China opposes accusation that it stealed US’s UUV

With regard to what was addressed by US President-elect Trump as "stealing" its UVV, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying  on December 19th stated that this is incorrect: “The Chinese Navy conducted responsible and professional verification for the purpose of preventing the device from endangering the navigation of passing ships and personnel. After identifying the device as an American UUV, the Chinese side decided to transfer it to the US through appropriate means.

Regular charter flights start at Paracel based airport

According to Xinhua, China conducted charter business flights to Phu Lam (Woody) Island. The first passenger plane took off at Meilan Airport in Haikou, and landed at the airport on the island at 10:20 a.m. December 21st. The expansion of  the airport on the island was completed in May. It obtained a certificate for civilian use in December and now serves both military and civilian purposes. Vietnam on December 23rd voiced concerns over this development, saying this action seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over the islands.

The Philippines

Manila eyes diplomatic initiatives over South China Sea militarization

The Philippines is "considering other diplomatic initiatives and legal processes allowed under international law" over the reported installation by China of weapons systems on reclaimed features in the South China Sea, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on December 23rd. Yasay added the government continues to gather information to verify the report. Earlier on December 19th, Yasay said that the country will not "deviate from" the international tribunal ruling but it must build trust with China before discussing "sensitive" bilateral issues. President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in the Philippines on June 30th, has sought to engage China, marking a reversal in the foreign policy of the old U.S. ally.

China offers $14 million arms package to the Philippines: Manila's defense minister

Speaking to reporters after giving out Christmas gifts to wounded soldiers at an army hospital in Manila, Manila's defense minister Delfin Lorenzana said that China has offered to provide $14 million worth of small arms and fast boats to the Philippines for free, aiding President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs and fighting terrorism. The offer was made by China's ambassador Zhao Jianhua during a meeting with Duterte late on Monday night at the presidential palace, Delfin Lorenzana said, adding Beijing has also made available $500 million long-term soft loan for other equipment.

PH opposes both US and China for operating in its EEZ

In the wake of the drone controversy between the U.S. and  China., Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the country wants to know developments near its shores. "Whatever they're doing in our area, we should know about it. We have rights in the vicinity."

PH commissions 2nd of 10 new patrol ships from Japan

On December 22nd, the Philippines commissioned the second of 10 multirole ships provided by Japan, formally including it among the fleet of the country's coast guard. A commissioning ceremony was held at the Philippine Coast Guard's headquarters in Manila for the 44-meter long vessel, christened the Malabrigo -- named after a prominent lighthouse in the country's southern Luzon province of Batangas. "The new patrol vessel will help us implement our functions in the Philippine seas. These include search and rescue, environmental protection and law enforcement," Philippine Coast Guard spokesman, Cmdr. Armando Balilo, told Kyodo News in a recent interview. The ship's technological features include fire monitors, night vision camera, radio direction finder, a work boat and a bullet-proof navigational bridge.


Malaysia calls for ASEAN support against Beijing over South China Sea

Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on December 18th urged the ASEAN to band together on the South China Sea issue so as to prevent major powers from dictating regional politics. “Alone, we cannot face them, but as a coalition of 10 countries, I am confident that even China cannot take us lightly or ignore our stand,” said the Minister, referring to the diplomatic row over how China seized an American navy underwater drone in waters off the Philippines last week.

China returns underwater drone, U.S. condemns 'unlawful' seizure

The Pentagon said on December 20th the U.S. underwater drone had been handed over to the guided missile destroyer USS Mustin near where it had been "unlawfully seized" - about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines. Also, Chinese Defese Ministry announced that China has handed over the U.S. underwater drone.

Regional Snapshot

China must explain grounds for U.S. sea drone seizure: Japan gov't

Delivering a press conference on December 19th, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that China needs to explain its seizure of an underwater drone belonging to the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea. "We hope this matter will be resolved soon, and think it is necessary for China to clearly explain the matter to the international community, including the basis (for its actions) under international law."

China foreign minister says U.S. ties face new uncertainties

In an interview with the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily carried on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Xi-Trump call was a positive sign for a smooth transition in Sino-U.S. ties. "Of course, going forward China-U.S. relations will face new complexities and uncertain factors," Wang said. "But 'thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea'," he added, quoting an ancient Chinese poem Xi had cited in June at a high-level China-U.S. forum, meaning all rivers have to travel a meandering course before getting to their final destination. "Only if China and the United States respect each and give consideration to other's core interests and key concerns can there be long-term, stable cooperation, and effect win-win mutual benefit," Wang said. "This is a historical trend that can't be altered by an individual's will, and is the correct direction for the development of China-U.S. ties," he added, without mentioning Trump by name.