Asserting sovereignty, Indonesia renames part of South China Sea

UNTV News   •   July 14, 2017   •   4856

Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno (C) stands in front of a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. Beawiharta / REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea on Friday, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China’s territorial ambitions in the maritime region.

Seen by analysts as an assertion of Indonesian sovereignty, part of the renamed sea is claimed by China under its contentious maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line’, that encompasses most of the resource-rich sea.

Several Southeast Asian states dispute China’s territorial claims and are competing with China to exploit the South China Sea’s abundant hydrocarbon and fishing resources. China has raised the ante by deploying military assets on artificial islands constructed on shoals and reefs in disputed parts of the sea.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Unveiling the new official map, the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oegroseno, noted the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

“We want to update the naming of the sea [and] we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea,” he told reporters.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he didn’t know anything about the details of the issue, but said the name South China Sea had broad international recognition and clear geographic limits.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing. “We hope the relevant country can meet China halfway and properly maintain the present good situation in the South China Sea region, which has not come easily.”

‘Clear Message’

I Made Andi Arsana, an expert on the Law of the Sea from Indonesia’s Universitas Gadjah Mada, said the renaming carried no legal force but was a political and diplomatic statement.

“It will be seen as a big step by Indonesia to state its sovereignty,” he told Reuters. “It will send a clear message, both to the Indonesian people and diplomatically speaking.”

Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, said Indonesia’s action followed renewed resistance to Chinese territorial claims by other Southeast Asian states.

“This will be noticed in Beijing,” he said.

Last week, Vietnam extended an Indian oil concession off its coast while a joint venture led by state-owned PetroVietnam commenced drilling further south. China has a territorial claim in both areas.

Meanwhile, the director of the Philippines Energy Resource Development Bureau, Ismael Ocampo, said on Wednesday that the country could lift a suspension on oil and gas drilling on the Reed Bank by December. The underwater mountain, lying 85 nautical miles off the Philippines coast, is also claimed by China.

Exploration activity was suspended in late 2014 as the Philippines sought an international ruling on China’s territorial claim. The Philippines won the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague one year ago.

China refused to recognize the decision. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office on June 30 last year, expressed reluctance about enforcing the decision at the time, as he sought deeper diplomatic and economic ties with China.

However, the Philippines lately has become more assertive about its sovereignty.

More than two dozen oil, gas and coal blocks, including additional areas in disputed waters, may be offered during the December bidding, Ocampo said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Tom Allard and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Bill Tarrant

U.S. opposes ‘destabilizing’ behavior by China in Indo-Pacific – Pentagon chief

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2019

(L-R) U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The United States opposes the destabilizing behavior by China in the Indo-Pacific, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday (August 4), as the two nations wage an escalating trade war.

“This including weaponizing the global commons, using predatory economics and debt for sovereignty deals and promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations intellectual property,” Esper said.

China’s increasing assertiveness, especially in the energy-rich South China Sea, has raised concerns within the region, and the United States is challenging Chinese maritime hegemony and seeking stronger ties with nations pushing back against Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday decried “decades of bad behavior” from China that have hampered free trade, laying out a case at a Southeast Asian forum for Washington’s escalating trade war with Beijing.

Pompeo also said on Sunday that he was “very confident” the United States would be able to build a maritime coalition in the Gulf, despite a lukewarm response from European and Asian allies.

“They understand that they have goods that flow through this region, that are important to their own economies and so deterrence in the Strait is incredibly important to their citizens and to their countries,” he said.

“So, I am confident that when we begin to build out this process and begin to develop the operational concept which will be run by Secretary of Defense and his team, I’m very confident that we will have a global coalition that does what Secretary Esper spoke to,” he added. (REUTERS)

(Production: Jill Gralow, Yiming Woo, Stefica Nicol Bikes)

AFP: No sightings of anti-ship ballistic missile test in West PH Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   July 5, 2019

A Filipino soldier patrols at the shore of Pagasa island (Thitu Island) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/RITCHIE B. TONGO/POOL

MANILA, Philippines – The Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there is no monitored sighting of an anti-ship ballistic test in the West Philippine Sea, following reports of a missile launch by China in the area.

“Based on the report of our operating units, particularly the Joint Task Force West, there is no monitored sighting of anti-ship ballistic missile test conducted in our joint area of operations,” the AFP said in a statement dated July 3.

The military assured it is regularly conducting maritime patrol missions in the Philippine-held island detachments, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

“WESCOM is continuously monitoring our area of responsibility especially in the West Philippine Sea and conducts regular maritime and sovereignty patrol missions incessantly to sustain our presence in the 9 PH-held island detachments,” the AFP said.   

The military issued the statement after Pentagon reported about China’s “disturbing” missile launch near the Spratly (Kalayaan) islands that is contrary to Beijing’s pledge in 2015 not to militarize the man-made outposts in the disputed waterway.

The Philippine Department of National Defense earlier said an inquiry into the said reports will be conducted.

“We will decide later what to do if proven correct,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message sent to reporters.  

Duterte recalls talk with China’s Xi: Oil exploration in WPS could mean ‘trouble’

Marje Pelayo   •   June 28, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte revealed what Chinese President Xi Jinping warned him of during their first meeting in 2016 about oil explorations in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.

Duterte said he was warned by the Chinese president that if the Philippines would attempt to proceed with the oil explorations in the disputed territory, it could mean ‘trouble’.

“Sabi ko, (I told him) ‘I’m going there to dig oil.’ Sabi ni Xi Jinping, (Xi Jinping said) in a whisper: ‘Alam mo Mayor Duterte (You know Mayor Duterte), we just restored our friendship. It was not good for a number of years pero huwag na muna tayo pag-usapan (But let us not talk about it for now),‘ sabi niya (Xi). ‘Let’s talk about helping each other, trade, commerce, investments, China can help.’ Doon na nagstart, (That’s when it all started),” President Duterte said, recalling his conversation with President Xi.

Duterte said that when he again mentioned about South China Sea oil exploration to Xi because the area is “ours”, the Chinese president supposedly replied: “No, that could mean trouble.”

The President made such clarifications to counter critics who question his stance of not sending military back up to the area.

Kayong mga ugok, ang alam niyo kayo lang ang bright, ul*l, ‘pag lumabas ‘yung… (You fools, you think you’re the only smart ones. He (Xi) said, “that is trouble,” ano’ng ibig sabihin niyan (what else could it mean), from the mouth of President (Xi),” the President said.

The Chief Executive has been consistent in his position that the Philippines cannot afford to wage war against China.

His comments came after the incident in Recto Bank where 22 Filipino fishermen engaged in an alleged allision with Chinese crewmen earlier this month.

The fishermen called on the government to bar Chinese fishing in Recto Bank which is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

President Duterte said sorry to the fishermen but the incident, he said, was just a ‘little’ maritime incident and was not a reason for military exercise.

Also, the President insisted that he is not barring Chinese fishermen from fishing in the area “for friendship’s sake”.

“I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. And they are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation,” the President told reporters on June 26.

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