FILE PHOTO: “So Aquino filed an arbitration case. We won. He was still there. Why did they not do it, the yellows. We won and Aquino was still there… Why did you not go there and confront them?”, Duterte said
The US government fired off a warning against China yesterday, saying the Asian giant faces “consequences” for its military buildup in the contested waters, including the installation of missiles in South China Sea islands.
“We’re well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences,” she said.
Sanders did not say what the consequences would be.
The South China Sea, which sits between Vietnam, the Philippines, China and several other countries, is subject to a myriad of competing territorial claims.
But in recent years China has upped the ante, seizing islets and atolls in the face of protests and bellicose warnings.
Beijing, last Thursday, reasserted its right to build “defense” facilities in the disputed region, but declined to confirm reports it had installed new missiles on artificial islands it had built.
Beijing sees the area as key to pushing its defenses beyond China’s coast and securing oil supply routes.
Washington and other western countries have insisted that disputes must be settled legally and that freedom of navigation be respected.
US network CNBC reported Wednesday that the Chinese military installed anti-ship and air-to-air defenses on outposts in South China Sea over the last 30 days, citing sources close to US intelligence.
If the information is verified, it could provoke renewed tensions between countries bordering the strategically vital maritime region.
Peaceful construction — China
At a regular briefing last Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment.
“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defense facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” she said.
“Those who don’t intend to violate (this sovereignty) have no reason to worry,” she said.
The South China Sea issue has been brewing for years, with China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam making competing claims in waters with vital global shipping routes and what are believed to be significant oil and natural gas deposits.
In addition to land-reclamation efforts on reefs it controls and building civilian facilities there, China also has air bases, radar and communications systems, naval facilities and defensive weaponry in place including landing strips able to accommodate military planes.
The new Chinese missiles were reportedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, according to CNBC.
They are all in the Spratly archipelago located in waters south of mainland China between Vietnam and the Philippines.
Beijing’s territorial claims, based on its own historical records, have also pitted it against the United States.
While Washington takes no position on the sovereignty claims, it has raised concerns that Beijing is “militarizing” the South China Sea.
The US Navy itself frequently sends warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the area.
“China has to realize that they have benefited from the free navigation of the sea, and the US Navy has been the guarantor of that,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
“We will continue to do our operations,” she said.
Buildup not directed at RP
Malacañang downplayed reports on the Chinese deployment of missiles in at least three reefs in South China Sea.
“With our recently developed close relationship and friendship with China, we are confident that those missiles are not directed at us,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque was reacting to reports by CNBC citing unidentified source claiming that China has deployed YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles HQ-9B long-range, surface-to-air missiles at Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands over the past 30 days. The anti-cruise missile is capable of striking vessels within 295 nautical miles while the HQ-9B SAMs could hit cruise missiles, drones, and aircraft within 160 nautical miles.
Both the missiles are defensive in nature and forms part of China’s missile defense platform in South China Sea.
But Roque said the Duterte administration would explore all diplomatic means to address the issue.
He said, “We are concerned with the reported China’s missile deployments over the contested areas in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).”
US to maintain presence
United States Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim said America will maintain its presence in the region through its freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) and port visits to Manila to ensure that the right to freedom of navigation is intact.
“Precisely because we are concerned about some of the developments in the South China Sea, it’s very important for us to be present,” he said.
Last February, aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson docked in Manila for a five-day port visit. It was followed by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard that arrived in Manila in March 2018 and the massive aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which graced the capital in April.
Kim said the US ship visitations do not only demonstrate Washington’s commitment to US-Philippines alliance, but also serve as an assurance they are doing everything to protect freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, and freedom of commerce in the disputed area.
Not only of importance to the US, but to everybody including the Philippines, Kim committed that America “will continue to do whatever” they can to protect those rights.
Kim said the US is concerned over reports that China has installed a jamming device in one of the areas in the disputed waters.
“We are concerned. I think we are concerned anytime a claimant, including China, takes aggressive unilateral actions toward militarization, which is clear what they seem to have done. I saw the report and it seems to suggest that they’re moving toward militarization,” he said, adding the port visits are “directly relevant” to the current situation in the sea lane.
He said the US has consistently called on all claimants to refrain from unilateral aggressive actions that are inconsistent with international law and norms.
“We have called on countries to refrain from reclamation and militarization of their claimed lands. And we will continue to do so,” Kim said.
Several Southeast Asian states, including the Philippines and China, have overlapping claims in the vast South China Sea, believed to have large deposits of oil and natural gas.
At present, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are crafting the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to control and manage possible crisis in the area.
America is not a claimant party, but US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy earlier expressed hope that the outcome document would lead to a “binding, meaningful result in accordance with international law.”
While he is finding it difficult to note specific elements the US wants to see in the COC, Kim believes the claimants have a direct interest in making sure anything they negotiate is actually a meaningful document.
“I think, to the extent, that is the goal, I would think the parties would want a binding document with substance and detail because if you have a vague, ambiguous document that’s not binding, I’m not sure what it would do in helping the claimants resolve this very complex situation,” he said. AFP / By Komfie Manalo / Written by Tribune Wires / Saturday, 05 May 2018 00:00
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