Activities of the Claimants


China's aircraft carrier leaves for sea trials


China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, left its homeport of Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province for the South China Sea on November 26th on a scientific and training mission. This is the first time the carrier has conducted a cross-sea training voyage since it was commissioned into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy last year, according to the Liaoning's Captain Zhang Zheng. The aircraft carrier was escorted by two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and Weifang. On November 29th, it arrived at Sanya City's, Hainan Province and carried out relevant experiments and trainings here. 


Vietnam inaugurates region’s most advanced coastguard boat

On the morning of November 27th, the Zone III Maritime Police, under the Vietnam Coast Guard Command, received the boat from the Defense Ministry’s Z189 Plant, which built the vessel according to the design of and the technology transferred by the Netherlands’s Damen Group. As a multifunctional patrol boat with preeminent features, the CBS 8001 is the most modern marine police boat in Southeast Asia. The vessel, which is 90.5 meters long and 14 meters wide, has a freeboard length of 7 meters and a displacement of more than 2,500 tons.

The Philippines

Philippines says China carrier in South China Sea raises tension

The Philippines said on November 27th the imminent arrival of China's sole aircraft carrier in the disputed South China Sea for the first time for a training mission would raise tension. "Its deployment raises tension and violates the Declaration of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Its deployment must not be violative of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," Philippine Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

Philippines fears China wants South China Sea air control


Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said China’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea raised the prospect of it doing the same for the South China Sea. “There’s this threat that China will control the air space (in the South China Sea),” del Rosario said in a television interview. Del Rosario also voiced concern over China’s declaration of the air defense zone in the East China Sea, where it is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan. “It transforms an entire air zone into China’s domestic air space. And that is an infringement, and compromises the safety of civil aviation,” del Rosario said. “It also compromises the national security of affected states.”

Regional Snapshots

Vietnam, New Zealand enhance defence ties

Vietnamese and New Zealand Defence Ministers have signed a memorandum of understanding to lift bilateral defence cooperation to a new level in the time ahead. The agreement was reached following talks between Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh and his visiting New Zealand Counterpart Jonathan Coleman in Hanoi on November 25th. During the talks, both sides voiced pleasure at the sound development and practical cooperation activities between the two ministries over the past time, which are based on mutual respect and for the common benefit of Vietnam and New Zealand.

Vietnam – Japan held first security dialogue


The first Vietnam-Japan security dialogue at the deputy ministerial level took place in Hanoi on November 26th. The event was presided over by Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Public Security Sen. Lieut. Gen. Tran Viet Tan and Deputy Head of the Japan National Police Agency Kanetaka Masahito. During the dialogue, both sides shared strategic information, professional expertise and ways to augment their ties in a constructive and trustful manner. All are for national security, social safety and order, and crime combat.

Philippines, Japan may discuss territorial row with China

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on November 29th said China’s declaration of a new air defense zone in the East China Sea may be discussed when he meets with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera next week. No exact date has been set for Onodera’s visit. Asked if China might impose an air defense zone over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) similar to what it declared in the East China Sea, Gazmin said that would only heighten “the strong reactions” of other countries.

Commentaries & Analyses

China heightens fears of widening tensions in Asian airspace

By Demetri Sevastopulo

When China created a controversial “air defence identification zone” on November 23rd, it sparked alarm about the rising risk of Sino-Japanese conflict over the bitterly contested Senkaku Islands. But while the focus has been on the Japanese-controlled chain – which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu – China also said in the same statement it “will establish other air defence identification zones at the right moment after necessary preparations are completed”, raising the spectre of tensions spreading across the region.  Ian Storey, a security expert at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said the most obvious candidates for any new Chinese air defence zones were the northern part of the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea.  Mr Storey said China would probably not create an ADIZ for the whole South China Sea, saying it would be “absolutely outrageous” if they included the whole area inside the “nine-dash line”. Instead, he said China was more likely to establish a zone in the northern part of the sea, and particularly surrounding Hainan Island. But Gary Li, a senior analyst at IHS Maritime, said a Chinese ADIZ in the northern South China Sea would be “very, very sensitive”. He said it would almost certainly overlap with Vietnam’s ADIZ, which reaches north to about 100km from Hainan Island, and includes the disputed Paracel Islands. Barry Desker, dean of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the Chinese zone would spark concern in southeast Asia about possible future incidents in the South China Sea. “Chinese unilateralism on its new air defence identification zone reminds them [southeast Asian neighbours] of the extensive Chinese maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea and the risk that the Chinese may precipitate an incident if a similar announcement was made covering waters claimed by China,” said Mr Desker.

What are the implications of China’s ADIZ for the United States and other regional players?

By Nicholas Szechenyi, Victor Cha, Bonnie S. Glaser, Michael J. Green, Christopher K. Johnson


From the U.S. perspective, the ADIZ announcement is likely to be seen as part of a deliberate strategy to bolster Beijing’s sovereignty claims, adding to Chinese air and maritime probing in the East China Sea and now the surrounding air space. The United States will seek to encourage the peaceful rise of China while demonstrating consistency in U.S. declaratory policy on the islands. Close coordination and defense cooperation with Japan, the ROK, and other regional partners and a clear strategy for sustaining U.S. forward presence are all essential elements in dissuading Beijing from further pursuing an escalatory strategy that could undermine regional security. Leaders in the United States and Japan are likely to view these escalatory measures as a test of Japan’s resolve and of the vitality of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Chinese aggression, however, is likely to bolster domestic and regional support for Prime Minister Abe’s national security agenda and reinforce efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and increase bilateral jointness and interoperability. Support for Japanese views may grow in Southeast Asia as states bordering the South China Sea worry about a similar Chinese move to place a South China Sea ADIZ over their disputed islands. The negative reactions in the ROK come as a surprise to many given the growing positive relations between China and the ROK since President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration in February of this year. Recenly, State Councilor Yang Jiechi of China paid a well-received three-day visit to Seoul, where he met with President Park and a host of high-ranking ROK officials, including National Security Office head Kim Jang-soo and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, to discuss progress made in the ROK-China Strategic Cooperation Partnership announced by Park and Xi in June. That previously scheduled meeting will be an early indication of how much damage Beijing has done in its relations with Seoul. Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting Japan, Korea, and China this week, and the ADIZ issue will be at the top of his agenda. It will be important for the United States to coordinate responses with allies and partners in the region to ensure that Beijing recognizes unilateral escalation is counter to Chinese interests.

China has thrown down a gauntlet to America

By Philip Stephens

At first glance, Beijing’s designation of an air defence zone in the East China Sea marks a calibrated escalation of its longstanding dispute with Japan about sovereignty of the Senkaku or, in Chinese, Diaoyu islands. A more worrying, and plausible, interpretation is that Beijing has decided to square up to the US in the western Pacific. East Asia is looking an ever more dangerous place. The US commitment - that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island is covered by the US-Japan mutual security pact - is now being tested. The question Beijing seems to be asking is how far will Mr Obama go to uphold the existing order. China’s strategic objective is to push the US away from its coastline and establish its suzerainty in the East and South China seas. Does an America exhausted by wars in the Middle East have the political will to risk conflict in Asia in order to defend a few uninhabited rocks? It was probably no accident that Beijing’s timing coincided with one of the most troubled periods of Mr Obama’s presidency. Consciously or otherwise, Beijing has now turned control of the air space around the Senkaku into a litmus test of the US security commitment to east Asia. For Washington to accept the Chinese restrictions would be to send a signal to every other nation in the region that the US cannot be relied on to defend the status quo against Chinese expansionism. Yet to demonstrate its resolve as a resident east Asian power by constantly patrolling the disputed air space is to accept a new source of friction with Beijing. My guess is that Mr Obama, accused of presiding over a collapse of US power in the Middle East, cannot afford to back down over the Senkaku.

The Bear is Back: Russia Returns to Vietnam

By Carl Thayer


President Vladimir Putin paid a whirlwind one-day visit to Hanoi on November 12th to advance the comprehensive strategic partnership reached with Vietnam last year. This was Putin’s third visit to Vietnam and his second since assuming the office of President of the Russian Federation. Putin met Vietnam’s top three leaders, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, President Truong Tan Sang and party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong. At the conclusion of his visit it was announced that seventeen bilateral agreements had been reached, including five in the oil, gas and energy sectors. These agreements were a reflection of the broad-based nature of bilateral relations developed ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the eve of Putin’s November visit to Vietnam, Russia loaded Vietnam’s first Kilo-class submarine on a transporter for delivery to Vietnam and announced it would hand over a submarine crew training center that it was building in Cam Ranh Bay in January 2014. At the conclusion of Putin’s visit this month, a Joint Statement was issued that briefly mentioned an agreement on defense cooperation had been reached without providing any details. Media reports and other official statements indicated that Russia would be heavily involved in servicing armaments and military equipment that it sold to Vietnam, and transferring military technology for licensed co-production. For example, it is likely that Vietnam and Russia will co-produce the Uran (SS-N-25 Switchblade) anti-ship cruise missile. In sum, “the bear” is coming back to Vietnam. In the coming years, Russian companies will assist Vietnam in servicing and maintaining the high end military platforms, equipment and armaments that it has purchased from Russia. Russian defense companies will assist Vietnam in co-producing a variety of missiles and armaments that will be fitted to its new air and sea platforms. And Russian military personnel and other specialists will assist Vietnam in developing its submarine fleet. Russian military facilities at Cam Ranh Bay also can be expected to resupply and repair Russian Navy ships in transit from the Far East to the Gulf of Aden and back. As the November 12th Joint Statement revealed, Russian-Vietnamese oil and gas joint ventures will continue to explore and produce hydrocarbons on Vietnam’s continental shelf. Russia and Vietnam therefore will have congruent interests in peace and stability in the South China Sea.