Activities of Claimants


China's Sinopec building filling station in disputed South China Sea

On Dec. 14, China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) announced via its Weibo account that it has started construction on a filling station and oil depot project on Woody Island. The filling station and accompanying storage tank on Woody Island in the disputed Paracels will take a year to complete. According to the post, the filling station and storage tank will satisfy fuel needs in Chinese-controlled islands and reefs in the South China Sea over the next few years.

China’s response to Japan-India’s Joint Statement

On Dec. 14, in a response to the question about recent joint statement of Japan and India’s PMs in Delhi, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said “The construction activities that China undertakes on the stationed islands and reefs in the South China Sea fall completely within China's sovereignty. They are justified, reasonable and lawful, targeting no country and impeding in no way the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. We hope countries outside the region would respect the efforts of regional countries in maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea, instead of doing the opposite.”

On Dec. 15, answered the question about BBC’s news that an Australian military aircraft which conducted freedom of navigation flight in the South China Sea in late November or early December, Hong Lei said “We hope other countries, especially those outside the region, will watch their words and actions, rather than bringing up troubles and deliberately complicating the situation in the South China Sea.”

Regarding to BBC’s report that China’s construction activities on relevant islands and reefs in the South China Sea have damaged marine ecological environment.On Dec. 16, Mr. Hong said “China has gone through scientific evaluation and argumentation before undertaking the construction on the islands and reefs. Placing equal emphasis on construction and protection, China has taken into full account issues like ecological environment and fishery protection, strictly followed environmental standards and requirements during construction, and adopted many effective measures to protect ecological environment.”

When asked about the report that US B-52 bombers flew into airspace near artificial islands of China early on December 10, the spokesperson on Dec. 20 said, “The Chinese side takes this incident seriously and has lodged solemn representations with the US side.” He added “We once again urge the US side to reflect upon and correct its mistake, and stop doing anything that hurts China's sovereignty and security interests as well as peace and stability of the South China Sea.” In a day earlier, regarding to this issue, China’s Ministry of National Defense said,  “The actions by the U.S. side were a serious military provocation, creating complex conditions in the South China Sea and even militarization in the region.”

Chinese foreign minister says situation in South China Sea 'stable'

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Dec. 19 during a visit to Berlin that "Some countries outside of the region are concerned about this region and we totally understand that, but I think these states need to support attempts to keep this region stable rather than just aggravating tensions or playing countries off against each other."  According to Wang “The situation in the disputed South China Sea was "relatively stable”.


Fifth Kilo-class submarine heads to Viet Nam

According toSputnik News on Dec. 17, the fifth Kilo submarine that Russia built for Vietnam, has left St. Petersburg for Cam Ranh port in central Vietnam. Russia signed a contract to supply six 636 Varshavyanka Kilo-class submarines worth US$2 billion for Viet Nam People’s Navy in 2009. The contract included training crew and supplying necessary equipment. Armed with cruise missiles, this diesel-electric stealth submarine is believed to be the quietest in the world and so was dubbed ‘black hole’ by NATO.

The Philippines

Philippine Congress approves 15 pct rise in 2016 national budget

On Dec. 17 The Philippine Congress has approved a 15 percent rise in the national budget next year to boost infrastructure and defence spending that will likely underpin the economy. The larger spending on defence by the Philippines also comes as China nears completion of its man-made islands in the South China Sea, which has raised tensions in the region. Manila is spending a record 25 billion pesos ($528.3 million) next year to purchase frigates, surveillance planes and radars to improve its capacity to guard its maritime borders. "Rising tensions in Asia Pacific have seen a long overdue process of military modernisation move up the political agenda in a number of countries," said principal analyst at IHS.


Australian Military Plane Flies Over Disputed South China Sea

On Dec. 12, a Defence Department Sokesperson told AFP that "A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion was conducting a routine maritime patrol in the region as part of Operation Gateway from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4." The spokesperson added "This operation as a part of Australia's enduring contribution to the preservation of regional security and stability in Southeast Asia."

The comments follow audio released by the BBC late Dec. 15 after a reporting assignment in the Spratly archipelago. In the scratchy radio recording, an RAAF pilot is heard speaking to the Chinese navy - "We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea." The BBC said it recorded the audio from a RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft on Nov. 25. It said the message was repeated several times but no response was heard from the Chinese.

In a speaking with reporters at Adelaide on Dec. 17, Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne says Australia will continue to carry out surveillance in the South China Sea despite concerns over a recent incursion, she affirmed “Maritime surveillance and air surveillance are very important to the job that the ADF does in maintaining regional stability and security.” She added "We always navigate in a very constructive way in the region.

The United States

U.S. Bomber Flies Over Waters Claimed by China

On Dec. 18, according to senior defense official an American B-52 bomber on a routine mission over the South China Sea unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of an artificial island (Cuarteron Reef) built by China. Beijing filed a formal diplomatic complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which prompted the Pentagon to look into the matter.

Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman said, “For this mission, there was no intention of flying to within 12 nautical miles,” “The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent mission,” he said. “We are looking into the matter.”

The flight comes amid rising tensions over China’s island-building program and U.S. operations to challenge Beijing’s broad but vaguely defined claims in the area.

U.S. Navy commander warns of possible South China Sea arms race

In his speech at Hawaii on Dec. 12, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift warned an arms race in the South China Sea, he said, "My concern is that after many decades of peace and prosperity, we may be seeing the leading edge of a return of "might makes it right" to the region, claimants and non-claimants alike are transferring larger shares of national wealth to develop more capable naval forces beyond what is needed merely for self defence." Commander Admiral Scott Swift urged nations, like China, to seek arbitration to settle maritime disputes.

Regional Snapshots

Australia – Japan bolster their Special Strategic Partnership

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull had a meeting on Dec. 18 in Tokyo. The Joint Statement released after the summit reiterated the importance of strengthening the Special Strategic Partnership of the two countries in order to maintain peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Regarding to the South China Sea issue, the Prime Ministers noted that the economic development of all countries in the region, including their own, has been enabled by and will depend upon in the future, the continued peaceful maintenance of the international order. They likewise expressed their strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo in the South China Sea and called on all claimants to halt large scale land reclamation or construction, and to refrain from using any land features for military purposes. They urged all claimants to exercise restraint, take steps to ease tensions, refrain from any actions that could in the circumstances escalate tensions and act in accordance with international law, including the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight.

Vietnam, Indonesia discuss Exclusive Economic Zone delimitation

Vietnam and Indonesia held the seventh Technical Meeting on the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in Hanoi from December 15-17. The event was a follow-up to the sixth meeting held in Jakarta on March 10-12 this year. During the meeting, both sides continued discussions on issues relating to the delimitation of the two countries’ EEZ boundary based on international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Vietnam, China launch joint survey of waters off Gulf of Tonkin

Vietnam and China hosted respective ceremonies to launch a joint survey of a 386.7 sq.m section of waters, as agreed earlier, off the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin on December 19. The joint survey is meant to delimit the boundary of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone off the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin as well as to serve cooperation for mutual development in the area.