Activities of the Claimants


China opposes 'internationalization' of sea row

On 19th November, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told Southeast Asian leaders that negotiations to end territorial disputes in the South China Sea should only be held between claimant countries. Wen stressed Beijing's position during a summit with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Wen said that among the principles under the 10-year-old declaration is to "oppose the internationalization of the issue".

“China are ready to biuld more carriers”

During the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Wenming, chairman of China State Shipbuilding Corp said: "We must enhance our independent weapons and equipment research and production capacity to match the country's clout, and independently build our own aircraft carriers".Hu also said his company is ready to build the vessels for the carrier formation "at any time". Such a formation is generally made up of the carrier itself, destroyers, escorts, supply vessels and submarines, he said.

Chinese Prime Minister elaborates on regional situation, China's position on South China Sea


Speaking at the 7th East Asia Summit, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that China, as a continental and maritime country, attaches importance to the peace, stability, free navigation and security in the South China Sea, adding that free navigation and security are fully guaranteed in the sea. China hopes that the international sea routes across the South China Sea would be better used as the world economy recovers, he said. In response to the mentioning of the Huangyan Island (Philippines calls it Scarborough Shoal) at the East Asia Summit, Wen said that the Huangyan Island is an integral part of Chinese territory and that its sovereignty is indisputable.

China publishes map of “Sansha”

China has published the first official map of the newly-established city of “Sansha”. The map has been verified and finalized by a unit in charge of surveying, mapping and navigation under the General Staff Headquarters of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. It was approved by the General Administration of Press and Publication, the publisher said. The map will be available in major bookstores across the country starting Saturday (24th November).


Vietnam hosts fourth international seminar on East Sea (South China Sea)


The fourth international seminar on the East Sea opened in Ho Chi Minh City on November 19th, drawing 200 domestic and international experts and scholars. The event, themed “East Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development”, takes place at a time when the international community celebrates the 30 th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 10 th year since the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

Workshop Booklet

Opening Remarks

Vietnam opposes islands map on Chinese e-passports

In response to the question “China recently issued citizen e-passports that marks on pages Chinese map and the 9 – dashed line. How do you comment on that?” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi stated ”The said action by China violates Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes as well as Viet Nam’s sovereign rights and national jurisdiction over related waters in the East Sea (South China Sea). Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s representatives met and handed to the Chinese Embassy’s representatives in Ha Noi a diplomatic note to protest and request China to repeal the wrongful contents printed in the above-mentioned e-passport.”


Philippines, Cambodia clash on 'ASEAN consensus' on sea disputes

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—including claimants the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei—agreed “not to internationalize” the territorial row during the ongoing summit in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. This was denied by the Philippines. “At the ASEAN retreat yesterday, various views were expressed on ASEAN unity, which were translated by the chair into an ASEAN consensus,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Philippines to buy 2 anti-submarine choppers


The Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) is planning to acquire two brand new naval helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities to enhance the capabilities of the military. DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the department is now awaiting the issuance of an acquisition defense memorandum (ADM), which would start the procurement and would signal the project’s implementation.

Philippine President Aquino urges China, Asean to respect exclusive economic zones under UNCLOS

Speaking at the 7th East Asia Summit, Mr. Aquino called on all the claimant countries in Asean to “consider coming together to begin discussing the clarification of maritime claims and the resolution of their maritime disputes.” He said this should be done in accordance with international law, especially UNCLOS.

Philippines protests China passports stamped with sea claim


The Philippines protested China’s printing of a map of the disputed South China Sea on newly issued Chinese e-passports. “The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippine territory and maritime domain,” the Philippines said in a note verbale which Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario read before the media.

Philipplines won’t stamp new China passport

Reinforcing its protest against China's excessive claim over the entire South China Sea, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs announced that the Philippines will no longer stamp its visas on the Chinese e-passport to avoid the country being misconstrued as legitimizing China’s 9-dash line map. Instead, the Philippines will stamp it in a separate visa application form, Philippine presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

Philippines asserts tough stance with China

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario has told the Philippines' future military top brass to "stand up to protect what is ours" amid a territorial dispute with China. He told Philippine Military Academy cadets that the country includes parts of the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea, as well as the Scarborough Shoal off the main Philippine island of Luzon, an Agence France-Presse report said. The school, in the northern city of Baguio, produces most of the country's military officers.

The U.S.

Obama urges restraint in tense Asian disputes


US President Barack Obama urged Asian leaders on Tuesday to rein in tensions in the South China Sea and other disputed territory, but stopped short of firmly backing allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China. The comments illustrate the challenge facing newly re-elected Obama in managing Sino-U.S. ties that have become more fraught across a range of issues, including trade, commercial espionage and the territorial disputes between Beijing and Washington's Asian allies.


Territorial rows must be settled by international law

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda emphasized the importance of international law in resolving territorial rows in the South China Sea during a summit meeting with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia. Noda told ASEAN members in Phnom Penh that issues related to the South China Sea are an "international common concern," without specifying the name of China, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry. Japan is not directly involved in the South China Sea, but it is willing to help ASEAN resolve disputes peacefully.


Australia wants South China Sea code of conduct

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Gillard says Australia does not take sides in the territorial disputes but argues they have to be resolved peacefully. "We believe it is in everybody's interest that issues in the South China Sea are managed in a peaceful way in accordance with international law; that's Australia's perspective," she said. "We do believe that a code of conduct would assist with making sure that any issues in the South China Sea, any conduct there, could be managed in accordance with the code, that is, that the rules and manner of responses would be predictable and knowable.”

Regional Snapshots

ASEAN, China enhance peace, friendship, cooperation

The 15th ASEAN-China Summit in Phnom Penh on the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea on November 19 issued a joint statement on enhancing peace, friendship and cooperation. In the joint statement, the two sides reaffirm that the DOC signed in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a milestone document which embodies the collective commitment of ASEAN Member States and China to promote peace, stability and mutual trust in the East Sea.

Philippines calls 4-party meeting on sea disputes


The Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries will meet next month to discuss territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as the role of China, which declares the entire area as its own, the country’s top diplomat said. There is no specific agenda yet for the December 12 meeting in Manila with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said. “We view the situation in the South China Sea as being a threat to the stability and security in the region … we believe this is not a bilateral issue, it is not even a regional issue. It is an international issue,” he said.

Commentaries & Analyses


Beijing praises Cambodia's efforts to limit discussions on South China Sea


Recently, China defended Cambodia's controversial bid to limit international discussions of South China Sea tensions, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman praising Phnom Penh for trying to "safeguard Asean unity". The comments from Qin Gang came after a day of acrimony at Asean's East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh that saw disputes over the South China Sea overshadow leaders' meetings. The annual meeting of the 10 leaders of Asean degenerated into rancour on Monday when the Philippines accused Cambodia of misrepresenting the group. A Cambodian spokesman had announced that the grouping had agreed not to "internationalise" the issue and keep discussions between China and Asean. Du Jifen , a Southeast Asia specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Cambodia helped keep the territorial disputes from dominating the Asean summit. But Du said China may not get the upper hand in the next Asean summit as the Philippines and Vietnam are still attempting to internationalise the dispute. "The advantages enjoyed by China can only last for now. It is not permanent," he said.

Upset waters need Asean, China unity

To prevent the disputes from escalating, the Asean states and China should therefore play their parts. This is, again, easier said than done. Amidst this complicated matter, the role of the United States is crucial. The rise of China both economically and militarily and a potential US-China strategic competition has made the environment for addressing the South China Sea disputes even murkier. Only American support for the China-Asean dialogue and a peaceful dispute settlement can have a positive impact. It is important to point out that the tensions have increased over the last two years, as assertions of sovereignty have risen, with incidents ranging from Chinese intimidation of oil and gas firms operating in the South China Sea and disagreements over fisheries territories to military activities in general. Today, the state of play seems as if has changed. All parties need to take stock of the new challenges, and opportunities, arising from the growth of China and the dynamics of China-US relations. One way in which to address this is to foster closer cooperation in areas such as fisheries, oil and gas, and marine life. There is a danger that the disputes could deteriorate into a proxy for great power conflict and this should be avoided at all costs. Thus, to reach a consensus on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the political willingness and commitment of all parties involved is vital. While critics have perceived the DOC as a toothless document, it has represented the only available mechanism for Asean and China to work on. Besides, the adoption of the COC will be so important that it could make or break the future political community of Asean, due to be fulfilled in 2015.

“The future of US policy in Asia”

The United States made a good showing with President Obama attending the EAS for the second year in a row, the United States having officially joined only last year. But questions about the United States’ staying power continue to be dominant themes. Most of Asia, with the exception perhaps of China, is concerned about three issues when it considers U.S. staying power in the region: pocketbook, personalities, and politics. The pocketbook issue raises the question of whether the United States will have the financial stability to sustain engagement. There is also a very tangible concern about who will succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and other leaders like Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific and key architect of the U.S. rebalance toward Asia. President Obama’s visit was most successful in this area. He told Asian colleagues he is committed to the region. The proof will be in actions such as getting the TPP deal done quickly, sustaining his attendance at the EAS meetings, and funding the U.S. military pivot to the region.

“Is there an arms race in Asia?”


The official launch of China's first aircraft carrier, in the northeastern seaport town of Dalian in September, may turn out to be the moment the world fully awoke to the significance of the arms build-up taking place in Asia. Having an aircraft carrier - even one described by Western analysts as a floating museum - is a potent symbol of a nation's desire to project force in the open ocean. Neighbouring countries - indeed, countries throughout the region - didn't need the Liaoning launch to tip them off about this: they've been steadily upgrading defence capabilities in recent years to counter China's rise. According to a recent study by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, "several Asian countries are already among the largest defence spenders in the world". The latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show the value of defence imports in Asia grew by 25 per cent across the four years to 2011. Put together with Oceania, the region accounts for 44 per cent of all arms imports. The director of the Lowy Institute's international security program, Rory Medcalf, has stopped short of calling it an arms race for now, but acknowledges the trend bears close study. Medcalf says that although Southeast Asian powers are keen to match each other's capabilities, the overall increase in spending is mostly about China's rise. South China Sea is a very important sea lane with roughly half the goods transported between countries go through the South China Sea and this accounts for $1.2 trillion of trade each year. Add to that the large gas reserves, territorial conflicts and important fish stocks in the area, and it is no surprise that the region's inhabitants are hedging their bets with arms purchases.

“Is China Trying to Split ASEAN?”

China's Premier Wen Jiabao brought the prospect of more infrastructure spending to Thailand, just a day after a regional summit in Cambodia ended in acrimony over how the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations should approach its members' territorial disputes with Beijing. Mr. Wen's visit Wednesday appears to continue China's focus on building strong bilateral relations with individual Asean nations, a strategy some analysts say is designed to prevent the regional group from speaking with one voice on the tensions in the resource-rich waters. Without going into specifics, or referring to the island disputes, Mr. Wen told reporters in Bangkok that "as the situation in the region has become more complex, China is willing to cooperate with Thailand in development and to tighten cooperation at a regional level." "China has effectively proven that it intends to sustain passive-aggressive pressure to weaken any unified Asean position on the South China Sea," said Ernest Bower at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. Thailand, a close China ally, laid on a lavish welcome for Mr. Wen just a few days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Bangkok to help strengthen Washington's relations with Thailand. "I think the Philippines and Vietnam are particularly concerned about territorial claims in the South China Sea and that potentially puts them at loggerheads with some of the other countries, such as Cambodia," said Sarah McDowall, senior Asia-Pacific analyst at IHS Global Insight in London. Cambodia's turn as chair of the group will end this year. In 2013 the tiny, oil rich sultanate of Brunei is taking over the chairmanship of Asean, with the likelihood, Mr. Storey at the Singapore-based Institute for Southeast Asian Studies says, that the territory disputes will find a wider audience.