China's destroyers stage drills in the South China Sea

The Chinese navy just staged a 5-day drill on the South China Sea. The South China Sea Fleet destroyers carried out missions on anti-piracy, special combat soldiers' cable drop, hijacking and anti-hijacking, and comprehensive replenishment under complex conditions. The drill aims to improve the ability of accomplishing multiple types of military missions.

South China Sea Museum set to open in Hainan

A China's museum for the South China Sea is set to open in March with a wide range of antiques collected from China and abroad, the museum's preparatory office in south China's Hainan Province said November 23rd. Ten valuable ceramic pieces were donated to the museum by two Chinese companies that purchased them at an auction in New York in September. In addition, the museum's preparatory office has received 832 antiques donated by fishermen in Tanmen Township of Qionghai City, where the museum is being constructed.

Taiwan says it plans rescue drills in South China Sea this month

The Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration on November 20th said it plans to hold rescue drills in waters in the disputed South China Sea at the end of this month, and that the drills could involve its navy. The exercises to be held around Ba Binh Island (Itu Aba) , would include drills in rescuing shipwrecked personnel, the coastguard said. Taiwan's coastguard has had direct oversight of Itu Aba since 2000, when it took over from the Taiwanese military. More than 100 coastguard personnel are stationed on Itu Aba.


Vietnam’s President calls for peaceful resolutions for the South China Sea disputes

Addressing the opening session of the 16th Francophonie Summit in Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo on November 26th, Vietnam’s President Quang asked “The Francophone community to continue an objective voice in the East Sea (South China Sea) issue and call on relevant parties to not use force or threaten to use force, settle disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, respect diplomatic and legal processes, adhere to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, and work to soon finalise a Code of Conduct in the East Sea.”

Vietnam’s President holds talks with Japan’s Prime Minister

At their talks on the sidelines of the 24th Asia PacificEconomic Cooperation (APEC) in Lima, Peru’s capital city, on November 20th, Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed that the two countries’ relationship has grown robustly acrossthe board and it should be further expanded. On the East Sea (South China Sea) disputes, They shared their viewpoints on resolving the disputes via peaceful measures based on international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, contributing to maintaining peace and stability in theregion and in the world.

Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister holds talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister

During talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on November 24th, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh reiterated the Vietnamese Party and leaders’ consistent policy of prioritizing strengthening traditional friendship and comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia. On the East Sea (South China Sea) issue, they were unanimous in the peaceful settlement of disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and the early formulation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC). Earlier, within the framework of a State visit to Italy by Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang from November 21st to 24th, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh had talks with Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. At the talks, on the East Sea issue, the two sides noted that the disputes must be settled through peaceful negotiation, with respect to international law and the 1982 UNCLOS, full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and efforts to expeditiously finalise a Code of Conduct (COC) in the waters. They also voiced support for the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region and the world at large.

Vietnam, Italy share views abouth the South China Sea disputes

During a State visit to Italy, Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang held talks with Italia’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome on November 23rd. The leaders also exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual concern, and agreed to continue their coordination and reciprocal support at multilateral institutions such as the UN, ASEAN, EU, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and UNESCO. The leaders emphasised the need to address disputes in the East Sea (South China Sea) by peaceful measures on the basis of respecting international law and the UNCLOS 1982, fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, soon finalising a Code of Conduct in the East Sea, and ensuring freedom of navigation andaviation in the sea.

The Philippines

Duterte to declare Scarborough Shoal a marine reserve

Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on November 20th said that President Rodrigo Duterte will soon sign an executive order declaring the Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary, an area where fishing is not allowed. Duterte even relayed his plan to Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting November 19th, but Esperon could not immediately describe the Chinese leader's response to the idea. However, Duterte’s office on November 21st said that the move  was backed by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. China on November 22nd declined to say if it supports Philippine fishing ban. Asked about the announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had made "appropriate arrangements" in the spirit of friendship to allow Philippine fishermen to operate around the shoal. "China's sovereignty and jurisdiction of Huangyan Island has not and will not change," Geng told a daily news briefing, using the Chinese name for the shoal.


Japan to train Philippine naval pilots to fly TC-90 aircraft under lease deal

The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) on November 21st said that it will from next week start training Philippine naval pilots to fly TC-90 aircraft ahead of a lease deal between Tokyo and Manila that takes effect in March. The first trainees — two lieutenant commanders — will undergo training from next Monday to March 24 at the MSDF’s Tokushima Air Base in Tokushima Prefecture. A total of six Philippine pilots will be trained through November next year. Japan agreed with the Philippines in May to lease up to five TC-90 aircraft used by the MSDF for pilot training.

The U.S.

US warship in Manila visit

An American warship is in Manila, arriving on November 18th in what the US embassy called a visit that “highlights the strong community and military connections between the Philippines and the United States.” The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell is replenishing supplies and allowing its crew rest and relaxation after completing exercises under the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2016 with the Royal Brunei Navy.

Regional Snapshots

Vietnam, Laos stresses the need of peacefully resolving the South China Sea disputes

Vietnam and Laos have issued a Joint Statement on the occasion of Vietnam’s Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s official visit from November 24th-26th. In the statement, underscoring the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and safety in the East Sea (South China Sea), the two sides agreed to advocate the settlement of the East Sea dispute by peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the UNCLOS 1982, and join related parties in fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), towards the early formulation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea for peace, security, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.

China, PLP to boost maritime cooperation

On the sidelines of APEC meetings in Lima, Peru, China’s President Xi Jinping on November 19th held talks with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte. During the talks, China’s President Xi Jinping called on the Philippine side to join hands with his country to turn the South China Sea issue into an impetus for friendship and cooperation. The Chinese president again spoke highly of the significance of Duterte's state visit to China last month. "I especially want to say that your successful state visit to China last month made great contributions to the improvement of Sino-Philippine ties and ushered in a new chapter in bilateral relations. It also injected positive energy into regional peace and stability and played the role of a milestone." For his part, Duterte said the Philippines stands ready to enhance bilateral cooperation and coordination with "brotherly" China in various fields. He noted his country is willing to work with China to handle maritime problems through negotiations and consultations to maintain their developmental trend in bilateral relations.

Philippines, U.S. agree to reduce joint military drills

Philippine and United States military officials agreed to scale back joint exercises and reduce U.S. troop deployments, a Philippine general involved in the talks said on November 22nd, though a statement issued by the allies spoke of "close cooperation". "The two allies will focus more on humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations and other non-traditional military training and exercises," said the general, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said planned U.S. deployments under a 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) - which Duterte has also said he would try to stop - would go on. "But, that too, we will see a scaling down on the number of aircraft and troops rotated in our bases," the general said. Meanwhile, reading the joint statement, spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said there would be continued "close cooperation in areas central to both our national and security interests". That would include humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counter-terrorism and maritime security, he said.

New Zealand foreign minister discusses South China Sea with Philippine President

New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully on November 23rd met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during Duterte's overnight stopover in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, on his way back from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru. "He's a tough guy but he was warm, courteous and actually quite charming," McCully told the New Zealand Herald after the meeting. "He doesn't beat around the bush. He has got quite firm views and he expresses them, and very colorfully," he said. Adham Crichton, a spokesman for McCully, said there would be no further comment on the Auckland discussions because it was not a formal bilateral meeting.