China raises five proposal for peace, stability in the south China sea

On November 22, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, at the 10th East Asia Summit in Malaysia, raised a five-pronged proposal to uphold and promote peace and stability in the South China Sea. First, all countries make the commitment to observing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, defend the outcome of WWII and post-war order, cherish hard-won peace and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the world and the region, including in the South China Sea. Second, sovereign countries directly concerned undertake, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including UNCLOS of 1982, to peacefully settle sovereign and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultation and negotiation. Third, China and ASEAN countries commit themselves to full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, accelerate consultations to strive for early conclusion of a full COC on the basis of consensus, and take steps to improve regional mechanisms for mutual trust and cooperation. Fourth, countries from outside the region undertake to respect and support the efforts by countries in the region to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, play a positive and constructive role and refrain from taking actions that may cause tension in the region. Fifth, all countries undertake to exercise and uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.

China defends its activities of land reclamation in the South China Sea

Speaking at a press briefing on the sidelines of a series of regional leaders' meetings in Malaysia on November 22, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said China's construction on its own islands and reefs in the South China Sea is aimed at improving the living conditions of those living there and better fulfilling its international duties. Liu said "to build necessary military defense facilities on islands far away from our mainland is required by the need both of national defense and of safeguarding our islands and reefs". "They should not be mistaken for actions to militarize the South China Sea," he added. Regarding to recent U.S. navy's exercise of FON near China's manmade island in the South China Sea, Liu said that it was a "political provocation."


Vietnam express concerns complicated developments in the East (South China) Sea

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung delivered speeches at the 18th ASEAN-China Summit, the 13th ASEAN-India Summit, the third ASEAN-US Summit and the 18th ASEAN+3 Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 21.

In his speeches, the Vietnamese Government leader asked concerned parties to effectively realise previously set action plans that focus on trade, investment, connectivity, response to climate change, trans-border issues, and sustainable and uniform development in the region.

He described the maintenance of peace, security and stability as a prerequisite for successful cooperation across diverse areas, as well as a common interest and responsibility of ASEAN, its partners and the international community.

Expressing concern over complicated developments in the East Sea, particularly the massive land reclamation that has eroded trust and exacerbated tension in the region, he asked parties concerned to strengthen trust building and preventive diplomac and follow principles such as exercising restraint; refraining from the use or threat of force; and peacefully settling disputes in line with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, toward reaching a Code of Conduct in the East Sea.

The Philippines

Asean can’t let any country claim entire South China Sea

Speaking in ASEAN Summit on November 21 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Pilipino President Benigno Aquino III said that the "Asean should not allow any country, no matter how powerful, to claim an entire sea as its own and to use force or the threat thereof in asserting such a claim.” President Aquino said these complexities have come under threat by unilateral actions such as the massive reclamation and building of structures on features in the Spratly islands, which have urgent and far-reaching implications to the region and the international community. Regarding to the arbitration, President Aquino said “The Philippines remains committed to pursuing arbitration to its final conclusion, and will abide by its decisions.” On November 22, speaking at EAS, Aquino said that “We are hopeful that China would honor its word and respect the rule of law,” “The world is watching and expects no less from a responsible global leader.” Aquino said Beijing’s island reclamation was “in total disregard of international law” and its assertiveness had “come to a point wherein we are now no longer allowed to enter areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone.”


Japan, Philippines agree in principle to defense equipment transfer

Japan and the Philippines on November 19 broadly agreed on a pact for the transfer of defense equipment and technology, as they step up their cooperation over China's muscle-flexing in regional waters. The deal was struck between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino after they finished attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Manila. Aquino told a joint press conference "we have taken a significant step forward in enhancing our defense and security relations by agreeing in principle (on the accord)". "We are hopeful that we can conclude and sign this agreement sooner rather than later." It is Japan's first such agreement with another Asian country.Abe said there had been a request from Aquino for the provision of large patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard and that Japan will consider the specifics of the matter.   Japan is also considering providing Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft, according to officials in Tokyo.

Abe airs concern over South China Sea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 21 expressed strong concerns over China's continuation of massive land reclamation work in the South China Sea in the presence of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a EAS. Without directly naming China, Abe voiced "serious concerns" over the reclamation work, pointing out that it is a "unilateral action that will change the status quo and raise regional tensions," according to a Japanese official. "In order to protect free and peaceful waters, it is important for the international community to work together," the official quoted Abe as saying at the meeting in Kuala Lumpur he attended with Li, South Korean President Park Geun Hye and their counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Abe and two to three other leaders made more or less similar remarks regarding China's controversial actions, saying that ensuring freedom of navigation in the disputed waterway is important and that all disputes must be solved peacefully through international law, according to officials with direct knowledge of the summit.

Abe hopes to visit India next month in bid to boost security ties

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22 that he hopes to visit India next month, as he pushes for stronger security ties with the South Asian country amid China’s muscle-flexing at sea. “If various circumstances permit, I would like to visit India next month,” Abe was quoted by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko as saying after the leaders met for a working luncheon. Diplomatic sources have said Abe is planning a visit to the South Asian country in mid-December. Meeting on the fringes of summits among Southeast Asian leaders and their dialogue partners, including Japan and India, Abe reiterated Japan’s position on the South China Sea issue, saying China’s massive land reclamation work is a “shared concern of the international community.” “International cooperation is important for seas to be open, free and peaceful,” Abe said.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe discussed with Cambodian PM Hun Sen on South China Sea  issue

On Saturday, November 21, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe held a meeting with Cambodian PM Hun Senat the venue for the ASEAN-related Summit Meeting.  During the meeting,  Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan has serious concerns regarding the stability of the South China Sea, Japan is focusing on a peaceful resolution to the situation based on the principle of the rule of law at sea, and Japan is also deeply concerned about unilateral changes to the status quo such as large-scale land reclamation, the building of outposts, and its use for military purposes.In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen stated he believes that between China and ASEAN, in addition to the frameworks of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Code of Conduct (COC), consultations among the parties concerned are important.

Japan Backs US South China Sea Operations

Speaking after the meeting with Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Sydney on November 22, Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani " "We have actively been trying to contribute to stability in the region but as far as we are concerned there is no plan to be a part of the freedom of navigation operation of the United States," he said. "At the US-Japan summit (in Manila), I believe Prime Minister Abe conveyed this stance to President Obama," he said.  Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, "the international community must work in concert to respond to the situation." He said, "For the US, conducting operations to ensure the freedom of navigation, this is strictly based on international law ... and Japan is supporting the US in this regard."

The United States

The U.S calls for halting reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas

Speaking in the meeting between the U.S and ten ASEAN members on November 21, the U.S. President Barack Obama said "I commend ASEAN for working to ensure that all nations uphold international law and norms, including the peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, and freedom of overflight. And I applaud ASEAN for working to create a code of conduct for the South China Sea.  For the sake of regional stability, claimants should halt reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas."

Navy Warships to Sail by Mischief Reef

According to The Washington Free Beacon on November 20, which cited defense officials, sayding that Navy warships will sail close to a second disputed Chinese island in the South China Sea soon in a further challenge to Beijing’s military buildup and maritime control. The next Navy operation in the sea will take place in several weeks near Mischief Reef in the Spratly island chain that is claimed by China, Philippines and other regional states, said officials familiar with the upcoming operation. The maneuver also is expected to include two Navy warships that will conduct military operations within 12 miles of the reef, the officials said, as a way of stepping up the U.S. military presence in the disputed waterway.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment.


Malcolm Turnbull tells China it risks a war in the South China Sea

Malcolm Turnbull has warned China directly that it will not only isolate itself in the region, but could start a war should it continue with its territorial claims and threats to navigation in the South China Sea. With the issue a dominant topic at the East Asia Summit in Malaysia on November, Mr Turnbull used private talks on the sidelines with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to reinforce Australia's message that the behaviour was "counterproductive" to China's interests as well as warn that history had shown such behaviour had led to armed conflict.

Mr Turnbull told Mr Li Australia may not be a claimant to any of the disputed territories but China needed to take into account the broader concerns it was creating with the United States and others in the region. He repeated his previously stated public message that China's territorial ambitions were one of the more counterproductive foreign policies it had undertaken and was a driving the smaller threatened nations such as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan closer to the US.

Regional Snapshots

UN chief calls for respect for international law in South China Sea

The parties involved in disputes in the East Sea need to exercise restraint and settle disputes by peaceful means, through dialogues and in line with international law, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The UN Secretary General made the call in the framework of meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, the East Asia Summit (EAS) and related meetings in Malaysia on November 22, after China said it would continue construction of military and civil bases on the artificial islands it built in the East Sea. 

Bilateral Meeting between the U.S. President Obama and Filipino President Aquino on the South China Sea issue

Prior to APEC Summit, the U.S. President Barack Obama and his counterpart Benigno Aquino had a meeting on November 17 in Manila, Philippines. During the meeting, President Aquino said, "President Obama and I had a discussion of maritime security, including on the maritime disputes in the region and how international law should remain the framework for behavior of all countries and for the peaceful resolution of disputes.  I take this opportunity to reiterate the Philippines’ view that the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea must be continuously upheld consistent with international law." On his part, President Obama said, " We agree on the need for bold steps to lower tensions, including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea.  As President Aquino indicated, disputes need to be resolved peacefully.  That’s why the United States supports the Philippines’ decision to use arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to peacefully and lawfully address differences." On the same day, President Obama toured the BRP Gregorio del Pilar of Philippine Navy, speaking after the visit, President Obama said, "My visit here underscores our shared commitment to the security of the waters of this region and to the freedom of navigation." He added, "today, I can announce that we intend to transfer two additional ships to the Philippine Navy, a research vessel to help map its territorial waters, and another U.S. Coast Guard cutter to bolster the Navy’s ability to conduct long-endurance patrols."

ASEAN ministers express serious concerns over South China Sea row

On November 20, ASEAN foreign ministers expressed serious concerns over the escalation of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, urging all parties to exercise self-restraint. Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj Aman said they stressed the urgent need to strengthen the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety. Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China signed the DOC in 2002 to build greater trust between claimant states and prevent disputes from escalating. However, extensive land reclamation undertaken by China in the Spratly Islands prompted a need for a more binding agreement.

In a press conference following meetings among foreign ministers ahead of the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, YB Dato’ Sri Anifah said they also emphasised the pressing need for the establishment of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

“The ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea,” he said, voicing serious concern over recent ongoing developments.

The United States and Malaysia share concerns over disputes in the South China Sea

The U.S. President Barack Obama and his Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had a meeting on November 22 on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit. In the meeting, MP Jajib Razak said " We talked about the South China Sea. And we hope that periodic tensions are not escalated, and that we be able to find a negotiated settlement that’s consonant with the principle of international law and that respects the rights of big and small nations, as well." On his part President Obama said, "the United States does strongly believe in the need to apply rule of law and international norms to the resolution of maritime disputes.  And ASEAN has taken a common position on that.  And we look forward to working with them to ensure that those basic rules apply -- because freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce has been really the foundation stone for extraordinary development here in this region."

ASEAN and the United States emphasize on peaceful resolution for disputes in the South China Sea

In their joint statement on The ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership, both sides reaffirms "the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation including in and over-flight above the South China Sea. We reaffirm the collective commitments contained in the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) to ensure the resolution of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the relevant regulations, standards and recommended practices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), without resorting to the threat or use of force and while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities. We support ASEAN-China on-going efforts to fully and effectively implement the DOC in its entirety, and to work toward the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct (COC)."

27th ASEAN Summit opens in Kuala Lumpur

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened its 27th Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 21. Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, which chaired the Summit, said in his opening speech that the ASEAN leaders will on November 22 officially announce the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community on December 31, affirming the move was generated from endeavours made for decades for integration, connectivity and mutual progress. On the South China Sea issue, PM Razak emphasised the need for ASEAN to call on parties concerned to exercise restraint and avoid actions that could complicate the situation and escalate tension in the sea area. He said ASEAN needs to work together in joint actions, which include the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the East Sea, and laid stress on the importance of settling disputes by peaceful means with respect to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Australia and Japan protest the attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea

On November 22, Australia and Japan have conducted the Sixth Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations. In the joint communiqué after dialogue, they expressed strong concern over the recent situation in the South China Sea and reiterated their strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo in the South China Sea.  They called on all claimants to halt large-scale land reclamation, construction, and use for military purposes.  They urged claimants to exercise restraint, take steps to ease tensions and refrain from provocative actions that could escalate tensions.  They called on claimants to clarify and pursue territorial claims and accompanying maritime rights in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  In this regard, they supported the right of claimants to seek to resolve disputes peacefully, including through arbitration.  They took note of the ongoing arbitration case under the UNCLOS brought by the Philippines, affirming that decisions of the arbitral tribunal are legally binding.

They also called for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to ensure the full and effective implementation of commitments under the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), and to reach agreement on a substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (CoC) as soon as possible.  They emphasised the importance of the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by all states in accordance with international law.  Ministers recognised that all states have a right under international law to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight, including in the South China Sea.  Both Australia and Japan strongly supported those rights.

Ministers reaffirmed the importance of a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with China through dialogue, cooperation and engagement.

The United States and Singapore attach the importance of building a strong relationship.

On November 22, the U.S. President Barack Obama and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had a meeting on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit. At the meeting President Obama and Prime Minister Lee have applauded their strong bilateral relationship over 50 years. Speaking about the South China Sea dispute, President Obama emphasized the importance of upholding the basic principles and norms that have underwritten prosperity and stability in this region. On his part, Prime Minister Lee appreciated America’s engagement and participation in the region, its contribution economically, and security issues in terms of the overall strategic balance.