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Chinese Naval Exercise Counters U.S. Militarization of South China Sea

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Aug. 1, 2015 (EIRNS)–Chinese Naval officials have made clear that the PLA Navy live fire exercise held in the South China Sea, this past week, was intended, in part, as a deterrent to the U.S. Chinese Admiral Yin Zhuo told the People’s Daily that one of the tasks of the exercise was to test the capability of the Second Artillery Corps, China’s strategic missile force, to sink enemy warships using the famous DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile. Yin also said that the exercise was launched to simulate a campaign-level combat simulation. “Even if a war between China and other nations really start in the region of South China Sea, it will not go beyond this level” said Yin. He said that the exercise was launched for political reasons to prove that China has the capability to defend its territory.

China also reacted to criticisms of the exercise from Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which said that it violated their sovereignty. “Such reactions from Vietnam and the Philippines are groundless and they constitute a double-standard,” Zhang Junshe, a naval captain and research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times. “These countries also conduct military drills in the South China Sea with the U.S., which are more frequent and larger than China’s.” Zhang added that China’s military exercise has focused on defense rather than offense, which demonstrates China is trying to maintain the stability of the region. U.S.-Phillipines exercises, on the other hand, practice simulated battles against China and include amphibious assault exercises to capture islands from hostile forces. “Such drills are more aggressive and threaten regional peace.”

China Accuses US of “Militarizing” South China Sea; Announces Joint China-Russia Naval Exercises in Sea of Japan

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July 30, 2015 (EIRNS)–China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, today accused the US of militarizing the South China Sea.

“The US side disregards and distorts the facts, and plays up China’s military threat, to sow discord between China and the littoral states in the South China Sea,” said Yang.  “We firmly oppose such actions.  The Chinese side expresses its serious concern over US activities to militarize the South China Sea region.  Such actions taken by the US side would inevitably arouse suspicion from others that, does the US want nothing better than chaos in the region?”

The head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, this week warned China against militarizing the South China Sea (which, of course, is at least partially Chinese territory), calling the area “front and center in the tug-of-war between the majority of regional nations that want to maintain the status quo, and China that wants to change it to suit its narrow self-interest.”

China’s Yang countered this, noting that the status quo was being dramatically altered, not by China, but by the US militarization, including building up alliances in the region (such as the mass deployment of advanced US military forces into the Philippines), stepped-up joint exercises in the region, bringing Japan into exercises far from its borders, and increased provocative close-in reconnaissance of the Chinese armed forces.

China held a one-day, live-fire naval drill in the South China Sea on July 28, and will hold large naval exercises in the South China Sea between Aug 1-8, to mark the 88th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

Defense spokesman Yang also announced today that Russia and China will hold joint naval exercises from Aug. 20-28 in the Sea of Japan and in the Gulf of Peter the Great, which lies off the strategic Far Eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok.

TPP Also Aimed Against Influence of BRICS, Says Policy Expert

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July 24 (EIRNS)–Speaking at a hearing on the South China Sea before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 23, Patrick Cronin, a senior adviser to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), indicated that the Obama trade boondoggle, TPP, was not simply a wedge against China, but against the growing influence of the BRICS. “Completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership can demonstrate America’s ability to complete complex free-trade agreements and regional architectures. We need to be prepared to bring more economies, from the Philippines to the Republic of Korea, into TPP, the first major multilateral trade agreement with a heavy focus on the new economy based on information technology and services,” Cronin said. “The United States can use TPP to gain leverage vis-à-vis BRICS nations regarding future rules for trade,” Cronin said.

He also called on the U.S. to develop programs which would help to undermine China’s plans for “One Belt and One Road.” “We can wait and see how complementary China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its ‘One Belt and One Road’ will be to existing Bretton Woods institutions and other development initiatives,” Cronin said. But otherwise, he indicated that the U.S. should keep its powder dry.

He said that Administration programs such as the Lower Mekong Initiative were not sufficient to counter China’s initiatives. “Congress should request from the current and future administration a development strategy that includes proposals for new initiatives,” he said. “I have in mind a major international public-private partnership in support of human development in Asia. Rather than try to match China’s push for physical infrastructure, I would focus on the new knowledge economy, human capital and education, science and technology, and energy — all areas of comparative advantage for the United States.”

Cronin also called for more logistical support to the “other” claimants in the South China Sea disputes in pursuing their claims. The other speakers at the hearing provided much of the same, albeit not quite as in your-face as Cronin. Michael Swaine from the Carnegie Endowment showed some sense of reality, however, in urging the U.S. limit itself to clear parameters in discussing the South China Sea, i.e., calling for free navigation and no unilateral action by the parties.

Swaine also made it clear to Congress that the U.S. has got to understand that China will, by the very nature of its development, become a major force in the region, and that the U.S. ought no longer see itself as the sole proprietor in the Asia-Pacific region. He warned in particular against any attempt to allow Japanese ships to patrol in the South China Sea, a measure that has been mooted by this Administration. “Japan has no claims in the South China Sea and therefore no business being involved there,” Swaine said. “Their presence would only be a provocation.”

Swaine also underlined that there can be no objection to China building structures in the South China Sea or instituting an ADIZ in the region, as this remains a right of all nations. He also warned that if the U.S. begins to play a more direct role in asserting the claims of the other countries, it would have a negative effect all around and would prevent any agreement from being made. “The Southeast Asian countries would tend to demand more themselves with the U.S. behind their back and less inclined to compromise, and the Chinese would see this as U.S. meddling,” Swaine said.

Chinese Hit US Provocations over South China Sea

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July 23, 2015 (EIRNS)–The war-mongering DC think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), held a forum on the South China Sea on July 21 in Washington, spewing forth charges from various speakers that China is breaching international law, showing aggression, provoking military confrontations, breaking the status quo, and on and on, in the South China Sea. Yet CSIS did invite two Chinese scholars to present the Chinese view, and while they were primarily used as a foil for the neo-con rants, they did state the obvious — that it is the US which is provoking a military crisis.

Dr. Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in China, said that the extensive and increasing US military surveillance flights off the Chinese coast, followed by the highly provocative fly-by of the artificial islands China is constructing in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, pose a real danger of intentional or accidental confrontations. He added that the US encouragement of Japan to engage with the US and the Philippines in military exercises in the South China Sea (where Japan has no claims and no boundaries), at the same time that Washington pushes Japan to scrap its pacifist Constitution, demonstrates that the US is carrying out a “containment of China” policy. He noted that several other claimants to South China Sea islands and reefs have built up artificial islands in the past, although China also claims sovereignty over them,– yet the US considers them blameless while accusing China of breaking international law.

Dr. Yee Sienho, Professor and Chief Expert at the Wuhan Uninversity Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, refuted the US claim that China must follow the decision of the Arbitration Court of UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) in the Hague on the complaint brought by the Philippines. He noted that UNCLOS explicitly does not rule on sovereignty issues, which is why China refused to join the arbitration, which is their right under UNCLOS. He said the US posture — that they do not take sides on sovereignty issues, that they are neutral — is belied by their actions in “pushing the envelope,” backing the other claimants and denouncing China. He said this is “very dangerous — the US needs better legal advice.”

Global Times also responded to the keynote speech at the CSIS forum by Danny Russel, Assistant US Secretary of State, calling his remarks “absurd.” Russel said the US was neutral on sovereignty, but when it comes to “adhering to international law,” the US will not be neutral, and will “come down forcefully.” Global Times states editorially: “It is necessary for the US to elaborate what article of international law that China’s land reclamation activities in the Nansha Islands have violated, and what forceful coercion China’s engineering ships have done to neighboring countries.” The editorial adds that “it is perfectly legal for China not to accept the arbitration tribunal’s decision; in fact, forcing China to accept or abide by the arbitration result is illegal.” He notes that the US accuses China’s actions as being to blame for the serious conflict between the two nations, but adds: It needs to be pointed out that the conflict is at China’s door, which is 12 time zones away from Washington. The conflict is actually imposed by Washington on us.”

Japan To Join U.S. in South China Sea Provocations

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July 20 (EIRNS)–Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, took a ride on a P-8 patrol aircraft over the South China Sea yesterday, in what the Associated Press described as “a move likely to irk China,” though apparently without a CNN news crew accompanying him. Swift had just left Manila, where he spent four days, likely discussing, among other things, U.S. policy in the South China Sea with his hosts. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin welcomed Swift’s move, saying it showed America’s commitment to come to the aid of allies locked in territorial disputes with China. “Militarily, we are nothing against China,” Gazmin said. “That’s why we have been asking our allies to assist us.”

Swift is now in Seoul, where he is meeting with top South Korean defense officials, before he moves on to Tokyo, where Japanese officials are contemplating joining the U.S. in anti-China provocations in the South China Sea. According to {Defense News}, a new Japanese defense white paper, to be released later this month, will directly call China’s reclamation work on the Spratlys, “high handed,” thereby directly supporting the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam in their territorial disputes with China. The Chinese have already responded, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accusing Japan of trying to “smear China to create tensions in the region.”