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MORE CHINESE MISCHIEFS (Last of Two Parts)


 

“3,000 Chinese flee Vietnam as unrest in Hanoi

and Ho Chi Minh grows….” – U.S.A. Today(19 May 2014)

 

It’s time again to connect more dots appearing on the horizon and underwater re the territorial/maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea – because the longer-range implications thereof are starting to become clearer after the ASEAN Summit hosted by Myanmar last 11 May, and new cases of Chinese “bullying” against Vietnamese and Filipinos.

Vietnam Versus China Encounters

The New York Timesreported (11 May 2014):  “China has dangerously increased tensions by deploying an oil rig for the first time in a disputed area claimed by Vietnam.  The move is certain to make other countries feel even more threatened by China’s expansionist claims.   The rig, owned by a State oil company, was parked off the Paracel Islands on 02 May.  After Vietnam objected, China dispatched 80 ships to the area; Hanoi responded by sending 35 ships to obstruct the rig’s operations.”

Is this naval confrontasi between these two ancient rivals in the disputed South China Sea the lightning spark to trigger World War III??  Maybe – if incumbent leaders forget that Earth’s people in the 21st century want peace, prosperity, and sustainable development for their better future – not war, poverty, and prolonged suffering!!

Continued the NYT:  “The situation escalated on 07 May, when Vietnam accused China of ramming and using water cannons on several Vietnamese ships. On 09 May, Beijing accused America of encouraging Vietnam’s behavior.”

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) guarantees Vietnam exclusive rights to hydrocarbon and mineral resources in the Paracels, which is along a vital world trade route. 

As a result, China is also in conflict with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, which have interests in the same maritime area. In fact, the former claims the entire China Sea, putting it in serious conflict also with Japan.

Oil, Gas, Hydrocarbons, and Sovereignty

The Associated Pressaffirmed (08 May 2014):  “Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels, said Tran Duy Hai, Deputy Head of Vietnam’s National Border Committee.  Chinese ships, with air support, intimidated Vietnamese vessels.  Vietnam had requested talks Beijing, and was awaiting a response, adding that Vietnam would do ‘everything necessary’ to settle peacefully, Tran said.” 

Agence France Presseopined (11 May 2014):  “This also comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Manila, which has asked a U.N. tribunal to rule on China’s claims. Beijing – which prefers to negotiate directly with weaker neighbors – has vehemently rejected arbitration.”

Experts say that while Beijing has mounted drilling operations by the State-owned CNOOC as part of its long-term oil exploration program, energy resources are probably secondary.  Rather, they say that the move is a fresh effort by China to demonstrate its “sovereignty,” as part of the broader strategy towards China’s control of disputed territory.

Beijing has defended its actions as “completely reasonable, legal and justified,” arguing that the CNOOC drilling location is within its territory.  China has controlled those islands since ousting South Vietnamese forces in 1974 – but Hanoi still claims them.

Caught Between Politics And Law”

“The oil rigclash is only one of several maritime spats between China and its Asian neighbors, the most volatile of them with Japan over a small East China Sea grouping called Diaoyu (Beijing) and Senkaku (Tokyo).  In that dispute, a key Japanese argument is that until the 1970s, ‘there was a substantial period in which China didn’t show any interest’ in the islands, said Barry Sautman – Chinese politics expert at the Hongkong University of Science and Technology.” Agence France Presse (11 May).

Continued Sautman:  “China is caught in between the requirements of politics and the requirements of law.  The timing of Beijing’s move ‘has spurred speculation that this was a tit-for-tat response’ to President Obama’s trip to U.S. allies Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines last month, when China’s territorial claims were a constant theme.

“But these Chinese steps – similar to Beijing’s new ‘air defense identification zone’ over the East China Sea – bolsters Washington’s argument that China is taking ‘provocative’ steps in the region. 

“If I were an American, I’d say ‘Thank you’, because it just makes everybody feel that China is being aggressive,’ said David Zweig, director of HKUST’s Centre on China’s Transnational Relations.  ‘It’s clear there’s tension in all of this area,’ he added.”

At The 24th ASEAN Summit

Covering the 24th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Myanmar, the Philippine Daily Inquirerreported (11 May):  “In a joint statement, the Foreign Ministers urged the countries involved ‘to exercise self-restraint’ and ‘avoid actions that could undermine’ peace and stability in the area, reiterating the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the non-aggression pact ASEAN signed with China in 2002.

 “The Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability, maritime security, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”

Agence France Pressealso wrote (11 May 2014):  “ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh explained that this was because the concerns raised were about the ‘conduct’ of China and ASEAN members made. He made this clarification when asked why the statement did not sound strong enough to send an unequivocal message to China….

“The ‘stand alone’ statement came following a confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese ships near the Paracels.  Hanoi said that the Chinese used water cannon against, as well as rammed, Vietnamese vessels patrolling there.”

The Philippines has also been protesting the continued presence of armed Chinese vessels around our Ayungin Shoal and increasing poaching activities within the Hasa-Hasa Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and other areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone guaranteed by UNCLOS.

New Chinese Mischiefs?

Last week, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin revealed ongoing Chinese construction activities at our Mabini Reef which started in February. The Mabini Reef is part of our country’s 200-mile EEZ.

The DFA released photographs of such construction activities for the past two years that indicate extensive reclamation for an anchorage, runway and buildings.  Isn’t this another “Mischief Reef”???

The Philippines is offering naval facilities at Ulugan (Oyster) Bay in Palawan where U.S. forces can station troops as part of the recent Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  AFP Chief General Emmanuel Bautista announced the offer at the end of the Philippines–U.S. war games last week that involved 5,500 troops and addressed security issues in the West Philippine Sea, as reported by the Manila Standard Today(16 May). 

In 1995 FVR declared Ulugan Bay as a naval development area on the western coast of Palawan, as part of the AFP Modernization Program.

“Our Armed Forces has embarked on an enhancement project at Ulugan (Oyster) Bay, costing more than P300 million, including additional dockyard and support facilities. It has deep waters ideal for large ships and lush terrain appropriate for jungle training.”  Manila Standard Today(16 May).

Flashback To Panganiban (Mischief) Reef

On 24 February 1995, Hongkong Asiaweek’sfeature “Islands of Discord” reported:  “The Philippines feels particularly betrayed.  China endorsed a declaration urging all six claimants to pursue peaceful means in resolving disputes.  Signed by ASEAN foreign ministers in Manila in July 1992, the non-binding document allayed fears of a military confrontation.  China and Vietnam figured in a naval battle over the Spratlys as recently as 1988.  That Manila Declaration assured that claimants would maintain, but not expand, their positions.  The Filipinos kept to their settlements on eight islets belonging to the Kalayaan Island Group (Freedomland), of which Panganiban (Mischief) Reef is a part. 

“China shattered those hopes.  ‘The Chinese have gone much much closer to Palawan,’ warned Philippine Defense Secretary Renato de Villa.  But, Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo stressed that Manila will exhaust ‘all peaceful means in resolving this issue’ – including a possible case before the International Court of Justice.  President Ramos made a measured response.  Said he:  ‘The Philippines views these actions taken by elements identified with the People’s Republic of China as inconsistent with international law and the spirit and intent of the 1992 Manila ASEAN Declaration.” 

Continued Asiaweek:  “The discovery of the structures at Mischief Reef set off a flurry of diplomatic protests, denials and debate.  Summoned by DFA officials, Chinese Ambassador (in Manila)Huang Guifang insisted that his country was not building a military base on the reef known to China as ‘Meijijiao.’  The structures are facilities for fishermen in case of distress, said Huang.”  (Aptly enough, mariners call the islet ‘Mischief Reef.’) 

IN A SUBSEQUENT PRESS INTERVIEW, FVR COUNTERED THAT IF, INDEED, PANGANIBAN (MISCHIEF) REEF IS FOR DISTRESSED FISHERMEN SEEKING SANCTUARY, THEN IT SHOULD BE OPEN AND AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES TO ALL FISHERMEN AND VESSELS THAT NEED HUMANITARIAN HELP, REGARDLESS OF NATIONALITY.

At that time, Malacañang’s press office released photographs exposing four octagonal concrete structures on stilts, each flying the Chinese flag, on top of the 80 sq.km. reef, with gunboats nearby. 

SUMMATION

LOOKING BACK AT THE CREEPING CHINESE ENCROACHMENTS IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA SINCE JANUARY 1995 TO DATE (20 YEARS), WHO IS BENT ON GRABBING DISPUTED MARITIME TERRITORIES UNILATERALLY – THE PHILIPPINES, VIETNAM, THE U.S. OR CHINA???

WORLD OPINION HAS BUILT UP AGAINST THE CHINESE FOR ITS BULLYING.  THE MOST RECENT PROOF IS LAST FORTNIGHT’S VIOLENT – BUT JUSTIFIED – PROTESTS OF THE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE AGAINST CHINESE ENTERPRISES IN THE HANOI AND HO CHI MINH AREAS.

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org.  Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

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