Activities of the Claimants


'Big guy' China is committed to peace, says Xi


Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 17th vowed always to use peaceful means in pursuit of Beijing's goals, including in maritime disputes, just days after US President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of outright conflict in Asia. Addressing the Australian parliament in an honour bestowed only on one other Chinese leader, Hu Jintao in 2003, Xi said: "China remains unshakeable in its resolve to pursue peaceful development." "Neither turbulence nor war serves the fundamental interests of the Chinese people." "There's only one trend in today's world, that is, the trend of peace and development and win/win cooperation," he added in a candid address in which he also reminisced about kangaroos and koala encounters during previous visits to Australia. China has settled land boundary issues with 12 out of its 14 neighbours through friendly consultation. And we will continue to work in this direction," added Xi. "The Chinese government is ready to enhance dialogue and cooperation with relevant countries to maintain freedom of navigation and the safety of maritime routes, and ensure a maritime border of peace, tranquility and cooperation."

China to step up oil, gas exploration in East China Sea, South China Sea

China aims to raise petroleum output by updating its technology and stepping up oil and gas exploration across Bohai, East China and South China Seas. The plan was outlined in an energy development scheme for 2014 to 2020 issued by the State Council on November 19th. To accelerate offshore oil and natural gas exploration, China will improve its own technology as well as actively seek overseas partners. The country will attach equal importance to onshore oil fields, stabilizing old sites and exploring new alternatives, especially those in West China.

Chinese military officer explains need for construction in disputed Spratlys

In a rare disclosure, a high-ranking Chinese military officer told foreign media about the need for construction and a base in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. "There is a need for a base to support our radar system and intelligence-gathering activities," Jin Zhirui of the Chinese Air Force Headquarters said at the Xiangshan Forum, a national security dialogue session on November 22nd. Jin teaches at the Air Force Command School, which is believed to have come up with the basic plan for an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, which includes the Senkaku Islands, the center of a territorial dispute between Japan and China.


Vietnam PM sums up China policy: Cooperation, not Compromise

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has said Vietnam will continue to cooperate with China without compromising its sovereignty and national interests. “China is our neighbor. We [Vietnam and China] will continue to be neighbors, whatever the weather,” Dung told the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, during a televised question-and-answer session. “Therefore, we always look forward to Vietnam and China’s sincere cooperation to preserve peace, stability and development for the mutual benefit of both countries,” Dung said. “We want our two countries to sincerely cooperate to resolve territorial conflicts in accordance with international law and the agreements that have been ratified by both our governments,” the PM said. “We will maintain cooperation to ensure peace and mutual benefit with China and every other country" and Vietnam would not compromise its sacred national sovereignty and interests, Dung said.

The Philippines

Philippines announces plan to spend USD 2 billion on procurement

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has outlined an intention to spend PHP91 billion (USD2 billion) on defence procurement before 2017. At an event on November 17th to mark the 75th anniversary of the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) Aquino reaffirmed a commitment to modernise the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as part of increasing efforts to secure national sovereignty. Aquino claimed his government, which has been in office since June 2010, had spent more money on defence procurement and sanctioned more acquisition programmes than the three previous Philippine administrations. To date, he said, his administration had approved 46 procurement programmes worth PHP41.4 billion.

Philippine President Aquino hopeful of ‘just solution’ to South China Sea issue


Philippine President Benigno Aquino is hopeful that his recent meeting with China President Xi Jinping represents a change in approach to disputes over the South China Sea. The leaders met on the sidelines of the APEC Summit meetings in China recently, after months of frosty relations. Mr Aquino said: "The mere fact that we are talking again is already a substantial change. Previously, there was a lot of rhetoric that stated one position to the exclusion of the other. Now, we are talking and the mere fact that we are talking hopefully signifies an attempt to arrive at a compromise and a just solution to the issue." Mr Aquino said Mr Xi had signalled China's interest to find "constructive solutions" between the two countries, especially recognising the very good relations they have had for generations.


Indonesia vows to sink illegal fishing ship

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on November 18th that he had ordered the country's navy to sink foreign ships intruding the country's maritime territory and stealing fish and other resources. The order was made following the reports of rampant illegal fishing in the country's waters that has led Indonesia suffers a huge economic loss. "Sink it directly. Let's sink up to 100 illegal fishing ships so that the others would be reluctant to do so," Jokowi, as the president is known, stressed at the State Palace. Nevertheless, the president ordered to evacuate all the crews and those on board first before the sinking. The policy aims at protecting the country's resources at sea from illegal exploitation, said Jokowi.

The U.S.

US House Committee passes resolution on South China Sea, East China Sea


The Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives on November 20th passed a resolution reaffirming the need for a peaceful and collaborative solution to maritime and jurisdictional disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea as provided by universally recognised principles of international law. Resolution H.Res. 714, introduced by Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, reassures the strong support of the US Government for freedom of navigation and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace in the Asia-Pacific region. It condemns coercive actions or the use of force to impede these freedoms in international maritime domains and airspace. It also urges the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), US allies and partners, and all claimants to fairly resolve these outstanding disputes, including through developing a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

US urges China to stop land reclamation project in the South China Sea

China is building a massive island in the South China Sea that could host an airfield in an area where Beijing is locked in bitter territorial disputes with neighbouring states, a US military spokesman said on November 21st. The vast land reclamation project on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands is one of several pursued by China but the first that could accommodate an airstrip, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool said. The United States wants China to halt the project and for other governments to cease similar efforts. "We urge China to stop its land reclamation program, and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities," Pool said.

Regional Snapshots

Japan, Philippines agree on importance of rule of law at sea

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on November 17th agreed on the importance of the rule of law in the East and South China seas where China has recently strengthened its maritime activities, Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said. In their meeting in Tokyo, Kishida and del Rosario agreed to tighten bilateral cooperation to maintain peace and security in the region, the officials said. Kishida briefed del Rosario about last week's first one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing.

Brunei, Malaysia conduct navy exercise
The Royal Brunei Navy and Royal Malaysian Navy join forces in a 3-day compact sea phase exercise conducted in the Brunei and Malaysian waters on November 18th, the Defense Ministry of Brunei said. The 24th series of Hornbill Exercises 2014 including series of diverse sea and air range exercise events, is supported by the Royal Brunei Air Force during the conduct of the Helo Transfer exercise. The objective of the exercises was to enhance interoperability and naval professionalism that last until November 23rd. Vessel Darulehsan and IJHTIHAD from the Royal Brunei navy participated in the exercise, while Royal Malaysian Navy sent Vessel Selangor and Vessel Ganas for the event.

Japan, ASEAN enhance defense cooperation

Japan’s Defense Minister Akinori Eto met November 19th with defense ministers from ASEAN in Bagan city, Myanmar, to boost security ties between Japan and ASEAN. Eto spoke of cooperation in maritime security, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief. He said no country can maintain peace alone and that Japan is ready to provide equipment and technology for security-related programs in ASEAN countries.

International workshop on South China Sea opens in Vietnam


The sixth international workshop on the South China Sea opened in the central coastal city of Da Nang, Vietnam on November 17th, with the participation of more than 200 Vietnamese and international academics and representatives of the diplomatic corps in Vietnam. Themed “East Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development,” the event saw nearly 40 speeches and garnered 80 opinions from academics and specialists from Vietnam, Southeast Asian countries, the US, China, Taiwan (China), the Republic of Korea, Australia, India, the UK, France, Italy and Belgium. They proposed that a code of conduct should be built to ensure the implementation of international law in the East Sea, while specific recommendations should be made to clarify Article 5 of the DOC. Common rules applied for all armed forces and law enforcement authorities at sea should also be specified, while a cooperation mechanism for non-traditional security issues should be set up, they suggested. Concluding the conference, Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, President of the Vietnam Academy of Diplomacy proposed the participants continue researching on the issues to help all parties concerned clearly understand their legal obligations in the maintenance of the status quo in the South China Sea.

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies