China repeats refusal to abide by South China Sea ruling
FILE – In this Sunday, June 5, 2016 file photo, China’s Rear Adm. Sun Jianguo of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, deputy chief of the joint staff of the PLA’s General Staff Department, delivers his speech about "The Challenges Of Conflict Resolution" at the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, or IISS, Asia Security Summit in Singapore. China has reiterated its refusal to abide by any ruling from a U.N. arbitration panel over its claim to almost all of the disputed South China Sea. Speaking at the Shangri-la Dialogue regional security conference, Sun also called on nations without a direct claim to territory in the region to stay out of the dispute, a reference to the United States and its allies including Japan and Australia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
A look at some recent key developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential gas and oil reserves:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.
CHINA WILL REFUSE TO ABIDE BY U.N. ABITRATION PANEL RULING
China has reiterated its refusal to abide by any ruling from a U.N. arbitration panel over its claim to almost all of the disputed South China Sea.
Speaking Sunday at the Shangri-la Dialogue regional security conference in Singapore, Rear Adm. Sun Jianguo also called on nations without a direct claim to territory in the region to stay out of the dispute, a reference to the United States and its allies including Japan and Australia.
‘We don’t make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble,’ said Sun, who is also a deputy chief of staff for of the military’s General Staff Department. ‘China will not bear with the arbitration award, nor will it allow any infringement on its sovereignty and security interests or stay indifferent to the irresponsible behavior of some countries in and around the South China Sea,’ he said.
The arbitration panel in The Hague is expected to deliver a verdict in the coming weeks on a lawsuit brought by the Philippines questioning whether China’s vague ‘nine-dashed line’ boundary is applicable under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Sun’s comments seemed intended for a domestic audience for whom such nationalistic appeals resonate strongly. The tabloid Global Times published by the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily ran his remarks on its front page under a headline reading ‘China hits back against the U.S., Japan.’
At the same conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the arbitration panel’s ruling would be ‘an opportunity for China and the rest of the region to recommit to a principled future, to renewed diplomacy, and to lowering tensions, rather than raising them.’
INDONESIA FIRES SHOTS AT, SEIZES CHINESE FISHING TRAWLER
Indonesia’s navy last week said it fired shots at a Chinese trawler when it refused to stop fishing in Indonesian waters, and then seized the vessel and its eight crewmembers.
An Indonesian frigate intercepted the trawler on May 27 near the Natuna islands in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, which overlaps with the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea, said navy western fleet command spokesman Maj. Budi Amin.
Amin said the frigate fired shots that hit the stern of the Gui Bei Yu-27088 after the fishing ignored repeated warnings to stop. He said no one was injured.
Tensions between the two countries flared in March when Indonesia intercepted a Chinese fishing vessel off the Natuna islands. A Chinese coast guard vessel collided with the trawler as it was being towed, allowing it to escape.
SEA TENSIONS SEEN AS DRIVING UP DEFENSE SPENDING
Tensions in the South China Sea will drive up defense spending in the Asia-Pacific region by nearly a quarter by the end of the decade, consultancy IHS Jane’s said last week.
Combined regional defense budgets will grow from $435 billion last year to $533 billion in 2020, furthering a shift in global military spending away from Western Europe and North America toward emerging markets, especially in Asia, the report said.
‘A number of the South China Sea’s littoral states appear to be responding to China’s more assertive stance in the region and there is no sign of this trend coming to an end,’ Janes’ principal analyst, Craig Caffrey, said in the report.
Following years of double-digit annual percentage increases, China has far and away the region’s biggest defense budget at $146 billion last year, according to the government. That growth is now slowing and Jane’s said it expects China’s budget to rise by about 5 percent to $233 billion by 2020.
US SAYS FEW ISSUES WITH CHINA OVER SEA
Head of the U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris said last week that, while his forces are ready to confront Chinese ships and planes if necessary, there have been few significant issues with China lately in the South China Sea.
‘We’ve seen positive behavior in the last several months by China,’ Harris said at the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in Singapore. ‘I’m encouraged by the activities’ between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.’
Harris noted that China plans to attend the Rim of the Pacific exercise this year, with U.S. and Chinese warships operating together from Guam to Hawaii.
Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top admiral, said ‘more and more’ interactions at sea with the Chinese navy are safe and professional.
PHILIPPINE NAVY COMMISSIONS NEW SHIPS
The Philippine navy last week commissioned its first amphibious landing dock and three smaller landing craft as it continues to modernize its fleet in response to the perceived threat from China’s much more powerful forces.
President Benigno Aquino III said the landing dock BRP Tarlac, which can transport a landing force, is now the navy’s biggest ship. It was acquired under a 60.1 billion peso ($1.3 billion) military modernization program begun in 2010, he said at the navy’s 118th anniversary ceremony.
The Philippine military is one of Asia’s weakest, though Aquino said his government has upgraded its capabilities through the modernization program.
The 123-meter (400-foot) landing dock, which can also carry transport helicopters, is the first of two such vessels for the navy. The second, also built in Indonesia, is expected to be delivered next year.
The three smaller landing craft were bought from Australia to augment two similar vessels donated earlier by the Australian government.