Lessons to Paracels XXIV: The Empire strikes back

The diplomatic row over multiple disputed claims in South China Sea had escalated to controversy which had arisen to a military dispute as a US Navy guided missile destroyer maneuvres so close to the artificial island built known as Fiery Cross Reef, by the Chinese PLA-Navy.

CNN com. story:

U.S. warship sails close to Chinese artificial island in South China Sea

Jim Sciutto-Profile-ImageBarbara Starr-Profile-Image
By Jim Sciutto and Barbara Starr, CNN
Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT) October 27, 2015 | Video Source: CNN

U.S. sends warship within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands
Move viewed as potential challenge to China in South China Sea
Washington (CNN)

The United States sent a warship very close to one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, a potential challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the contested waters.

A U.S. defense official told CNN that the destroyer USS Lassen “conducted a transit” within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands on Tuesday morning local time.

The operation put the ship within an area that would be considered Chinese sovereign territory if the U.S. recognized the man-made islands as being Chinese territory, the official added.

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The mission, which had the approval of President Barack Obama, has now concluded, the official said.

The United States had not breached the 12-mile limit since China began massive dredging operations to turn three reefs into artificial islands in 2014.

In little more than 18 months, China has reclaimed more than 2000 acres at three main locations in the Spratly Islands — Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs.

The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival and often messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing sovereignty of several island chains and nearby waters.

On Tuesday morning before it was confirmed that the U.S. warship had breached the 12-mile zone, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said:

“We advise the U.S. side to think twice before action, not to conduct any rash action, and not to create trouble out of nothing.”

China has repeatedly said its activity in the South China Sea does not target any other country or affect freedom of navigation by sea or air.

In May, a U.S. surveillance plane carrying a CNN crew swooped over the Spratly Islands, triggering eight warnings from the Chinese navy to back off.



Fox News:

China warns US after Navy ship passes disputed islands claimed by Beijing

Published October 27, 2015

May 21: 2015: Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy. (Reuters)
China’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily Tuesday after a U.S. Navy ship passed within 12 nautical miles of disputed islands in the South China Sea late Monday in an apparent challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the region.

The ministry said that authorities monitored and warned the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen as it moved inside what China claims as a 12-mile territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, a disputed group of hundreds of reefs, islets, atolls and islands in the South China Sea that is also claimed by the Philippines.

A defense official told the Associated Press the patrol was approved by the White House and took place without incident.

“The actions of the U.S. warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability,” the ministry said on its website. “The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines welcomed the sail-past by the USS Lassen, calling it a way of helping maintain “a balance of power”.

Since 2013, China has accelerated the creation of new outposts by piling sand atop reefs and atolls then adding buildings, ports and airstrips big enough to handle bombers and fighter jets — activities seen as an attempt to change the territorial status quo by changing the geography.

Navy officials had said the sail-past was necessary to assert the U.S. position that China’s man-made islands cannot be considered sovereign territory with the right to surrounding territorial waters.

“We are conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” a senior defense official told Fox News late Monday. “We will fly, sail, and operate anywhere in the world that international law allows.” International law permits military vessels the right of “innocent passage” in transiting other country’s seas without notification.

The Navy’s plan to send a destroyer near the Spratly Islands was first reported by Reuters. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, declined to comment.

About 30 percent of global trade passes through the South China Sea, which is also home to rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea mineral deposits.

China says it respects the right of navigation, but has never specified the exact legal status of its maritime claims. China says virtually all of the South China Sea belongs to it, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam claim either parts or all of it.

Beijing’s response closely mirrored its actions in May when a navy dispatcher warned off a U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft as it flew over Fiery Cross Reef, where China has conducted extensive reclamation work.

Speaking to foreign correspondents in Manila, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he supported the U.S. naval maneuvers as an assertion of freedom of navigation and as a means to balance power in the region.

“I think expressing support for established norms of international behavior should not be a negative for a country,” he said. “I think everybody would welcome a balance of power anywhere in the world.”

Without identifying China by name, he said “one regional power” has been making “controversial pronouncements” that if must not be left unchallenged.

“The American passage through these contentious waters is meant precisely to say that there are norms as to what freedom of navigation entails and they intend to exercise so that there is no de facto changing of the reality on the ground,” he said.

The Obama administration has long said it will exercise a right to freedom of navigation in any international waters.

“We have been clear that we take no position on competing territorial sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea,” the senior defense official told Fox News late Monday. “U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations are global in scope and executed against a wide range of excessive maritime claims, irrespective of the coastal state advancing the excessive claim. The longstanding FON program is not directed at any specific country.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said China adhered to international law regarding freedom of navigation and flight, but “resolutely opposes the damaging of China’s sovereignty and security interests in the name of free navigation and flight.”

“China will firmly deal with provocations from other countries. We will continue to monitor relevant situation in the sea and air and take any necessary measures when needed,” the statement said.

China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea has become an increasingly sore point in relations with the United States, even as President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping have sought to deepen cooperation in other areas.

Despite those tensions, exchanges between the two militaries have continued to expand, with a U.S. Navy delegation paying visits last week to China’s sole aircraft carrier and a submarine warfare academy.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


The Chinese PLA-Navy military installation which comprises of an air strip and harbour, is believed to the Chinese project of power in the world’s second busiest waterway. Chinese interest in the area is also about the rich hydro-carbon deposit.

A detailed map of China's claims into ASEAN nations' EEZ

A detailed map of China’s claims into ASEAN nations’ EEZ

China reiterated an insubstantiated claim of Kuomintang’s 1947 known as the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ over most part of South China Sea. Most of the areas under this are EEZ of various ASEAN countries as per defined under the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which was inked in 1982.

Extensively China PLA-Navy built military installation on Fiery Cross Reef

Extensively China PLA-Navy built military installation on Fiery Cross Reef

This armed US Navy maneuvres definitely would brought about a reaction in the projection of force by China. More than six months ago, United States already has been warned about military manoeuvres in the disputed areas.

Fiery Cross Reef, which is Cina PLA-Navy newest military installation in the disputed territories which the China name as the 'Nine-Dash-Line'

Fiery Cross Reef, which is Cina PLA-Navy newest military installation in the disputed territories which the China name as the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’

Almost six months ago, US Navy P8 Orion maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft flew very close to the said island.

The Arleigh Burke class destroyer’s USS Lassen very close proximity to China PLA-Navy military installation at Fiery Cross Reef is a projection of force, guided based on the demonstration US foreign policy for not recognising China’s illegitimate claim on the fictitious maritime borders of ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.

The illegitimate claim by China, which is deemed “Excessive”, is clearly against the norms and practices of the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) 1982.

*Updated midnight

China responded to USS Lassen’s manoeuvres near the China PLA-Nany artificially built military installation at Fiery Cross Reef by US Navy destroyer USS Lassen as “Illegal”.

BBC.com story:

China says US warship’s Spratly islands passage ‘illegal’

49 minutes ago
From the section China
Two warships underwayImage copyrightReuters
Image caption
Guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen seen with a South Korean ship in a photo from March
Chinese officials have condemned a US ship’s passage near disputed islands in the South China Sea as “illegal” and a threat to their country’s sovereignty.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen breached the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
The US has confirmed the operation took place, apparently as part of its Freedom of Navigation programme.
The operation is a challenge to China’s claims over the artificial islands.
Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said Beijing would “resolutely respond to any country’s deliberately provocative actions”.
He added that the ship had been “tracked and warned” while on the mission to deliberately enter the disputed waters.
The Chinese foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to protest over the move.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter confirmed that the USS Lassen had passed within 12 miles of the islands, during questioning by the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
US Defence Department spokesman Cdr Bill Urban had earlier said that “the United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law”.
The move was welcomed by several countries in the East Asia region, including the Philippines and Japan.


Map showing Chinese construction in the disputed Spratly Islands

Map showing Chinese construction in the disputed Spratly Islands

China claims most of the South and East China seas. Other countries in South-East Asia have competing claims for the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal, which are thought to have resource-rich waters around them.
The reefs, which were submerged, were turned into islands by China by a massive dredging project which began in late 2013.
China says this work is legal and in a meeting with US President Barack Obama last month in Washington, President Xi Jinping said China had “no intention to militarise” the islands.
But Washington believes Beijing is constructing military facilities, designed to reinforce its disputed claim to most of the region – a major shipping zone.
Satellite image of an islandImage copyrightAFP
Image caption
A file photo from April shows what is claimed to be an airstrip under construction on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands
What is Freedom of Navigation?
The US Freedom of Navigation programme challenges what it deems to be “excessive claims” to the world’s oceans and airspace.
It was developed to promote international adherence to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, even though the US has not formally ratified the treaty.
In 2013 and 2014, the US conducted Freedom of Navigation operations of different kinds against China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam – each of whom occupies territory in the South China Sea.
China’s island factory
Why is the South China Sea contentious?
International maritime law allows countries to claim ownership of the 12-nautical mile area surrounding natural islands, but does not allow nations to claim ownership of submerged features that have been raised by human intervention.
A senior US defence official told Reuters news agency the warship began its mission early on Tuesday local time near the reefs and would spend several hours there.
Map of South China Sea
The USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, was expected to be accompanied by a US Navy P-8A surveillance plane and a P-3 surveillance plane, according to the unnamed official, speaking to US media.
Additional patrols could follow in the coming weeks, the official added.
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Media captionThe BBC’s Celia Hatton reports: ”This is a political issue and an economic one”
Why build a series of tiny islands in the middle of a vast sea? – Celia Hatton, BBC News, Beijing
China has altered Asia’s geography by dredging sand from the sea bottom and piling it on existing reefs to build several new islands.
Vague explanations have been offered to justify this costly exercise. Officially, the islands will be used for rescue operations and environmental projects.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged the islands would not be “militarised”.
However, many are sceptical of China’s geopolitical aims. In recent years, China has amplified its claims in the South China Sea. Critics fear Beijing will use the islands’ airstrips to exert control over the area.
At the same time, the United States is exerting its own influence in Asia, pivoting more of its military and economic attention to the region. The new islands are relatively tiny, but the tensions they could create between Beijing and Washington could have global implications.
USS Lassen
USS Lassen (file image)Image copyrightUS Navy
The ship is an Arleigh Burke class missile destroyer, which the US Navy says is among the most powerful destroyers ever built.
It is 155m (509ft) long with a displacement of 9,145 tonnes when fully loaded.
Crewed by a staff of about 330.
It carries two Seahawk helicopters and uses the Aegis defence system.
Weapons include Tomahawk missiles, RUM-139 Asroc anti-submarine missiles and surface-to-air missiles.

Published in: on October 27, 2015 at 16:30  Comments (3)