Military circles should not disregard China's illegally built "outposts" in the South China Sea

Miliary circlesIn early 2020, military and security experts in many countries, especially in the United States and Japan, engaged in a heated debate about the strategic and military value of China’s illegally built "outposts" in the South China Sea since 2013 both in the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Some argue that even though China has expanded its territory in the South China Sea by approximately 12,000 km2 on seven features with long-range sensors, port infrastructure, runways, fuel depots and military weapons, it is still not a pressing concern for US security, even in the event of US-China military conflict in the Pacific region, specifically in the South China Sea. On the other hand, there have also been opposing opinions about the dangerous nature that these "outposts" could pose to the US Army in the event of a military conflict between the two countries.

The "school" that disregards China’s military capability on these illegal artificial islands in the South China Sea argues as follows:

First, they relied on findings of the US Intelligence that the bases China built in the South China Sea would have significant capacity to deploy China's military offensive power at sea only if Beijing fully deployed its most advanced military forces to these bases by the end of 2016. However, three years later, China seems to have not deployed more fighter jets or long-range weapons to the Spratly islands. Further, the Pentagon's report on China's military strength in 2019 also said that they had not seen any recent military activity since China installed air defense missiles and anti-ship system on the Spratly Islands in 2018. Perhaps, the criticism raised by neighboring countries and others against China's actions in the Spratly islands is part of the reasons why Beijing has not strengthened its military capability on the islands. Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stated that, if the "militarization" of these islands by China seems to have "stalled", probably because China had already met its military goals.

China shows off strength to threaten neighbors

MilitaryAs the world focuses on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, China continuously organizes large-scale military exercises in the East and South China Seas to threaten its neighbors and destabilize peace and stability in the region.

Since the end of February 2020, China has been preparing aircraft carrier group exercises in the Pacific as Beijing conducted a drill near Hawaii with a group of four warships, including the destroyer Hohhot (161) of Luyang 3 class and one logistics ship. After this exercise, on the way back to the Philippine Sea, the Chinese ship group engaged with American P-8A Poseidon submarine hunters. Subsequently, Chinese ships pointed lasers at the US aircraft, triggering protests in Washington for the dangerous and "unprofessional" acts.

At the time, international experts saw such developments as a test for Beijing to conduct an aircraft carrier combat exercise in the Pacific. International analysts also indicate that as the US Navy in the Pacific is facing difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, China wants to increase its operations and turns the tide in its favor with regard to operations in the first island chain and even the second one.

The concept of the first and second island chains was introduced by the United States in the Island Chain Strategy designed to encircle China and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. Accordingly, the first island chain begins in the Kuril / Chishim Islands and ends in Borneo and the northern part of the Philippines. The second island chain is to start from the Bonin Islands (Japan) and end at the Mariana Islands (under US control) in the eastern part of the Philippines.

China’s South China Sea Moves Raise Concerns

China plays divideThe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should show some urgency regarding China’s latest actions in the South China Sea and hold a virtual meeting with member states to discuss this matter.

Amid the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Southeast Asia, ASEAN member states are busy battling the virus while China is actively building its presence in the occupied territories.

In March, China launched two new research stations on the Chinese-built artificial islands at Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef. Officials stated that they are under the Integrated Research Center for Reefs and Islands at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and described their purpose as the study of a wide range of marine sciences, including the ecology, geology, environment, mineral, and energy resources of the South China Sea.

However, the research stations are alleged to be part of China’s plans in ramping-up its exploitation of the deep-sea environment in its search for fuel, rare metals and biotechnology in the waters, according to maritime experts.

They also said the launching of these stations is not acceptable as the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling against China’s activities in the South China Sea have deemed the islands as artificial and claims by China that they are part of its exclusive economic zone are illegal.

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China plays divide and rule in South China Sea

USS-America-South-China-Sea-April-2020JAKARTA – Chinese propagandists have had a field day with a violent incident in the South China Sea which for once didn’t involve its own aggression.

On April 20, an intruding Vietnamese fishing boat capsized and sank with the loss of four lives after repeatedly trying to ram an Indonesian patrol craft.

Two other Vietnamese vessels and their crews were detained in the encounter west of the Natuna Islands. The incident had not been made public for a week as the two Southeast Asian neighbors sought to smooth the situation through diplomatic channels.

Both appear aware that China has sought to exacerbate the episode through social media, part of its divide and conquer strategy aimed at the four Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members bordering on the contested South China Sea.

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South China Sea: Philippines rejects Beijing’s ‘administrative centre’ label on disputed reef

reefThe Philippines protested on Thursday China’s designation of a disputed South China Sea reef, which it has turned into a heavily fortified island base, as a Chinese “administrative centre”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement objecting to what it called China’s “illegal designation” of Fiery Cross Reef as a regional administrative centre in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago.

It’s the latest in a series of disagreements in the sea as Asian nations grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China last week of taking advantage of widespread distraction over the pandemic to advance its territorial claims.

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Chinese military lashes out at American warship’s ‘intrusion’ in South China Sea

lashes1The Chinese military has accused an American guided-missile destroyer of “intruding into Chinese territory waters” near the Beijing-controlled Paracel Islands, saying the “provocative act” violated Chinese sovereignty.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theatre Command, which oversees

the South China Sea

, said the USS Barry destroyer intruded into “waters around the Paracel Islands without permission” on Tuesday, prompting the command to scramble air and sea patrols to “track, monitor, verify, identify and expel” it.

The warning came as Taiwanese media reported that the American vessel sailed through the Taiwan Strait twice in this month, followed both times by PLA warships.

“These provocative acts by the US side … have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, deliberately increased regional security risks and could easily trigger an unexpected incident,” a statement posted on the military unit’s WeChat social media account quoted Li Huamin, a command spokesman, as saying.

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China says it 'expelled' U.S. Navy vessel from South China Sea

statementChina's military said it "expelled" a U.S. navy vessel from the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea this week. It said the "USS Barry" had illegally entered China's Xisha territorial waters on Tuesday. U.S. officials disputed the account. China's Southern Theater army command "organized sea and air forces to track, monitor, verify, and identify the U.S. ships throughout the journey, and warned and expelled them," said Chinese military spokesperson Li Huamin, in a statement.

"The provocative actions of the United States seriously violated relevant international law norms, seriously violated China's sovereignty and security interests, artificially increased regional security risks, and were prone to cause unexpected incidents," he said.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Pentagon denied that Chinese forces had impacted on the U.S. ships' movements during "two successful freedom of navigation operations" earlier in the week — including one involving the guided missile destroyer, USS Barry.

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New South China Sea tensions rattle Manila and Hanoi amid pandemic

PandemicMANILA -- While sailing toward the Philippine-occupied Commodore Reef in the South China Sea, a Philippine Navy vessel spotted a gray ship and made radio contact. The response was blunt.

"The Chinese government has immutable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters."

The gray ship belonging China's People's Liberation Army Navy directed its fire control radar at the Philippine vessel, indicating "hostile intent," according to the Philippine Navy.

The encounter, which ended peacefully and was belatedly disclosed by the Philippine government on Thursday, took place on Feb. 17 while the coronavirus crisis was engulfing China. But as Southeast Asian nations fight widening outbreaks of their own, observers say Beijing has renewed efforts to consolidate its control over disputed parts of the South China Sea, ratcheting up tensions among rival claimants.

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China, Russia exploiting coronavirus crisis, says US

thumbs b c 24288c8868b8d8b4b1d00cb78465067cANKARA

Russia and China are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to further their interests in Europe, the US defense secretary said Monday.

Mark Esper's remarks came during an interview with Italian daily La Stampa when asked whether Beijing and Moscow represent a security risk by sending aid to a NATO country, Italy.

"We remain mindful that some may seek to use the pandemic and resulting economic challenges we all face as an opening to invest in critical industries and infrastructure, which in turn may affect long-term security," Esper said. "I have reiterated that all aid offered by each country should be of quality materials and free of strings and interference."

Beijing’s aggressive South China Sea push amid pandemic worries India, US

BJ agressikUnder cover of the coronavirus pandemic, China has ramped up its aggressive expansionism both in the South China Sea as well as the Indian Ocean Region, raising concern not only among its smaller neighbours but India and US as well. Last Sunday, China renamed 80 geographical features in the South China Sea — standard names for 25 islands and reefs and 55 undersea geographic entities in a move that has worried the region, signalling that China was establishing sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea covered by a 9-dash line that is deemed illegal according to international law.

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