘all the best’.”

Pua warned that such a response towards the incident may not bode well for PR and the Selangor government’s long-term plans.

“If we fail to make Selangor a showcase PR state, we will not only kiss our Putrajaya ambitions goodbye, even our hold on the state will be in jeopardy.

“The very same voters who turned their backs on Barisan Nasional can also do the same to us if we take them for granted,” he said.

DAP Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo also said that Khalid must take steps to solve the bible issue and address the government’s failure in dealing with it:

“The menteri besar has displayed a total lack of interest and political will in his handling of the issue. And this has resulted in a serious loss of faith of not only the Christians, but other Malaysians under his leadership in Selangor.”

Gobind also echoed Pua’s sentiment that the BSM move will be costly:

“Situations like these, needless to say, will cost Pakatan dearly in the next general election. This is precisely the reason why many have expressed great concern about Khalid’s leadership in Selangor.”

On January 2, 2014, the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) raided the BSM offices in Damansara Kim, and seized more than 300 copies of Alkitab and Bup Kudus (Iban Bibles) during the raid.

The raid was carried out under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

Until today, the seized Bibles have yet to be returned to the BSM, with the Selangor state government passing the buck to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Khalid even told BSM to write to the Attorney-General to ask for the return of their seized holy books.

Pua said PR’s position over the term Allah could not be any clearer as the term could be used by other religions such as Christianity and Sikhism.

“The term must not be abused and used for purposes of propagation among Muslims, a position which PR respects as part of the Federal Constitution,” Pua said.

“The Selangor state government has clearly failed to uphold the PR’s stand on this issue.” – April 16, 2014.

********************

It is inline with the Federal Constitution Article 3.1 where sanctity Islam as the religion of the Federation and the Selangor Constitution Enactment 1988. The Malay bibles confiscated from Bible Society of Malaysia on 2 January 2014 are deemed to be part 0f the process to proselytising Malay-Muslims in the Selangor into Christianity.

That is against Article 11.4 of Federal Constitution and HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, the Constitutional Head of Selangor, decreed against the matter twice.

The provocation against the matter became so acute that His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong XIV also issued the same titah on the exclusivity of the name ‘Allah’ for the use of Muslims only.

Defending the right of the majority is preserving that have been democratically provided within the Federal Constitution and State of Selangor Constitution. It is too bad for the minority who by their own choice defy what the law has prohibited clearly and now challenging it.

That is typically Min Yuen mentality when the Malayan Communist Party wanted power and take control of Malaya in June 1948, they defied the wishes and aspiration of the majority and blatantly used brutal force to impose themselves onto the majority against their will and take what doesn’t belong to them.

That disobedient and anti-Constitution attitude though translated through different modus operandi, is very much reflective on DAP’s charge and NGOs representing Chinese Chauvinist and anti-Malay/Islam minority in controversy such as the JAIS inspection of Damansara Utama Methodist Church 3 August 2011 and the BSM on 2 January 2014.

In many ways, their defiance and statements against the Federal and State Constitution and authorities upholding provisions of the said law pertaining to preserving the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the Federation of Malaysia should be deemed as seditious.

Expect reciprocity, from the majority.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 10:00  Comments (9)  

Paying for making the wrong choices

The current self-inflicted issue that the 673 former citizens of Malaysia, who once willingly by their own choice and accord gave up their nationality and allegiance to this tanahair for perceived greener postures abroad, would have to face the consequence of making the wrong choices.

The Star story:

Published: Saturday April 12, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday April 12, 2014 MYT 11:07:21 AM

Zahid: BOC holders in for a long wait to be Malaysians again

 

Document in hand: Dr Ahmad Zahid showing the press statement on the status of BOC holders during the press conference in Putrajaya.

Document in hand: Dr Ahmad Zahid showing the press statement on the status of BOC holders during the press conference in Putrajaya.

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians who have allegedly become stateless after failing to get British citizenship may have to wait at least 17 years before they can regain their Malaysian citizenship.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this in reference to hundreds who had renounced their Malaysian citizenship allegedly in order to receive British citizenship through the British Overseas Citizenship (BOC).

The approval of Malaysian citizenship for these former citizens would also be subjected to their show of loyalty to the country and passing a Bahasa Malaysia proficiency test, he added.

“The Malaysian Government will not automatically grant citizenship to anyone who has already let go of their Malaysian citizenship.

“Anyone who wishes to re-apply for citizenship will have their application reviewed carefully while they are given only a residence pass, not citizenship or permanent residence.

“This is because there were those among them who had torn up their (Malaysian) passports with feelings of hatred towards the country and an intention to no longer return to this country – there was no more loyalty in them,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said 673 individuals – and not 1,000 as previously reported – had renounced their Malaysian citizenship allegedly to obtain the BOC between 2005 and 2013, ending up in this predicament of being stateless.

The British government had on July 4, 2002, decided that it would no longer consider citizenship applications involving BOC holders from Malaysia.

The BOC is a travel document that is not equivalent to British citizenship, even though BOC holders could be considered for British citizenship before the British Nationality Act 1981 was amended in 2002.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said a residence pass would permit those re-applying for Malaysian citizenship to reside in the country for up to five years, after which the pass will be up for renewal.

“These individuals should apply for the residence pass while in the United Kingdom through the Malaysian High Commission in London.

“They can only take off for Malaysia after their application (for a residence pass) has been approved by the Malaysian Immigration Department.

“A special counter will be opened at the KL International Airport on their arrival day, where the BOC document-holder will be issued with the residence pass and briefed on the rules pertaining to the pass,” he said.

***************

Home Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position on the matter is more than fair. These 673 ‘Stateless Persons’ made the choice to be disloyal to this nation and give up their citizenship and privileges, guaranteed under the Federation of Malaysia Constitution, as a condition for them to apply for British citizenship.

Their gambit backfired.

It is not the Malaysian Government obligation is any manner or count to accept them back as status quo, and re-institute them back as citizens of this nation. They should be treated as any other aliens and given the same consideration to stay in this nation, without exception.

Bernama report on Home Ministry Dato' Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's explanation of the Article 16 of the Immigration Act

Bernama report on Home Ministry Dato’ Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s explanation of the Article 16A of the Immigration Act

At best, a work permit and resident status.

This is the reality of life. There is no ‘reset button’. When one makes the wrong choices, one have to live with the consequences. Neither this is a work of fiction where these is a ‘happy ending’.

This should also be a lesson to all who are thinking and contemplating about being disloyal to His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Federation of Malaysia Constitution. Being a citizen is a very valuable privilege. Otherwise, this nation would not be hosting more than 2.5 million economic immigrants.

Article 12 of the Federation of Tanah Melayu Treaty inked on 21 Feb 1948 that came into force on 1 Feb 1948

Article 12 of the Federation of Tanah Melayu Treaty inked on 21 Feb 1948 that came into force on 1 Feb 1948

Continuation of Article 12

Continuation of Article 12

HRH Malay Rulers compromised Article 12 of  the 1948 Federation of Tanah Melayu Treaty to accept almost 1 million Non Malays classified as ‘Stateless Persons’ as ‘citizens’, without being processed properly and fulfilling the set criteria for consideration. It  was part of the ‘Social Contract’ for Federation of Tanah Melayu to earn Kemederkaan as a sovereign nation.

That could only happened once. It is something extremely rare and the Non Malays and/or ‘Stateless Persons’ should follow the normal process to become citizens of Federation of Malaysia.

This is a nation of law and order and proper Federal Constitution exist and enforced, on top specific regulations set for administrative purposes. The rule of law shall take precedence.

Hence, the lesson ends.

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 22:30  Comments (20)  

Lessons from the Paracel Pt IX: The ‘Panda Gambit’

The geo-political game of 'Risk': China Vs Japan military capability and assets

The geo-political game of ‘Risk’: China Vs Japan military capability and assets

In the series of apparent China’s expansionary traits in the region reflective in the form of increased spending, number and quality of military assets in the past ten years, which grew into threatening position against her neighbours, has been reciprocated by United States’ more apparent projection of power and military might.

 

AFP st0ry:

China’s booming military spending belies caution

By Kelly Olsen
April 10, 2014 8:04 PM

Beijing (AFP) – With the world’s biggest military, China far outnumbers rival Japan in manpower, ships, aircraft and defence spending, but analysts say underlying weaknesses leave it still wary of a fight.

Beijing’s latest double-digit rise in its defence budget, announced last month, will only increase its numerical superiority, but Japan enjoys technological and training advantages, and the key asset of a US security umbrella.

Hagel reiterated Washington’s support for Tokyo while criticising Beijing in blunt exchanges with top People’s Liberation Army (PLA) generals.

China, for its part, told the Vietnam War veteran that sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea at the heart of the dispute with Japan was non-negotiable and that it would “make no compromise”.

Despite such tough talk, analysts say China’s top strategists know an armed conflict, intentional or accidental, is not in their interest and could detract from their long-term goal of expanding their regional and global power.

View gallery
Graphic comparing the military strength of China and Japan, based on an analysis by the Internationa …
“The Chinese high command has got to be very prudent and cautious in terms of the launch of any kind of military operation,” said Arthur Ding, an expert on the PLA at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

Even without the benefit of the US security alliance, Japan currently has better training, facilities and equipment, Ding said, although the long term situation was less clear.

“Right now Japan is in better shape,” he told AFP.

Even Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the military — which is beset by corruption, with high-ranking officers under investigation — to improve its abilities to “win battles”.

The dispute over the uninhabited islands, administered by Japan as the Senkakus and claimed by China as the Diaoyus, has heated up since Tokyo bought islands in the chain from private Japanese owners in 2012.

Ships and aircraft from both countries, mostly dispatched by non-military maritime and coastguard agencies, regularly patrol the area.

In a tense incident early last year, however, Japan accused a Chinese frigate of directing its weapon-targeting radar at one of Tokyo’s naval vessels, fuelling worries about a clash.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, went into service 18 months ago and according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance 2014 report, published in February, the country’s forces outnumber Japan in virtually all areas.

China had approximately 2.3 million active duty troops last year compared with Japan’s 247,150, the report said. China also enjoyed huge leads in combat aircraft at 2,525 to 630, main battle tanks at 6,840 to 777 and tactical submarines at 66 to 18.

View gallery
Soldiers take part in an exercise in Heihe, northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, April 9, 20 …
China’s defence budget was $112.2 billion last year, while Japan’s came to $51 billion, according to the report.

“The PLA is engaged in a modernisation programme fuelled by the country’s rapid economic development that has seen it surpass the armed forces of less developed countries in Asia,” the report said.

It added, however, that China had shortfalls including a lack of combat experience, questions about training and morale, and weaknesses in command and control, anti-submarine warfare and other areas.

China’s military “remains qualitatively inferior, in some respects, to more technologically advanced armed forces in the region — such as South Korea and Japan — and it lags far behind the US”, the report said.

- Art of War -

View gallery
Soldiers take part in an exercise in Heihe, northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, April 9, 20 …
Tokyo and Washington, once bitter wartime enemies, have had a close defence relationship since Japan’s World War II defeat in 1945, with the US obligated to defend its ally if it is attacked.

The US military has nearly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan at key strategic bases including on the southern island of Okinawa, a short flight to the disputed islands.

Kazuhisa Ogawa, a respected Japanese military affairs analyst, said that Japan’s capabilities cannot be looked at as separate from those of the US.

“The Japanese military is not designed to stand on its own,” Ogawa said, referring to its Self-Defense Forces.

“Japan is facing the Chinese military together with the US force, so it is nonsense to compare the capabilities of the Japanese military and the Chinese military without the presence of the US,” he told AFP.

Though the Chinese Communist Party and state media regularly chastise Japan over the territorial dispute and accuse it of nascent militarism and denial of wartime atrocities in China, pronouncements by top officials can be more prudent.

In his exchanges with Hagel, China’s defence chief Chang Wanquan suggested the country would not take pre-emptive action in the island dispute.

But Ogawa said Beijing had a clear strategy despite its reluctance to start an armed conflict.

“China is sending non-military ships to the area,” he said, to assert its claim, gauge the reactions of Japan and the US, and show nationalistic elements at home it is flexing its muscles.

“China’s policy is to win without a battle, taking the path of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’.”

******************

China’s arrogance and stubborn attitude towards her neighbours over multinational claims in several blocks within South China Sea ad East Asia Sea and thumping of chest threatening “The use of deadly force to defend ‘territtories’ (Senkaku Islands and ‘Nine-Dash-Line’)”, is reciprocated of the Americans further antagonising moves deploying sophisticated diplomacy.

US Defence Secretary Hagel in his first official to China five days ago, did not mince his words in warning to China against the latter’s increasingly aggressive claim over Senkaku Islands, with renewed military commitment for Japan.

Fox News story;

Hagel squares off with Chinese defense minister over dispute with Japan over islands

Published April 08, 2014Associated Press

 

April 8, 2014: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan, right, take seat prior to their meeting at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing. Hagel arrived in Beijing after a stop in Japan, where he told reporters that China must be more open about its military buildup and better respect its neighbors - a pointed allusion to Beijing's ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea. (AP Photo/Alex Wong, Pool)

April 8, 2014: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan, right, take seat prior to their meeting at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing. Hagel arrived in Beijing after a stop in Japan, where he told reporters that China must be more open about its military buildup and better respect its neighbors – a pointed allusion to Beijing’s ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea. (AP Photo/Alex Wong, Pool)

BEIJING – The defense chiefs of China and the U.S. faced off Tuesday over Beijing’s escalating territorial disputes in the region, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, wagging his finger, said China doesn’t have the right to unilaterally establish an air defense zone over disputed islands with no consultation.

And he said America will protect Japan in a dispute with China.

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said his country will not take the initiative to stir up troubles with Japan, but Beijing is ready to use its military if needed to safeguard its territory. And he warned that the U.S. must “stay vigilant” against Japan’s actions and “not be permissive and supportive” of Tokyo.

The two men were speaking to reporters after a meeting here.

The U.S. has criticized Beijing’s recent declaration of an air defense zone over a large swath of the East China Sea, including disputed islands controlled by Japan.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Chang at the Ministry of Defense, the two men aired their countries’ well-known positions about the territorial disputes.

The meeting focused on how the U.S. and China can build stronger ties, in the wake of years of frosty relations over Beijing’s military buildup, persistent cyberattacks against U.S. government agencies and private industry, and aggressive Chinese territorial claims in the East China Sea.

Beijing’s recent declaration of an air defense zone over a large swath of the East China Sea, including disputed islands controlled by Japan has raised complaints from the U.S., deepening concerns that it could spark a confrontation.

Washington has refused to recognize the zone or follow China’s demands that its aircraft file flight plans with Beijing’s Defense Ministry and heed Chinese instructions. China has warned of unspecified retaliatory measures against aircraft that do not comply, but has so far taken no action.

He also said the U.S. and China must be more open with each other about their cyber capabilities, saying that greater openness “reduces the risk that misunderstanding and misperception could lead to miscalculation.”

Hagel pointed to the ongoing threat from North Korea, which recently threatened additional missile and nuclear tests. And he said the U.S. and China have a shared interest “in achieving a verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

In recent weeks the North has conducted a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. North Korea says the exercises are rehearsals for invasion.

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On top of telling off China with regards to Japan, Hagel threw another wild card in this game of regional geo-politics. This is demonstrated when he asked China “To contain North Korea”, which is China’s biggest ally in East Asia and growingly project her capability to threaten US allies South Korea and Japan.

Wall Street Journal story:

Hagel Asks China’s Xi Jinping to Do More to Contain North Korea

Amicable Talks Follow Blunt U.S. Exchanges With Beijing’s Military Leaders During Three-Day Trip

By DION NISSENBAUM CONNECT
April 9, 2014 12:37 p.m. ET

 U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Wednesday. Getty Images


U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Wednesday. Getty Images

BEIJING—U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrapped up a three-day visit to China on Wednesday by urging President Xi Jinping to play a larger role in containing the dangers posed in the region by North Korea.

The amicable meeting with Mr. Xi came in contrast to a series of pointed discussions the day before with top Chinese military officials, who criticized U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific.

While Tuesday’s military talks cast a pall over Mr. Hagel’s first trip to China as defense secretary, U.S. officials characterized the trip as a modest success overall in bridging differences between the nations.

Mr. Xi said deepening military ties between the two countries would help strengthen broader U.S.-China relations. “Your visit this time will definitely push forward the development of our new model of military-to-military relationship,” he told Mr. Hagel at the start of their meeting in the Great Hall of the People.

The Chinese leader also noted that Mr. Hagel had been provided with a “robust itinerary” during his visit, an apparent nod to the open access China granted Mr. Hagel to its lone aircraft carrier and military officers.

Throughout the visit, Chinese officials prodded Mr. Hagel over U.S. support for Japan and the Philippines in tense territorial disputes with China. The U.S. defense secretary encouraged Chinese leaders to do more to restrain North Korea’s destabilizing military tests in the region.

While the U.S. announced no breakthroughs over the North Korea issue or concerns about cybersecurity, U.S. officials praised China for granting Mr. Hagel a rare tour of its aircraft carrier, a step seen as a signal of China’s willingness to be more open, albeit cautiously, with the U.S. The two countries also announced modest steps to deepen ties between their militaries, such as higher-level talks over divisive issues.

American officials said the pointed, public criticism from Chinese military leaders was unfortunate but not unexpected. “You’re dealing with a China that is still trying to find its way,” one U.S. defense official said.

While Mr. Hagel played down the differences, one of America’s top military leaders warned that China’s actions were creating a “witches’ brew” for miscalculation. “I’m concerned by the aggressive growth of the Chinese military, their lack of transparency and a pattern of increasingly assertive behavior in the region,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. , commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said on Wednesday at a naval conference in Canberra, Australia.

“There’s both growing uncertainty in the region and increasing tensions—a witches’ brew, if you will, for miscalculation,” he said. “Our continued diplomacy in Asia amid these challenges underscores the importance of the United States remaining active and strong in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

—Jeremy Page contributed to this article.

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Hagel’s request to President Xi Jinping marks the fresh sophisticated diplomatic move of the ‘Panda Gambit’. Despite expressing the expectation for “China’s  greater role in regional geo-political stability”, it is clear United States do not expect China would be stern in getting North Korea ‘contained’. For China, it would be nothing less than ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.

Thus, failure to honour this request would be US’s sordid excuse for ‘sour point’ with regards to relation with China, via-a-vis its strengthening military commitment to ally around the region namely South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Despite China Minister of Defense Gen Chang Wanquan attempt to show off PLA Navy’s (PLAN) brand new aircraft Laoning to US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s official visit a few days ago, the Americans are rounding up support around the region in the tradition Western style of ‘Circling the Eagon’.

 

During Hagel Visit, China Showed Its Military Might, and Its Frustrations

By HELENE COOPERAPRIL 10, 2014

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — When Robert M. Gates visited China in 2011 as the United States defense secretary, the military greeted him with an unexpected and, in the view of American military officials, provocative test of a Chinese stealth fighter jet, a bold show of force that stunned the visiting Americans and may even have surprised the Chinese president at the time, Hu Jintao.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China this week, the military greeted him with a long-sought tour of the country’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in what many American officials interpreted as a resolve to project naval power, particularly in light of recent tension between Beijing and its neighbors over disputed islands in the East and South China Seas.

The displays of China’s military power reveal some dividends from years of heavy investments, and perhaps a sense that China is now more willing to stand toe-to-toe with the Americans, at least on regional security issues.

 

In Mongolia, a Gift Horse for Hagel APRIL 10, 2014
But American officials and Asia experts say the visits also showed a more insecure side of China’s military leadership — a tendency to display might before they are ready to deploy it, and a lingering uncertainty about how assertively to defend its territorial claims in the region.

Mr. Hagel encountered both combative warnings in public forums and private complaints that Beijing felt besieged by hostile neighbors, especially Japan and the Philippines, which it asked the United States to help address. The impression for some American officials was that China still has not decided whether it wants to emphasize its historical status as an underdog or adopt a new posture as a military powerhouse.

On the tough side, China’s minister of defense, Gen. Chang Wanquan, announced that his country would make “no compromise, no concession, no treaty” in the fight for what he called its “territorial sovereignty.”

“The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle, and win,” he said.

But the tough stance belies a different reality on the ground, a military with little or no combat experience, outdated or untested equipment, and a feeling of being under siege. The Liaoning, according to American defense officials who toured the ship, still lags well behind the United States’ 10 aircraft carrier groups. While Mr. Hagel spoke expansively about how impressive he found the Chinese sailors he met aboard the ship in his public remarks, one American defense official who accompanied Mr. Hagel noted privately that the Liaoning was “not as big, it’s not as fast,” as American carriers.

Some experts on China were more dismissive. The Liaoning is “a surplus ship from the Soviet era that had been used as a hotel after it was decommissioned,” said Andrew L. Oros, an associate professor of political science at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and a specialist on East Asia.

“In my view this is about national pride, about being on the cusp of being able to challenge the powers that wrought such destruction and misery on China in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Mr. Oros said. “I think this leads them to over-flaunt, both out of genuine satisfaction in being able to do so, but also as a domestic crowd-pleaser.”
In Beijing, standing next to Mr. Hagel at the Ministry of Defense this week, General Chang likened himself to the American defense secretary, who has two Purple Heart medals from combat during the Vietnam War. “Secretary Hagel and I are both old soldiers who fought on the battlefield,” he said, prompting a number of raised eyebrows among the Americans in the room. “We have a deep understanding of the atrocities of war.”

That may be so, but no one in China’s political or military leadership, which has focused for three decades on national economic development, has significant experience in war, and its troops are not trained in combat. Even Japan, which eschewed combat after World War II, is believed by American officials to have a superior navy, one that regularly trains with American marines and sailors and with a technical sophistication that counterbalances the heavy investment China has made in recent years.

In private meetings with Mr. Hagel, Chinese officials sounded more defensive, American officials said, expressing frustration over what they presented as a Japan and a Philippines made bolder by their treaty alliances with the United States, and ganging up on Beijing.

The American response, that the United States takes no position on competing claims for disputed islands in the East China Sea — which the Japanese call Senkaku and the Chinese call Diaoyu — or the islands and reefs claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea, seemed only to further inflame the Chinese. Beijing also objects to the standard Obama administration line that the United States has treaty obligations to Tokyo and Manila.

Beyond that, American officials say the stronger public statements by leaders of the People’s Liberation Army are aimed partly at the Chinese public at large, noting a headline in the newspaper China Daily on Wednesday that spoke of Mr. Hagel’s being “urged” by General Chang to “restrain Japan.”

Still, no one at the Pentagon denies that China’s military has made huge leaps in the last decade. China now spends more on its military than any country except the United States, and will increase military spending to $148 billion this year from $139 billion in 2013, according to IHS Jane’s, a military industry consulting and analysis company. While that is still only about a fourth of what the United States spends, American military spending is declining, to $575 billion this year from $664 billion in 2012. By next year, analysts estimate that China will spend more on its military than Britain, Germany and France combined.

Moreover, for Beijing, the Liaoning is a launching pad for future naval operations, military experts said.

“Back in August 2011, when the carrier later to be known as the Liaoning took its first test voyage, I happened to be aboard the U.S.S. John C. Stennis witnessing flight operations,” said Andrew Scobell, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, referring to one of the United States Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. “I recall shaking my head in amazement and thinking to myself, ‘The Chinese will never be able to do this!’ ”

But now, planes are taking off from the Liaoning. “The P.L.A. is seen as extremely capable,” Mr. Scobell said, “and one of the clearest indications of this is that the Pentagon now focuses considerable attention on countering what it dubs China’s ‘anti-access/area denial capabilities’ ” — military jargon for the doctrine that could be used by Beijing to deny the United States military the ability to operate in certain areas of the sea near China during a crisis.

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In less than two weeks, President Barack H. Obama would visit South Korea, Japan and Malaysia and the growing China PLAN’s apparent threat in South China Sea and East China Sea is expected to be on the agenda. It is expected that Obama would escalate the ‘Panda Gambit’ further by extending United States’ existing commitment and role to “ensure regional stability and freedom”.

The US sophisticated game of geo-politics is translated in Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s official visit to China.

In the recent close cooperation between RAAF and RAN and PLAN for the joint multinational operation led by Australia’s former RAAF Chief Air Vice Marshall Angus Houston in his capacity as the Head of Joint Agency Co-ordiating Centre for the search of Malaysia Airlines’ MH370 calculated to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean,  it has been used as a geo-political currency. PM Abbott is extending the co-operation further, for Australia and China to do joint military exercises.

Sydney Morning Herald story:

Tony Abbott’s China visit nets closer military relations

April 13, 2014

Philip Wen, Mark Kenny

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has foreshadowed closer military co-operation and joint military exercises with China, and revealed President Xi Jinping has accepted his invitation to address both houses of Parliament later this year.

Speaking in Beijing the morning after a state dinner and bilateral talks with Mr Xi, Mr Abbott said personal relationships at senior levels of government had ”very much been enhanced”.

”We had a very warm and constructive discussion last night,” he told reporters on Saturday, the last day of his week-long visit to Japan, South Korea and China. Mr Xi will visit Australia in November for bilateral meetings attached to his attendance at the G20 summit in Brisbane.

Mr Abbott said he was ”quite confident” of building on high-level meetings and exchanges with the world’s largest army through the form of ”multilateral exercises in the months and years ahead”.

”That’s got to be good for peace and understanding in our region and the wider world,” he said.

Australia already co-operates with New Zealand and China on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills. China’s People’s Liberation Army has asked to operate under Australian command in the US-led Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises, when the navies of more than 20 nations converge on Hawaii for warfare drills in July.

”Without going into specific detail, I express the hope and confidence that there can be greater and deeper involvement [from China] in the time ahead,” Mr Abbott said.

The breakthrough in military relations follows close co-operation in the search for Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370.

China’s state-run media outlets prominently reported Mr Abbott’s meeting with Mr Xi, with reports of the Prime Minister’s personal update on the search running as the lead item of official news agency Xinhua, as well as dominating the front page of a number of newspapers, including the English-language China Daily.

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/tony-abbotts-china-visit-nets-closer-military-relations-20140412-36jz8.html#ixzz2yi1aiDwr

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Radio Australia story:

Tony Abbott returns to dragon’s den in bid to secure free trade deal with China

Updated 9 April 2014, 19:42 AEST
By China correspondent Stephen McDonell

Australian PM Tony Abbot and President Xi Jinping t is the first official visit to China

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has left the most challenging part of his North Asia tour to the last – with his visit to Beijing to negotiate a free trade deal.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott sits next to China’s president Xi Jinping during the APEC summit in Bali last year. (Credit: Reuters)
The last time Tony Abbott walked into the Great Hall of the People flanked by advisers and diplomats, it was as if he was entering the castle of an enemy for post battle peace talks.

His body language read something like this: “Alright now I don’t know how much I should trust you but we both know that we need each other. They’re telling me that times have changed here in Beijing but I’m not so sure.”

Australia now has free trade agreements in the bag with Japan and South Korea but China is the big one, and the Prime Minister has left the most challenging part of his North Asia tour to the last.

In examining the complexity of China’s relationship with Australia it is hard to know where to begin.

In terms of Western countries Australia is treated differently here.

Taxi drivers will gush on about what an awesome country Australia is, even when Canberra is having a fight with Beijing.

What this means is that the message which filters down to ordinary Chinese people all the way from the top regarding Australia, is that it is OK.

Even the way Australian correspondents are treated here by officials is telling.

Like everyone, we are at times hindered and harassed in our reporting, but we are also at times welcomed by government-run companies, especially if what we are covering is the economy.

Chinese military and nationalism expanding

Yet neither country’s governments are under any illusions as to the difficulty of managing this “friendship”.

That is why face-to-face meetings Mr Abbott will have with president Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang are considered so crucial.

I suppose the feeling is, if you can look someone in the eye and tell them what you think, that builds trust.

However the region is entering a difficult period where trust is concerned.

Video: Australia and China’s relationship needs rebuilding ahead of an FTA (7.30)
In a nutshell, China’s military might is expanding along with an ever-emerging nationalism.

A few years ago hardly anybody had ever heard of the huge lumps of rock in the East China Sea which China claims as the Diaoyu Islands and Japan as the Senkakus.

Now at times it is as if the very existence of these ancient civilisations hangs on the ownership of them.

Late last year China announced a new Air Defence Identification Zone which overlapped the islands. It required prior notification by planes wanting to fly through this air space – air space that Japan obviously sees as its own.

So Australia, in supporting Japan, called in the Chinese Ambassador to voice its displeasure at the handling of the matter. China was furious.

Tension over Australia’s stance on East China Sea dispute

When Foreign Minister Julie Bishop later travelled to Beijing she walked straight into a trap.

World leaders hold meetings and, behind closed doors, say all sorts of things. But for the first few minutes of these meetings they let a couple of cameras and a handful of reporters into the room to capture what are invariably banal pleasantries about “the emerging friendship between our two great countries” and the like.

But, when Ms Bishop met her Chinese counterpart that is not how the script ran.

With the Beijing-based Australian press corps in the room, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi let her have it.

Photo: Julie Bishop meets her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi amid a row over the East China Sea
“What Australia has said and done with regard to China’s Air Defence Identification Zone has jeopardised bilateral mutual trust and affected the sound growth of bilateral relations,” he said.

“Across all of Chinese society the general public are deeply dissatisfied,” he continued.

Australia’s Ambassador to China, Frances Adamson, passed Ms Bishop a note which said something to the effect of: “You know that stuff we were going to bring up later on, you better pull it out now.”

So Australia’s Foreign Minister stepped up “…I must take issue with you on the matter of the East China Sea.”

And before she had a chance to say anything else journalists were being bundled out of the room by Chinese officials.

Later Ms Bishop told us: “Friends are able to discuss issues, air their differences and move on.”

“Australia and China will not always line up exactly in the same place on every issue… Australia has its view, its position and we should never be afraid to stand by our values and our views,” she said.

It seems China’s concern over this issue stems from more than just the loss of face in having Australia dress down its ambassador over a dispute in its own backyard.

China ‘testing the limits’ of Australia’s independence on foreign policy
China is also testing the limits of Australian independence when it comes to foreign policy.

As deputy director-general of the Institute of International Strategy in Beijing, Han Feng specialises in China’s relations with countries in the Asia Pacific including Australia.

He is also close to what the Chinese government is thinking about this part of the world.

“Lots of Chinese people are worried that, because of this special relationship with the US, Australia will stand on America’s side in international politics and ignore the facts of right and wrong in the region,” Professor Han told 7.30.

“I’m not saying that China doesn’t trust Australia but it’s worried that, in regional politics, there should be right and wrong, not decisions built on the relations of allies.”

He thinks Mr Abbott faces a challenge convincing Mr Xi that Australia has a mind of its own. Yet, in the end, this may not really matter when it comes to economic cooperation.

Just months after the Ms Bishop-Mr Yi meltdown China’s National People’s Congress opened with the traditional keynote address by premier Li.

More than a speech, the Government Work Report – as it is known – is the Communist Party’s most important annual document. It is an analysis of the state of the nation and a policy pledge for the next 12 months.

Trip could be pivotal in securing future relations

Mr Li announced that this year China would aim to sign a free trade agreement with Australia.

If the China-Australia free trade deal is in the Government Work Report it is going to happen.

So this does bring into question just how detrimental it really is for China and Australia to have it out in public. In the end business is business.

At the trough of Canberra-Beijing tension over the arrest and eventual jailing of Australian Rio Tinto employee Stern Hu, the two countries signed a major gas deal.

Yet many analysts would say that you cannot take this for granted, and certainly the Australian Government does not seem to.

At the same time that the Prime Minister is in China, Trade Minister Andrew Robb is in Shanghai this week with a delegation of more than 500 Australian business people as well as all the premiers.

It is as if everyone who runs Australia will be in China’s financial capital in the coming days.

As for Mr Abbott, Professor Han thinks he has a clear mentor in mind when it comes to China.

“Prime Minister Howard had some problems with China when he first took office,” he said.

“But later on both sides established smooth relations. I think Mr Abbott wants to inherit what Mr Howard eventually achieved in Sino-Australia relations but we still have some issues to be settled.”

In Mr Xi, China has a president who knows Australia pretty well. Again, that cannot be a bad thing.

Yet this trip could prove to be quite pivotal in terms of securing the future of a crucial relationship.

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In the past two decades since Paul Keating and Howard’s premiership, Australia has been seen as United State’s ‘Deputy’ for ‘Policing the New Word Order’ around the East Asia and Pacific region. Definitely, United States would want Australia to play and commit to a more meaning role in the China’s expansionary moves around South China Sea and East China Sea.

The ‘Panda Gambit’ is definitely in-play.

China's military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

If China is not careful, she would be lured into the United States’ counter measure against the ‘Panda Trap’. That alone is another sophisticated game of complex geo-politics games, where China’s reaction with any projection of force would be drawn into a military stand off with her immediate and regional neighbours in a Neo Cold War.

How could we all forget the last Cold War, which lasted 42 years and United States’ power of capitalism defeated communism, dismantled the ‘Iron Curtain’ and broke the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. In China’s zest of gaining global economic prowess, the near-exponential economic growth and transformation of China’s ‘Two System in One State’ could be manipulated into a sophisticated but complex economic-geo-political time-bomb.

Needless to say, Hagel’s and Abbott’s visit to China within this week is the precursor to the ‘Panda Gambit’. It is a classic intricate but enigmatic play by layers of United States’ diplomats, strategists and military to maintain its role, position and status as the world’s most strategic economy and Super Power.

 

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 04:00  Comments (1)  

Nut forgetting the shell, nursing the monkeys from the wild

It has to come to our attention that Malaysian companies involved in oil and gas industry, which have benefitted immensely from Petronas, is believed to not do their bit in corporate social responsibility  for the Malaysian masses, particularly  for the unskilled youths and school leavers.

These contractors and service and solution providers have been awarded projects and amassed a lot of wealth from Petronas due to the Federal Government policies  towards their status as ‘Malaysian companies’  and not on their competency  and capability alone. That provided space and opportunities for capacity building, which later became beneficial in these companies’ growth and multidimensional expansion.

Now that they are there, they are conveniently turning a blind eye towards the strategic initiatives to develop the Malaysian youth masses. The excuse is “Market forces”. The fact is that, not only do little to train Malaysian youths  and provide them  will  upskilling opportunities, they are pitting their fellow Malaysians to compete against the imported labourers.

The Federal Government is providing training and up-skilling opportunities for Malaysian youths classified under ‘Not in Education or Training’ (NIET), to earn basic skills and necessary competencies for the industry. Never-mind the fact these contractors and service providers to Petronas not willing to do it.

Now, the expect these Malaysian youths to be paid equally with foreign labourers, particularly from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Myanmar. “We have to go with market forces and get who ever offers the lowest”.

It is convenient for executives of these home grown oil and gas contractor and service providers and support companies reflect on their roots and journey to this point of their corporate history.  If they think why they shouldn’t pay Malaysian youths more than the labourers because of “Market forces”, then how about when Petronas awarded them their first job back then. Where they they the best, against foreign contractors?

Probably what they should be also reminded is that more than 90% of  the RM7.00 per hour wages that they are willing pay foreign labourers would flow out  as opposed to if Malaysians youths were to be given the opportunity instead. Even if these Malaysian youths are paid 10-15% more, their wages would be recycled back into the domestic economy.

This is the same domestic economy which provided the  resilience and drive to the eco-system were these oil and gas contractors and service providers benefitted from, right from the start.

 

Published in: on April 10, 2014 at 09:30  Comments (9)  

Lessons from Paracel VIII: The neo ‘Gun Boat’ diplomacy, Panda Projection of Power

China's military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s military maneurvress intimidating neighbour nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

United States gets sounding out despite iterated their presence and projection of power in East Asia and South East Asia is the Yankees’ interpretation of ‘Re-Balance of Power’, amidst China’s expansionary mode, arrogance and attitude playing the role of ‘neigbourhood bully’ and protagonist.

The Wall Street Journal story:

U.S., China Defense Chiefs Trade Barbs Over Regional Ambitions

Chang Wanquan Tells Chuck Hagel: China ‘Can Never Be Contained’

By DION NISSENBAUM CONNECT
Updated April 8, 2014 1:26 p.m. ET
Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, left, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday. Reuters
BEIJING—Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s call for a new model in relations with Beijing’s military swiftly ran into headwinds Tuesday as China’s defense minister castigated the U.S. and its allies for raising tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

Standing side-by-side during Mr. Hagel’s first official trip to Beijing since he became defense secretary a year ago, the two men traded pointed jabs over the geopolitical ambitions of both nations in the region.

Over the course of an hour, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan criticized Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and the U.S. for various measures he said undercut stability.

And he pushed back against America’s plans to shift more military resources to the region—a move widely seen in Beijing as an attempt to contain China’s expansionist aims.

China “can never be contained,” Gen. Chang told reporters during a one-hour news conference at the defense ministry with Mr. Hagel standing by his side.

Gen. Chang castigated Japan for stirring up trouble in the East China Sea over who should control a group of disputed islands there and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying other islands in the South China Sea. He blasted U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and urged America to take a more measured approach to regional disputes.

In turn, Mr. Hagel criticized China for unilaterally establishing an air-defense zone over the East China Sea islands without conferring with its competitors in the region.

“That adds to tensions, misunderstandings and could eventually add to and eventually get to a dangerous conflict,” said Mr. Hagel, who wagged his finger as he emphasized his concerns.

The sharp exchanges came as Mr. Hagel worked to promote a “new model” of military cooperation and transparency during his three-day visit to China.

The divide re-emerged later in the day when Mr. Hagel trumpeted the new chapter in military relations in a speech to 150 Chinese military officers. Mr. Hagel diverged from his prepared remarks several times to cut the most pointed barbs at China and argued that “great powers must resolve their disputes peacefully.”

Chinese officers questioning Mr. Hagel accused the U.S. of stoking tensions in the region by backing China’s rivals and trying to curb the country’s influence.

“The American rebalance to Asia-Pacific is not to contain China,” Mr. Hagel said in response to one skeptical officer.

Despite the friction, neither government said it viewed the encounter as a sign of hostility or deterioration in relations.

As if to underscore that, both men salted their comments with words of conciliation. Gen. Chang said the Pacific was big enough to hold the ambitions of both China and the U.S. And Mr. Hagel praised China as essential to the stability in the region.

Defense officials said they had expected the sharp questions from the Chinese defense minister and the students at the military school.

“I certainly didn’t sense hostility.” said Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon spokesman, who reviewed the transcripts. “It was a good dialogue.”

Gen. Chang’s comments were unusually direct for a Chinese official hosting a foreign counterpart and were likely directed primarily at China’s domestic audience.

Still, Mr. Hagel’s visit still represents progress of sorts given the volatile history of China-U.S. military relations. When then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited in 2011, his visit was emphatically overshadowed by the first test flight of China’s prototype stealth fighter—just a few hours before he met then-President Hu Jintao.

U.S. officials noted that the Chinese military also demonstrated openness by granting Mr. Hagel a rare tour of its lone aircraft carrier.

Military ties between the two countries will become increasingly important as the U.S. presses ahead with attempts to expand its influence in the Asia-Pacific by shifting more ships, planes and military personnel to the region.

The U.S. and China agreed on moderate measures to reduce military tensions over relations with North Korea and disputes over who should control the region’s seas.

It remains to be seen how deep the military ties will go. Tuesday’s measures mainly create new channels for dialogue between the two and lay out plans for a humanitarian-aid exercise when details can be worked out.

“Moderate steps are still steps in the right direction, so these are good steps,” said one U.S. defense official.

The relationship has been tested in recent months by accusations between the two countries over cyberattacks, China’s claims to vast expanses of the South China Sea and a territorial standoff with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Last fall, the U.S. military directly challenged China’s unilateral declaration of an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea islands by flying two B-52 bombers through the area.

China’s move has raised concerns among the U.S. and its Asian allies that Beijing would try to expand its influence by declaring a similar zone over the South China Sea.

But Washington’s plans to increase its influence in Asia are likely to be tempered by a tightening U.S. defense budget and China’s increasing military spending.

The Pentagon’s push for a new military model is part of America’s broader campaign to build a new relationship with China following the formal appointment last year of Xi Jinping as China’s president.

Mr. Xi met with President Barack Obama in June at a private estate in southern California to discuss major issues of contention. Last month, Michelle Obama and her two daughters visited Beijing.

—Carlos Tejada, Jeremy Page and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.

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More of China’s Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan gives US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel an earful as the latter made his first official visit to the largest communist country after appointed to the cabinet post over-sighting the largest free-world and most modern armed forces.

Reuters story:

U.S. defense chief gets earful as China visit exposes tensions

BY PHIL STEWART
BEIJING Tue Apr 8, 2014 2:15pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan participate in a joint news conference at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing April 8, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEX WONG/POOL

(Reuters) – Tensions between China and the United States were on full display on Tuesday as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faced questions in Beijing about America’s position in bitter territorial disputes with regional U.S. allies.

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, standing side-by-side with Hagel, called on the United States to restrain ally Japan and chided another U.S. ally, the Philippines.

Then, Hagel was sharply questioned by Chinese officers at the National Defense University. One of them told Hagel he was concerned that the United States was stirring up trouble in the East and South China Sea because it feared someday “China will be too big a challenge for the United States to cope with.”

“Therefore you are using such issues … to make trouble to hamper (China’s) development,” the officer said.

Hagel assured the audience that America had no interest in trying to “contain China” and that it took no position in such disputes. But he also cautioned repeatedly during the day that the United States would stand by its allies.

“We have mutual self defense treaties with each of those two countries,” Hagel said, referring to Japan and the Philippines. “And we are fully committed to those treaty obligations.”

The questioning came just a day after Hagel toured China’s sole aircraft carrier, in a rare opening by Beijing to a potent symbol of its military ambitions. Chinese Defense Minister Chang called Hagel, the top civilian at the Pentagon, the first foreign military official to be allowed on board the Liaoning.

Chang and Hagel spoke positively about improving military ties and announced steps to deepen them. But the effort could do little to mask long-standing tension over a range of issues, from cyber spying and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan to China’s military buildup itself.

At a seminar in New York, China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said Washington needed to think hard about the purpose of its military presence in Asia and whether its political agenda and those of its Asian allies were the same.

He spoke of the need to move away from “outdated alliances” and warned against any attempt to create an Asian version of the NATO Western military alliance to contain China.

“If your mission there is to contain some other country, then you are back in the Cold War again, maybe,” he said. If your intention is to establish an Asian NATO, then we are back in the Cold War-era again. This is something that will serve nobody’s interest, it’s quite clear.”

Beyond developing an aircraft carrier program, China’s People’s Liberation Army is building submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles, and has tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.

“RISK OF MISCALCULATION”

That expansion carries risks as Chinese forces come into greater contact with U.S. forces the Pacific, Hagel said.

“As the PLA modernizes its capabilities and expands its presence in Asia and beyond, American and Chinese forces will be drawn into closer proximity – which increases the risk of an incident, an accident, or a miscalculation,” Hagel said in a speech at the National Defense University.

“But this reality also presents new opportunities for cooperation.”

The risks of a mishap were highlighted in December when the American guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens had to take evasive action in the South China Sea to avoid hitting a Chinese warship operating in support of the Liaoning.

China’s military modernization has also been accompanied by a more assertive posture in its territorial disputes.

China claims 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) South China Sea, where the Philippines, along with other countries, stake claims. China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea over uninhabited islets that are administered by Japan.

Chang asked the United States to “keep (Japan) within bounds and not to be permissive and supportive”, and railed against the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who Hagel met in Tokyo last weekend.

“It is Japan who is being provocative against China,” Chang told a news conference after talks with Hagel.

“If you come to the conclusion that China is going to resort to force against Japan, that is wrong … we will not take the initiative to stir up troubles.”

Chang called the Philippines a nation “disguising itself as a victim” and renewed its opposition to Manila’s pursuit of international arbitration in its territorial dispute.

Hagel, who met the defense minister from the Philippines last week, said he raised U.S. concerns in Beijing over the tension in the South and East China Sea.

He cautioned that no countries should resort to “intimidation, coercion, or aggression to advance their claims.”

The U.S. State Department has accused China’s coastguard of harassment of Philippine vessels and called an attempt to block a Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed atoll, provocative and destabilizing.

Also speaking at the New York seminar, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who led the U.S. effort to engage with Communist China in the 1970s, compared the rivalries in Asia, particularly between China and Japan, and the latent threat of the use of force, to 19th Century Europe.

“I would give both of them the same advice – to be extremely restrained and not to permit that situation to develop into a military confrontation,” he said, referring to the leaders of Japan and China.

“We as Americans, being allied with Japan, but in partnership of some kind with China; we should not be put in a position to chose. We should make clear to both sides that we will be sympathetic and helpful, but we are strongly opposed to a military confrontation, which really would have huge consequences in the region.”

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Grant McCool)

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China’s progressively threatening maneuvres getting systematically more aggressive since 2008. These projections of power and force, deemed to be ‘unfriendly’ gestures  especially in areas believed to have rich hydro-carbon deposits all over South China Sea and East China Sea.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

These projection of force maneuvres guised as “Training exercise” within the imaginary and unsubstantiated claim of ‘Nine-Dash-Line’, China also instilled fear to fishermen.

China which is a signatory of United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) since 1982 and Declaration of Code of Conduct (DOC) with ASEAN nations on 4 November 2002, is expected to honour her commitments to resolve issues in the South China Sea by consultations, negotiations and diplomatic dialogues.

However China is not interested to hold multilateral diplomatic dialogues but instead demanded that each of the ASEAN countries do separate bilateral dialogues to resolve border and territorial disputes.

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China's 'imaginary territory' dubbed 'Nine-Dash-Line' in South East Asia

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China’s ‘imaginary territory’ dubbed ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ in South East Asia

It is very clear that China intends to arm-twist her way around during these mutually exclusive bilateral dialogues and push of joint development programs and terms for areas with rich hybdro-carbon deposits which is beneficial to her. This cannot be achieved if the resolution is obtained through multilateral diplomatic dialogues.

China is also in stern opposition of the Philippines’s decision to go to United Nations International Court of Justice at the Hague, to seek resolution for areas such as Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines is in no position to oppose China’s projection of force with her own military assets and capabilities.

The over lapping claims between the Phillippines and China in the South China Sea

The over lapping claims between the Phillippines and China in the South China Sea

In reciprocity, United States pronounces her commitment to stand by the Philippines in this stand of, which translated of the mobilisation of military might. This is a commitment made by the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the annual Singapore  international military and geo-political forum, Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2012.

China’s neighbours particularly South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia can’t help it but the presence of the United States projection of power and force provide some degree of sanity and better predictability to an aggressive People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of over 3 million active personnel.

PLA is independent from China’s administration as it is under the China Central Military Commission (CMC), which answers directly to the communist party politburo.

Defense Secretary Hagel’s visit to China today is an initial step of ‘repositioning’ United States role and commitment to reduce or escalate the ‘Panda Stand Off’ which China. It interesting to watch the development from President Barack H. Obama’s tour of South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines in slightly over two weeks time.

Three days ago Defense Secretary Hagel reassured Japan of the US military commitment. More over in the escalation of China’s expansionary behaviour and arrogant attitude. Otherwise, there is no reason “To contain China”.

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 02:00  Comments (12)  

Lessons from Paracel Pt VII: Provoking the Panda Protagonist

United States is aloud for taking position in China’s multiple geo-political stand off, particularly with the Philippines and Japan arisen from escalated claims over disputed territories. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to Japan, as a precursor to an expected series of United States projection of force.

Reuters story:

Hagel, in Tokyo, moves to reassure Japan on security ties

BY PHIL STEWART
TOKYO Sat Apr 5, 2014 3:35am EDT

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to U.S. and Japan military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo April 5, 2014.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to U.S. and Japan military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo April 5, 2014.

1 OF 3. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to U.S. and Japan military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo April 5, 2014. Hagel moved on Saturday to reassure Japan of America’s commitment to its security, as Russia’s annexation of Crimea raises eyebrows in a region facing its own territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.
CREDIT: REUTERS/TORU HANAI

(Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel moved on Saturday to reassure Japan of America’s commitment to its security, as Russia’s annexation of Crimea raises eyebrows in a region facing its own territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.

The United States and its allies have made clear they have no military plans to defend Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, instead moving to isolate Russia diplomatically and impose limited sanctions.

Critics say such moves are too weak to return Crimea to Ukrainian control and do little to deter further aggression.

Hagel defended the U.S. strategy to punish Russia and told reporters ahead of two days of talks with Japanese leaders that it was natural that “allies are going to look at each other to be assured”, given the crisis in Ukraine.

“It’s a pretty predictable, I think, reaction not just of nations of this area, of this region, but all over the world. It has to concern nations,” he said.

But Hagel rejected any suggestion of weakness as he renewed U.S. commitments to Japan, which is locked in a dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.

Washington takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China, but recognizes that Japan administers them and says they fall under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which obligates America to come to Japan’s defense.

Addressing U.S. and Japanese forces at Yokota Air Base, Hagel said one of the goals of his trip to the region was to assure allies of America’s commitment to “our treaty obligations.”

“We’re serious about that,” he said.

Daniel Russel, President Barack Obama’s diplomatic point man for East Asia, said on Thursday the prospect of economic retaliation should discourage Beijing from using force to pursue territorial claims in Asia, in the way Russia has in Crimea.

He stressed that China also should not doubt the U.S. commitment to defend its Asian allies.

It is unclear if U.S. reassurances can on their own allay worries in Japan that Washington might one day be unable or unwilling to militarily defend the country, despite Obama’s strategic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Obama is expected to visit Japan later this month.

BEEFING UP THE ARMED FORCES

Such fears have added momentum to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to beef up Japan’s forces while loosening constitutional limits on military actions overseas.

His government this week unveiled an overhaul of a decades-old ban on weapons exports.

In an interview published before his arrival, Hagel said he welcomed the possibility of Japan giving its military a greater role by allowing it to come to the aid of allies under attack.

“We welcome Japan’s efforts to play a more proactive role in the alliance, including by re-examining the interpretation of its constitution relating to the right of collective self-defense,” Hagel said in a written response to the Nikkei, Japan’s main financial newspaper.

Hagel, who travels next to China after his weekend visit to Japan, just wrapped up three days of talks with Southeast Asian defense ministers in Hawaii, where he warned of growing U.S. concern about territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China claims about 90 percent of the sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.

“We have differences (with China). And the only way to deal with differences is (to be) straight up honest, talk about it and deal with it,” Hagel told U.S. and Japanese forces.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea came up in discussions at the Hawaii talks, one senior U.S. defense official acknowledged. But the official played down the extent of discussions, saying there “wasn’t a lot of hand wringing.”

Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which it signed together with Britain, United States and Russia. It provided guarantees of Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for a commitment, since fulfilled, to give up the country’s nuclear weapons.

(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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US armed forces readiness in the Pacific, particularly in Japan and South Korea is at a high level. Recently, United States military did a full blown ‘Foal Eagle’ exercise with South Korea as part of projection of force.

Officials representing United States, South Korea and Japan is expected to meet over North Korea’s imminent nuclear threat.

Reuters story:

U.S., Japan, South Korea to discuss North Korea nuclear weapons program

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 3, 2014 4:48pm EDT

CREDIT: REUTERS/KCNA

(Reuters) – The United States, Japan and South Korea will meet next week to seek ways to persuade North Korea to give up its atomic weapons program, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, just days after Pyongyang warned of a “new form” of nuclear test.

The talks next Monday in Washington will follow on from a trilateral summit involving the United States and its two main Asian allies hosted by President Barack Obama in The Hague on March 25.

The discussions precede a visit to Asia by Obama from April 22, which will include stops in both Japan and South Korea, where the North Korea issue will be high on the agenda.

North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles as the talks in The Hague got underway [ID:nL4N0MN0T1] and on Sunday, after members of the U.N. Security Council criticized that move, Pyongyang said it would not rule out conducting “a new form of nuclear test.”

The Washington meeting will be hosted by the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies.

South Korea will be represented by its Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Hwang Joon-kook and Japan by its Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Junichi Ihara, it said.

“These discussions reflect the close cooperation among our three countries and our continued focus on pursuing the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, the State Department said in a statement.

Last month’s talks in The Hague saw the first face-to-face meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The North Korean missile launch underscored the need for Washington’s two key Asian allies to repair their strained ties.

The United States wants to strengthen the allies’ combined response to concerns such as North Korea’s banned nuclear weapons program and China’s growing assertiveness in disputed Asian waters.

FRICTION BETWEEN ALLIES

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo are clouded by the legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula and Seoul’s concerns that Abe wants to rewrite Japan’s wartime past with a less apologetic tone.

Park, Abe and Obama emphasized the need to work together on containing the North Korean nuclear threat.

On Monday, North Korea fired more than 100 artillery rounds into South Korean waters as part of a drill, prompting the South to fire back, officials in Seoul said, but the exercise appeared to be more saber-rattling from Pyongyang rather than the start of a military standoff.

North Korea had flagged its intentions to conduct the exercise in response to U.N. condemnation of last week’s missile launches by Pyongyang and against what it says are threatening military drills in South Korea by U.S. forces.

In its warning about a new nuclear test, North Korea said military drills to counter the United States would involve “more diversified nuclear deterrence” to hit medium- and long-range targets “with a variety of striking power”.

North Korea has forged ahead with its nuclear development after declaring so-called six-party talks with world powers aimed at ending its atomic weapons program dead in 2008.

It threatened nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States last year after the United Nations tightened sanctions against it for conducting a third nuclear detonation since 2006.

Russia and China both expressed concern on Monday about North Korea’s threat that it could carry out more nuclear tests.

Most analysts do not believe North Korea has the capability to deliver a nuclear strike on the mainland United States.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Andrew Hay)

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This is an indirect ‘warning’ to China, for being North Korean most strategic and tactically most important partner and comrade in arms.

Centre for Foreign Relations article:

The China-North Korea Relationship

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria, and Beina Xu, Online Writer/Editor
Updated: February 18, 2014
Introduction
China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and fuel. The country has helped sustain what is now Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and an influx of refugees across their shared eight hundred-mile border. But after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February 2013, analysts say that China’s patience with its ally may be wearing thin. This latest nuclear test, following one in 2006 and another in May 2009, has complicated North Korea’s relationship with Beijing, which has played a central role in the Six Party Talks, the multilateral framework aimed at denuclearizing North Korea. The December 2013 public shaming and execution of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and close adviser, triggered renewed concern from Beijing, which had built a solid relationship with Jang.

These newly surfaced tensions have complicated foreign policy decisions within the ranks of Beijing’s new leadership, ushered in at the beginning of 2013, as high-level discussions between China and North Korea have stalled since December 2012. CFR’s Scott Snyder and See-won Byun of the Asia Foundation say that the incident has “dampened China’s hopes for regional engagement that were raised by a series of bilateral consultations in Beijing among U.S., PRC, and DPRK special envoys in February.” While Beijing continues to have more leverage over Pyongyang than any other nation, experts say the tests could worsen relations, and many have urged China’s new leadership to consider taking a tougher stance with its neighbor.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in Pyongyang. (Photo: KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)
Strong Allies
China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War (1950-1953), when its troops flooded the Korean peninsula to aid its northern ally. Since the war, China has lent political and economic backing to North Korea’s leaders: Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), Kim Jong-il (1941-2011), and Kim Jong-un (1983-).

In recent years, China has been one of the authoritarian regime’s few allies. But this long-standing relationship became strained when Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006 and China agreed to UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. By signing off on this resolution—as well as earlier UN sanctions that followed the DPRK’s July 2006 missile tests—Beijing signaled a shift in tone from diplomacy to punishment. After Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in May 2009, China also agreed to stricter sanctions. In February 2013, Beijing summoned the North Korean ambassador to its foreign ministry to protest Pyongyang’s third nuclear test, and issued a call for a calm reaction to the denuclearization talks. However, it stopped short of the harsh criticism it unleashed in 2006, when it described the North’s first nuclear test as “brazen.” China also criticized a February 2014 UN report that detailed human rights atrocities in North Korea and served notice to Kim Jong-un that he could be liable in court for crimes against humanity. Beijing’s immediate and staunch defense raised questions as to whether it will use its United Nations Security Council veto power to block international interference on the matter.

Despite their long alliance, analysts say Beijing does not control Pyongyang. “In general, Americans tend to overestimate the influence China has over North Korea,” says Daniel Pinkston, a Northeast Asia expert at the International Crisis Group. In March 2010, China refused to take a stance against North Korea, despite conclusive evidence that showed Pyongyang sank a South Korean naval vessel. But in meetings with then leader Kim Jong-il following the incident, then Chinese president Hu Jintao asked the North Korean leader to refrain from future provocations, says John S. Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Hu also reportedly insisted on long overdue market reforms, notes Aidan Foster-Carter, a Korea expert at Leeds University.

At the same time, China has too much at stake in North Korea to halt or withdraw its support entirely. “The idea that the Chinese would turn their backs on the North Koreans is clearly wrong,” says CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal. Beijing only agreed to UN Resolution 1718 after revisions removed requirements for tough economic sanctions beyond those targeting luxury goods, and China’s trade with North Korea has steadily increased in recent years. Bilateral trade between China and North Korea reached nearly $6 billion in 2011, according to official Chinese data. Park writes that much of China’s economic interactions with North Korea are not actually prohibited by the current UN sanctions regime; Beijing characterizes them as economic development and humanitarian activities. China’s enforcement of the UN sanctions is also unclear, says a January 2010 report (PDF) from the U.S. Congressional Research Service, which notes that Chinese exports of banned luxury goods averaged around $11 million per month in 2009.

Pyongyang’s Gains
Pyongyang is economically dependent on China, which provides most of its food and energy supplies. Nicholas Eberstadt, a consultant at the World Bank, says that since the early 1990s, China has served as North Korea’s chief food supplier and has accounted for nearly 90 percent of its energy imports. By some estimates, China provides 80 percent of North Korea’s consumer goods and 45 percent of its food. North Korea’s economic dependence on China continues to grow, as indicated by the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. Snyder notes that in 2008, Chinese imports amounted to $2.03 billion, while exports to China including coal and iron ore totaled $750 million. Some experts see the $1.25 billion trade deficit as an indirect Chinese subsidy, given that North Korea cannot finance its trade deficit through borrowing.

China also provides aid directly to Pyongyang. “It is widely believed that Chinese food aid is channeled to the military,” (PDF) reported the Congressional Research Service in January 2010. That allows the World Food Program’s food aid to be targeted at the general population “without risk that the military-first policy or regime stability would be undermined by foreign aid policies of other countries.”

China’s Priorities
China’s support for Pyongyang ensures a friendly nation on its northeastern border, and provides a buffer zone between China and democratic South Korea, which is home to around 29,000 U.S. troops and marines. This allows China to reduce its military deployment in its northeast and “focus more directly on the issue of Taiwanese independence,” writes Shen Dingli of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai in China Security (PDF). North Korea’s allegiance is important to Beijing as a bulwark against U.S. military dominance of the region as well as against the rise of Japan’s military.

China also gains economically from its association with North Korea; growing numbers of Chinese firms are investing in North Korea and gaining concessions like preferable trading terms and port operations. Chinese companies have made major investments aimed at developing mineral resources in North Korea’s northern region. According to a January 2010 Congressional Research Service report, these investments are “part of a Chinese strategy (PDF)” of stabilizing the border region it shares with North Korea, lessening the pressure on North Koreans to migrate to China, and raising the general standard of living in North Korea. USIP’s Park writes these economic development plans also further China’s national interests in developing its own chronically poor northeastern provinces by securing mineral and energy resources across the border.

“For the Chinese, stability and the avoidance of war are the top priorities,” says Daniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. “From that point of view, the North Koreans are a huge problem for them, because Pyongyang could trigger a war on its own.” The specter of hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees flooding into China is a huge worry for Beijing. “The Chinese are most concerned about the collapse of North Korea leading to chaos on the border,” CFR’s Segal says. If North Korea does provoke a war with the United States, China and South Korea would bear the brunt of any military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Yet both those countries have been hesitant about pushing Pyongyang too hard, for fear of making Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse. The flow of refugees into China is already a problem: China has promised Pyongyang that it will repatriate North Koreans escaping across the border, but invites condemnation from human rights groups when sending them back to the DPRK. Jing-dong Yuan of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California says Beijing began its construction of a barbed wire fence along this border in 2006 for that reason.

Experts say China has also been ambivalent on the question of its commitment to intervene for the defense of North Korea in case of military conflict. The 1961 Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance says China is obliged to defend North Korea against unprovoked aggression. But Jaewoo Choo, assistant professor of Chinese foreign policy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, writes in Asian Survey that “China conceives itself to have the right to make an authoritative interpretation of the “principle for intervention” in the treaty. As a result of changes in regional security in a post-Cold War world, he writes, “China now places more value on national interest, over alliances blinded by ideology.” But, he argues, Chinese ambiguity deters others from taking military action against Pyongyang.

Beijing’s Leverage
Beijing has been successful in bringing North Korean officials to the negotiating table at the Six Party Talks many times. “It’s clear that the Chinese have enormous leverage over North Korea in many respects,” says Sneider of Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. “But can China actually try to exercise that influence without destabilizing the regime? Probably not.” Pinkston says that for all of North Korea’s growing economic ties with China, “at the end of the day, China has little influence over the military decisions.”

Also, China does not wish to use its leverage except for purposes consistent with its policy objectives and strategic interests, say experts. Choo writes, “After all, it is not about securing influence over North Korean affairs but is about peaceful management of the relationship with the intent to preserve the status quo of the peninsula.”

Analysts say that with the removal of Jang Song-thaek, who had been an important liaison to Beijing, China may further tilt toward prioritizing stability over denuclearization in the near term. However, his absence may also deprive China of strategic alternatives to cooperate with the United States and South Korea given the “skyrocketing reputational costs” of continued support for the North Korean leadership, Snyder writes.

Washington’s Role
The United States has pushed North Korea to verifiably and irreversibly give up its nuclear weapons program in return for aid, diplomatic benefits, and eventually normal diplomatic relations with Washington. Experts say Washington and Beijing have very different views on the issue. “Washington believes in using pressure to influence North Korea to change its behavior, while Chinese diplomats and scholars have a much more negative view of sanctions and pressure tactics,” Pinkston says. “They tend to see public measures as humiliating and counterproductive.”

However, China and the United do share common interests, including containing North Korea’s nuclear program and preventing South Korea and Japan from going nuclear, say some experts. A regional partnership involving the United States and the countries of Northeast Asia, including China “remains the best vehicle … for building stable relationships on and around the Korean peninsula,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Sheila A. Smith. But this dynamic has been challenged with the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia–a policy that strengthens U.S. political, economic, and military participation in Asia through bilateral dialogues with China as well as a range of hedging measures designed to manage China’s rise. This tension “provides a backdrop to consider prospects for Sino-U.S. cooperation on policies toward North Korea, and highlights Chinese wariness and strategic mistrust of US policy intentions,” writes Snyder.

Looking Forward
“Everyone who deals with North Korea recognizes [it] as a very unstable actor,” Sneider says. However, some experts say North Korea is acting assertively both in its relationship with China and on the larger world stage. “The North Koreans are developing a much more realist approach to their foreign policy,” Pinkston says. “They’re saying imbalances of power are dangerous and the United States has too much power–so by increasing their own power they’re helping to balance out world stability. It’s neorealism straight out of an international relations textbook.”

And even though China may be angry with North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship, analysts say it will avoid moves that could cause a sudden collapse of the regime. But Asian military affairs expert Andrew Scobell writes, “No action by China should be ruled out where North Korea is concerned.” According to Scobell, Beijing might stop propping up Pyongyang and allow North Korea to fail if it believed a unified Korea under Seoul would be more favorably disposed toward Beijing. A January 2008 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace says China has its own contingency plans (PDF) to dispatch troops to North Korea in case of instability. According to the report, the Chinese army could be sent into North Korea on missions to keep order if unrest triggers broader violence, including attacks on nuclear facilities in the North or South.

Additional Resources
China has long been regarded as North Korea’s best friend, but that sense of fraternity appears to be souring, the New York Times writes in this in-depth article.

VICE’s founder took a press trip to North Korea and produced this guide to the country.

Victor Cha talks with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman about North Korea’s nuclear needs in this interview.

This CFR Backgrounder examines the power handover of China’s Communist Party and its governing challenges.

Esther Pan and Carin Zissis contributed to this Backgrounder.

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This multiple diplomatic stand off involving China with common borders such as Japan and the Philippines which is progressively escalating into a military tension is indeed worrying.

United States is building up its indirect provocations as a reciprocity of China’s increasingly aggressive military maneuvres in the past 12 months, particularly the Jingganshan amphibious task force at James Shoal (March 2013), Changbanshian amphibious task force in North South China Sea (Jan 2013) and China’s coast guards presence near Senkaku Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

This pressing issue about China is expected to be high on President Barack H. Obama’s agenda during his official visit to South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines end of the month.

The Diplomat story:

Obama’s Asia Trip Itinerary Released

In late April President Obama will travel to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

By Zachary Keck
February 13, 2014

The White House released the itinerary late Wednesday afternoon for President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia.

A statement published on the White House’s website said that President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines during his Asia trip in late April. Specific dates for the trip were not given.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice first announced that President Obama would be traveling to Asia in April during a speech she gave at Georgetown University on U.S. Asia policy last November. The administration had not previously announced which countries the trips would include, although local media outlets in places like South Korea had been reporting on discussions in their countries to have President Obama visit.

The upcoming trip is itself a make-up trip for the one that President Obama canceled in October because of the government shutdown in Washington, DC. That trip was supposed to take him to the Philippines and Malaysia for bilateral visits, as well as to Indonesia and Brunei for regional conferences. The visits to the Philippines and Malaysia therefore come as no surprise.

Obama’s decision to visit America’s two closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, is inconsistent with the October trip, which would have focused exclusively on Southeast Asia. The change in the itinerary is likely due to the escalating tensions in the region since China announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in November of last year. America has also been pushing Japan and South Korea to mend ties, a theme Obama will likely take up during his trip.

The new itinerary also suggests that a final text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not imminent. The nations participating in the TPP negotiations had hoped to have a final text ready for Obama and his counterparts to sign during the October trip. The deadline for a final text agreement had been set for the end of 2013, although it was long clear that this was likely to be missed. The White House’s statement on Wednesday announcing the trip said that the TPP would be one part of the agenda during Obama’s stop in Japan.

In general, the Asia trip fits in well with Obama’s other trips and leadership summits this spring, which are mostly with strong and longstanding allies throughout the globe. This week, for instance, President Obama hosted French President Hollande for a state dinner at the White House. On Friday he will host the leader from Jordan, a strong U.S. ally in the Middle East, at a summit in California. At the beginning of March, Obama will welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Shortly thereafter Obama will leave for his second trip to Saudi Arabia as president.

Last year, in particular, the administration was routinely criticized for managing U.S. alliances poorly. So far this is shaping up as the “spring of redemption,” or at least that is the White House’s hope.

****************

The saga which is centred on China’s crude greed to control the access of hypo-carbon deposits across the seas in East Asia and the second most important maritime passageway is getting more chronic and complicated.

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 04:00  Comments (18)  

Goodbye, Bernard

Bernard Khoo aka Zorro Unmasked (1941-2014)

Bernard Khoo aka Zorro Unmasked (1941-2014)

This morning, our blogging-brother Bernard Khoo of Zorro-Unmasked was called to be with the Lord after a long illness. He was 73 and leaves behind wife Karen, daughter Patrina and son Kevin.

Retired teacher Bernard “Zorro” Khoo and I became acquainted when we came together hand-in-hand when our blogging brothers Datuk Ahirudin “Rocky” Attan and Jeff Ooi were sued by then NSTP Supremo Kalimullah “Riong Kali” Hassan and four others. The January 2007 peculiar action by a respectable media company became a landmark case. We were introduced at the High Court in Wisma Denmark, the day the case was mentioned.

That formed the first bloggers’ comradeship.

There on we became friends. At one point of time, we became close friends. We met almost everyday and drink and shared food and be merry over stories and jokes.

Once a week, we would converge for ‘Mee Rebus Tuesday’. Although we had political differences and opposing affiliation, we had a common desire to see then PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abullah Ahmad Badawi leave the soonest opportunity presented itself. We were steadfast in attacking a regime which wanted new media voices be leashed.

National Alliance of Bloggers, formed at the National Press Club

National Alliance of Bloggers, formed at the National Press Club

We got together to form National Alliance of Bloggers, All Blogs, on 12 April 2007. That brought us even closer.

So, at times we tolerated each other’s political opinion especially in the kinship of being blogging brothers. We organised and attended meetings with political leaders, from the different sides of the political divide.

Bernard even supported a campaign that I was staging for my alma matta alumni. That was the sort of respect we forged together. In the mood of celebrating the nation’s 50th Kemerdekaan, he helped to organise “Bangsa Malaysia” forum.

Then the 12GE came> We found ourselves deep in opposing political divide. 8 March 2008 was decided and there on, we started to drift apart. Bernard and likeminded bloggers formed a loose coalition known as ‘Barisan Alternatif Bloggers’. Later they called themselves ‘Barisan Rakyat Bloggers’.

Our political position drifted us further. We see very little of each other, taking also the consideration that all of us had more and more things to do. Bernard was deeply involved in many of Pakatan Rakyat especially PKR’s activities.

I was more focused on UMNO’s party elections.

Our political standing wedged even further apart. Bernard is never shy about what he felt and even blogged about it.

Zorro Unmasked posting about Big Dog, 10 May 2011

Zorro Unmasked posting about Big Dog, 10 May 2011

More of how Zorro felt about BigDog

More of how Zorro felt about BigDog

Never the less, we remained as friends. Not as close as before, but friends. Occasionally, we chatted over Facebook and catching up how each of us are getting along. The pipe-totting blogger never fail to talk about his grandsons, who lives in the Carribeans and asking about my daughter, whom he often expressed his fondness of her.

The last probably we met was at a common blogger’s wedding in Kelana Jaya. We sat and talked but time was not permitting. We promised to get together for all times sake but never got around of doing it.

Then I heard Bernard started to fall ill and had medical condition. In our occasional chats, he would briefly talk about it.

One of our occasional FB chats

One of our occasional FB chats

More of chats

More of chats

And more between friends

And more between friends

Comforting assuarnces

Comforting assurances

Concerned about a friend's state

Concerned about a friend’s being

In opposing sides, still manage to be friends

In opposing sides, still manage to be friends

In the heat of the Red Rock Hotel controversy, many pro-opposition bloggers shred me into pieces in their postings. So did Bernard. But he knewwhere  the borders were. Someone asked him about I in one of the social media platforms, “Isn’t Big Dog an enemy?”.

“Adversarial, maybe. An enemy, no. We are friends”.

I cannot express how it was comforting and appreciative that was. I did raise this with him. And Bernard coyly responded, “Yes, we are friends”.

Today, my friend has departed. I shall sorely miss him. Goodbye, Bernard Khoo. May you rest well, in eternity. May the memories of you etched in the hearts and minds of everyone, whom you call as ‘My friends’.

The wake for Bernard Khoo at St Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya

The wake for Bernard Khoo at St Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya

Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 03:33  Comments (4)  

Lessons from Paracel Pt VI: The Protagonist Panda

The disputed islands of Senkaku (Japan) / Daiyou (China)

The disputed islands of Senkaku (Japan) / Daioyu (China)

China is believed to have the attitude and arrogance of aggression, encompassing defiance of international pressures, laws and treaties and resort to military maneuvres against its neighbours and nations around the region as long as its tactical and strategical objectives are met.

A retired People’s Liberation Army general Luo Yuan opined that China is prepared to go to war with Japan over disputed territories which include

South China Morning Post story:

PLA former senior officer Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan and a military theorist at the Academy of Military Science

Chances of war between China and Japan increasing, says ex-PLA officer Luo Yuan

Retired PLA general says China is ready and rejects claims of Japanese combat superiority, although some analysts are not convinced

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 6:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 5:00pm
Minnie Chan
minnie.chan@scmp.com

Luo Yuan says China is more than capable of defending itself.
A retired People’s Liberation Army senior officer says a war with Japan over territorial disputes is becoming increasingly likely and that China is more than capable of defending itself.

Other military experts are not convinced the PLA would win any future conflict, despite China’s military build-up and modernisation.

Some cite the PLA’s lack of battle experience as well as technological weaknesses in certain areas, aircraft engines for example, that could hinder the PLA’s fighting capability.

China and Japan moved closer to armed conflict after Beijing established its first air defence identification zone last November in the East China Sea to include the disputed Diaoyu islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, Major General Luo Yuan said.

“China should remain in a high state of vigilance because Japan has a history of manufacturing small incidents to trigger military conflict,” Luo said.

Luo, a vice-president of a Beijing-based think tank of retired military officers, the China Strategy Culture Promotion Association, dismissed suggestions in some Japanese media reports that the country had air combat superiority because its pilots and crews had greater experience and training.

“That conclusion is a deceptive tactic used by Japan to confuse the public,” he said.

China has several military airports … that could provide logistical support LUO YUAN, RETIRED PLA MAJOR GENERAL
The PLA has deployed its most advanced aircraft and logistical support to military bases along China’s southeast coast, a move designed to show that the army is prepared for any military conflict in the area.

“So far, all aircraft sent by both countries to the Diaoyu waters have been third-generation fighter jets. The PLA’s newest and most advanced planes entered service at the turn of this century, including the J-10, J-11B and the [Russian-made] Su-27,” said Luo.

“In contrast, Japan has deployed to the region only about 30 F-15Js, which their air force has used since the 1980s.”

Luo declined to say how many fighter jets the PLA would mobilise in an armed conflict. He said China had an overwhelming advantage in the number and types of aircraft available.

“China has several military airports along the southeast coast that could provide effective logistical support to PLA fighter jets because those air force bases are much closer to the Diaoyus,” he said.

“But in Japan, there is just one airport close to the Diaoyus: Naha airport in Okinawa.”

Canada-based magazine Kanwa Asian Defence said the PLA’s missile strategic force had deployed its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile batteries at bases in Fujian since 2012.

Ni Lexiong , director of a defence policy research centre at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said he was not convinced the PLA would have the upper hand in any conflict.

“It’s a fact that China’s logistical support near the Diaoyus is better than Japan’s because military bases in Fujian and Zhejiang province have been ready for war with Taiwan since the 1950s,” he said. “But we shouldn’t ignore the Americans, who would play a decisive role in any armed conflict between China and Japan.”

Luo argued the US would not intervene in any conflict.

Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said that if hostilities did break out with Japan, all military bases and facilities on land and sea would be targets for bombing.

“China has more fighter jets than Japan, but one Japanese pilot is probably equivalent to at least three PLA pilots due to their intensive training and joint drills with the US air force,” he said.

**************

The uninhabited islands known Senkaku by the Japan or Daioyu by China was annexed by the Japanese Imperial Army after the first Sino-Japan War in 1895. It came under US administration after Japan was defeated at the end of World War II.

Although the United States does not have an official position on the merits of the competing sovereignty claims,[7] the islands are included within the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, meaning that a defense of the islands by Japan would require the United States to come to Japan’s aid.

Senkaku Islands

Senkaku Islands

In September 2012, the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands from their ‘private owner’, prompting large-scale protests in China. As of early February 2013, the situation has been regarded as “The most serious for Sino-Japanese relations in the post-war period in terms of the risk of militarised conflict”.

On 23 November 2013, the China set up the ‘East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone’ (ADIZ) which includes the Senkaku Islands and announced that it would require all aircraft entering the zone to file a flight plan and submit radio frequency or transponder information.

Proximity of Sensaku Islands, as justified by Japan for its claim

Proximity of Sensaku Islands, as justified by Japan for its claim

This is an alarming analysis because China’s expansionary behaviour and attitude towards the international community especially its neighbours, is getting more prevailing after the occupation of Scarborough Shoal. China’s PLA Navy (Navy) erected permanent structures on the island and has been warding off Filipino fishermen as they approach the atoll.

The atoll has been declared by President Ferdinand E Marcos in 1978 and reiterated by President Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo in 2009 as part of the Philippines’ EEZ, in accordance to the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), where China is a signatory since 1982.

The Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct Declaration, signed by ASEAN members and China on 4 November 2002 in Phnom Penh

It is interesting to note China is also a signatory to the Declaration of the Code of Conduct (DOC) with ASEAN members on 4 November 2002, where the reference is the UNCLOS. Controversial issues between neighbours and nations around the region such  territorial and jurisdictional disputes which include multiple common border claims have been agreed to be resolved by peaceful means which include consultations, dialogues and negotiations without resorting to the use of force.

China instituted its marker and permanent structures on Scarborough Shoal and refuse to return the claim of the island back to the Philippines despite inked the declaration, even on the basis of honouring the Code of Conduct Declaration and friendship and in the spirit of regional co-operation, as neighbouring countries.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

China also did not honour the principles agreed in the DOC such as consultation and dialogues to resolve the growingly chronic problem between the two neighbors,

The Diplomat story by renown analyst Carl Thayer:

To Isolate Philippines, China Woos ASEAN

Two potentially crosscurrent developments are shaping maritime security in the South China Sea.

By Carl Thayer
October 01, 2013

Maritime security in the South China Sea is being shaped by two overlapping and potentially crosscutting developments. The first development is the emergence of new tensions between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal dating from late August. The second development is the initiation of official consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in mid-September.

New Tensions

Ever since the eruption of tensions between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 Beijing has pursued “wedge politics” in an attempt to isolate Manila from other ASEAN states. For example, China’s new Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly omitted the Philippines from the itinerary of his two trips to the region this year.

In August China and the Philippines became involved in a diplomatic altercation over President Aquino’s attendance at the Tenth China-ASEAN- Expo in Nanning (3-6 September). The Philippines had been designated the “country of honor” and official host for this event. It was past practice for the host country to be represented by its head of government. On 28 August, immediately after President Aquino indicated his intention to attend the Expo China requested that he visit “at a more conducive time.” According to Philippine sources, China demanded the Philippines withdraw its arbitration case as a condition for Aquino’s visit. This was unacceptable and President Aquino declined to attend.

In the midst of these ructions, new tensions in China-Philippine relations erupted when Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on September 3 released three aerial photographs of Scarborough Shoal taken on August 31. These photographs were taken at low tide and showed what the Philippines claimed were thirty concrete blocks, a concrete platform, two vertical posts and a white buoy lying in Scarborough Shoal. Three Chinese Coast Guard ships were also photographed on station in the area.

Gazmin speculated that the concrete blocks “could be a prelude to construction” and were a violation of the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Gazmin also stated he was unsure when the blocks were delivered. Philippine sources speculated that the blocks could be used to tether Chinese fishing vessels. An anonymous Philippine official was quoted as stating, “the concrete pillars and blocks… appeared to have been dropped from an aircraft.”

A day after Gazmin’s testimony, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto del Rosario argued that China had plans to occupy disputed reefs in the South China Sea before the formal conclusion of a COC, and stated that Chinese activity “places the region in jeopardy in terms of peace and stability.” Del Rosario concluded that “we intend to file a diplomatic protest” with China.

On September 4, the Philippines Department of National Defense announced that new aerial photographs taken two days earlier revealed a total of 75 concrete blocks in a two-hectare area of Scarborough Shoal. The blocks were estimated at just over half a meter in length, width and height.

Official Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei responded to Philippine accusations by claiming they were “not in accordance with the facts” and that Scarborough Shoal was China’s “inherent territory.”

On September 10, Philippines Navy Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano raised the rhetorical stakes by noting that government discussions were underway about how to respond to China, including whether or not to remove the blocks. Speaking at a Foreign Ministry press conference the following day, Hong Lei restated China’s “undisputed sovereignty” over “Huangyan Islands [Scarborough Shoal] and the neighboring sea.”

China released its own photos reportedly taken some time during the second week of September clearly showing rocks and coral jutting from the sea at low tide. Chinese sources claimed this was the same area of Scarborough Shoal depicted in photographs taken by the Philippines Air Force. As a direct result of this controversy the Philippines recalled its ambassador to China for consultations.

China-ASEAN Consultations

Shortly after the formal installation of Xi Jinping as president and Wang Yi as the new foreign minister back in March, China signaled a subtle change in its relations with Southeast Asia. The following month, at the 19th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Consultation, the Chinese side announced its willingness to commence discussions with ASEAN on a COC later in the year.

Two explanations account for China’s demarche. First, Chinese leaders reportedly viewed past policy on the South China Sea as counterproductive. They sought to insulate China-ASEAN relations from territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Second, China faced a more unified ASEAN. In 2013, Brunei assumed the ASEAN Chair and gave priority to initiating discussions with China on a COC. Thailand, as ASEAN’s country coordinator for dialogue relations with China, and Indonesia both began to play more proactive roles.

China responded by dispatching Foreign Minister Wang Yi on two trips to Southeast Asia to sound out his counterparts and to make preparations for the ASEAN-China Summit in October. Wang’s first visit in late April/early May included Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei; during the second visit in August he took in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

At a press conference in early August, Wang Yi was careful to note that China and ASEAN had only “agreed to hold consultations on moving forward the process on the ‘Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC)’ under the framework of implementing the ‘Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)….’” Wang also noted in a pointed reference to the Philippines that, “some parties” held “different ideas…on how to promote the process of COC.”

Significantly, Wang Yi highlighted four reasons for why the COC consultations would be a prolonged process. First, he stated that the expectations of unnamed parties for a “quick fix” were “neither realistic nor serious.” Second, Wang noted that no country or countries could impose their will and that consultations would proceed only on the basis of consensus. Third, he recalled that in the past outside interference had caused China-ASEAN talks on a COC to bog down. Fourth, he cautioned that consultations could only proceed “step-by-step.”

China and ASEAN held their first round of formal consultations on the COC in Suzhou, China from September 14-15. This meeting drew up a work plan on the DOC for 2013-14, approved an expert group to assist in developing the COC, and agreed to meet in Thailand in early 2014. Immediately after the meeting the China Daily reported, “Manila once again tried to disrupt China-ASEAN consultations. Before the Suzhou meetings, the Philippines again started a war of words with China. It fabricated a story that China had laid some concrete blocks on Huangyan Islands…”

Despite this promising start, it is clear that some major procedural differences will have to be overcome. China insists that consultations on the COC can only take place under the framework of the DOC. The 2002 DOC listed five areas for cooperation. Only four joint working groups have been set and so far not one project has been approved or funded. ASEAN prefers that the DOC and COC discussions be separated with each proceeding on its own track. Some in ASEAN argue that the COC should be implemented piecemeal, that is, as soon as agreement is reached on one measure it should be implemented immediately.

Moving Forward

The 2002 ASEAN-China DOC calls for the parties “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability” and to refrain from occupying “presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.” The Philippine-China dispute over “blocks or rocks” at Scarborough Shoal is an illustration that positive diplomatic progress on a COC could be set back at any time by any party failing to exercise restraint. This applies equally to the Philippines and China.

Nearly a month has passed since the Philippines first raised allegations about new activities at Scarborough Shoal, yet no further information has been forthcoming. It is incumbent on the Philippines to provide further details to substantiate its accusations that China violated the 2002 DOC by placing concrete blocks in Scarborough Shoal as a prelude to construction.

The Philippines’ allegations raise more questions than answers. Is there any better imagery to determine if the blocks are not rocks, as the Chinese claim? Why hasn’t this imagery been released? When were the blocks placed in Scarborough Shoal? If, as some analysts argue, the blocks form a haphazard pattern, what is the basis for the conclusion that they are foundations for future construction?

China has been disingenuous in its dismissal of claims made by the Philippines. For example, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei responded to a question on this issue by stating, “what the Philippine side said is not true.”

This phrasing makes it unclear whether he was denying that China had placed the blocks there in the first place, or denying accusations that China planned construction activities in Scarborough Shoal, or both.

One regional security analyst, for example, has speculated that the concrete blocks were used as ballast by Chinese fishermen and discarded once they reached the fishing grounds at Scarborough Shoal. If this is the case, dumping concrete blocks would be an environmental not a security matter. China, which has physical control over Scarborough Shoal, should invite the world’s media and marine experts to visit Scarborough Shoal and make their own independent determination.

***************

This is China’s second aggression in the region, taking islands deemed part of a neighbour’s EEZ (as per provided by UNCLOS). Forty years ago, China invaded Paracels which  was under then South Vietnam’s border and administration. Today, China built a PLAN base on the island.

There have been increasing incidence of China’s projection of force and power in the region. The more glaring was exactly a year ago where the  Jinggangshan amphibious task force with 1,000 armed marines and amphibious tanks escorted by two guided missile destroyers made live missile firing exercise and taking oath “To protect its borders and territories” at James Shoal (also known as Beting Serupai).

James Shoal or Beting Serupai

James Shoal or Beting Serupai

James Shoal is 50 nautical miles off the coast of Sarawak and it is part of Malaysia’s EEZ.

It is believed that China would plan to draw Japan into ‘ an armed provocation’ to justify a military option “To resolve incursion of Japan’s military assets” if and when the recent incursion of Chinese Coast Guard ships in the Senkaku Islands  is being reciprocated. This is far remote from the ‘Panda Trap’ being invoked onto the Philippines.

Kyodo News International story:

Kyodo News International March 29, 2014 3:18pm

3 Chinese ships enter Japanese waters near Senkaku Islands

 

Three Chinese coast guard vessels intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Saturday, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The intrusion was the seventh this year, following one on March 15. The Japanese-controlled uninhabited islets are claimed by China and Taiwan, which call the islands Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

==Kyodo

***************

Japan is confident of projecting force against China’s position and military maneuvres into Senkaku Islands vicinity because of the motivation provided by United States. Department of State Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel announced United States position and willingness to stand by the Philippines in any dispute with China.

Associated Press story:

US: Will stand by allies in disputes with China

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:29 pm
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States says China should not doubt U.S. resolve in meeting its defense commitments to its allies.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel’s comments Thursday follow Chinese efforts to interdict Philippine vessels resupplying a small offshore garrison in the South China Sea.

The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally and one of several nations with conflicting territorial claims with China in those waters.

Russel told a congressional hearing that China’s neighbors are worried that Russia’s annexation of Crimea might serve as a precedent for Beijing.

He said Russia’s action has heightened concern, particularly among Southeast Asian nations, about the possibility of China “threatening force or other forms of coercion to advance their territorial interests.”

Russel said China needs to demonstrate its commitment to peacefully resolving its territorial disputes.

**************

Hydrocarbon deposits and fields around Senkaku Islands

Hydrocarbon deposits and fields around Senkaku Islands

China’s deployment and projection of power and force in the case of the invasion of Paracels, the Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal stand off and  the “Training exercise” at James Shoal (Beting Serupai) is rather crude mannerism in serving its strategic economic objectives. International and regional politics and upholding ideological struggles are far secondary motives, despite that China is the largest communist state in the world.

China is rather poor in hiding the real intent; It is about the much needed hydro-carbon deposits to fuel a galloping economy and enormous consumer market and control of the second most important international maritime passageway. Both are essential and integral components for China to sustain growth and economic position and resilience.

China's military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s energy requirement position and projection:

  • China is the world’s most populous country with a fast-growing economy that has led it to be the largest energy consumer and producer in the world. Rapidly increasing energy demand, especially for liquid fuels, has made China extremely influential in world energy markets.

  • China is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil and projected to move from second-largest net importer of oil to the largest in 2014.

  • China’s national oil companies dominate the oil and gas upstream and downstream sectors, although the government has granted international oil companies more access to technically challenging onshore and deep water offshore fields. China revised its oil price reform legislation in 2013 to further reflect international oil prices in the country’s domestic demand.

  • China’s largest oil fields are mature, and production has peaked, leading companies to invest in techniques to sustain oil flows at the mature fields, while also focusing on developing largely untapped reserves in the western interior provinces and offshore fields.

  • China’s national oil companies have rapidly expanded their purchases of international oil and gas assets since 2008 through direct acquisitions of equity and financial loans in exchange for oil supplies in order to secure more oil and gas supplies, make long-term commercial investments, and gain technical expertise in more challenging oil and natural gas plays.

  • Substantial oil demand growth and geopolitical uncertainties have increased pressure on China to import greater volumes of oil from a wide range of sources.

  • China is making headway on improving its domestic oil pipeline network to integrate its oil supply and demand centers and to diversify its oil import sources through pipeline links with Kazakhstan, Russia, and Myanmar.

  • As part of its goal to diversify crude oil import sources and meet oil product demand, China has steadily augmented its refining capacity, which climbed to more than 13 million bbl/d in 2013.

  • China’s plan to construct crude oil storage through both state-owned strategic petroleum reserves and commercial crude oil reserves is part of its need to secure energy in light of its growing reliance on oil imports. The government intends to build strategic crude oil storage capacity of at least 500 million barrels by 2020.

  • Although natural gas production and use is rapidly increasing in China, the fuel comprised only 4% of the country’s total primary energy consumption in 2011. Heavy investments in upstream development and greater import opportunities are likely to underpin significant growth in China’s natural gas sector.

****************

Imagine the requirement to have crude oil storage of 500 million barrels in less than six years time.

It is believed that  Chinese communist party leaders’ fear of inability to serve the strategic intent of hydro-carbon and energy requirements and control of the second most important maritime passageway would not ensure the dream of becoming the largest cucumber-based economy and the new global Super Power.

China’s military and aggressive geo-political maneuvres such as defiance of UNCLOS, DOC and ‘spirit of friendship and co-operation with neighbours’ and geo-political arm twisting like ‘refusal of multilateral dialogues in favour of separate bilateral dialogues’ are only sublime evidence pointing to strategic economic grounds. It is about planning to sought better position and bargaining when joint development programs are being instituted separately with the affected nations.

Greed is second most effective motivation. Number one goes to fear. And China is neither shy nor creative in masquerading both, even though the strategic intent has been projected by so many analysts and career diplomats.

It is a good opportunity for Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak reflect on China’s current position and projected economic, geo-political and military position and attitude and discuss the matter with Vietnamese leaders in his official visit starting tomorrow. The invasion of Paracels and all steps there on are good milestones to look at.

*Updated Noon

In the wake of recent developments in the South China Sea with the Philippines on Scarborough Shoal and East China Sea with Japan on the Senkaku Islands, China has been warned not to do what Russia did on to Crimea.

Reuters story:

U.S. warns China not to attempt Crimea-style action in Asia

BY DAVID BRUNNSTROM
WASHINGTON Thu Apr 3, 2014 11:58pm EDT

1 OF 2. A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 2012.
CREDIT: REUTERS/KYODO

(Reuters) – China should not doubt the U.S. commitment to defend its Asian allies and the prospect of economic retaliation should also discourage Beijing from using force to pursue territorial claims in Asia in the way Russia has in Crimea, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

Daniel Russel, President Barack Obama’s diplomatic point man for East Asia, said it was difficult to determine what China’s intentions might be, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea had heightened concerns among U.S. allies in the region about the possibility of China using force to pursue its claims.

“The net effect is to put more pressure on China to demonstrate that it remains committed to the peaceful resolution of the problems,” Russel, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Russel said the retaliatory sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States, the European Union and others should have a “chilling effect on anyone in China who might contemplate the Crimea annexation as a model.”

This was especially so given the extent of China’s economic interdependence with the United States and its Asia neighbors, Russel said.

Russel said that while the United States did not take a position on rival territorial claims in East Asia, China should be in no doubt about Washington’s resolve to defend its allies if necessary.

“The president of the United States and the Obama administration is firmly committed to honoring our defense commitments to our allies,” he said.

While Washington stood by its commitments – which include defense treaties with Japan, the Philippines and South Korea – Russel said there was no reason why the rival territorial claims could not be resolved by peaceful means.

He said he hoped the fact that the Philippines had filed a case against China on Sunday at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague would encourage China to clarify and remove the ambiguity surrounding its own claims.

Russel termed the deployment of large numbers of Chinese vessels in its dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea “problematic” and said that Beijing had taken “what to us appears to be intimidating steps.”

“It is incumbent of all of the claimants to foreswear intimidation, coercion and other non-diplomatic or extra-legal means,” he said.

In Asia, China also has competing territorial claims with Japan and South Korea, as well as with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan in potentially energy-rich waters.

Obama is due to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines from April 22, when he is expected to stress his commitment to a rebalancing of U.S. strategic and economic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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In our previous discussion, China could be motivated to follow Russia’s foot steps in defying international community opinion and European Union’s stern opposition for asserting the annexation of Crima back into the Federation by using the “Crimean people referendum” excuse.

The writing is already on the wall. Even though Panda is often assumed to be a cuddly, fury and cute animal especially in the form of effigies such as soft stuffed toys for children, it is actually a very dangerous animal with canines that live in the wild.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 02:00  Comments (5)  

Lessons from Paracel Pt V: The Panda Trap

The over lapping claims between the Phillippines and China in the South China Sea

The over lapping claims between the Phillippines and China in the South China Sea

The Philippines could be baited into entrapment by China for taking the atolls such the Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal issues to the United Nations tribunal for arbitration, where China claims the process and jurisdiction is defective and inadequate. As such, China could use the opportunity as a bad excuse to unilaterally annex Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys.

South China Morning Post story:

Beijing is laying a trap for the Philippines in disputed waters, experts say, waiting for an excuse to seize territory in the oil-rich Spratlys

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 2:26am
Alan Robles in Manila

Protesters in Manila. Photo: AFP
With tension running high between the Philippines and China because of their maritime dispute, one wrong move could see Beijing grabbing all the disputed islands, say regional experts.

“The danger really is a short, sharp conflict due to miscalculation,” said Chito Santa Romana, former ABC News Beijing bureau chief who was once shortlisted to become Manila’s ambassador to China. “The margin of error for our forces is really very small.”

The danger really is a short, sharp conflict due to miscalculation. The margin of error for our forces is really very small CHITO SANTA ROMANA, FORMER ABC NEWS BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF
Speaking at a forum yesterday on “Understanding 21st century China”, Santa Romana warned the Philippines should be wary of China’s “cabbage” [encirclement] strategy.

“The idea is for us to make a mistake – to ram their ship, to arrest a fisherman, to fire at a fisherman – if we do any of those, I think we lose an island,” he said.

“If we make another mistake, I think the Chinese will continue to probe the weak spots, and if they can achieve it, they would want to control all the disputed islands before a decision [by the arbitration committee on the law of the sea] is made. So even if they lose the case, there is nothing more to talk about.”

On Saturday, the Philippine military used a small supply vessel to evade larger Chinese coast guard ships blockading a tiny Filipino garrison on the Second Thomas Shoal.

The shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets that sit near key shipping lanes, surrounded by rich fishing grounds that are believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves. A small number of Philippine soldiers are stationed on a navy vessel that was grounded there in 1999 to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty.

Marwyn Samuels, a China specialist from Syracuse University who has been a visiting professor at Beijing, Tsinghua and Nanjing universities, said Chinese efforts to block Philippine supply ships could be dangerous.

“Too much of this is not easily predictable, accidents will happen, somebody will make the wrong move at the wrong moment and that’s going to escalate, so yes, it’s worrisome,” he said.

He pointed out that while China has the military advantage, “from a political point of view it’s difficult [for China], because of the Americans”.

Manila and Washington are poised to sign an agreement that will increase the US military presence in the Philippines.

Beijing’s efforts to block the supply ships has stirred anger in the Philippines. A brief rally was held by left-wing activists yesterday in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila to protest “the harassment” by Chinese coast guard ships of the Philippine resupply ship.

About 60 members of the Akbayan political party, which is part of the ruling coalition, carried a mock yellow tape measure during the protest, yelling “China do you know how to measure?”

At a meeting of senior Asean officials in Myanmar that ended on Monday, Philippine foreign undersecretary Evan Garcia stressed the importance of a code of conduct in the South China Sea after Manila filed a case with the UN on Sunday challenging Beijing’s claim to most of the disputed waters.

He told the forum yesterday that the Philippine filing “manifested our commitment to a peaceful and durable means towards a lasting solution to the disputes in the South China Sea anchored on the rule of law.”

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This is highly probable, especially after the recent Russian intervention into Ukrainian domestic politics which saw a referendum was quickly held in Crimea that resulted 96.7% Crimeans voted to return to Russia. Swiftly, Crimea was brought back into Russian Federation amidst international opposition, particularly from United States and the European Union.

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China's 'imaginary territory' dubbed 'Nine-Dash-Line' in South East Asia

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China’s ‘imaginary territory’ dubbed ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ in South East Asia

China could be motivated to blatantly make lame charges against the Philippines, where the annexation of the Second Thomas Shoal is highly probable. The area around Second Thomas Shoal is rich with oil and gas, a source of energy China is craving for.

China is already using any thinkable ways to bully nations around the region. Ever since 2008, China has been blatant several times in the deployment of PLA Navy (PLAN) task force within the imaginary and unsubstantiated ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ as a projection of power and force.

As the Philippines turned to the International Court of Justice at the Hague to resolve after being bullied by China for over 15 years, by no means the opportunity is also maximised by forming a fresh relationship with United States, especially in military co-operation

International Press story:

Philippines Invokes Law to Fight Chinese Muscle

Analysis by Richard Heydarian
Reprint | | Print | Send by email
MANILA, Apr 2 2014 (IPS) – After a year of futile diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the South China Sea disputes, the Philippines has risked permanent estrangement with China by pressing ahead with an unprecedented arbitration case before a United Nations court at The Hague, while ironing out a new security pact with the U.S.

The primary goal of the Philippines’ latest manoeuvre is to put maximum pressure on China amid an intensifying territorial dispute, which has raised fears of direct military conflict. Manila has been alarmed by the increasing assertiveness of Chinese paramilitary vessels, which have reportedly harassed Filipino fishermen straddling the South China Sea as well as threatened Filipino troops stationed across varying disputed features in the area.

There seemed little goodwill left for resuscitating frayed bilateral relations.
In the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, for instance, recent weeks saw Chinese paramilitary forces imposing a tightening siege on Filipino troops, who have struggled to receive supply materials from their military command headquarters in the Philippines.

Since 1999, the Philippines has exercised effective and continuous control over the disputed feature, which falls well within the country’s 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). But China is seemingly bent on seizing control of the shoal, which is very close to the hydrocarbon-rich waters off the coast of the southwestern Philippine island of Palawan.

From the perspective of the Filipino leadership, China is not only threatening the country’s territorial integrity, but also its vital economic and energy security interests in the South China Sea. In addition, the Philippines and its principal military ally, the United States, share similar concerns over China’s accelerated military spending. Beijing has focused on enhancing the country’s naval capabilities, part of China’s short-term goal of consolidating its territorial claims in the Western Pacific – and its long-term ambition of becoming the preeminent naval power in Asia.

“We will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the opening session of the National People’s Congress in early March. “We will comprehensively enhance the revolutionary nature of the Chinese armed forces, further modernise them and upgrade their performance, and continue to raise their deterrence and combat capabilities in the information age.”

Recognising the apparent futility of existing diplomatic efforts, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III effectively abandoned his earlier attempts at reviving bilateral channels of communication with the top Chinese leadership when he chose to provocatively liken China to “Nazi Germany”.

“At what point do you say: ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it. Remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II,” exclaimed Aquino, during an exclusive interview with the New York Times, where he compared China’s rising territorial ambitions in the South China Sea to Nazi Germany’s annexation of the then Czechoslovakian territory in the early 20th century.

China was outraged by Aquino’s comments, dismissing him as an “amateurish” leader with little appreciation for the delicate art of diplomacy and conflict management. At this point, there seemed little goodwill left for resuscitating frayed bilateral relations.

With diplomacy taking the back seat, the Philippines has stepped up its efforts to welcome a greater American military presence on its soil. Under the proposed Enhanced Defence Cooperation, the Philippines is offering the U.S. expanded access to its military bases in Subic and Clark. In exchange, the Philippines is seeking enhanced U.S. military aid, increased joint military exercises, and, potentially, even temporary access to American military hardware to counter China’s maritime assertiveness.

“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] facilities with elements of the U.S. military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Philippine Constitution and laws,” explained the Philippine Department of National Defence (DND), which has strongly lobbied for deeper military relations with Washington in order to enhance the country’s “minimum deterrence capability”.

The Philippines’ direct legal challenge to China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, however, is the greatest source of tension in bilateral relations. In early 2013, the Philippines initiated an ambitious arbitration case at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) at The Hague, with the explicit aim of undermining China’s notorious ‘9-dashline’ doctrine, which accords Beijing “inherent” and “indisputable” sovereignty over the bulk of the South China Sea.

The Philippines contends that China, as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is obliged to respect the Philippines’ rights to exercise qualified control over features that fall within its 200-nautical mile EEZ. These include, among other features, not only the Second Thomas Shoal, but also the Scarborough Shoal, which was effectively seized by China after a brief military standoff in mid-2012.

In early 2014, China reportedly offered certain “carrots” in exchange for the Philippines’ decision to postpone its submission of its formal written complaint – known as ‘memorial’ in legal parlance – at the ITLOS. Beijing reportedly offered, among other things, mutual disengagement from the contested features such as the Scarborough Shoal, trade and investment benefits, and postponement of the planned Chinese imposition of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea.

The more hardline factions within the Philippine leadership reportedly refused to entertain China’s offer, and convinced the Aquino administration to push ahead with the arbitration move.

“It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations,” said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who oversaw the filing (Mar. 30) of a voluminous memorial against China at ITLOS. “It is about helping to preserve regional peace, security and stability. And finally, it is about seeking not just any kind of resolution but a just and durable solution grounded [in] international law.”

The Philippines hopes that its latest legal challenge to China will rally like-minded countries such as Vietnam and Japan as well as the broader international community behind its own cause. But the Philippines’ latest decision runs the risk of irreversibly antagonising China, which could, in turn, permanently undermine diplomatic efforts at peacefully resolving the South China Sea disputes, and pave the way for a military showdown.

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United States would be more than glad to have its military units presence felt around the region. Particularly after China’s PLAN aggressive military manuevres March last year and in January. Currently, US Navy is using the Changi Naval Base in Singapore as its regional staging platform.

The live missile firing and oath taking ceremony at James Shoal exactly a year ago, where the Jinggangshan amphibious task force complemented with 1,000 armed marines, amphibious tanks and helicopters, shocked the international community.

James Shoal or Beting Serupai is 50 nautical miles off the coast of Sarawak. China claims the incursion into Malaysia’s EEZ (as per defined by United Nations Convention Law of the Seas) as “Training exercise”.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims over South China Sea with the imaginary Nine-Dash-Line

It is also an oil rich area, which falls under China’s imaginary and unsubstantiated claims of the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ within the South China Sea region.

Vietnam hours ago announced that US Navy guided missile destroyer and supply ship would be calling on Da Nang. Coincidentally, US Navy has been active in the PR with Vietnam, at the same time China announce naval expansion.

Than Nenh News.com story:

US naval ships to visit central Vietnam

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 22:28

Two ships from the United States Navy will visit the central city of Da Nang from April 7 to 12 for activities with the Vietnam Navy.
The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard will dock at Tien Sa Port, the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City said in a release.
The six-day collaboration will focus on non-combatant events and skills exchanges in areas such as military medicine, search and rescue, diving and shipboard damage control.
Ship tours, band concerts, community relations events, and US-Vietnamese Navy sporting events are also planned.
US units participating in the naval exchange activities include the two aforesaid ships, staff from Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven; sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five; a Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachment; and the 7th Fleet Band, Orient Express.
Since 2008, ,U.S. destroyers have visited Vietnam to tighten diplomatic ties between the two countries.
In 2010, the USS John S. McCain made its first port visit to Vietnam (Da Nang) to commemorate the 15th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the US and Vietnam.

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The force annexation of atolls within the Philippines EEZ as per outlined in the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which span from Scarborough Shoal to Second Thomas Shoal is an exact repeat of the invasion of Paracels from Vietnam, forty years ago.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak is expected to start his three days official visit to Vietnam today. The recent development in the region, especially China’s aggressive projection of power and arrogance is expected to be raised.

NST story:

02 April 2014| last updated at 01:29PM

Najib to visit Pearce Air Force base, Vietnam

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is scheduled to arrive in Perth tonight will visit the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) at Pearce Air Force base and review first-hand the multinational search effort for MH370 during his two-day visit to Perth.
He will hold a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss issues of mutual interest particularly on the latest development and subsequent direction of the next phase of the Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.

Najib will also personally thank the Australian Government and the personnel involved in the operations, including the Malaysians.

After Perth, the Prime Minister is scheduled to undertake an official three-day visit to Vietnam from tomorrow.

He will be accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as well as senior government officials from respective Ministries.

He is expected to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Agricultural Cooperation that would further enhance collaboration between Malaysia and Vietnam in the field of agriculture.

He is also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on General Secretary of Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung,
Read more: Najib to visit Pearce Air Force base, Vietnam – Latest – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/latest/najib-to-visit-pearce-air-force-base-vietnam-1.545297#ixzz2xlZGfztt

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What is more interesting is that Vietnam’s position to resolve the multiple over-lapping claims in South China Sea is for a multilateral dialogue amongst the claimant states. It is also Malaysia’s and the Philippines’ position also.

Multilateral dialogue could lead towards a multinational joint development programs for the hydro carbon fields, within the disputed and multi claimant areas.

On the other hand, China is only interested to resolve the matter via bilateral talks. It means that China would do separate bilateral talks with ASEAN countries. It probably means that China is able to arm-twist individual states into submission of her strategic plans for the region.

Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone as per the Malaysia Act 1984 and under jusrisdiction of the MMEA

Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone as per the Malaysia Petroleum Act 1984 and under jusrisdiction of the MMEA

That would likely translate to an agreement for a joint development program for specific hydorcarbon fields which is weighted towards China’s benefit.

If the decision of the Philippines to go to the Hague for a solution and China’s refusal to recognise the initiative as a preamble for a unilateral annexation of all hypo-carbon rich areas deemed the Philippines’ EEZ under UNCLOS, dubbed the ‘Panda Trap’, then there would be a fresh ‘Cold War’ conflict in the region.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYTLFJ6vTFE

It is expected that United States would stand aloud in the opposition of China’s unilateral annexation, which could witness the deployment of US military assets and combat units in aggressive manuevres as a reciprocity. China should not forget United States’ resolve to protect its hydro-carbon interests, translated in Operation Dessert Storm in February 1991 and the Invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 02:00  Comments (5)  
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