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.

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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 -

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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’.”

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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)  

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.

**********

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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.

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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)  

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)  

Lessons from Paracels Pt IV: China rejects arbitration to decide on ‘Nine-Dash-Line’

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 is aloud about its arrogant attitude as the neighbourhood bully, with regards to the recent steps taken by the Philippines to resolve at international arbitration on the controversy arisen by the world’s largest communist state’s imaginary and unsubstantiated claims of the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.

 Financial Times story:

Last updated: March 31, 2014 7:03 am

China rejects Philippines case on ‘nine-dash’ line

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Hong Kong and Roel Landingin in Manila
©Reuters
China has criticised the Philippines for forging ahead with an unprecedented international arbitration claim against Beijing over contested waters in the South China Sea.
Manila on Sunday submitted a pleading to the body that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). The so-called “memorial” urges the tribunal to invalidate the “nine-dash line” that China includes on maps to justify its claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
Beijing responded to the move by calling on the Philippines to engage in direct talks over the disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
More

“No matter how the Philippine memorial is packaged, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the latter’s illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea,” said the Chinese foreign ministry.
The Philippines and China are both signatories to Unclos, which spells out the maritime rights of states, and the means for settling disputes over overlapping sea claims. But China has refused to participate in the case, which will be heard by a five-judge tribunal in The Hague, saying it was “unilaterally initiated” by Manila.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the dispute with the Philippines was “excluded from arbitration” because of a declaration made by China when it ratified Unclos in 2006.
“China’s rejection of the Philippines’ submission for arbitration is solidly based on international law, and China’s lawful rights as a party to Unclos should be truly respected.”
China is involved in maritime disputes with several neighbours, but the Philippines and Japan have been the most aggressive in challenging its claims. In February, Benigno Aquino, the Philippines president, compared China’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea to Hitler’s push for Czechoslovakian land in 1938.
The Sino-Filipino dispute comes as China and the US vie for power in the Pacific. China is rapidly expanding its maritime capabilities as the US continues its “pivot” to Asia. Ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines in April, Washington and Manila are trying to finalise a deal that would allow the US to base ships and troops in the southeast Asian nation on a rotational basis.
In announcing the submission of the almost 4,000-page memorial, Albert Del Rosario, the Philippines foreign secretary, said it was unclear how China would respond.
In depth

Asia maritime tensions

Latest news and comment on the escalating disputes over islands and territorial waters between China and its neighbours
“Ordinarily, the next step in an arbitration of this nature would be the filing of a counter-memorial by the other party,” said Mr Del Rosario. “However, it is currently unknown whether China will appear in the case, or whether it will continue its present policy of abstaining from the proceedings.”
Manila argues that the tribunal should invalidate the “nine-dash line” because it stretches to just 30-50 miles from the Philippines, cutting off the southeast Asian country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, in violation of Unclos. Manila says it would lose 80 per cent of its EEZ in waters off the western Philippines, including areas containing huge oil and gas deposits, if it accepted the line.
The Philippines is also trying to stop China from occupying or blocking access by Philippine boats and fishermen to eight so-called “submerged features” that lie within its EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal where Chinese and Philippine maritime vessels figured in a two-month stand-off in the middle of 2012.
Manila says the shoal, a rich fishing ground that has in effect been controlled by China since the Philippines withdrew its ships to end the impasse, is located about 120 miles west of the Philippines coast but lies more than 350 miles from China.
No matter how the Philippine memorial is packaged, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the latter’s illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea
- China foreign ministry
Antonio Carpio, a Philippines supreme court judge, said Manila is not asking the tribunal to determine the ownership of the disputed rocks, shoals or reefs, but only to clarify if the mostly submerged features are entitled to their own maritime zones.
“The Philippines is asking the tribunal if China’s nine-dashed lines can negate the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone as guaranteed under Unclos,” he said in a speech in February. “The Philippines is also asking the tribunal if certain rocks above water at high tide, like Scarborough Shoal, generate a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone or only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.”
The move to file a “memorial” paves the way for formal deliberations by the tribunal on whether it has jurisdiction and on the substantive issues. It marks the first time that China’s “nine-dash line” will be subjected to intense international scrutiny by some of the world’s foremost international law experts.
In February, the Philippines welcomed the move by the US to weigh in on the “nine-dash” line for the first time. Danny Russel, the top US diplomat for east Asia, told the US Congress that “the international community would welcome China to clarify or adjust its ‘nine-dash’ line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea”.

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China believes the international tribute to arbitrate these multiple claims, which the Philipines are taking the task to resolve, have ‘limited jurisprudence to decide’. China wanted bilateral talks exclusively with each of the South East Asian nations having the various multiple claims within the imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ although Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are resolved towards a multi-lateral dialogues with claimants.

On Sunday, the Philippines submitted to the United Nations for the arbitration.

The Wall Street Journal story.

WO-AR848_PHILCH_G_20140330183622

Philippines Seeks Arbitration at U.N. Over China’s Claims in South China Sea

Contested Waters Carry Huge Volume of World Trade

By JAMES HOOKWAY CONNECT
Updated March 30, 2014 11:31 a.m. ET
The Sierra Madre has Philippine troops deployed on board and is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal. Associated Press/Bullit Marquez
The Philippines filed an arbitration case Sunday with the United Nations over China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, raising the ante in a long-running dispute over who owns what in the strategic, energy-rich waters.

Manila has been preparing for months to file its challenge to China’s claim to control everything within a broad expanse of the sea delineated by its so-called “nine-dash line.” The Philippines’ submission is nearly 4,000 pages long, includes more than 40 maps and is aimed at countering Beijing’s argument that controlling mostly submerged features such as reefs or shoals provides China with sovereignty over the sea, including some 80% of the Philippines’ U.N.-declared exclusive economic zone.

The contested waters include areas potentially rich in oil and gas, as well as rich fishing waters such as Scarborough Shoal, where Philippine and Chinese vessels were locked in a standoff for nearly two months in 2012.

China so far has abstained from the proceedings in the matter, which the Philippines first raised in January under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Now that the case for arbitration has been filed, the UN tribunal will decide on what steps are to be taken next.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Sunday that seeking arbitration “is about defending what is legitimately ours” and securing a “just and durable solution grounded on International Law.”

China’s foreign ministry dismissed the arbitration filing in a statement posted on its website Sunday night, reiterating its position that it considers the dispute a bilateral matter to be resolved through direct negotiations. “Regardless of how the Philippines packages its complaint, the direct cause of the dispute is illegal occupation of reefs in the South China Sea on the part of the Philippines,” it said.

The Philippines’ challenge comes as Manila engages in another protracted cat-and-mouse game to evade Chinese ships apparently attempting to blockade one of the Philippines’ few outposts in the region: a rusting hulk marooned on Second Thomas Shoal.

A Philippine ship managed Saturday to slip past a Chinese vessel to resupply a small contingent of Filipino soldiers aboard the World War II-era Sierra Madre, which was steered onto Second Thomas Shoal in 1999. The wreck is one of the Philippines’ few visible claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea, something of a symbolic marker in efforts to withstand China’s growing ambitions.

In recent weeks China has attempted to stop Philippine forces from resupplying the wreck, forcing the Philippines to conduct air drops. Journalists from the Associated Press and other news organizations were aboard the Philippine supply vessel and reported hearing a Chinese coast guard ship warning it to stay away by radio. The Philippine ship, carrying some 10 tons of food and water, slipped away after heading into shallower waters where the Chinese vessel couldn’t follow.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday that “China will absolutely not allow the Philippines to occupy” Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippine legal challenge to China’s claims is perhaps a more significant display of resistance.

The waters, which carry around half of the world’s trade, are also claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan and tensions have led to a series of confrontations in past decades. Any decision by the U.N. could bear on how the overlapping territorial claims are ultimately resolved and could stir tensions between China and the U.S.

The Obama administration infuriated Beijing in 2010 when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the free navigation of the South China Sea as being in America’s “national interest.”

China has since attempted to step up control, among other things dispatching nominally civilian coast guard vessels into disputed waters. Beijing argues each territorial dispute should be resolved on a bilateral basis. Washington and the Association of Southeast Asian want a multilateral, rules-based approach.

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Since 1990a\s China illegally occupied Scarborough Shoals, which is part of the Philippines’ EEZ as per outlined by United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Historically, Scarborough Shoals are part of the Philippines from the Treaty of Washington.

The 1900 Treaty of Washington provided that any and all islands belonging to the Philippines archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of the Treaty of Paris, were also ceded to the United States. This included Scarborough Shoal, which is outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines. In effect, the Treaty of Washington amended the Treaty of Paris, so that the islands ceded by Spain to the U.S. included islands within and outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines, so long as Spain had title or claim of title to the islands.

The Philippine’s bilateral dispute with China over the shoal began on 30 April 1997 when the Philippines naval ships were prevented by Chinese boats from approaching the shoal. On 5 June 1997, Domingo Siazon, who was then the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, testified in front of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate that the Shoal was “A new issue on overlapping claims between the Philippines and China”.

In 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enacted the Philippine Baselines Law of 2009 (RA 9522). The new law classified the Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal as a regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines.

The Phillippines armed forces had to dodge the China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) blockade of Scarborough Shoals to reach Second Thomas Shoal.

Reuters story:

Philippine ship dodges China blockade to reach South China Sea outpost

BY ERIK DE CASTRO AND ROLI NG
SECOND THOMAS SHOAL, South China Sea Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:37am EDT

Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines March 31, 2014.

Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines March 31, 2014.

CREDIT: REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO
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SECOND THOMAS SHOAL, South China Sea (Reuters) -The Philippine government vessel made a dash for shallow waters around the disputed reef in the South China Sea, evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path to deliver food, water and fresh troops to a military outpost on the shoal.

The cat-and-mouse encounter on Saturday, witnessed by Reuters and other media invited onboard the Philippine ship, offered a rare glimpse into the tensions playing out routinely in waters that are one of the region’s biggest flashpoints.

It’s also a reminder of how assertive China has become in pressing its claims to disputed territory far from its mainland.

“If we didn’t change direction, if we didn’t change course, then we would have collided with them,” Ferdinand Gato, captain of the Philippine vessel, a civilian craft, told Reuters after his boat had anchored on the Second Thomas Shoal under a hot sun.

The outpost is a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.

There, around eight Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, says the shoal is part of its territory.

Things were going smoothly for the Philippine ship until it was spotted by a Chinese coastguard ship about an hour away from the Second Thomas Shoal. The Chinese boat picked up speed to come near the left of the white Philippine ship, honking its horn at least three times.

The Chinese ship slowed down after a few minutes, but then a bigger coastguard vessel emerged, moving fast to cut the path of the Philippine boat.

The Chinese sent a radio message to the Filipinos, saying they were entering Chinese territory.

“We order you to stop immediately, stop all illegal activities and leave,” said the radio message, delivered in English. Gato replied that his mission was to deliver provisions to Philippine troops stationed in the area.

Philippine troops wearing civilian clothes and journalists then flashed “V” for the peace sign at the Chinese.

WATCHED FROM THE SKY

Instead of stopping or reversing, the Philippine vessel picked up speed and eventually maneuvered away from the Chinese, entering waters that were too shallow for the bigger coastguard ships.

A U.S. navy plane, a Philippine military aircraft and a Chinese plane, all visible from their markings, flew above the ships at different intervals.

Filipino troops on the civilian vessel clapped as they came within a few meters of the marooned transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre. Supplies of food and water were then hauled up to troops onboard.

Later, the eight soldiers due to be relieved put on military fatigues for a daily ceremony to lower the Philippine flag at dusk.

They had been scheduled to go home three weeks ago but Chinese ships blocked two Philippine supply vessels from reaching them on March 9, a move protested by Manila and which the United States described as “provocative”. The Philippines resorted to air dropping food and water instead.

“What we want to accomplish is for this area to remain ours. This is the one thing that we are guarding here,” said sergeant Jerry Fuentes, a Philippine marine set to deploy on the BRP Sierra Madre.

China’s Foreign Ministry said late on Saturday that the action by the Philippines would not change the reality of China’s sovereignty over the shoal, which Beijing calls Ren’ai reef.

“China will never tolerate the Philippines’ occupation of the Ren’ai reef in any form,” it said.

China displays its claims to the South China Sea on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

The ships of its recently unified coastguard are a fixture around the disputed waters. While they don’t have the weaponry of military vessels, thus reducing the risk a confrontation could get out of control, they still represent a potent show of sovereignty.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.

Raising the stakes over the South China Sea, the Philippines filed a case against China on Sunday at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, subjecting Beijing to international legal scrutiny over the waters for the first time.

Manila is seeking a ruling at the Permanent Court of Arbitration to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its EEZ as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), its team of U.S. and British lawyers have said.

China reiterated on Sunday that it would not accept international arbitration, saying the only way to resolve the dispute was through bilateral negotiations.

“Regardless of how the Philippines packages its lawsuit, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the Philippines’ illegal occupation of part of the islands in the South China Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department said all countries should respect the right of any state to use dispute resolution mechanisms under the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Regardless of the results of this arbitration proceeding, we call on all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that are escalatory and destabilizing,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a news conference in Manila on Sunday that Manila does not expect the tribunal to reach a decision before the end of 2015.

“The question of, what if the Philippines gets a favorable ruling? The Philippines has always taken the position that a favorable ruling is a ruling that China, as a member of the community of nations, is bound legally to accept and to implement,” government lawyer Francis Jardeleza said.

(This story was refiled to fix typo in lawyer’s name in final paragraph)

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Dean Yates)

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Going to the United Nations and getting an international tribunal to resolve issues such as the Scarborough Shoals is the Phillipines’ initiative to “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. It expected to be raised in the informal ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with the United States in Hawaii, starting tomorrow.

Never the less, the increasingly growing China’s PLAN aggressive maneuvres  (poorly being masquaraded as “Training and exercises”) within the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ is a test deeply wedging a division between its seemingly redefined ‘Panda diplomacy ‘ trying to balance between the position and role as the second largest world economy and consumer and an upcoming Super Power and /or ‘neighbourhood notorious big bully’.

Lessons from Russia’s decisive move in Crimea amidst international cries is something that ASEAN have to be really concern about.

The Diplomat article:

Crimea and South China Sea Diplomacy

Russia’s big move shows both the limits and importance of diplomacy in territorial disputes.

By Sophie Boisseau du Rocher & Bruno Hellendorff
April 01, 2014

On March 18, China and ASEAN gathered in Singapore to pursue consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea, alongside talks on the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC). The gathering came at a time of rising preoccupation over a perceived creeping assertiveness by China in pursuing its maritime claims. Just one week before, Manila and Beijing experienced another diplomatic row, after Chinese Coast Guard vessels barred the resupply of Philippine marines based in the Spratly Islands.

In broader terms, several high-profile developments have hinted that China is becoming more inclined to consider the threat and use of force as its preferred vehicle for influence in the South China Sea. China’s considerable maritime build-up has been accompanied by the merging of its maritime agencies into a unified Coast Guard unit, the publication of maps with a 10-dash line covering Chinese claims in the South China Sea, and even the announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, covering the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. All have contributed to turning the South China Sea into “Asia’s cauldron,” as one renowned expert titled his last book. A widely circulated photograph picturing Chinese sailors forming the slogan “The Chinese dream, the dream of a strong military” on the deck of the Liaoning did nothing to help mitigate nervousness over Chinese aims and strategy in the region.

The timing of these China-ASEAN discussions coincided with rising tensions in Eastern Europe around the fate of Crimea. In recent days, neither international law nor European pressure have proved of much value in the face of Russian resolve. Illegal in many respects, the Crimean referendum was still deemed valid in Moscow, which subsequently annexed the region. The Ukrainian military bases in Crimea were rapidly overwhelmed by pro-Russian forces as the last vestiges of political control from Kiev were swept aside, making a return to status quo ante increasingly remote. Russia clearly has the upper hand in Crimea. It successfully promoted its interests through a combination of intimidation and crawling assertiveness while answering European and American criticisms by pointing to Western interventions in Kosovo and Libya. The larger consequences of this strategy for Euro-Russian relations and stability in Eastern Europe remain unclear. However, this demonstration of how, in certain situations, force prevails over diplomacy, a notion long fought by the European Union, has opened a new Pandora’s box.

Certainly, Russia’s bid to bend international norms in its favor through the use of force, and Western reactions to it are being watched with great interest, and probably some trepidation, in Beijing and Southeast Asia. Whether the Crimea issue will have influence in Southeast Asia, in the context of competing territorial claims, is far from clear. However, the Crimean and South China Sea issues have several elements in common. One of the most prominent is the complexity of managing—let alone solving—territorial disputes, especially when dealing with an evolving power. Another is that both cases stress the necessity but limited efficacy of diplomacy.

Confronted with a complex and contradictory China, Southeast Asian countries may derive a sense of urgency from developments in the Crimea. For ASEAN and its members, the crucial question may well be whether they can succeed in convincing China of the long-term benefits of diplomacy over force and fait accompli. It may well be ASEAN’s last chance: Negotiations began 22 years ago, in 1992, and have yet to produce convincing results for either party. If the 2002 Declaration reaffirmed a commitment to international law and freedom of navigation, there has been obvious evidence of unilateralism by certain parties, be they the Filipino government, the Chinese military or even the Hainan authorities. The case may be pressed further in light of the Crimea events: should a Code of Conduct be effectively agreed, with—as China made clear—no deadline for its actual implementation, will it suffice to curtail national frustration from any party, limit tensions and therefore avoid escalation?

Diplomacy is important. It is the channel through which the different stakeholders can showcase and explain their diverging perceptions and interests, communicate, negotiate, and ultimately create a path to de-escalation and stabilization for future common benefit. But it could also prove limited in that it is largely dependent on power configurations and functions under a series of conventions and norms that can either facilitate or constrain discussions. In the Crimean and South China Sea cases, diplomacy is largely, yet not exclusively, undertaken under the particular framework of one international institution (the EU or ASEAN) engaging one great power (Russia or China). Facilitating discussions is the fact that in both situations, stakeholders are connected through a series of strong economic, political and institutional interests. The bad news is that these networks of interests look rather fragile when history becomes a self-asserted, and emotional, argument. Moreover, internal divisions within both the EU and ASEAN have the consequence of blurring the common vision that their members may seek to promote, weakening their negotiating position and constraining the options available to their diplomats. In both cases, the basic worry for the EU and ASEAN alike is to come up with a compelling response to political and military resolve, with international law and negotiations offering little assistance.

The Singapore round of consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea produced no notable progress. That is not much of a surprise to experts already of the opinion that the very process is merely cosmetic and deserving of little attention, arguing that China will not give way on what it considers its national and sovereign territory. Other authors have explained that Chinese diplomats are content with the DoC, and will not push for quick progress on a CoC as the latter would inevitably hurt the national interest. Such speculation and doubt over the scope and effectiveness of the negotiations did not alter ASEAN’s official line: sanctions do not help; consultations are always better. Will the future prove that correct? It appears that ASEAN’s bet is to prove that China sees an interest in these talks and would gain in following certain rules not just in terms of image and status but also in promoting its views and “dream” through an ASEAN platform.

Before the recent events in Crimea, ASEAN’s diplomacy was considered adequate by most stakeholders—with the possible exception of the Philippines, which nonetheless ceaselessly appealed to the bloc for help. All claimant countries and their neighbors found an interest in pursuing dual-track negotiations with China, bilateral and multilateral, the latter stage mainly serving, via ASEAN, communication purposes. But now may be the time to consider adding more substance to the discussions, and more glue to the Southeast Asian claimants.

The Crimea is far from the South China Sea, and the two contexts certainly differ in many respects. But Russia’s bold move has shown that resorting to international law to contain a great power’s resolve is not always effective. Even in Moscow, few would disagree, pointing to the invasion of Libya or that of Iraq as counterexamples. Whether the events of the Crimea provide lessons to Chinese and ASEAN diplomats is unknown, but they have made a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea an urgent diplomatic imperative. Success would showcase China’s “peaceful rise” as it would ASEAN’s diplomatic capacity. The efforts of both partners to create stability and security would also be welcome news to a heavily challenged international community.

Bruno Hellendorff is a Research Fellow and Dr. Sophie Boisseau du Rocher is an Associate Researcher at the Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security, Brussels.

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Crimea provided Beijing with fresh motivation for a PLA solution to protect China’s interests within their imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.

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’s arrogance and self-preservation greed growingly is worrying. Especially when she refuse to respect the United Nations and UNCLOS, citing preference for dialogue as the ‘diplomatic drama’ where as the choice of action all along was to use deploy military force and impose duress onto others.

These are valuable lessons that should be learned, from the progression of China’s ‘tweaked’ foreign policy and attitude towards the nations around the region, beginning from the invasion of the Paracels exactly forty years ago.

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 02:00  Comments (7)  

The expanding mystery of the search for MH370

The Co-ordinator for the MH370 SAR Director General of Dept of Civil Aviation Dato' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman presenting the 'expanded area of operation'

The Co-ordinator for the MH370 SAR Director General of Dept of Civil Aviation Dato’ Azharuddin Abdul Rahman presenting the ‘expanded area of operation’

The mystery looming in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines B777-200 flight MH370 KUL-PEK on early Saturday spiral deeper. The area of operations for search and rescue has grown wider and now expanded to North East Indian Ocean, well beyond west of Langkawi.

Three days ago Chief of Air Force Jen. Tan Sri Rodzali Daud TUDM mentioned about the Air Defence Radar picking up trails suggesting that the 260 tonnes MTW widebody airline did “An air turn”.

The Guardian story:

The Malaysian military believes the missing plane flew for more than an hour after vanishing from air traffic control screens, changing course and travelling west over the Strait of Malacca, a senior military source told Reuters.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

At the time it was roughly midway between Malaysia’s east coast town of Kota Bharu and the southern tip of Vietnam, flying at 35,000 ft.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malaysia’s Berita Harian newspaper quoted air force chief Rodzali Daud as saying the Malaysia Airlines plane was last detected by military radar at 2:40 a.m. on Saturday, near the island of Pulau Perak at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca. It was flying at a height of about 9,000 metres (29,500 ft), he was quoted as saying.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was being checked.

“This report is being investigated by the DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) and the search and rescue team,” the source said. “There are a lot of such reports.”

The time given by Rodzali was an hour and 10 minutes after the plane vanished from air traffic control screens over Igari waypoint, midway between Malaysia and Vietnam.
There was no word on what happened to the plane thereafter.

If the reports from the military are verified, it would mean the plane was able to maintain a cruising altitude and flew for about 500 km (350 miles) with its transponder and other tracking systems apparently switched off.

Malaysia has extended the massive search operation for the plane to the Malacca Strait after initially focusing on the South China Sea.

An Indonesia air force officer shows a map of Malacca Straits during a briefing prior to a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
An Indonesia air force officer shows a map of Malacca Straits during a briefing prior to a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Photograph: Binsar Bakkara/AP
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So did Riong Kali dot com:

Malaysian air force confirms signal of MH370 turning back on Saturday

BY MOHD FARHAN DARWISMARCH 11, 2014

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base in Butterworth received a signal that the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 turned back in South China Sea airspace on Saturday.

Malay-language daily Berita Harian reported that RMAF chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud as confirming that the Butterworth base had received the plane’s signal.

It quoted Rodzali as saying that the signal received indicated that the plane followed its original route before it entered the airspace above the northern east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

“The last time the plane could be traced by an air control tower was near Pulau Perak, which is on the Straits of Malacca at 2.40am.

“After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he said.

It was also reported that a Singaporean air traffic surveillance and control unit also picked up the signal that MH370 “made a turn back before it was reported to have climbed 1,000 metres from its original altitude at 10,000 metres”.

The plane, which was carrying 239 passengers of 14 nationalities and an all-Malaysian cabin crew, left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing at 12.40am on Saturday.

It was widely reported that the plane, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, went missing at around 1.30am while flying above the South China Sea between the Malaysian east coast and the southern coast of Vietnam.

The plane reported went off radar and its last known location was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).

This is also supported with police reports made by some east coast residents, who claimed that they have seen huge lights and a plane flying at some 1000 metres above sea level off Kota Baru, Kelantan.

However, search and rescue (SAR) authorities have failed to find any sign of the plane in the waters of the South China Sea.

Indications that MH370 might have turned back have since led the SAR operations to be expanded to the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.

The operations to find the missing plane involve armed forces and authorities from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States, apart from Malaysia.

The SAR operations are in its fourth day.

MAS has ruled out technical issues as the cause of MH370′s mysterious disappearance. The 11-year-old plane was last serviced 10 days before the incident on Saturday.

MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya reportedly said that the plane was in good condition and like other MAS aircrafts, was equipped with the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which sends out data automatically.

However, the plane did not send out any distress signals before it went off radar, he said. – March 11, 2014.

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Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak was absolutely right at his media conference on Saturday evening. The situation and mystery is “Very perplexing”. If the search is west of Pulau Perak, it means the aircraft would have flown the same distance or more from its last known position of 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).

The mystery now is, why is the B777-200 9M-MRO MH370 is thought to be so far west, even over and across Peninsular Malaysia?

NST last story yesterday, about the search for MH370:

11 March 2014| last updated at 09:11PM

MISSING MH370: Najib attends briefing on search ops

 6  79 Google +0  0 0 comments

PETALING JAYA : Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today attended a briefing on the search-and-rescue operation mounted to locate a missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft.

The briefing, for about 90 minutes, was given by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman at the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at the DCA Air Traffic Control Centre in Subang near here.

Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Zulkifli Mohd Zin and MAS Group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya also attended the briefing.

MAS Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from the KL International Airport at 12.41 am Saturday.

It should have landed in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day.– BERNAMA

Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak with the director- general of the Civil Aviation Department (DCA) Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman and the head of the search and rescue operation Noor Izhar Bahrin at the DCA office in Subang listening to the operation briefs.Pix by NSTP/ Mohd Yusni Ariffin

Read more: MISSING MH370: Najib attends briefing on search ops – Latest – New Straits Timeshttp://www.nst.com.my/latest/font-color-red-missing-mh370-font-najib-attends-briefing-on-search-ops-1.507995#ixzz2vgnk8XT0

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Notice, the map is actually focused on the Straits of Melaka and Andaman Sea, north of Sumatra. It is a strong indication that a lot of emphasis on on the expanded area to the west of Langkawi, from the initial search and rescue operation which included the Straits of Melaka.

Adding to more food for thoughts in this growing puzzle, in his media conference yesterday Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar announced that the Police investigation covers four areas:

1. Sabotage

2. Hijack/terrorism

3. Psychological issues

4. Personal issues

It is very interesting why the Police investigation is looking  into the last two aspect. Probably there are clues suggesting them.

Never the less, our prayers are with families and loved ones of the 239 souls onboard of MH370 and the dedicated men and women of the forces and agencies of nine countries in the search and rescue operation for find the missing B777-200 with the tail number of 9M-MRO.

Published in: on March 12, 2014 at 08:45  Comments (5)  

Lessons from Paracel Pt III: Talking softly and carry a big stick

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China's imaginary 'territory' in South East Asia

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

How Malaysia treat its relationship with China is still an enigma. Malaysia values trade and close diplomatic relation with China but extremely worried on the latter’s unsubstantiated claim based on an imaginary Nine-Dash-Line (which include the recent PLA Navy ‘apperance’ at James Shoal (Beting Serupai) which is 60 nautical miles off the coast of Sarawak) in the South China Sea.

The Diplomat article:

‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’: What is Malaysia Playing At?

Malaysia and China have had maritime run-ins with mixed results. What is Malaysia’s endgame in the South China Sea?

carl-thayer
February 28, 2014

For the past two years China has dispatched a flotilla of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships to the farthest reaches of the South China Sea to assert Beijing’s claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters and features lying within its nine-dashed line. Beijing’s ambitious claim covers an estimated eighty percent of the South China Sea.

On each occasion PLAN warships sailed to James Shoal, or Beting Serupai in Malay, eighty kilometers off the coast of East Malaysia. According to Bill Hayton, who is completing a book on the South China Sea, China’s claim is based on a double historical error.

The first error occurred in 1933 when the Republic of China set up an official Inspection Committee for Land and Water Maps to catalogue every part of Chinese territory on land and sea. The Inspection Committee lacked the means to carry out any maritime surveys and so it plagiarized from a contemporary British Admiralty map and attempted to translate the names of maritime features into Chinese.  James Shoal was erroneously translated as Zengmu Tan or sandbank. This error had the effect of transforming a shoal, which lies under the water, into a land feature above the water.

The second error occurred in 1947 when the Republic of China drew up China’s claims to the South China Sea in a map containing eleven dash lines. Zengmu Tan was renamed Zengmu Ansha or reef. Despite the fact that James Shoal lies 22 meters below the sea, the People’s Republic of China advances the fictitious claim that it is a land feature marking the southernmost extent of China’s territory.

On March 26, 2013, a flotilla of four PLAN warships, including its largest and most modern amphibious assault ship, Jinggangshan, a destroyer and two guided missile frigates, conducted an oath taking ceremony at James Shoal. PLAN sailors and marines pledged to “defend the South China Sea, maintain national sovereignty and strive towards the dream of a strong China,” according to Chinese media reports. According to other accounts the Chinese warships fired their guns into the air.

Malaysia-based journalists reported that Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials were unavailable for comment. A government official later announced that there were no reports of any encounter with the PLAN flotilla by Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency or the Royal Malaysian Navy. It later reported that Malaysia had lodged a protest with Chinese authorities.

In April 2013, it was reported that a China maritime surveillance ship returned to James Shoal with the intention of dropping steel sovereignty markets into the shoal. Publicity surrounding this incident was suppressed until it leaked out months later.

Later in the year, on June 3, Prime Minister Najib in a speech in Kuala Lumpur called for claimants in the South China Sea to jointly develop resources to avoid conflict and prevent “extra-regional states” from becoming involved. This was widely viewed as a swipe at the United States.

Even more astonishing were the observations of Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in an interview in late August. The Minister stated, “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies.” He also observed that the Chinese “can patrol every day, but if their intention is not to go to war” it is of less concern. “I think we have enough level of trust,” the minister said, “that we will not be moved by day-to-day politics or emotions.”

Malaysia reacted to the return visit by a PLAN flotilla in January 2014 in a similar fashion. According to Chinese media, three PLAN warships, the Jinggangshan amphibious assault ship and two destroyers, patrolled the waters near James Shoal. Sailors and marines again swore to safeguard the sovereignty of Zengmu Ansha.

Malaysian foreign ministry officials were once again unavailable for comment. A day after the PLAN visit to James Shoal, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asserted China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over James Shoal and denied that China had received an official protest from Malaysia.

On January 29, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar, responded to press queries about the presence of Chinese warships at Beting Serupai by denying the exercises took place. The navy chief instead referred to PLAN warships exercising 1,000 nautical miles away.

It was not until February 20 that the chief of the Malaysian armed forces, General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, confirmed press reports. General Zulkifeli confirmed to a press conference at Defense Headquarters that Malaysia had monitored the Chinese flotilla and that it “strayed into Malaysian waters.” General Zulkifeli noted that the PLAN was undertaking innocent passage and that prior notification had been posted on an official Chinese navy website.

General Zulkifeli stated, “That’s a natural thing, As long as it was an innocent passage, that is okay with us.”

Malaysia’s reaction to the two visits to James Shoal by PLAN warships gave rise to speculation that Malaysia was breaking ranks with fellow ASEAN members and was pursuing a low-key approach on territorial disputes with China in order to accrue economic benefits. But a closer examination of Malaysian policy reveals a more complex response.

Malaysia’s policy, to borrow from Theodore Roosevelt, is one of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” For example, on August 30, 2013, immediately after the comments by Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein quoted above, an email was sent out to regional security analysts by a highly placed Malaysian government source. The email read:

I have it on good authority that the defense minister was not properly briefed on the issue and that his words certainly didn’t reflect Malaysian policy. While we recognize the freedom of navigation for all vessels, including military ones, on the high seas, we require that states ask for our permission to conduct military activities in our exclusive economic zone. And that requirement applies to all foreign naval vessels, including Chinese ones. The defense minister’s statement does not change that.

And, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Najib’s speech in June 2013, the Malaysian government source stated, “Nor are we ready to consider joint development activities with the Chinese. That would require recognition of China’s claims in the South China Sea, including our EEZ. And that’s not our policy.”

Malaysia has taken three important steps to strengthen its figurative “big stick.” On October 10, 2013, after the PLAN visit to James Shoal, Malaysia’s Defense Minister announced that a new naval base would be built in Sarawak, one hundred kilometers from James Shoal. Second, he announced that Malaysia would start up a new Marine Corps to provide amphibious capabilities in the South China Sea. The new naval base and marine unit would be tasked with protecting Malaysia’s off-shore oil and gas reserves as well as defending against possible armed incursions from the southern Philippines.

Third, on February 11, 2014 Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar and his U.S. counterpart, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, the new Chief of Naval Operations, agreed to step up U.S. naval visits to Malaysia. According to Admiral Aziz, “Since 2008 to the end of last year, 132 US naval ships have called at Malaysian ports such as Pulau Indah and Kota Kinabalu.”

Both navy chiefs discussed potential cooperation in submarine operations, maritime security issues, and a report of an alleged shooting incident by the Chinese navy while patrolling the South China Sea recently. Admiral Greenert visited the Malaysian navy’s submarine base in Kota Kinabalu.

Malaysia has also begun to “talk softly” with fellow members of ASEAN. Diplomatic sources report that recently Malaysia has begun to play a more proactive role in advance of China-ASEAN consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, which are due to begin in Singapore in March. Malaysia is also hosting a visit by Philippine President Benigno Aquino. The diplomatic rumor mill reports that the United States is quietly encouraging Malaysia and Vietnam to lend support to the Philippines as the March deadline for its submission to the UN Arbitral Tribunal approaches.

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Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak would be visiting China in May to commemorate his father’s foot steps 40 years ago, where Malaysia established diplomatic relationship. That was a strategic move, in the times where the region was facing a serious ‘battleground’ between Super Powers and the communism threat was prevalent.

Tun Abdul Razak’s visit and friendly gesture with Chairman Mao Zedong had another purpose. The Malayan Communist Party was taking the post 13 May 1969 tragedy Second Emergency into another gear up where the strategy was to assassinate military, security and political leaders.

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak called on Chairman Mao in a historic visit, where Malaysia’s sovereignity and neutrality is preserved. Beijing, May 1974ao Zedong had another purpose. The Malayan Communist Party was taking the post 13 May 1969 tragedy Second Emergency into another gear up where the strategy was to assassinate military, security and political leaders.

China was MCP biggest backer and being friends with the  Malaysian Government meant that the financial and intelligence relationship the “Butchers of Malaya” rebels enjoyed drew into an end.

His Majesty Seri Paduka Yang DiPertuan Agong is expected to make a State Visit to China in November, which is part of the fortification of the diplomatic, trade and cultural relationship formed and grew these past 40 years with China and the past 25 years of capitalistic side of world’s largest communist controlled state.

That is not withstanding the fact that President Barack H. Obama would be making an official visit to Malaysia next month, to replace the cancelled visit last year due to the partisan tussle for Capitol Hill which led to Federal Government budget failed to be approved by US Congress.

Prime Minister Najib and President Barack Obama

When President Obama’s visit last year was made firm, it is believed that China’s Foreign Ministry insisted that China’s President made an official visit to Malaysia at their specified date.

In many instances, diplomats around the region tell the tale about how Chinese Foreign Ministry officials warn ASEAN nations involved in the multiple claims over various over lapping areas in the South China Sea to not raise words like “Multilateral solution” or “Arbitration”.

China is only interested in resolving issues through ‘bi-latteral’ dialogue separate with ASEAN countries. What it  literally means to China is that they telling them off and these ASEAN countries are expected to play along, “In the name of regional co-operation and friendship”

The arrogance is overwhelming when the Philippines President Benigno Acquino III’s planned visit to China lats year was cancelled as the instruction of China’s Foreign Minister because the former was pushing for arbitrary as a solution for the Scarborough Shoal stand off.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims based on the unsubstantiated and imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ across South China Sea

It is imperative that Malaysia maintain some level of’ insurance’ to ensure the safe passage of the South China Sea continues. It is the second most important merchant waterway and world trade is dependent on the safety of merchant shipping through the passage.

More than RM1 trillion of Malaysia’s trade is dependent on the free and safe South China Sea as a merchant maritime passage. Malaysia’s wealth the form of hydrocarbon deposits and mining activities are located within the EEZ guaranteed by United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

That is not withstanding the livelihood of so many Malaysia fishing families are dependent from what South China Sea has to offer.

The constantly progressive aggressiveness of Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Forces (PLAN) in the region is worrying. The developments since the 2008, saw China moving from its Green-water navy capability towards Blue-water navy capability.

In 2008 the BBC reported that a senior Chinese defence official (Major General Qian Lihua) confirmed China was to operate a small fleet of aircraft carriers. However, it was said to be for the purpose of regional defence as opposed to “Global reach”.

The first island chain, which China looks at with great zest and appetite

A report in late 2012 by the United States has outlined China’s recent naval modernisation efforts and intentions of developing blue-water capabilities. The report suggested that while China is developing a blue-water navy, it will be more regional in nature rather than global. Chinese strategists call this “A regional [blue-water] defensive and offensive navy.”

PLA officials have outlined plans to operate in the First and Second island chain.

The might of PLAN is also very worrying to defense analyst in the region. With a personnel strength of 290,000 servicemen and women, including 12,000 marines and 35,000 naval air force personnel, it is the second largest navy in the world, behind only the United States Navy. PLAN assets include 1 aircraft carrier, 3 amphibious transport docks, 56 submarines (of which 14 are nuclear-powered), 22 destroyers, 41 frigates, 10 corvettes, 105 missile boats, 131 gunboats and 67 mine countermeasures vessels.

In comparison, the Royal Malaysian Navy is far too small. Assets of RMN include 2 Perdana Class Scorpene submarines, 2 Lekiu Class frigates, 2 Kasturi Class frigates, 4 Laksmana Class corvettes,  6 Kedah Class off-shore patrol vessels, 4 Perdana Class missile gunboats, 4 Handalan Class missile gunboats and 6 Jerung Class gunboats.

What is more critical for RMN is that out of the original 16 platforms which have missile launching capability, the current status now has been reduced to only four. The latest edition of the frigates is actually 15 years old. The Kasturi Class, for example, is in its 30th year of service. The NGPV program which the six Kedah Class OPV have been delivered has been shelved indefinitely.

In the pipeline is the 6 Gowind Class littoral combat warships, which the Malaysian Government has yet to ink the contract with Boustead Heavy Industry and its partner, DCNS of France. Another strategic weapon system is the ASW/Maritime Patrol Aircraft program, where it is a capability to extend the current submarine force and surface warfare capability, for the purpose of policing the vast body of water between Semenanjung Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.

The RMAF, which serve as the quick response frontliner, also has not even been equipped with the much assets to ensure its full capability as a modern air force. RMAF is still waiting for the decision to firm the acquisition of much needed AEW/C capability, as well as the critical multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) replacement program for the aging MiG29Ns

Currently, RMAF capability stands at 18 Su30MKM Fulcrum MRCAs, 10 MiG29Ns interceptors, 8 F/A-18D Hornet all weather MRCAs, 13 BAe 100 Hawk light attack aircrafts and 13 F5E interceptor/reconnaissance.

Despite the pressing need to upgrade current military capability for Malaysia’s own sovereignty preservation, the over-politicking of military asset acquisitions since April 2007 has resulted to the Federal Government ultra careful bordering paranoia in making decisions to acquire much needed new ones.

Coupled with rising cost of crude oil production and world economic slowdown due to the 2008 sub-prime financial meltdown which resulted to higher cost of production of goods and lower power of purchase from trading partners especially the United States and EU, the growth and role of China in Malaysian external trade takes primary pole.

Therefore, Malaysia under Prime Minister Najib is bullish and wishful about its diplomatic and international trade relations with China.

That is not withstanding the constant request for new military asset acquisition and development programs put forth. However, Prime Minister Najib’s leadership focusing on the rationalisation of spending and subsidies, Malaysian Government has put all military asset acquisition programs on hold and at the back burner even though some have reached critical requirement status.

The visits and ‘exercise’ conducted by the Jinggangshan and Changbanshian task force groups of PLAN in the region and into Malaysia’s territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS in the past 12 months is China’s act of projection of force and projection of power. It is more prevailing since US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement of “Moving majority of US warships in Asia-Pacific region to South East Asia” at Shangri-La Dialogue almost two years ago.

Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein call on US Navy Asia-Pacific Command Adm Harry Harris Jr at Pearl Harbour in January

China is very selfish in its economic interest in the region especially in the South China Sea, particularly with specific issues like hydrocrabon exploration, fishery and maritime domination. Since 2008, it is clear that China is not shy to demonstrate their will to use deadly force, to zestful mark their territorial claims.

Thus, Malaysia had no choice but to foster closer military co-operation with the United States since China does not seem to be respecting international diplomacy. Despite Malaysia’s close relationship with China, there is no guarantee that China would behave accordingly instead of arm twisting or worse still, imposing itself against the will of others in the region.

Prime Minister Najib and President Xi Jinping on the latter's state visit to Malaysia at Perdana Putra, October 2013

Prime Minister Najib and President Xi Jinping on the latter’s state visit to Malaysia at Perdana Putra, October 2013

It is not right to associate oneself with a big bully who has been trying to dominate the world as the ‘Sheriff’ and imposing their Anglo-Saxon righteousness and value system. Then again, there is an even more nasty bully who is in the neighbourhood and has been ‘terrorising’ every kid, with demonstration of power and prevaling attitude towards use of deadly force to achieve his desired objective.

MMEDIATE RELEASERelease No: NR-037-14
January 17, 2014

Readout of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s Meeting with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein

Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog provided the following readout:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein today at the Pentagon.

Secretary Hagel underscored the U.S. commitment to deepening ties to Malaysia.  The two leaders discussed a range of international security issues, including Afghanistan, North Korea, and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in addressing regional security challenges.

Malaysia is an important partner in Southeast Asia that is making valuable contributions to international security both on its own and in partnership with ASEAN.  Secretary Hagel praised Malaysia’s leadership in Southeast Asia.

The secretary and the minister also talked about ways to enhance the defense relationship between the United States and Malaysia, including by enhancing bilateral exercise and training opportunities and exploring expanded defense trade cooperation.

The two leaders looked forward to meeting again at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN informal meeting in Hawaii in April.

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

NST story:

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during official visit to Kuala Lumpur

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during official visit to Kuala Lumpur

19 January 2014| last updated at 06:34PM

Malaysia, US to intensify military exercises, training

By Rozanna Latiff | news@nst.com.my
 3  2 Google +0  0 0 comments

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s military exercises and training with the United States will be strengthened in order to bolster defence cooperation between the two countries.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said such two-way cooperation was important to build confidence and to share new experiences and training techniques among military officers from both countries.

He said this during a meeting with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon, Washington yesterday.
Both leaders also discussed various international defence issues, including developments in Afghanistan and North Korea, as well as Asean’s role in overcoming regional security challenges.
During the meeting, Hagel praised Malaysia’s commitments in Southeast Asia and called on Asean member countries to unite and cooperate with each other to ensure regional stability.
“Malaysia is an important US ally in Southeast Asia, which has contributed a lot to security and defence, whether on its own or by working with other Asean nations,” he said.
The meeting with Hagel was held as part of Hishammuddin’s inaugural visit to the United States after taking over the national defence portfolio.
The two are expected to meet again at the US-Asean informal meeting in Hawaii next April.

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

Malaysia is in dire need to find the right ‘balance’ to ensure its position as the world’s 17th most important trading nation and diplomatic and cordial relationship with the United States and China is maintained, without sacrificing the integrity of the freedom of wealth within the 200 nautical miles from the coast of EEZ and sovereignty.

*Updated 1000hrs

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 02:30  Comments (29)  

Time to show patriotism

PDRM

Malaysian of Chinese ethnicity should rise to the moment and demonstrate their patriotism and loyalty to the nation they so wanted to be treated as equals, in the literal sense. This include coming in droves at Royal Malaysian Police recruitment centers for selection to the law enforcement and internal security agency.

Police relaxes entry requirements to get more Chinese recruits

MARCH 01, 2014

The Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) has relaxed several conditions pertaining to recruitment, apart from studying numerous aspects of improvement in its service to lure more Chinese to join the force.

Beginning this year too, PDRM intends to recruit 5,000 Chinese as low-ranking officers, in stages.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin (pic) said PDRM might review various aspects related to salary, promotion opportunities and others to entice the participation of the Chinese.

“We are targeting about 5,000 Chinese in stages because we need to look at the capacity and our need to provide basic training and courses,” he said.

Mohd Bakri was speaking to reporters after the 2/2013 series Cadet Inspector Course Passing Out Parade Ceremony at the Police Training Centre in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur, today.

He said currently, the number of Chinese police personnel made up only 1.87% of the total police strength.

Mohd Bakri said the force had also formed a special team to ensure the participation of the Chinese could be implemented as soon as possible.

“So, we have this task force which handles the matter. They will explain to society, especially the Chinese community, on joining the PDRM. We are doing that, this is our initiative, to ensure we get suitable candidates in PDRM,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Management Department director Datuk Seri Fuzi Harun said PDRM viewed seriously the boosting of Chinese participation as the community made up 30% of the population.

“So, less than 2% have joined the PDRM, it does not look good, so we have to improve this figure… to ensure this programme is successful, we will relax the entry conditions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Personnel (Recruitment) assistant director ACP Saiful Azly Kamaruddin said the exercise for the recruitment of new police constables for the first session this year, would be carried out on Monday.

He said the relaxation included a pass in Bahasa Malaysia at Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. apart from passing a vision test or by using glasses or contact lenses by obtaining V/6/9.

“We understand the entry requirements, prior to this were too stringent for the Chinese community, namely, credit in Bahasa Malaysia while there are those among them who are not fluent at all.

“So, we consider this situation a special one for the Chinese community,” he said in an interview themed, ’2014 Special Recruitment Exercise for the Post of Constable to encourage the Chinese community to join the PDRM’ here.

According to Saiful Azly, the relaxation must be made because the current membership ratio in PDRM was imbalanced among the Malays, Chinese, Indians and others.

“Based on statistics, as of December 31 last year, membership was dominated by Malays (90,156 people), followed by Indians (3,659 people) and the Chinese (1,974 people), while the rest were from other communities,” he said.

He said, the lack of Chinese (in the force) was due to several reasons, including salary, which was regarded as still low, while parents did not encourage their children to join the PDRM.

“According to a study, most of them do not realise a constable can bring home RM3,000 a month, if all the allowances are included,” he said.

For the recruitment on Monday, the Chinese were encouraged to download the application form from the PDRM website at http://www.rmp.gov.my, and after filling it out, should send it to the nearest police station or to the Personnel Recruitment Unit at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman. – Bernama, March 1, 2014.

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

It is pointless for Malaysian Chinese to demand so much from the Police, making a lot of complaints and setting standards for expected service and delivery, when they are unable to do their bit but talk, talk and more talking.

Why should concessions be made the for recruitment of Malaysian Chinese into the Police Force?

If the Malaysian Chinese wants to treated as ‘citizens with equal standings and rights’ in the literal sense, then they should stand up and willing to sacrifice their comfort and risk their lives for the blanket of security at the moment being provided by mainly Non-Chinese.

Funeral procession of notable Policeman of Chinese ethnicity Perak CPO tan Sri Khoo Chong Kong, assassinated in Ipoh on 13 Nov 1975 on his way to lunch

Funeral procession of notable Policeman of Chinese ethnicity Perak CPO Tan Sri Khoo Chong Kong, assassinated in Ipoh on 13 Nov 1975 on his way to lunch

Malaysian Chinese numbers 26% of the 30 million Malaysian population. They should at least form 25% of the application into the Police Force, at all recruitment drives from the entry level constable to the probationary and degree holders’ inspector selection.

If they are really serious of ‘Malaysian, Malaysia’, then DAP should take this opportunity to shed the ‘Chinese Chauvinism’ and anti-Malay sentiments that they are so synonymous and demonstrate their true spirit of nationalism and patriotism by championing the drives of Chinese youths into Police Force recruitment drives.

Correspondingly, MCA should also do separate specific  programs such as drive for graduates of TAR College and UTAR, to ensure that Chinese youths show up and submit their application. This is without special incentives as per what Deputy IGP Dato’ Sri Mohd Bakri Zinin said that the Police is pondering.

None of the falling heroes amongst the extraordinary Policemen who were slained in Lahad Datu are of Chinese ethnicity. A demonstration of unfair heterogenous representation of the Malaysian populous. Pix by Apanama

None of the fallen heroes amongst the extraordinary Policemen who were slained in Lahad Datu are of Chinese ethnicity. A demonstration of unfair heterogenous representation of the Malaysian populous. Pix by Apanama

In the first anniversary of the Lahad Datu tragedy, the Malaysian Chinese wouldn’t want to be questioned on how many amongst them were killed and injured in the line of duty lately.

As they watched the development from the comfort of their homes, conveniently criticise and even made cheap pot shots as the nail biting stand off  from the Kg Tanduo aggression February last year unravels, the fact that there was no casualty of Police or Army of Chinese ethnicity demonstrate the unfair heterogenous representation as component of a typical Malaysian society.

It is the right time.

The Malaysian Chinese have this one chance to demonstrate that their magnamity and shed away the ‘kiasu’ mentality that often used to generalise them. The Malaysian Chinese substantial involvement in Police Force, Malaysian Armed Forces services and essential services like Fire Services is the perfect ‘national reconciliation’ which is initiated and driven by them, as the true patriotic citizens of Malaysia.

Published in: on March 1, 2014 at 23:59  Comments (24)  

Award for excellent use of lure and bait

Opposition via its minions such as news portals, activists and the opportunity of using intellectual discourse and networking events have been making in roads into winning in the game of perception and buy in of the minds of the more younger, ICT savvy, educated, professional and urbanites segment of the populous. The most recent is the World Blogger and Social Media Network Summit in Sunway Resort the past two days.

The Opposition news portal and mouth piece Malaysiakini’s story on the the award they bagged for the extensive use of soecial media:

Malaysiakini bags Social Media 2014 award

Malaysiakini‘s extensive use of social media has been hailed at the World Bloggers and Social Media Awards 2014 in Kuala Lumpur last night.The independent news portal won the Social Media Excellence prize for the online media category, an award which is based on public voting – 80 percent weightage – and a panel of judges.

According toMalaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan, the ground-breaking website plans to further enhance its social media outreach with a full-time social media curator.”We have almost one million Facebook fans.”But I believe we can do even better,” said Gan, who received the award from Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ahmad Zahid has had a few run-ins with Malaysiakini where he had previously lambasted the news portal for being bias.As Gan walked up to receive the award, he quipped, “You’re not going to point your finger at me, are you?”Ahmad Zahid smiled and said: “Truce.”

In his speech to the 300-strong crowd at the awards gala dinner, Ahmad Zahid urged social media users to be truthful in their postings.

“Today, the entire pattern and mind shift of people are geared towards getting a collaborative effort to resolve issues,” he said.”I hope this healthy trend of being connected continues and people can blog freely, knowing what to express at the right place and time.”

Predominantly younger readersGan said increasingly news and opinions are delivered through the various social media platforms and to predominantly younger readers.Malaysiakini actively promotes its content on Facebook and Twitter across three languages – English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.

Content ranges from links to articles in Malaysiakini, news flashes, infographics, photo galleries, videos and occasional live reports on key events.

Malaysiakini’s three Facebook pages currently have 970,000 followers combined, while there are over 227,000 followers for the website’s three Twitter accounts.

The awards, held in conjunction with the Malaysian Social Media Week 2014, is organised by Malaysia Social Media Chambers, a body aimed at sharing best social media practices and encouraging social media use.

Over the past two years, the organisation has been handing awards to bloggers specialising in various topics.

This year is the first time that the event gave awards to the corporate sector for its social media use.

Among the companies that bagged awards are Honda, Maybank, Tune Talk, Nestle, IJM, Sogo, Pavilion, RHB and Digi.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes won the Social Media Celebrity of the Year.

The event is supported by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

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

The Malaysiakini story itself is a lie. The news portal was never “Independent”. It was created by activists who wanted to take Anwar Ibrahim’s REFORMASI struggle online, back in 1999.

It is obvious there are hidden hands between the organisers and personalities behind Malaysiakini, to lure Home Minister Dato’ Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi into attending the awards dinner event as the VIP guest of hounour and hand over the prizes to the winners.

It was said that Zahid wasn’t even aware of the winners’ list which include Malaysiakini until he was already on stage, ready to dispense all of these awards which were prepared by the organisers.

It is a perfect ‘photo-opp’ for Zahid as a senior Cabinet Minister and UMNO Vice President to the photographed handing an award to Malaysiakini Supremo Steven Gan.

That picture which tells a thousand words where Director General of Information Dato’ Ibrahim Abdul Rahman is standing next to the Home Minister, is a psychological apparatus to ‘blind’ the perception and probably used to manipulate that the endorsement for Malaysiakini’s reporting.

The Home Minister previously barred Malaysiakini from attending his media conferences because in the past the news portal which was formed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s minions to promote the struggle of the man who was the most important asset in demonising the  Federal Government and Barisan Nasional, then under Fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

It is pointless for Zahid to remind social media, which include Malaysiakini “To be truthful in their reporting” because the truth often does not serve their political agenda and aspirations. Their strategic objective to realise power via ‘Politics of Hatred’ can only be achieve by the avenue of demonisation of authority, manipulation of information and history and perpetuating lies.

The fact still remain that pro-Opposition news portals would not change their ways, especially when it is clear it is with the intent of malice. These entitities, coupled with purposely created NGOs  would still continue to be important apparatus in the Opposition’s strategy imposing the aspiration and will of the minority against the majority via the ‘Politics of Hatred’ strategy.

It is refreshing that Federal Government agencies under Information. Communication and Multimedia Minister Dato’ Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek is opening up to be participative in industry initiated events to promote the progress utility of blogs and social media network, in the age where information dissemination is very efficient and seamless.

However, each departments must be mindful that they are not used as lures and baits for the conniving use of Opposition minions to get ‘endorsement’ from a Minister representing the Federal Government at the juncture where Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak is up at arms against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s continuous lies after another.

Prime Minister Najib even reminded the Malaysian Foreign Ministry Mission Heads to be vigilant in the use of social media.

The Star story:

Published: Tuesday February 25, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday February 25, 2014 MYT 4:59:36 PM

Be wary of what you say, diplomats warned

BY MARTIN CARVALHO

Bolstering ties: Najib mingling with the participants of the Eighth Conference of Heads of Mission in Kuala Lumpur. — BernamaBolstering ties: Najib mingling with the participants of the Eighth Conference of Heads of Mission in Kuala Lumpur. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian diplomats must be wary of what they say – even behind closed doors – as they embrace technological and social changes, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“It is more than just coping with social media as it must be practised and a prerequisite. However, beware because anything you say, even behind closed doors, can be found on the Internet in real time,” he said at the opening of the Eighth Conference of Heads of Mission yesterday.

Addressing 105 ambassadors, high commissioners and consul-generals, Najib said this was crucial in light of the changes to society brought about by technology.

“Running throughout these geopolitical developments and changes are deeper currents of technological and social change, such as increasing access to information, new forms of citizen activism, higher expectations and greater accountability in an age of information,” he said.

Diplomats, said Najib, should respond and adapt to the changes aimed at securing a safer and more sustainable future for the nation.

“We must react to the transformations around us with a transformation of our own and with a foreign policy which will see Malaysia through to 2020, a developed nation and beyond,” he said.

Earlier, Najib said traditional hierarchies and relationships between major superpowers had undergone changes in the last century, of which Malaysia should emerge as the region’s “Middle Power”.

“We must embrace our position as one of the region’s Middle Power of states that rarely act alone but which have a significant systematic impact in a small group or international institutions,” he said.

In this respect, there would be greater expectations from the Mal­aysian public and international community for the country to play a more leading role in Asia and globally, pointed out Najib.

He also said that the nation would be impacted by the ongoing instability in West Asia, particularly religious and ethnic conflicts between differing groups.

“Underpinning the tension and conflicts (in West Asia) is the Sunni and Syiah conflict.

“This state of uncertainty and instability is a challenge for us as our close cultural, religious and economic ties to the region mean that developments there would resonate with the Malaysian public,” he said.

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Here we have something very close to home. What transpired here at the Sunway Resort event was an indirect form of ‘breach of security’ for Federal Government.

Agencies are lured into being supporters and sponsors of an intellectual discourse event which is actually camouflaged to lure into the ‘entrapment’ of a more prized catch for pro-Opposition minions’ strategic agenda of ‘Politics of Hatred’.

The fact that the Chairman of the World Bloggers and Social Media 2014 Shahul Hameed referred Ministry of Information, Communication and Multimedia as “Santa Claus” in his opening address is a clear demonstration that funds are being utilised to realise the objectives of certain quarters. Unfortunately, it was taken advantage of for the strategic benefit of entities like Malaysiakini.

Let us not forget Ibrahim and Prime Minister Najib’s own foolhardy who arranged for Malaysiakini reporters to get Pingat Kedaulatan Negara, when all they was did gross dis-service in manipulating information, rubbishing the ‘Ops Sulu’ and ‘Ops Daulat’ and extended the doubt of the ATM and PDRM capabilities to resolve the Lahad Datu tragedy.

*Updated 1100hrs

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 09:30  Comments (12)  
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