Activities of the Claimants


Liaoning's combat capability tested


China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has conducted more than 100 tests and training tasks since early December, when it began a training mission in the South China Sea, the Chinese navy said on December 22nd. "The Liaoning successfully performed several tests of the combat system today and organized for the first time comprehensive combat training," the People's Liberation Army navy said in a statement. "Through this operation, we tested the carrier's combat capability and tried the performance of its propulsion and seaworthiness." This is the first time the Liaoning has made a long-distance training voyage since it was commissioned into the PLA navy last year, the statement said, adding that the mission is characterized by a large number of tests, rigorous standards, complicated circumstances as well as collaboration with multiple military units.

China seeks to defuse border issues

China and neighboring countries should "properly control" border disputes until boundaries have been agreed, a senior diplomat in charge of boundary and ocean affairs said on December 25th. Ouyang Yujing, a deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry's department of boundary and ocean affairs, introduced China's plan to deal with border issues during an open day event at the ministry. He elaborated on the three principals China holds to resolve border issues with its neighbors. They should resolve the boundary issue through direct negotiation, maintain the status quo before final settlement and defuse the issue through cooperation to create a stable and harmonious atmosphere for an eventual solution, he said.

The Philippines

PHL envoy to China: Seeking arbitration on sea row not an ‘unfriendly act’


As tensions in portions of the South China Sea, once again fall into focus after Beijing's declaration of an air zone, Philippine Ambassador Erlinda Basilio to China said the Philippines’ move to seek arbitration on its territorial dispute with China was not an “unfriendly act.” In an email to GMA News Online, Basilio said the Philippine government decided to bring the sea dispute issue to international arbitration because “a rules-based regime in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea would contribute to the respect for the legitimate rights of countries surrounding the sea.” “It would, over the long term, be beneficial to all stakeholders of the region, by providing the predictability and order necessary for continuing prosperity beyond our own generation,” she added. She considers arbitration not as an unfriendly act but as “an intuitive approach which we all resort to when confronted with a seemingly intractable situation.”

Regional Snapshots

Philippines-China ties to remain ‘warm’

Following the end of the tour of duty of Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing, Malacañang expressed optimism that bilateral relations between Manila and Beijing will remain “warm and multi-faceted” despite outstanding territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Philippine Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government is hopeful that the next Chinese ambassador will be able to further the relations between the two countries. “Understandably, as an ambassador, you will defend the interests of your country,” Lacierda said. “We will expect that the relationship of China and the Philippines, regardless of ambassador, will continue to be on multi-levels. Again, our relationship is not focused just on the issue of Scarborough Shoal. Our friendly exchanges with China continue even if we have slight disputes,” he added. Lacierda described Ma as “a very warm ambassador” despite staunchly defending China’s nine-dash line claim that covered the entire South China Sea.

Cambodian PM wraps up Vietnam visit


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 28th concluded his three-day official visit to Vietnam at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung.  While in Vietnam, PM Hun Sen held talks with PM Dung and met with National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung. He also paid courtesy visits to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and President Truong Tan Sang. At the meetings, the two sides briefed each other on each country’s situation and voiced their resolve to deepen and elevate the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries to a new height in the years to come. Regarding the Eat Sea issue, the leaders consented to uphold ASEAN’s common stance mentioned in the Six-Point Principle on the East Sea, placing importance on maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea, settling disputes by peaceful means in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea while speeding up the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and the formulation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea between ASEAN and China at an early date.

Vietnam, Russia boost all-round strategic partnership

Boosting cooperation with Vietnam is one of Russia ’s priorities in its foreign policy towards Asia , a senior Russian diplomat has said.  Russian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrey G. Kovtun made the remarks at a press conference held in Hanoi on December 25th to brief the development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and Vietnam in 2013. Over the recent past, bilateral ties have seen a dynamic development with various high-ranking meetings, he said, adding the relationship has been further reinforced and expanded to additional areas. The two countries implemented many large-scale agreements this year, added Kovtun.

Commentaries & Analyses

Onus on US, China to resolve Asia’s disputes

By Andrew Billo


With China’s pronouncement of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), and South Korea’s subsequent response with an ADIZ of its own, territorial issues in the East and Southeast Asian region are only growing in complexity. Building on the US Vice President’s remarks from a recent meeting he held with business leaders in China, a New York Times article stated that, ‘China is rising, globalization is progressing, and systems are colliding’. We have now reached an ‘inflection point … a moment of dramatic change’. If we are indeed at an ‘inflection point’, then all states — including China — need to act responsibly to ensure that the change is constructive. For the United States, it might be helpful to acknowledge that its rebalancing act to Asia came on too fast and too strong, and that pushing forward with its web of regional military alliances is counterproductive to the overall theme of eventual cooperation. For China, its economic footprint is omnipresent. There is nary a market in the world where China doesn’t have a presence. But China also needs to recognise that it has in many ways already arrived as the world’s only other superpower. In this position, it cannot allow relations with its neighbours to denigrate further, even in instances where China is not the sole provocateur. International law provides guidelines, but the world’s superpowers have been reluctant to fully succumb to its structures. This legacy makes moving forward with binding multilateral processes a challenge. It is therefore incumbent on Asian states to act responsibly while there are still resources in sufficient supply to negotiate a favourable outcome. To that end, Asian governments must control nationalist forces and keep rhetoric grounded in reality. Non-Asian governments, chiefly the United States, need to be clear about the extent of their regional engagement. While America has offered support, it needs to follow-through on its commitments while remaining transparent about how far it is actually willing to go in defending its allies and risking damage to what will eventually be its largest trading partner, China.

South China Sea And The United States

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

On South China Sea disputes engineered by China, the United States as the global superpower and with vital stakes in the Asia Pacific exhibited strategic impotency to uphold and enforce the ‘status quo ante’ against Chinese aggression against Vietnam and the Philippines. The United States had both the political and military means to checkmate China on its aggression against Vietnam and the Philippines but it elected not to do so. The conflict escalation in South China Sea by China noticeably since 2008 and its related course of events thereafter throw up two major conclusions. Both these major conclusions need serious attention as the entire strategic status quo stands challenged by China and if China’s present trajectories are not checkmated could possibly end up in unimaginable conflicts in the Asia Pacific. The first major conclusion is that the United States has failed all along to recognise that China’s military brinkmanship in conflict escalation of South China Sea disputes was not limited to enforcing its illegal sovereignty claims over the entire South China Sea at the expense of Vietnam and the Philippines. China’s real target was to visibly project to Asian nations the strategic and military impotence of the United States in dealing with a militarily rising China. The second major conclusion which the United States is reluctant to admit is that its policy formulations on China over two decades spanning US Administrations of two different political dispensations have been a miserable failure. The United States “China Hedging Strategy” and the United States “Risk Aversion Strategy” in its approaches to China have only strategically emboldened China towards greater military brinkmanship. The United States would henceforth be expected by regional states to exhibit far more firmness and determination in dealing with the ‘The China Threat’ that is now throwing up tentacles of aggression in the Asia Pacific. Nations in the region expect that the United States draws’ redlines’ for China on its military adventurism in the South China Sea and East China Sea too. History should provide enough examples to the United States of the costs of not timely recognising dangers in the making.

Asia's Year of Escalating Tensions

By Michael Auslin


From any perspective, 2013 was a wasted year in East Asia. The great disappointment in 2013 was Asian leaders' inability to make any diplomatic progress on their territorial disputes. Whether the Spratly Islands (in the South China Sea) or the Senkaku Islands (in the East China Sea), territorial disagreements became more entrenched. China steadfastly refused to ease pressure in the South China Sea and ended the year with an unprecedented move to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea that overlapped longstanding Japanese and South Korean air zones. Neither Japan nor South Korea is complying with China's ADIZ demands. Hot-headed fighter pilots on any side could plunge the countries into crisis, as almost happened between America and China in 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. EP-3 surveillance plane. So East Asia seems as unstable and insecure as ever. Despite economic interdependence that makes China the top trading partner of Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, the potential for conflict is very real. Beijing continues to build a military that is inherently threatening to outsiders. It recently tested a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead as far as the United States. It has also developed at least two stealth fighter variants and has relentlessly increased cyber espionage and attacks. The security blanket long provided by the U.S. clearly seems to be fraying, with nothing more cooperative replacing it. And so 2014 promises to be a year of living dangerously in East Asia.