Activities of the Claimants


Navy's hospital ship heads to Philippines


On November 21st, the Chinese People's Liberation Army navy's hospital ship, the Peace Ark, set off from a navy port on Zhoushan island in Zhejiang province and is expected to arrive at the Philippines' devastated Samar province in about three days. This is the Chinese navy's first overseas mission to focus on disaster relief, PLA navy Commander Wu Shengli said.

Taiwan sticking to extensive South China Sea claims

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on November 22nd dismissed the notion that it would be in Taiwan's long-term interests to modify its territorial claims covering most of the South China Sea, which mirror those of mainland China, saying nothing of the sort has been considered. "So far, we do not consider modifying the claims whatsoever," Ma told members of the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club in Taipei in a press conference.


Vietnam News Agency hosts photo exhibition on nation’s seas and islands


Nearly 200 photos featuring Vietnam ’s seas and islands are being put on show at an exhibition in Hanoi with the aim of raising public awareness of defending national sea and island sovereignty. Photos on show were selected from tens of thousands of Vietnam News Agency (VNA) documentaries, depicting the country’s beloved Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes together with the daily activities of soldiers and people there.

The Philippines

Philippine Armed Forces to build pier, harbor near Spratlys

The Armed Forces of the Philippines plan to build a pier and harbor at a naval base in Palawan, the island province closest to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, according to officials and a defense document. Military officials confirmed November 20th to reporters the plan to build "pier, harbor and support facilities" in Oyster Bay -- the navy's shipyard directly facing the South China Sea. The project will cost around 313 million pesos (around $7.29 million), according to the document. The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have invited companies to bid on the project from December 2nd.


India kicks offs sub training for Vietnamese navy


India has kicked off the training of a large number of Vietnamese sailors in the intricate art of submarine operations and underwater warfare, even as the two countries have now resolved to further expand their bilateral military ties. "Defence minister A K Antony has promised all help to Vietnam for capacity-building of its armed forces. There are already a couple of hundred Vietnamese officers and sailors, along with interpreters, at Vizag. Over 500 Vietnamese sailors will be trained in batches by the Indian Navy," said a senior Indian MoD official.

The U.S.

China 'Challenging US Military Pre-eminence in Asia'

A U.S. congressional panel says China's rapidly modernizing military is "altering the security balance in the Asia Pacific and challenging decades of U.S. military preeminence in the region." That warning was given November 20th in a wide-ranging annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which advises U.S. lawmakers on Beijing-related policy. The report also accused the Chinese government of "directing and executing a large-scale cyber espionage campaign against the United States." It said sanctions may be necessary to help deter the spying. China has not responded to the allegations. Last year, Beijing's foreign ministry condemned the panel's report for having what it called a "Cold War" attitude.

Full report

Obama seeks to renew Asia role with rescheduled trip


US President Barack Obama will visit Asia in April to push closer ties, an aide said November 20th, after his earlier cancellation of a trip raised questions about US staying power. Susan Rice, Obama's adviser for national security, acknowledged disappointment after Obama called off a trip in October to negotiate with Republican lawmakers who shut down the US government to stop his health care reforms. Rice said Obama would make up with a trip in April, saying: "Our friends in Asia deserve and will continue to get our highest-level attention." "No matter how many hotspots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region," Rice said in an address at Georgetown University.

U.S. military to deploy latest equipments in Asia-pacific region

The U.S. military is deploying the newest and best equipment, weapons and human resources into the Asia-Pacific region to fight against regional security threats, indicating the region's immensely importance to the interests of the United States, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry B. Harris said on November 22nd. Harris, who was promoted to admiral and assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in October 2013, paid his first visit to South Korea following his trip to Japan. "We are putting the best equipment we have forward in the Pacific before we send them anywhere else," Yonhap news agency quoted Harris as saying. The admiral said the U.S. Navy will soon replace the P-3C Orion with the newest maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, for its first deployment in Japan.

Regional Snapshots

ASEAN, EU hold dialogue on maritime cooperation


The first ASEAN-EU High-level Dialogue on Maritime Cooperation took place in Jakarta, Indonesia from November 18th-19th. Held by the Habibie Centre, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument, the event saw the attendance of ASEAN General Secretary Le Luong Minh, Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Ugo Astuto, and Ambassador and Head of the EU delegation to ASEAN Olof Skoog, among others. During the two-day event, delegates focused on discussing issues related to maritime cooperation, including developing a regional management mechanism based on maritime cooperation principles by strengthening regional institutions and the international legal framework.

Vietnam, Australia agree to boost defence ties

Vietnamese and Australian defence officials have agreed to increase delegation exchanges and cooperation in training, maritime security and terrorism fight. The two sides reached the consensus during their second Defence Dialogue in Hanoi on November 18, which was co-chaired by Vietnamese Deputy Defence Minister Sen. Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh and First Assistant Secretary of International Policy of the Australian Department of Defence Neil Orme. They held that over the past time, their defence cooperation has seen positive developments, especially since they signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral defence cooperation in 2010. The two sides also reached a consensus on sharing experience and backing each other in the UN peacekeeping operations, network and water resource security, and dealing with post-war bomb and mine consequences.

Defence cooperation was a significant pillar of the strategic partnership between Vietnam – India

At the invitation of H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India , H.E. Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam paid a State visit to India from 19th-22nd November, 2013. At the meeting on November 20th, Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The two leaders expressed their pleasure about the development of bilateral relations over the past 40 years, especially since the two countries established strategic partnership in 2007. On maritime issues, they agreed that freedom of navigation in the East Sea/South China Sea should not be impeded and called the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the UNCLOS.

Commentaries & Analyses

Getting real with Hanoi

By C. Raja Mohan

Building a strong partnership with India is an important part of Vietnam's strategy of defence diversification. Ever since the formal declaration of a strategic partnership in 2007, India has steadily expanded defence cooperation with Vietnam. Delhi has reportedly offered a credit line of $100 million to Hanoi for the purchase of patrol boats from India. The Indian navy has also apparently agreed to train Vietnamese submarine crews as Hanoi begins to acquire six kilo-class submarines from Russia. India can be of considerable use in modernising the Vietnamese navy and helping it absorb new weapon systems. Hanoi has welcomed India's naval forays into the South China Sea since 2000 and offered regular access to its port facilities. While the tyranny of geography limits India's role in the Pacific, an intensive naval engagement with Vietnam serves many important Indian objectives. One, a secure Vietnam will help stabilise a littoral that is increasingly important for India's trade and energy security interests. Two, maritime security cooperation with Vietnam will reinforce the long-standing norms on freedom of navigation and preserve the South China Sea as a global commons. Three, India can no longer view the eastern Indian Ocean and the South China Sea as separate theatres. Imbalance in one will inevitably destabilise the other. A sustained Indian naval presence in the South China Sea must be seen as a critical element of Delhi's Indian Ocean strategy. Four, India must come to terms with the fact that what it does with one country is bound to affect its relations with others, notwithstanding the declarations to the contrary. For international relations is not a series of discrete bilateral relations. The answer lies not in circumscribing one's own options but in intensifying engagement with all. The challenge is to mitigate the potential negative consequences at a higher level and in an expanded geopolitical framework. For its part, Vietnam has put India at the very core of its national security strategy. Delhi must do the same, for a robust defence partnership will allow India to generate more options for its security in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Learning the Lessons of Scarborough Reef

By Ely Ratner


Carefully accounting for events at Scarborough Reef, the United States should seek to enhance regional stability by pursuing three lines of effort toward U.S. allies and partners, the region as a whole, and, of course, China. A first-order task for the United States is to help build the capacity of regional states to deter and counter China’s maritime coercion. This does not mean instigating arms racing or setting unrealistic goals of trying to match China’s enormous material advantage. Instead, U.S. assistance should focus on supporting maritime law enforcement capabilities, including the requisite intelligence and maritime-domain awareness assets, such that countries can more confidently and capably police their shores. Second, the United States should seek to strengthen multilateral cooperation and limit China’s ability to isolate individual states. Washington can contribute to an increasingly networked security environment by supporting the burgeoning bilateral and multilateral intra-Asia security ties that are developing between countries in the region, including Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. Even more important is that the United States continues to be a leading supporter of ASEAN and ASEAN-centered institutions. Finally, the United States will have to consider new avenues for affecting Chinese decision making. To date, private diplomacy and strong public rhetoric have proven insufficient. Washington has more running room to play tough than most U.S. policymakers acknowledge. The current Chinese leadership, facing extraordinary economic, environmental, political and social challenges at home, understands well the imperative of maintaining stable ties with the United States. In the context of continued robust engagement with Beijing, U.S. policymakers should also explore—and signal a willingness to use—a range of cost-inducing measures within the bounds of maritime security if China’s assertiveness grows chronic, threatens U.S. allies and partners, and undermines regional stability. Scarborough Reef was a tactical victory for China, but it also revealed Beijing’s formula of exploiting weaker states, dividing multilateral institutions and keeping the United States on the sidelines. To stem the dangerous trend of mounting Chinese assertiveness in its near seas, Washington should focus on building partner capacity, strengthening regional institutions and ultimately making clear to Beijing that the “Scarborough Model” will no longer be cost-free.

Sino–American ties: building relations beyond Washington’s ‘rebalancing’

By David M. Lampton, Johns Hopkins

The principal objective of Chinese and US foreign policies in Asia should be to avoid military competition.  That diverts the United States and China from their primary strategic task: rebuilding themselves. China needs a more sustainable growth model and a revitalised social compact, both of which require social, economic and political reform. For its part, the United States must rebuild the foundations for sustainable comprehensive power, not least its human resources, physical and institutional infrastructure, and national balance sheet. The US policy of ‘rebalancing’ fails to address these objectives. For this reason, both nations must think more productively about how to establish the strategic foundation for peaceful and prosperous bilateral ties. In the “rebalancing” policy, the military soundtrack has the volume turned up too loud, while the volume on the economic soundtrack is too low. It sends mixed strategic signals to Beijing and, more importantly, diverts resources from the national renewal that both the United States and China need. In the end, such renewal is the only sound basis for Sino — US cooperation and a more peaceful future. Commitment to that project is the foundation for the sound ties on which both Beijing and Washington should build in the second decade of the new millennium.

Abe Visits Cambodia and Laos: High Risks, High Returns

By Phuong Nguyen


Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe paid a two-day visit to Cambodia and Laos on November 15-17, just weeks before Japan and ASEAN plan to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties. The deliverables were expected to be less significant than those Abe achieved during recent visits to Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Cambodia and Laos are closer to China than are most of their neighbors, and Abe was expected to focus on economic assistance during the trip. Instead, he took an unconventional approach, and in both countries his confidence and energy were well-spent. While stressing Japan’s commitment on the economic front, Abe made a strong case for his security policy of “proactive pacifism.” Abe and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen issued an unusual joint statement on bilateral maritime security cooperation, which underscored the need to settle maritime disputes by peaceful means and according to international law. This was a diplomatic victory for Abe, who has pursued a cohesive strategy with ASEAN in confronting Chinese aggression in both the South and East China Seas. And like in Cambodia, Abe secured a statement recognizing the importance of settling maritime disputes through peaceful means. Abe has now visited all 10 ASEAN countries in the first year of his term in office—a significant achievement—and has effectively advocated Japan’s new security paradigm across the region. Most Southeast Asian nations will not take sides in the South and East China Sea disputes anytime soon. But Abe has managed to reinforce official support across the region for the primacy of the rule of law in the resolution of those disputes. This fact was not lost on China, where Abe’s most recent trip was portrayed as an attempt to “hijack countries that are not contending parties to the South China Sea issue.” It remains to be seen whether Japan’s pivot to Southeast Asia can be sustained in the long run, but developments in Phnom Penh and Vientiane suggest that even China’s closest partners in Southeast Asia are searching for ways to achieve more autonomy and a greater voice in regional decision-making.