Activities of the Claimants


China defies U.S. call to stop island project in South China Sea

China on Novmber 24th hit back at "irresponsible remarks" from the United States which has called on Beijing to stop a land reclamation project in the disputed South China Sea that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip. Media reports over the weekend cited U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool as urging China "to stop its land reclamation program and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities". China reiterated that Beijing had "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, where most of the overlapping claims lie, especially between China and the Philippines. "I think anyone in the outside world has no right to make irresponsible remarks on China-related activities," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing. "The construction-related activities undertaken by China on the islands are primarily to improve the living conditions of personnel stationed there and to better fulfill our international responsibilities and obligations in terms of search and rescue and the provision of public services." The comments by China's foreign ministry signal that Beijing would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension.

China defends its reclamation activities


In a press conference of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) on November 27th, responding a question about Chinese reclamation activities at Chu Thap Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, spokesman of the MND, said that “the construction and facility maintenance conducted by China on relevant islands and reefs in the South China Sea are legitimate. It is the right of a sovereign country. We have heard some noises outside. I’d like to say that other countries do not have the right to point fingers at China’s construction on its own islands and reefs.” Regarding the question about Chinese plan to establish other ADIZ in the South China Sea, he said that “we have said on many occasions that whether or not to set up an air defense identification zone depends upon various factors, for example, the air threat that the country faces and the overall security environment. And we have confidence as to our relationship with the countries surrounding the South China Sea and we also have confidence in the overall stability of the situation in the area.”

China leader vows to protect territorial interests

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a key foreign policy speech that the rising Asian nation would protect its sovereign territory, the Xinhua news agency reported, as it faces maritime disputes with several neighbours. "We should firmly uphold China's territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national unity," Xi told a Communist Party meeting on foreign affairs held on November 28th-29th, according to excerpts of his speech released by Xinhua on November 30th. Xi, both China's president and Communist Party secretary, added his country would "properly handle territorial and island disputes" but did not name them. On a more conciliatory note, Xi told officials at the meeting that China sought "peaceful development" and opposed the "wilful use or threat of force".


Chinese ships reportedly ram, fire water cannons at Vietnamese fishing boats


The captains of two fishing boats from central Vietnam have reported to authorities that they were attacked by Chinese ships off Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago in the South China Sea. The captains of the boats QNg 90226 and QNg 95159, from the central province of Quang Ngai, notified the Tinh Ky Border Guard Station in the province’s Son Tinh District of the attacks on the afternoon of November 27th, one day after they were purportedly assaulted while fishing in Vietnamese waters. The assaults were committed by several Chinese ships, which fired water cannons at both vessels, while one of the foreign boats rammed the QNg 90226, the captains said. The aggressive actions did not cause any casualties, but the two Vietnamese vessels were badly damaged, they added.  

The Philippines

Philippine court convicts 9 Chinese of poaching

A Philippine court convicted nine Chinese fishermen on November 24th of poaching and taking hundreds of endangered giant sea turtles from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, fining each of them nearly $103,000 but imposing no jail term. The fishermen were arrested in May at Trang Khuyet Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) and their boat and catch of 555 endangered sea turtles were seized. The arrests sparked another spat between the Asian neighbors in the increasingly volatile South China Sea. Judge Ambrosio de Luna of the regional trial court in western Palawan province found them guilty of violating the country's fisheries code, ordering them to pay a fine of $100,000 each for poaching in Philippine waters plus 120,000 pesos ($2,666) each for taking wildlife, said Attorney Hazel Alaska, the clerk of court. China has pressed the Philippines to release the fishermen and their boat, saying they were taken in Chinese waters. Beijing warned Manila not to take any "provocative actions so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations."


Indonesia threatens missile attacks against intrusions in South China, Celebes seas

Tensions near the South China Sea region have been raised a notch after Indonesia indicated that it is considering deploying ship-launched missiles against foreign fishing vessels that intrude into its territorial waters. The remark was made by Indonesia's newly appointed co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, on 25 November during a press conference at the presidential palace in Jakarta. The ex-Indonesian Navy (Tentera Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL) chief was briefing reporters on the arrest of 10 foreign fishing vessels that had intruded into the country's territorial waters. Some of these vessels were detained in the Natuna Islands region near the southern tip of the South China Sea on November 19th.

The U.S.

The U.S. calls for transparency in activities at disputed areas of the South China Sea

In a Daily Press Briefing on November 24th, Jeff Rathke, Director of Press Office, U.S. Department of State said that “under Article 5 of the Declaration of Conduct among China and the members of ASEAN, the parties committed themselves to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. Large-scale construction or major steps to militarize or expand law enforcement operations at outposts, such as dramatically expanding the size of a feature through land reclamation, would seem to complicate or escalate the situation in our view. So we believe that an announcement by the claimants that they would avoid certain actions during the negotiating process for the code of conduct would create a conducive and positive environment and dramatically lower the risk of a dangerous incident.” According to Rathke, “the United States have a fundamental interest in freedom of navigation and that the territorial disputes in the region should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

Regional Snapshots

Brussels workshop discusses book on South China Sea

The European Institute for Asian Studies held a workshop in Brussels, Belgium, on November 25th to introduce a book on the South China Sea written by BBC reporter Bill Hayton. The event attracted some 100 scholars from the US, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, France, and Belgium as well as European Union officials and diplomats based in Brussels. Entitled “The South China Sea: the struggle for power in Asia”, the book explains the situation in the Sea and the tension arising from disputes between China and a number of countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. A majority of participants said the South China Sea is of global importance as 90 percent of international trade is currently transported by sea, and 40 percent of that volume is shipped via these waters. Improperly handled disputes and tensions in this region may lead to conflicts, impacting regional navigation freedom, cargo transport, and investment environment as well as the entire global economy, they added.

Vietnam warships visit Philippines


Vietnam on November 25th showed off its two most powerful warships in the first-ever port call to the Philippines but an official said it was not trying to challenge China's superior naval forces amid tension in the South China Sea. Hanoi invited the diplomatic community to its Russian-built missile-guided frigates docked in Manila Bay at the start of a three-day goodwill visit. "The first port call is a positive and good sign of the improving and deepening relations between the Philippine Navy and Vietnam People's Navy," said Philippine Lieutenant Commander Marineth Domingo. In March, the two navies held staff-to-staff talks to step up exchanges in intelligence and information, naval technology and training.

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies