Lessons from Paracels, Pt I

Paracel Islands, which is closer to Vietnam than China, were invavded by Chinese Naval Forces forty years ago

Paracel Islands, which is closer to Vietnam than China, were invaded by Chinese Naval Forces forty years ago

Forty years ago, the Republic of Vietnamese Navy had a rude awakening of  People’s Liberation Army of China occupying part of the Paracel Islands, which supposedly were under South Vietnam. A firefight broke out and saw intensive reinforcement from the Chinese Forces which include air force bombardment from the Hainan.

Lessons from the Battle of the Paracel Islands

Forty years on, the battle has enduring lessons for Vietnam’s naval modernization.

By Ngo Minh Tri and Koh Swee Lean Collin
January 23, 2014
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On January 16, 1974, the Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN) discovered the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Crescent Group in the western Paracel Islands, which was held by South Vietnam. This was an unexpected development, because notwithstanding the reduced U.S. military assistance to Saigon after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, and subsequent reduction of South Vietnamese garrisons on the islands, the Chinese had not taken unilateral actions to subvert the status quo – by which the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels and the Crescent Group were respectively under Chinese and South Vietnamese control.

Over the next two days, the opposing naval forces jostled with one another in close-proximity maneuvers off the islands, before a firefight erupted as the South Vietnamese troops attempted to recapture Duncan Island. The skirmish subsequently escalated with overwhelming Chinese reinforcements deployed to the clash zone, including close air support staged from nearby Hainan Island and missile-armed Hainan-class patrol vessels. Shorn of American naval support, given that the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet was then scaling down its presence in the South China Sea following the peace accords of 1973, the RVN was utterly defeated. Beijing swiftly exploited the naval victory with an amphibious landing in force to complete its control of all the Paracel Islands.

The Battle of the Paracel Islands has since gone down history as the first Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the quest for control over the South China Sea isles. The Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the nearby Spratly Islands in 1988 was the second and final such instance. Since then, tensions have eased. There have been continued exchanges at the ruling party level and between the countries’ militaries (including the hosting of a PLA Navy South Sea Fleet delegation to a Vietnamese naval base). Beijing and Hanoi have also recently inaugurated mutual consultations on joint marine resource development in the South China Sea.

However, the Battle of Paracel Islands in 1974 yields some useful and enduring lessons for Hanoi and its ongoing naval modernization in the South China Sea, particularly in the face of geopolitical developments.

Enduring Lesson #1: Diplomacy is the First Recourse… But Not the Sole Recourse

No international and regional treaties constitute perfect safeguards against unilateral action, including threat or use of force. The landmark Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea inked in 2002 between China and the Southeast Asian claimants has not been entirely successful. In fact, unilateral actions aimed at subverting the status quo in the South China Sea by threat or use of force has continued to dominate. Recent video footage revealed by China’s CCTV in January 2014 showed a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese law enforcement ships off the Paracel Islands back in 2007. More recent, recurring incidents included the harassment of Vietnamese survey ships by Chinese vessels, the Sino-Philippine maritime standoff in the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 and, later, the show of force by Chinese surveillance ships and naval frigates off the Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal. These episodes bear an eerie resemblance to the sort of naval jostling that led to the skirmish back in 1974.

Even as the South China Sea claimants engaged in consultations on a Code of Conduct, upon unilaterally declaring an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea in December 2013, Beijing declared indisputable rights to create ADIZs in other areas if it so desired. An ADIZ over the South China Sea, if ever established, would undoubtedly strengthen Beijing’s hand over the disputed waters, augmenting regular unilateral fishing bans, an earlier expanded maritime law enforcement authority for the Hainan authorities as well as the latest Chinese fisheries law requiring foreign fishing vessels to seek permission from Beijing to operate in much of the South China Sea. These developments, if they continue unabated, will only heighten the risk of accidental or premeditated clashes in the disputed waters.

Enduring Lesson #2: Extra-regional Powers Neither Always Stay… Nor Always Help

There has been growing interest among extra-regional powers in the South China Sea. Besides the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalancing, Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has intensified its Southeast Asian diplomatic offensive, one of the objectives being to promote Tokyo’s territorial stance in the East China Sea. Vietnam has become one of the major beneficiaries of this development. During the 4th U.S.-Vietnam Defense Policy Dialogue held in Washington in late October 2013, an agreement was reached to enhance maritime security cooperation. In the same month, Tokyo was reportedly keen to supply patrol vessels as part of a plan to bolster Vietnam’s maritime security capacity-building efforts. Also notable, Hanoi is enjoying budding defense ties with New Delhi, having hosted regular Indian Navy port visits in the past decade.

Still, none of the extra-regional powers has taken any side on the South China Sea disputes, preferring to focus only on freedom of navigation. This means that even though Washington or Tokyo have legitimate reasons to intervene if vital sea lines of communications through the South China Sea are threatened by the specter of armed conflict, any extra-regional help is far from certain. For instance, even if the U.S. Pacific Command is able to detect tell-tale signs of unusual Chinese military movements in the South China Sea, it may not be able to react in time. The U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet, as part of the rebalancing strategy, has intensified maritime surveillance in the area: the new Littoral Combat Ship U.S.S. Freedom is said to be conducting more than mere training missions in the area while the U.S. Navy was reported to have stepped up maritime aerial surveillance since July 2012.

However, during the skirmish in 1974 Saigon sought assistance from the U.S. Seventh Fleet, but it was under orders not to intervene in the disputes and no help arrived for the RVN off the Paracels. Washington is likely to adopt the same stance today, even if a renewed Sino-Vietnamese naval clash were to erupt, especially in localized contexts that do not necessarily impinge upon freedom of navigation by other users. Moreover, the present and future PLA Navy South Sea Fleet is no longer the same run-down, coastal-oriented force operating Soviet-era small patrol and attack forces it used to be. With its steady accumulation of force projection capabilities, including amphibious assault, the PLA Navy is in a better position than back in 1974 to deploy sizeable forces over sustained durations at greater distances to assert sovereignty, and its overall combat power will be far more potent if ever unleashed in the South China Sea.

Enduring Lesson #3: The Need for At Least Limited Sea Control Capabilities

There is no way for Vietnam to quantitatively match the PLA naval capabilities in the South China Sea. Consistent with Hanoi’s policy pronunciations, an arms race with China is not only impossible in the first place, but is considered potentially detrimental to Vietnam’s ongoing Renovation process. Vietnam’s post-Cold War naval modernization has been predicated on filling capacity shortfalls after previous decades of neglect. In recent years, the Vietnam People’s Navy had made notable strides in acquiring new hardware to replace the ageing Soviet-era equipment. However, the new, mostly Russian-supplied capabilities, such asGepard-3.9 light frigates, Kilo-class submarines, Su-30MK2V Flanker multi-role fighters equipped for maritime strike and Yakhont/Bastion coastal defense missile batteries, Dutch-built SIGMA-class corvettes as well as locally-built coastal patrol and attack craft all point to a force modernization pathway based primarily on denying an adversary access to the disputed zone. They do not suggest an ability to secure Vietnam’s own access.

Yet, the Battle of the Paracel Islands in 1974 highlighted the need to not just deny an adversary from blockading the South China Sea features but also to secure Vietnam’s own access to those exposed and vulnerable garrisons. Only a shift from sea denial to sea control can hope to attain that. Given the durable peace along the land borders with her neighbors, Vietnam should logically emphasize air-sea warfighting capabilities. For status quo-oriented Vietnam, much akin to what Saigon was back in 1974, the foreseeable combat scenario in a renewed South China Sea clash will encompass the need for Vietnamese forces to recapture seized features, or at least reinforce existing garrisons in the face of hostile attack. Under this scenario, Vietnam’s defense predicament is perhaps no different from Japan’s with respect to the East China Sea dispute. Tokyo has outlined in its recent new defense strategy the need for robust, integrated mobile defense, which envisaged the need for the Self-Defense Force to recapture the East China Sea isles in times of hostilities. Certainly Vietnam cannot hope to muster the same range of capabilities as Japan could, given economic constraints. To build at least limited sea control capabilities, Hanoi ought to focus on improving early warning and expanding amphibious sealift capacity.

Existing Vietnamese early warning capabilities are vested in a static electronic surveillance network arrayed along the Vietnamese mainland coast and in occupied South China Sea features, augmented only in recent years by maritime patrol aircraft of the Vietnamese navy and coastguard. These planes are mainly designed for surface surveillance, yet are handicapped in endurance and lack adequate anti-submarine warfare capabilities especially in view of the increasing PLA submarine challenge. A high-endurance maritime patrol aircraft fitted with longer-range sensors will be appropriate, and arguably more survivable than static installations. The Vietnam Naval Infantry, which specializes in amphibious assault and has been streamlined over the decades, has become a leaner yet meaner force with the acquisition of better equipment. Still, it remains short on amphibious sealift capacity, given that the Soviet and ex-U.S. vintage landing ships were too old and mostly no longer operational. Hanoi’s fledgling naval shipbuilders have so far produced a small handful of new assault transports ostensibly to fill this gap. However, more such vessels are required to enable the Vietnam Naval Infantry to project more substantial forces with greater rapidity in order to reinforce the South China Sea garrisons or to recapture them from an adversary.

Final Thoughts

The Battle of the Paracel Islands might have happened a long forty years ago. Still, even though the South China Sea has seen relative peace, it pays for Hanoi to remain vigilant by sustaining the pace of its naval modernization attempts. While diplomacy is the preferred recourse and extra-regional powers have become more heavily involved in the region, adequate military power in the form of defense self-help remains necessary, especially when the area continues to be fraught with uncertainty. Compared to the RVN, for now and in the foreseeable future the Vietnam People’s Navy and Air Force faces a challenge far greater than before in preserving the status quo in the South China Sea.

Ngo Minh Tri is Managing Editor of the Thanh Nien newspaper, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Koh Swee Lean Collin is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University based in Singapore. This article reflects the personal viewpoints of the authors and not representative of their respective organizations.

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The Vietnamese vividly remember this invasion.

AFO story:

Vietnam marks 40th anniversary of China’s invasion of Paracel Islands

Conflict with China in 1974 over the contested Paracel Islands marked for first time by Hanoi

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 11:01pm

Agencies in Hanoi

  • vietnam.jpg
Protesters mark the invasion’s anniversary yesterday. Photo: AP

Activists chanted anti-China slogans and laid flowers yesterday at a protest in Hanoi marking the 40th anniversary of the Chinese invasion of contested islands in the South China Sea.

In 1974, as US troops withdrew from Vietnam, China invaded the Paracel Islands, called the Xisha Islands by Beijing and the Hoang Sa Islands by Hanoi. The islands had been held by the US-backed South Vietnamese regime.

More than 70 Vietnamese soldiers died during the invasion. China has controlled the island chain ever since.

While overseas Vietnamese groups and dissidents have traditionally marked the battle, it was the first time that Hanoi had marked the anniversary of the battle, apparently seeking to boost its legitimacy at home as tensions over the disputed waters flare anew.

The two countries are locked in long-standing territorial disputes over the Paracel and Spratly islands, which both claim, and often trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration and fishing rights in the contested waters.

Dozens of activists laid flowers at a statue of Ly Thai To, the founder of Hanoi and a nationalist figurehead, in the capital.

Activists waved banners and shouted “Hoang Sa [Paracels], Truong Sa [Spratlys] belong to Vietnam!” before hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police forced them to leave the area.

“We gathered here to commemorate the event … Forty years ago the Chinese invaded the island and killed many Vietnamese soldiers,” academic Nguyen Quang A said.

The protest was the first display of public discontent in Hanoi this year against Beijing’s perceived aggression over territory, following a handful of anti-China demonstrations last year, which were broken up by authorities.

The memory of people of Vietnam is vivid. Nobody can eradicate [it]
NGUYEN QUANG A, ACADEMIC

“The government of Vietnam is in a very difficult situation,” Quang A said, calling the police presence at the event ridiculous. “The memory of people of Vietnam is vivid. Nobody can eradicate that memory,” he said. There was no official comment from the government.

Although yesterday’s protest was not covered in the local press, state-run media had been running stories on the anniversary, as well as interviews with families of the victims, who have never received any support from the government. Vietnamese media do not report on issues concerning China without the approval of the government.

“After a long time, the deaths of my husband and others seemed to fall into oblivion, but I’m very glad that they have been mentioned,” online newspaper Vietnamnet quoted Huynh Thi Sinh, the widow of the captain of the naval ship who died along with 73 others, as saying. “Maybe in his world he’s feeling satisfied. His sacrifice is very meaningful. I’m proud.”

Authorities in central Vietnam said they were organising exhibitions and workshops to mark the anniversary of China’s “illegal occupation” of the Paracels.

Dang Cong Ngu, chairman of the Hoang Sa People’s Committee, said candles would be lit on Danang beach to commemorate those who died fighting for the Paracels.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

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Today, the Paracel Islands are a forward military operations base for the Chinese Forces, where heavy duty naval patrol vessels are berthed and regular patrol conducted from these islands.

South China Morning Post story:

Chinese patrol ship to be based at disputed islands in South China Sea

It will sail in areas of South China Sea where the Philippines and Vietnam make claims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 4:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 3:14am
  • china-military-maritime-dispute_bej6563_30096749.jpg
An aerial view of Sansha on Woody Island in the Paracels chain. Photo: AFP

China is to base a 5,000-tonne marine patrol ship at disputed islands in the South China Sea, a government newspaper said yesterday, a move that is likely to fuel territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours.

The China Ocean News, which is published by the State Oceanic Administration, said the vessel would be based at the small town of Sansha on one of the Paracel Islands and that a regular patrol system would be set up from the base gradually.

Sansha was established two years ago to administer areas of the South China Sea that are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

The decision to base the patrol boat in the area was part of an agreement between Sansha and the maritime authorities in Hainan , the report said.

The agreement covered search-and-rescue missions, marine conservation and overseeing safe navigation in the area, the newspaper said.

China’s biggest patrol vessel is a 4,000-tonne ship, suggesting it will build a bigger vessel to carry out the patrols from Sansha.

Meanwhile, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, one of the country’s two shipbuilding giants, said yesterday it was to build a 10,000-tonne marine surveillance ship.

It will be the world’s biggest marine patrol ship, bigger than the Japanese coastguard’s 7,000-tonne Shikishima PLH 31 vessel.

A mainland maritime expert denied the move to build bigger patrol vessels was aimed at challenging the authority of neighbouring countries involved in territorial disputes with China.

“What China has done is to defend the country’s rights and interests because it needs more bigger ships to oversee maritime security in the huge area covered by the South China Sea,” said Professor Wang Hanling , a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“The establishment of a patrol system and other improvement works at Sansha reflects that Beijing is trying to narrow the disadvantage it has in maritime development, which was neglected over the past six decades.”

Beijing has said it has 27 patrol ships, all of at least 1,000 tonnes, patrolling disputed waters in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, with some equipped with light weapons and helicopters. Another 36 larger vessels have been under construction since 2012, according to a Xinhua report.

The State Oceanic Administration has increased surveillance around the Diaoyu islands since the Japanese government, which calls them the Senkaku islands, bought some of the disputed territory two years ago.

Among the vessels patrolling in the area are China’s largest patrol ship, the Haijian 50; its sister ship, Haijian 83; and Haijian 66, the mainland’s fastest surveillance vessel.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Patrol ship to be based at disputed islands
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This invasion of South Vietnamese territories happened when the US as an ally, who were was still backing the South Vietnamese and their military presence in the region as a super power was overwhelming. US military forces were still within South Vietnam.

This is not withstanding that facts that several armed and attack squadrons of the US Air Force were then based in Clarks Air Base and where else the US Navy was maintaining full operational naval base presence in Subic Bay, just across the South China Sea in the Phillipines.

The Chinese forces did not stop at the Paracel Islands. In the more recent development of their aggressive presence further south, encroaching into territories that is clearly part of a sovereign nation such as the Phillipines’ Scarborough Shoals.

The Forbes story:

OP/ED
6/02/2013 @ 5:08PM |28,799 views

China And The Biggest Territory Grab Since World War II

Filipinos protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, as part of a global protest over an escalating territorial row in the South China Sea. The territorial row centres on Scarborough Shoal, a tiny rocky outcrop in the South China Sea which the Philippines says is part of its territory because it falls within its exclusive economic zone. China, however, claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves, as its historical territory, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

Yesterday, the New York Timesreported that China’s mapping authority, Sinomaps Press, issued a new map of the country showing 80% of the South China Sea as internal Chinese water.

What’s at issue?  Each year, more than half of the world’s annual merchant tonnage passes through the South China Sea as well as a third of the global trade in crude oil and over half of LNG trade.

Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over that body of water does not necessarily mean it will close the South China Sea off to international commerce.  Yet that would be the next step.  Given its extremely broad view of its right to regulate coastal traffic, Beijing will undoubtedly define the concept of “innocent passage” narrowly and require vessels entering that sea to obtain its permission beforehand and similarly require aircraft flying over it to do the same.  The South China Sea, bordered by eight nations, has long been considered international water.

The New York Times noted Asian diplomats have seen the map with the stunning claim.  Its release, the Times article states, was delayed from late 2012 “so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership.”  The map is not yet publicly available.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China in 1947 issued maps with dashes at the edge of the South China Sea.  The ambiguous markings led to the term “cow’s tongue” because of the shape of the area defined by the dashes.  Mao Zedong’s victorious People’s Republic in 1949 adopted as its own Chiang’s expansive South China Sea claims.

Hopeful analysts had long maintained that the dashes—nine or ten of them depending on the map—signified China’s claim to only the islands inside the cow’s tongue.  Those islands are subject to competing claims by other shoreline nations, specifically, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan.  Moreover, there was great optimism when China ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea in June 1996. That multilateral treaty includes detailed rules on the calculation of territorial waters—generally limiting territorial claims to waters no further than 12 nautical miles from shore—and those rules were inconsistent with Beijing’s general assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea.  Accordingly, analysts naturally thought—hoped, actually—that China had abandoned its expansive 1947-based claim.

Yet Beijing, despite treaty obligations, had long been laying the groundwork to close off the South China Sea to other nations.  For instance, in August 2011 the official Xinhua News Agency issued a report stating China had “three million square kilometers of territorial waters.”  It was impossible for the country to get to that figure without including its claim to most of the 2.6 million square kilometers of the South China Sea.

Moreover, in that same month Xinhua was even clearer when it asserted that the islands in the South China Sea “and surrounding waters” were “part of China’s core interests.”  By using “core interests,” Beijing was signaling it could never compromise China’s sovereignty over either the islands or those waters.

In any event, Beijing’s new map, according to those who have seen it, removes any ambiguity by converting the dashes into a national boundary.  All islands and waters inside the line, therefore, are China’s, at least according to the Chinese.  It is the biggest attempted grab of territory since World War II.

The new map will roil Asian nations, of course.  Last year, Beijing used force to seize Philippine territory, Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.  The United States, despite its treaty obligations to defend the Philippines, let the Chinese take what they wanted.  Nobody in the White House wanted to confront China, and there were voices in the Pentagon saying that China’s aggression served the Philippines right for kicking American forces out of the Clark and Subic bases.  Now, the Chinese are going after Ayungin Shoal, long considered Philippine territory.

The ongoing seizure of pieces of the Philippines is an indirect challenge to America.  Now, however, the issuance of the new map means Beijing has taken on Washington directly.  If there has been any consistent American foreign policy over the course of two centuries, it has been the defense of freedom of navigation.

Why is this important?  The world has prospered because of trade conducted freely over wide seas lanes and air routes.  So China’s claim to the South China Sea, if permitted to stand, will mark the end of the open architecture of the Post-War world.

At the end of this week, President Obama will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Rancho Mirage for two days of intensive talks.  The White House, in announcing the meeting on May 20, said it wanted to “discuss ways to enhance cooperation.”  The administration is hoping to build an enduring partnership with China’s increasingly militant one-party state and is trying to avoid disagreement.

Yet on the Beijing’s sea claims there can be no compromise.  Either the South China Sea is Chinese or it is international water.  The stakes—for China, for the United States, for the international community—are hard to overstate.

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Like ‘Salami tactics’, the obvious expansionary intention is translated via the continuously aggressive  of Chinese naval forces ‘flexing the muscles’ especially in the disputed multiple claims area within South China Sea.

There are lessons to be learned from the past forty years. Especially, the last fifteen years. Chinese naval forces have increased their capability in size, assets and application of assets tremendously.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims over South China Sea

What is at the dismay of all the nations bordering the South China Sea is the attitude and ‘expansionary vision’ of China, which is also demonstrating their readiness to grossly disrespecting the United Nation Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

APRIL 4, 2013

The South China Sea is an important world energy trade route

Map of South China Sea trade routes, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

Note: Click map to enlarge.



Stretching from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca chokepoint in the southwest to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast, the South China Sea is one of the most important energy trade routes in the world. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the South China Sea each year. Stretching from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca chokepoint in the southwest to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast, the South China Sea is one of the most important energy trade routes in the world. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the South China Sea each year.

The Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between African and Persian Gulf suppliers and Asian consumers. The strait is a critical transit chokepoint and has become increasingly important over the last two decades. In 1993, about 7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and petroleum products (20% of world seaborne oil trade) passed through the Strait of Malacca, according to the Center for Naval Analysis. EIA estimates that by the end of 2011, trade through Malacca was greater than 15 million bbl/d, or about one-third of all seaborne oil. In comparison, the world’s most important chokepoint for maritime transit, the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, had an oil flow of about 17 million bbl/d in 2011 (see World Oil Transit Chokepoints).

Average daily oil consumption worldwide in 2011 was about 88.3 million bbl/d. The Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between African and Persian Gulf suppliers and Asian consumers. The strait is a critical transit chokepoint and has become increasingly important over the last two decades. In 1993, about 7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and petroleum products (20% of world seaborne oil trade) passed through the Strait of Malacca, according to the Center for Naval Analysis. EIA estimates that by the end of 2011, trade through Malacca was greater than 15 million bbl/d, or about one-third of all seaborne oil.

In comparison, the world’s most important chokepoint for maritime transit, the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, had an oil flow of about 17 million bbl/d in 2011 (see World Oil Transit Chokepoints). Average daily oil consumption worldwide in 2011 was about 88.3 million bbl/d.A significant amount of crude oil arriving in the Strait of Malacca (1.4 million bbl/d) goes to terminals in Singapore and Malaysia instead of continuing on to the South China Sea. After processing, this crude oil is shipped out again to Asian markets through the South China Sea as refined petroleum products, such as motor gasoline and jet fuel. The rest of the crude oil passes through the South China Sea to China and Japan, the two largest energy consumers in Asia. Finally, about 15% of crude oil moving through the South China Sea goes on to the East China Sea, mostly to South Korea.

A significant amount of crude oil arriving in the Strait of Malacca (1.4 million bbl/d) goes to terminals in Singapore and Malaysia instead of continuing on to the South China Sea. After processing, this crude oil is shipped out again to Asian markets through the South China Sea as refined petroleum products, such as motor gasoline and jet fuel. The rest of the crude oil passes through the South China Sea to China and Japan, the two largest energy consumers in Asia. Finally, about 15% of crude oil moving through the South China Sea goes on to the East China Sea, mostly to South Korea.

Crude oil flow in the South China Sea also comes from intraregional trade, particularly from Malaysian,Indonesian, and Australian crude oil exports. Intraregional trade is distributed evenly among Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China, with smaller amounts going to other Southeast Asia countries.

Crude oil flow in the South China Sea also comes from intraregional trade, particularly from Malaysian,Indonesian, and Australian crude oil exports. Intraregional trade is distributed evenly among Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China, with smaller amounts going to other Southeast Asia countries.

Map of South China Sea trade routes, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
 

Note: Click map to enlarge.



The South China Sea is also a major destination for LNG exports. About 6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of liquefied natural gas, or more than half of global LNG trade, passed through the South China Sea in 2011. Half of this amount continued on to Japan, with the rest of it going to South Korea, China, Taiwan, and other regional countries. Almost 75% of all LNG exports to the region came from Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. The South China Sea is also a major destination for LNG exports. About 6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of liquefied natural gas, or more than half of global LNG trade, passed through the South China Sea in 2011. Half of this amount continued on to Japan, with the rest of it going to South Korea, China, Taiwan, and other regional countries. Almost 75% of all LNG exports to the region came from Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia.
With growing demand for natural gas in East Asia, the South China Sea’s share of global LNG trade will likely increase in the coming years. Moreover, Japan has increased its LNG imports to replace the energy lost from nuclear power outages following the Fukushima crisis. Much of the new supply will come through the Strait of Malacca, although some countries like Indonesia are investing in their own LNG export capacity. With growing demand for natural gas in East Asia, the South China Sea’s share of global LNG trade will likely increase in the coming years. Moreover, Japan has increased its LNG imports to replace the energy lost from nuclear power outages following the Fukushima crisis. Much of the new supply will come through the Strait of Malacca, although some countries like Indonesia are investing in their own LNG export capacity.
Finally, large quantities of coal from Australia and Indonesia, the world’s two largest coal exporters, pass through the South China Sea to markets around the world, especially to China, Japan, and India. These coal shipments include both steam coal used for generating electricity and process heat as well as metallurgical coal that is a key ingredient in primary steel production. Finally, large quantities of coal from Australia and Indonesia, the world’s two largest coal exporters, pass through the South China Sea to markets around the world, especially to China, Japan, and India. These coal shipments include both steam coal used for generating electricity and process heat as well as metallurgical coal that is a key ingredient in primary steel production.
For more information, see the South China Sea Regional Analysis Brief. For more information, see the South China Sea Regional Analysis Brief.
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Malaysia is a very important maritime nation, which economy and national blood-life is dependent in the water ways that surround her. The South China Sea mass body of water separates Semenanjung, Sabah and Sarawak.

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

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

The same mass body of water provides almost 50% of Malaysia’s protein requirement and almost 20% of national income, from oil and gas exploration in the EEZ of the coast of Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak and joint development areas with Thailand and now Vietnam.

In the interest of Malaysia, we are very dependent these water ways. As the 17th most important world trading nation, more than 90% of Malaysian trade are made through the passages of these water ways.

It is pertinent that Malaysia is able to ensure these water ways are protected and remain open for safe passage of international shipping.

*Updated 2200hrs

Chinese Navy along with marines detachments continue to do aggressive ‘training’ in South China Sea.

Xinhua story:

China’s naval helicopters finish low-altitude flight training

(Xinhua)    19:05, January 24, 2014
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ABOARD CHANGBAISHAN, Jan. 24 — Shipboard helicopters with a patrolling Chineseflotilla successfully completed low-altitude flight training missions in the South ChinaSea on Friday night.

Pilots from the Nanhai Fleet flotilla, which is patrolling the South China Sea, fulfilled theflight task in dim light and against strong winds.

The move means that the Chinese pilots have mastered the technique of landing roundthe clock on all types of Chinese naval vessels equipped with landing platforms, said ZhouXun, deputy commander of the helicopter regiment.

The low-altitude flight training missions are part of the flotilla’s annual schedule, whichincludes combat drills in the South China Sea, the West Pacific Ocean and the east IndianOcean.

The three-ship flotilla, which consists of amphibious landing craft Changbaishan and destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, left from a military port in south China’s Hainan Provinceon Monday.

Changbaishan is the country’s largest landing ship by gross tonnage and is equipped withan advanced weapons system. Both Wuhan and Haikou have experience with major drills and escort missions in the Gulf of Aden.

Three helicopters and a company of marines are stationed aboard the ships.

Since Monday, the helicopter regiment has successfully completed about 100 trainingflights, which have improved its combat capability in a “complex environment,” said LiuDehua, a naval air force official with the Nanhai Fleet.

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Published in: on January 24, 2014 at 15:59  Comments (15)  

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  1. I don’t trust China one bit. All of us must watch them, criticize them, shout at and whack every unruly action they take. So-called Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. Member my foot.

    Shit, they got there only because they were the most populous country at the end of World War II and perceived as a potential check on any resurgence of the power of the hated enemy at that time – Japan.

    They are a country with a tumultuous history. 3,000 years of recorded history full of civil wars, rebellions and revolutions. The last one was the communist revolution which lasted a few decades until the death of Mao Zedong.about only 40 years ago. A revolution that clearly failed as China is now practicing capitalism and free enterprise which such zeal that they have become the 2nd biggest economy in the world.

    The kind of people the Chinese in mainland China are can be seen from those in Malaysia – the DAP and the Chinese tsunami ungrateful ingrates and ultra kiasus. They’ll demand all sorts endlessly and pushed themselves until they reached the limit. They crossed the limit and the race riots occurred on 13 May 1969.

    There’s no telling what kind of limit the mainland Chinese will bring themselves and the world to. Thank God that the US and Russia have of late been able to work together for the maintenance of world peace. I shudder at the thought of what would happen if they don’t.

  2. A people who have experienced such endless trauma of wars, revolts, rebellions and revolutions throughout their history seem unable to develop a mind of decency and decorum. Rough, crude, unruly, lacking respect for authority, for norms and rules of behaviour among themselves and among nations.

    “Biadap,” said DAP Vice-President Tengku Aziz of DAP Scretary General Lim Guan Eng as he stormed out of the party. Imagine, they broke their own party rules in the DAP CEC Election in December 2012. Complained by their own members, the Registrar of Societies told the DAP leadership to hold a Re-Election. They didn’t do so for nearly one solid year until September 2013.

    And the RoS non-recognized and illegal CEC kept functioning despite a prominent lawyer being the party Chairman. Yet they did the same in the September 2013 CEC Re-Election. Again, the disgruntled members complained to the RoS. But, when the RoS asked them to furnish full lists of members c/w the normal particulars, ultra kiasu and gangster-like Lim Guan Eng has the damn cheek to threaten to sue the RoS. What utterly kurang ajar kind of blokes the DAP buggers are.

    And so, their mother country, China, will largely behave that way, too. Bullying the Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and possibly Malaysia, later, as we also have claims on islands in the South China Sea.

    The US is already having arrangements for the re-use of their former Air Force Base at Clarke Airfield and Naval Base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. I have no problems at all for the US fighter jets, aircraft carriers, armada of naval ships and military hardware of all kinds stationed in the ASEAN member, the Philippines. In fact, I don’t mind even the Japanese amending their war-renouncing Constitution and arming themselves in the face of the mainland Chinese bullying in regard to the islands in the East China Sea that the Japanese have claimed for so long.

  3. China had made it abundantly clear to all other claimants (including Malaysia) that their stand on South China Sea is:

    “All future negotiation must be based on the principle of non-disputable, non-negotiable sovereignty that China has over the areas mark by the nine dash line”

    Any idea how to negotiate?

    • That’s very much the Cina Bukit stand.

      Maybe negotiate with a few nuclear bombs on their heads. Better still, start by bombing Lop Nor, their nuclear weapons research facilities, if they have not moved them elsewhere.

      Crazy thinking, not rational-minded Chinese. Duuhhh.

  4. This article raises to issues to mind.

    1. Malaysia maybe the only country in the world which signed away territory without a fight eg. Pulau Batu Puteh.

    2. How many of us are aware that the Singaporean Trojan Horse DAP has LEGITIMACY ISSUES.

    First, after being founded by the brilliant Lee Kuan Yew with his 14 failed Policies for Singapore which screwed themselves up big time, the DAP carries the very heavy baggage made in Singapore which is also their spiritual homeland.

    Second, the issue of the DAP’s morality in the Opposition for over 48 long years without doing anything for the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and all but only to shout a made in Singapore slogan, ‘ Malaysia for Malaysians ‘. Now the Singaporeans are shouting, ‘ Singapore for Singaporeans !’ During these 48 years, Malaysia has had 6 democratically elected Prime Ministers.

    • giving away territory without a fight – it began with stupid Tengku A Rahman, giving away Singapore FOC to Lee Kuan Yew.

      In Singapore only one PM until now – LKY, LKY, LKY. Hsien Loong and his predecessor are not the PM, LKY was and is.

      • Zen. You are dot on. Some Bloggers say Jordan is next. The Republic of Singapore should be next taking into consideration that the RULING DYNASTY has been in power from 1959 to 2016 – 57 years. THE LONGEST POLITICAL SATRAP IN THE WORLD. Where are you Washington DC ? Even longer than the real Communist Party of China – 1949 – 1982 – 33 years !

  5. Zen. Man proposes. God disposes. At the rate the one-street town of the Republic of Singapore is progresing, she will have 4 choices to make withing 25 years :-

    1. Singapore to become the 53rd State of Union of the United States.

    2. Singapore reverts to a British Crown Colony.

    3. Singapore re-merges with Malaysia. A good horse does not return to old pastures.

    4. Singapore retains her status quo with her huge military, 300,000 reservists on constant alert, aging Gurkha Brigades, F-35, AWACS, Apaches, 9 submarines, corvettes, a S$ 2 billion water strategic reserve ,secret caverns, bomb proofed buildings, long range artillery, spies complete with swallows, ducks, and tycoons, rusting tanks etc. And continue her present policy of poking and spying at her abang adeks and neighbours eg. riots in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur etc..

    • Well, the little red dot seems to be doing well with both the US and China.

      It must be galling to Malaysia that the US views Singapore as a more “trusted” partner than Malaysia. Which includes selling the city-state some of the latest military hardware and home-basing a US Navy littoral combat vessel at Singapore’s naval base. Plus the little fact that there are more than 2,000 US companies operating in Singapore.

      As for China, the fact that it chose Singapore to host a yuan clearing bank speaks volumes.

      And with a free trade agreement with the EU almost concluded, Singapore has got the 3 legs of it’s “support tripod” pretty well organized.

      That’s what far-sighted clear-thinking governments do. Not lurch from crisis to crisis and engage in policy flip-flops.

      The paucity of the strategic calculus facing Malaysia as it “confronts” Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea is telling.

      Can Malaysia hope to build up it’s defence forces to offer a credible response to China’s military build up, military moves and diplomatic manoeuvres?

      Can it rely on Asean to speak with one voice and back it on this issue, or will it have to go cap-in-hand to the US to bail these particular chestnuts out of the fire?

      Or will some NGOs make police reports about China’s “aggression” and “uncouth pendatang behavior”?

      Heck, they could even get their shock troopers to assemble in front of the Chinese embassy in KL, drop their pants and wiggle their bare butts in front of the embassy gates.

      That would surely go viral on the Internet and make for prime time TV viewing worldwide.

      It might even buy these NGOs brownie points with Shinzo Abe!

    • Btw, AK, I dunno about Singapore being a “one-street” town.

      It’s new MCE (Marina Coastal Expressway) is way better planned and engineered than KL’s so-called “Smart Tunnel”.

      Just saying, that is.

      It’s funny that you should mention F-35s. One would have thought that Singapore’s F-15s and soon to be reengineeed F-16s would be more than adequate to see off any regional wannabes (no names mentioned)

      Let’s see how many of Malaysia’s top brass show up at the Singapore Air Show in February for a spot of “lawatan belajar”.

  6. […] is obvious too that Malaysian political and diplomatic leaders have not learned anything when China invaded the Paracel Islands, off the coast of Vietnam exactly forty years ago this […]

  7. […] 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. […]

  8. […] China’s arrogance and self-preservation greed growingly worrying. These are lessons that should be learned, from the progression of China and and the nations around the region, beginning from the invasion of the Paracels exactly forty years ago. […]

  9. […] 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. […]

  10. […] years ago, China invaded Paracel Islands which were part of South Vietnam. South Vietnam at the time was weakened, after a prolong war with […]


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