U.S. warship sails near disputed South China Sea islands: U.S. official

UNTV News   •   October 1, 2018   •   3575

An aerial view of uninhabited island of Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a U.S. official told Reuters, potentially angering Beijing at a time of tense relations between the two countries.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war that has seen them impose increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other’s imports.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the destroyer Decatur traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“We conduct routine and regular freedom-of-navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” the U.S. official added.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the area and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and are separate from political considerations.

The latest move comes at a particularly tense time in relations between the United States and China.

Friction between the world’s two biggest economies is now moving beyond trade, with U.S. President Donald Trump accusing Beijing this week of seeking to interfere in congressional elections, marking a new phase in an escalating campaign by Washington to put pressure on China.

China recently denied a request for a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong and this month Beijing postponed joint military talks in protest against a U.S. decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and a surface-to-air missile system.

In May two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by David Goodman

PHL, Chinese Coast Guard hold joint maritime drills in Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard on Wednesday conducted joint maritime drills on search and rescue and combating fire at sea in the waters off the Philippine capital.

In a statement, the PCG said participating Filipino and Chinese personnel were given a scenario involving a vessel that caught fire while transiting Manila waters.

In response, the PCG deployed its 44-meter multi-role response vessel 4401, BRP Tubbataha, while the Chinese team dispatched vessel 5204. Both ships were equipped with water cannons used in firefighting assistance.

Five passengers and eight crew aboard the distressed ship were also rescued using rigid hull inflatable boats with rescue swimmers to aid the victims.

The PCG said the drill allows coast guard personnel to exercise interoperability and strengthen their capabilities in responding to such crises.

The joint maritime drills on search and rescue, and combating fire at sea are part of the week-long activities of Chinese Coast Guard’s port call in Manila.

The visit aims to strengthen understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between the Philippines and China Coast Guard in a bid to promote maritime security and maritime law enforcement amid the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

PH, China Coast Guard to hold joint maritime exercises next week

Robie de Guzman   •   January 10, 2020

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese Coast Guard vessel is pictured on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Coast Guard will dock in Manila on Monday, January 13 for a five-day goodwill visit, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Friday.

PCG spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said the China Coast Guard, headed by Director General Major General Wang Zhongcai, will visit the country for the conduct of maritime exercises with the PCG.

Participating coast guard members from the two countries will also hold search and rescue, and firefighting exercises. The drill will be held from January 13 to 17.

Balilo said that during the port visit, the Chinese and the Philippine coast guards will come up with a resolution that would ensure the security and safety of Filipino fishermen and public vessels traversing the country’s waters.

The PCG said it will welcome the China Coast Guard not with red carpet but with diplomatic reciprocity, the same way it welcomed the PCG during a past visit.

The Philippines has been in dispute with China over territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

On several cases, Chinese ships were reported to have been circling shoals under the Philippine territory, including the vicinity of Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea. There were also cases of Filipino vessels reportedly harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

The PCG expressed hope that the drill would be an opportunity for both sides to discuss the issue, and help improve the line of communication between the two nations when it comes to maritime patrol.

“Para magkaintindihan din kasi ang iniisip nga namin kung merong ma-enhance iyong pagkakaibigan baka sakaling magkaintindihan, even doon sa patrol at tsaka sa mga challenges, baka magkaroon ng tamang protocol kung paano ang dapat na engagement,” Balilo said.

Indonesian president visits island in waters disputed by Beijing

UNTV News   •   January 8, 2020

Jakarta – The president of Indonesia on Wednesday visited an island in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid a weeks-long standoff between Indonesian and Chinese vessels, an outgrowth of the ongoing territorial spat in which Jakarta and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the area.

Joko Widodo made the symbolic trip to Natuna Besar – the main island of the Middle Natuna Archipelago in the Riau Islands province – in a bid to assert Indonesia’s claims of ownership of the waters. There, he met with local fishermen and talked to reporters.

“I am here too to ensure law enforcement for our sovereign rights – our country’s sovereign rights – over the richness of our marine natural resources in the exclusive economic zone,” Widodo said. “Why are Bakamla (the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency) and the Navy here? To ensure the rule of law.”

The leader, who was re-elected to a second term in April of last year, added that Indonesia had a district, a regent and a governor in the area. “There are no more debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”

Meanwhile, Geng Shuang, the main spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Beijing had repeatedly reiterated its sovereignty and jurisdiction over relevant waters in the South China Sea.

“I have to stress that China and Indonesia have no territorial sovereignty disputes. Our claims for maritime interests in certain waters in South China Sea overlap,” Geng said. “We are ready to properly handle the differences with Indonesia and uphold the peace and stability in the region as well as our two countries’ relations. Actually, we have been in communication through diplomatic channels.”

The face-off between the two Asian nations erupted in the second half of December when a Chinese coast guard ship that was escorting several fishing vessels entered waters that Jakarta says belong to its EEZ (though Beijing claims the waters as its own, along with most of the South China Sea).

In response to the incursion, Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador, issued a letter of protest and sent warships and fighter jets to strengthen its military presence in the area, which it re-named the North Natuna Sea in 2017. Beijing, in turn, deployed another coast guard boat.

On Tuesday, Indonesia sent four more warships as reinforcement. The Southeast Asian country currently has a naval presence of 10 military vessels around Natuna.

The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.

Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA

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