Activities of the Claimants


China unveils sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft

China unveiled a sophisticated new stealth fighter jet at an air show on November 11th, a show of muscle during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit. China hopes the much-anticipated J-31 stealth aircraft, developed by the Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic), the country's top aircraft maker, will compete with U.S.-made hardware in export markets. The twin-engine fighter jet was unveiled at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in the southern city of Zhuhai, a biennial event at which China shows off its military technology. The J-31 is about the same size as the F-35, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a report this year.

Chinese premier calls for peace, economic integration in East Asia


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on November 13th called for maintaining peace and stability in East Asia and pushing forward regional economic integration and common development. Stressing that durable peace and stability require the backing of strong institutional arrangements, he said at the 9th East Asia Summit that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members are discussing the possibility of concluding a treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation. "The treaty is aimed at providing an institutional framework and legal guarantee for peaceful co-existence between the two sides from generation to generation," Li said. "The treaty is aimed at providing an institutional framework and legal guarantee for peaceful co-existence between the two sides from generation to generation," Li said. Regarding the maritime issues, the premier said the situation in the South China Sea is on the whole stable and the freedom and safety of navigation in the region is ensured. China and ASEAN members have identified the dual-track approach for dealing with the South China Sea issue, he said, according to which specific disputes are to be solved through negotiations and consultations by countries directly concerned and peace and stability in the region be jointly upheld by China and ASEAN countries working together.

PLAN commissions first ASW variant Type 056 corvette

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned its 18th Type 056 (Jiangdao)-class missile corvette, a vessel reported to be the class's first dedicated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant (designation Type 056A). A PLA-linked media report on November 11th said that the vessel, named Zhuzhou (pennant number 594), has been inducted into the South Sea fleet. An IHS Jane's report in August 2014 suggested that the PLAN is equipping at least four of the class with towed array variable-depth sonar (VDS) systems.

Chinese president praises Malaysia's quiet diplomacy on South China Sea issues

Chinese president Xi Jinping has praised Malaysia for adopting the quiet diplomacy approach in tackling the South China Sea issued, Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said. "President Xi also acknowledged that the quiet diplomacy approach adopted by Malaysia was the best method, as it stressed on discussion rather than confrontation or international liaison work involvement." Najib said during the bilateral meeting, the Chinese president had also expressed hope to establish a closer defence cooperation with Malaysia.


Vietnamese PM highlights South China Sea issue at ASEAN meeting

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged ASEAN to play an active role in the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the region, and requested all parties to respect and implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in full in his speech at the plenary session of the 25th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw on November 12th. The PM highlighted the importance of abiding by the DOC, especially Article 5, which stipulates parties must practice restraint and refrain from broadening or accelerating tensions and complicating the situation; must not use or threaten to use force; and must settle all disputes via peaceful means that respect international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). At the same time, ASEAN should work harder to implement previously made agreements, including the agreement between ASEAN and China that specifies measures and builds mechanism to ensure the full implementation of DOC. Furthermore, intensive negotiations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) should be conducted, he said. He also met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the 25 th ASEAN Summit. Regarding the South China Sea Sea situation, Ban Ki-moon affirmed the UN’s viewpoint that all sovereign disputes in the waters need to be settled through dialogues, and all concerned parties must avoid actions that may cause tensions. He said he hopes regional meetings will offer opportunities for parties involved to solve the issue, and the UN is willing to provide assistance to these efforts.

Vietnamese PM calls for South China Sea restraint


Vietnam’s premier called on countries not to alter rocks and shoals in the South China Sea and warned that improperly-handled disputes with China risk damaging bilateral relations between the two nations. Countries should refrain from “actions that would complicate the situation and change the status quo of rocks and shoals,” in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in written responses to questions from Bloomberg News. Dung’s comments follow months of renewed territorial tensions between Vietnam and China and were sent after he met with U.S. President Barack Obama at a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Myanmar.

The Philippines

Aquino: Resolving South China Sea row will improve regional peace and stability

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III underscored the need to resolve territorial dispute in the South China Sea in order to improve peace and stability in the region. President Aquino issued the statement during the 9th East Asia Summit plenary session held at the Ruby Hall of the Myanmar International Convention Centre here on November 13th. “The Philippines continues to seek a peaceful and lawful solution. We are pursuing arbitration, promoting the full and effective implementation of the DOC and pushing for the conclusion of the COC at the soonest possible time,” he said. “Once everybody’s entitlements and obligations are clearly defined, then there is no reason for instability. This will benefit not only our region, but also the global community,” he added.


Indonesia wades into the South China Sea

Indonesian President Joko Widodo waded into the South China Sea territorial dispute for the first time, borrowing a page from his predecessor in prescribing restraint and swifter talks to resolve the longstanding conflict. Speaking to his counterparts at a summit of the ASEAN, he called on all parties “to exercise restraint” and “accelerate agreement on a code of conduct” in the disputed waters.  The code was suggested more than a decade ago as an answer to regional tensions between China and several Southeast Asian nations with competing claims in the waters. “Indonesia believes prosperity and peace in the region will be determined by how we work together to manage the oceans,” Mr. Widodo said. “We must ensure that the sea unites us, not divides us.


PM Modi talks tough on South China Sea at ASEAN

Against the backdrop of China’s raging maritime disputes with some southeast Asian countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 12th said all nations have a responsibility to follow international law and norms on maritime issues and hoped for an early conclusion of a code of conduct to resolve the matter. “For peace and stability in South China Sea, everyone should follow international norms and law. This includes the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We also hope that you will be able to successfully implement the guidelines to the 2002 DOC and that the COC on South China Sea can be concluded soon on the basis of consensus,” he said at the end of the summit deliberations.


Japan's Abe urges restraint in South China Sea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 13th called on countries to refrain from any action that could exacerbate territorial disputes in the South China Sea, taking a swipe at China's maritime expansionism. Abe did not directly criticize China at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar's capital. But he noted that "unilateral actions have continued in the South China Sea," where China has started land reclamation projects on the disputed Spratly Islands. "We must respect the general principle to avoid unilaterally causing physical alterations in seas with disputed boundaries," he stressed.

The U.S.

Obama warns Asian territorial rows could 'spiral into confrontation'


US President Barack Obama on November 15th warned of the dangers of outright conflict in Asia, as China squares off against rival claimants over disputed territories, but vowed that Washington would remain anchored in the region. In a speech at Brisbane's University of Queensland, Obama insisted that his "pivot" of US policy back to Asia was real and here to stay. "Yet alongside this dynamism, there are genuine dangers that can undermine this progress," he said, citing North Korea for one and adding: "Disputes over territory -- remote islands and rocky shoals -- that threaten to spiral into confrontation." Obama repeated his insistence given in Beijing this week, after talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, that the United States welcomes the rise of China provided it is a peaceful and responsible player on the world stage. But China, he stressed in Brisbane, must "adhere to the same rules as other nations, whether in trade or on the seas".

New U.S. Navy warship readies for 16-month deployment to Asia

The USS Fort Worth, a warship built by Lockheed Martin Corp, is slated to depart on November 10th for Asia, where it will operate largely out of Singapore for 16 months, the longest deployment of a U.S. Navy ship in 42 years, Navy officials said. The Fort Worth has a core crew of 54 people, plus 19 to operate a package of surface-warfare equipment. Twenty-four others serve in the aviation unit that operates a manned MH-60R Seahawk helicopter built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp, and an unmanned, autonomous MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter built by Northrop Grumman Corp.

Regional Snapshots

China, Vietnam willing to handle maritime issues through dialogue

China and Vietnam have agreed to handle maritime disputes through dialogue, Chinese state media reported on November 10th, months after ties between the two countries hit a three-decade low in a row over a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters. The two Communist neighbors must respect each other and focus on long-term interests, President Xi Jinping said, according to the official Xinhua news agency. "Sino-Vietnamese relations have been advancing continuously since the two nations established diplomatic relations, despite some twists and turns," he said. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said his country was ready to "properly deal with maritime issues through friendly consultation so that the issues will not affect its relations with China", according to Xinhua. Sang said Vietnam was ready to step up high-level contacts and non-government swaps to strengthen its links with China.

Beijing, Philippines move to calm South China Sea tensions


Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had a "meeting of minds" on Tuesday during talks which included a territorial row that has soured relations between the South China Sea states. "The warmth was there ... there was sincerity," Aquino told a select group of Filipino journalists in Beijing, where he was attending the Asia-Pacific Economic and Cooperation (APEC) summit. Aquino attended a tree-planting ceremony on the outskirts of Beijing, and had informal talks with Xi for about 10 minutes afterwards. "There was factual layout of the ... issues, where we were, where we are and where we will be. (On) most of the general points, we had a meeting of the minds," Aquino said. "South China Sea was mentioned in passing ... There was mention of finding constructive ways to solve this," he added.

China, Indonesia agree on greater maritime, infrastructure cooperation

China and Indonesia will enhance cooperation particularly in areas of maritime development and infrastructure, the two countries' presidents agreed on November 9th. President Joko Widodo's proposal to build Indonesia a maritime power and Chinese President Xi Jinping's initiative of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road conform to each other to a very high extent, according to Xi, who met with Joko Widodo in Beijing. "We can let the two development strategies interact with each other, push forward cooperation in the fields of infrastructure building, agriculture, finance and nuclear power, and fully utilize related mechanisms to advance maritime and aerospace cooperation," Xi said. Joko Widodo said Indonesia supports the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and hopes it can join the project at an early stage.

Japan, Indonesia to launch working-level talks on maritime cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed November 10th in Beijing to launch working-level talks to explore ways to cooperate over maritime security, Japanese officials said. During their first meeting since Jokowi assumed office last month, Abe proposed that the two countries take concrete steps to work together in upgrading their abilities to ensure that seas are safe, and in the development of port and other infrastructure facilities in Indonesia, the officials said.

China, U.S. highlight new type of major-country relations

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on November 11th pledged to push forward a new type of major-country relations between the two countries. Obama attended the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting and paid a state visit to China. Xi said he is glad to see that both sides have achieved considerable early harvest on their drive to build a new type of major-country relationship thanks to joint efforts from both sides. According to Xi, both China and the United States have gained more understanding and are holding higher expectations over the concept of such a relationship. For his part, Obama noted that the U.S. and China boast the world's two largest economies and two energetic and innovative peoples. Strengthening cooperation between the two countries, which have seen their interests highly integrated, could benefit people in both countries and the world at large, Obama said. He said he is willing to exchange views with President Xi on a wide range of issues in a timely manner, and lift the new type of major-country relationship between China and the U.S. to a higher level.

ASEAN summit took place in Myanmar

The 25th ASEAN Summit and meetings between the bloc and partner countries took place in Myanmar from November 12th-13th. The 25th ASEAN Summit and related meetings focused on discussing measures to speed up the implementation of a roadmap on building the ASEAN Community, map out orientations for the community development beyond 2015, and promote unity and the core role of ASEAN in the regional structure. Regarding maritime issues, The ASEAN Chairman’s statement of the 25th ASEAN Summit reiterated the importance of maintaining peace, stability and ensuring navigation and aviation security, safety and freedom in the South China Sea. It also emphasised the principles stated in the DOC, the Statement on ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, the Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th Anniversary of the DOC and the bloc’s relevant statements approved at the 24th Summit. The ASEAN-25 Chairman’s statement welcomed encouraging results attained in the consultation on the implementation of the DOC and the agreement on joint efforts to finalise a COC as soon as possible. Accordingly, concerned parties agreed to enhance consultation with China on measures and mechanisms to ensure the full and effective implementation of the DOC and the soon conclusion of the COC.

US, Japan, Australia urge peaceful resolution of maritime disputes

The US, Australian and Japanese leaders on November 16th called for peaceful resolutions of maritime disputes. In a joint statement Obama, Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe urged “freedom of navigation and over-flight, and the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in accordance with international law’’. The trio said they were committed to deepening their already strong security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, which comes amid China’s increasingly assertive expansion in the region. “They noted that this partnership rests on the unshakable foundation of shared interests and values, including a commitment to democracy and open economies, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes,’’ the statement said. “The three leaders reaffirmed the global reach of their cooperation and the value of comprehensive US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.’’

China, Singapore defense ministers hold talks

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and Minister of National Defence of Singapore Ng Eng Hen on November 14th held talks and reached a four-point consensus. Chang, also State Councilor, and Ng reaffirmed the two sides' commitment to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation through the four-point consensus. First, both sides will strengthen the healthy and steady development of their defense relationship based on mutual respect and accommodating each other's security concerns for mutual trust, according to the press release. Second, both sides will enhance dialogue and mutual understanding through the conduct of regular high-level meetings and strategic consultation, the release said. Third, both sides will promote confidence building and mutual trust by strengthening practical cooperation, such as joint training exercises. Fourth, both sides will deepen people-to-people ties and friendship by increasing working-level exchanges and dialogues between both militaries, the release said.

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies