Surveillance system covering 4,406 islands set up:2013-04-21 (Xinhua)
BEIJING - China has established a national island surveillance and monitoring system and completed airborne remote-sensing surveillance of its 4,406 islands, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR).
The national system is mainly built on aerial surveillance, with satellites, unmanned planes and cruisers as auxiliary instruments, the MLR said in its annual land resources report issued Saturday.
Since a national plan on island protection and exploration came into effect in last April, south China's Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have passed their own provincial-level scheme, with Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Hainan completing their draft plan, the ministry said.
Last year, China completed an island name survey, including on-site investigation on part of the atolls in the three island groups known as Sansha in the South China Sea.
The country also released the standard names and geographical coordinates of the Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islands in the East China Sea, as well as other geographical entities in their surrounding waters last year, according to the MLR report.
============================== Japan nearly in, China out of trade talks
By Joseph Boris (China Daily)
The agreement could reshape the Asia-Pacific region, but the world's second-biggest economy remains absent from negotiations, Joseph Boris reports from Washington.
Amid scorching policy debates in Washington over immigration, government finances and gun legislation, a potentially transformative trade agreement being negotiated for the Asia-Pacific region isn't the stuff of banner headlines or Twitter trends.
But the talks, led by the United States and involving 10 other countries (11 if Japan is allowed in, as expected), to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership have the capability to reshape the region geopolitically, given the scope and commercial value of the proposed free-trade zone.
"The TPP is widely viewed as the most significant negotiation currently underway in the international trading system," the US national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said in November.
The possible ramifications of the TPP, as the planned agreement is known, are on the minds of officials and trade experts in China, which is conspicuous by its absence from the talks. That China hasn't been invited to join the negotiations strikes some observers as a huge gap in the TPP, given that the country is the world's second-biggest economy behind the United States, while others cite that power as the reason Beijing should be excluded.
Indian-American economist Jagdish Bhagwati, a staunch proponent of unfettered trade, has derided the TPP, writing in the Financial Times last year that it has been "conceived in a spirit of confronting China rather than promoting trade".
Other advocates of free trade fear that by focusing on regional agreements like the TPP, the world's biggest economies are hindering the ability of the World Trade Organization to enforce uniform rules among nations - creating what Bhagwati has called a messy "spaghetti bowl" of rules that could conflict with each other. The WTO's most recent negotiations, known as the Doha round, were suspended in 2011 after 10 years of fruitless discussion.
"There are already 354 FTAs [free-trade agreements] in force today, and most of the world's trade is subject to one or more of these arrangements," scholars Scott Kennedy and He Fan write in a new report on US-China interaction in global governance.
"The loss of momentum in the Doha round and the existence of so many FTAs (cause and effect are difficult to disentangle) makes it harder to determine the efficacy of a Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and a China-South Korea-Japan FTA. All three are currently being negotiated, and the consequences for trade, investment, and other elements of economic interaction are substantial," write Kennedy and He, who, respectively, are the director of Indiana University's Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business and the deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics and Politics.
Chinese officials and policy analysts sometimes use words like "containment" and "encircle" to describe the intention behind moves by the US and its Asia-Pacific allies, particularly in regard to Washington's much-discussed strategic rebalancing, or "Asia pivot". Such rhetoric has begun creeping into discussions involving China and the TPP. While the rebalance mainly involves redeploying military hardware from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to US air and naval bases in the Pacific, the trade pact is seen by China as that policy's commercial cousin - a way to curtail China's rise.
That view is given weight when Donilon and other US officials ostensibly tasked with security matters speak of the primacy of TPP and what they insist - in hope of reassuring a wary China - are the nonmilitary aspects of the Asia rebalance. There is no mistaking that the stated US goal of increasing exports to countries in an eventual TPP is intertwined with what Washington says is a defensive redeployment to counter North Korea's nuclear weapon ambitions and ensure that sea lanes remain open for trade.
To China, this duality is a potential threat, both strategically and economically. Besides the United States, the countries negotiating the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam - a mix of US allies and trading partners that generally have at least stable relations with China.
Among China's historical rivals in the region, the TPP poses particular challenges. Despite US encouragement to join the talks, South Korea has stayed away, saying it prefers to work out a three-way trade pact with China and Japan. It is Japan, however, that could prove pivotal to the negotiations.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on April 12 that Japan had reached an agreement with the US to become the 12th party to the TPP talks, all but guaranteeing its participation after the endorsement of other negotiators.
Abe, who recently said he had overcome concerns within his nationalist party about agricultural trade in deciding that Japan's economic and security interests require TPP participation, touted the pact's potential benefits and expressed hope that Tokyo will play a leading role in crafting its rules.
In March, when he announced Japan's request to join the TPP, Abe called the agreement a "last chance" for the world's third-biggest economy to help shape new regional trade rules and reverse decades of economic decline. "For Japan to remain inward-looking means we are giving up on the possibility of growth," the prime minister said at the time.
President Barack Obama's administration responded by welcoming Japan to the talks. The newest entrant would boost the free-trade area's impact to 40 percent of the world's economy.
"Japan's entry into this important initiative for the Asian-Pacific region will help it to deliver significant economic benefits to the United States, Japan and the Asian-Pacific region," Acting US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said the same day Abe made his announcement.
A formal invitation to Tokyo could come this weekend when trade ministers from the 11 current TPP countries meet in Indonesia in conjunction with a conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. The 11 current TPP members concluded their 16th negotiating round in Singapore in March with the next round scheduled for May 15 in Peru.
Although Japan would be precluded from taking part in the May talks, given the 90-day timetable for Obama's notification to Congress that the administration intends to start trade talks with the country, its entry could come as soon as July. The TPP is supposed to be completed by the end of this year.
For the US, Japan's participation adds complications to the already-intricate talks. Some members of Congress, particularly Democrats from traditional manufacturing states, have criticized the invitation due to long-standing trade barriers to automobiles and other US goods in the Japanese market. Lawmakers will have a chance, during their 90-day notification and consultation period, to try to persuade the White House to alter the terms of the US TPP invitation or to work bilaterally to address their complaints.
In Beijing, a Commerce Ministry spokesman answered a question last month about Japan's pending entry to the TPP by saying China would "improve communications and talks with the related parties and push forward the progress of our own free trade areas".
"We always think every economy in the world has the right to participate in the process of world economic integration and we always take an open and inclusive attitude for all efforts to push for regional and world cooperation," said the spokesman, Shen Danyang. "We also think that any regional or bilateral free trade agreement should be only a complement to the multilateral trade system, not a replacement for it."
With regard to China, US officials have been more circumspect in discussing the TPP. While recent high-level trips to China by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry touched on the importance of trade generally, the potential agreement wasn't mentioned in public remarks from their meetings with Chinese leaders.
Marantis, the acting trade representative, said at a March 20 briefing in Washington that it's for China to decide whether to seek to join the TPP talks. But he attached a condition to that possibility: China must persuade the 11 - soon to be 12 - existing parties that it could live up to the trade pact's "high standards".
"Whether it's China, whether it's the Philippines, whether it's Thailand, whether it's Taiwan - it's incumbent upon those economies to be able to convince the other TPP partners that they are capable of meeting the high standards that we're negotiating," he said.
US Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat from Alaska, is among those taking a wait-and-see approach to a possible role for China in the proposed trade pact.
"Could China become a party to the talks? I don't know yet - they're such a large player, and we have such strong trade ties to both Japan and China," Begich told China Daily.
"From my end any time we can increase the capacity of trade between Alaska and the Pacific Rim, it's a good thing," he said. "This is a clear opportunity, and we intend to take advantage of it."
China, he pointed out, overtook Japan as his state's top export market in 2012, at nearly $1.5 billion worth of Alaskan seafood, minerals and forestry products. That's more than 10 times the $103 million in goods that America's geographically largest state sold to China in 2000.
As a member of the Senate, which has sole authority in Congress to ratify treaties, Begich will have a chance to vote on whatever TPP terms that the administration negotiates. As of now, he said, the pact is a work in progress.
"The Pacific Rim is a pretty important trading region, but the TPP still has a ways to go before it's ready for a vote," said Begich, adding that senators have been informally debating its terms since meeting with TPP advocate Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii three years ago. (Inouye died in December.)
Begich said he is sympathetic to darker perceptions in China about the TPP, but his priority is commerce for Alaska.
"I think in some ways they may feel threatened, but our role as a country is to ensure that we have open markets and free trade," he said. If the US is to meet Obama's pledge last year to double exports by 2015, regional trade pacts are a way to get there, said the first-term senator, who is a member of the President's Export Council, which advises the administration on promoting US exports.
Begich also has a say on US trade policy as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, though that post wouldn't give him a role in shaping the TPP before it reaches the full Senate. He said, however, that he is open to the idea of China in the free-trade bloc - with conditions.
"We'll look at it. The goal is that they open their markets to further trade," he said, stressing that a TPP invitation would depend on Beijing's compliance with international trade rules set by the WTO.
"Their conduct could encourage folks to look at it," he said of China's possible involvement.
As for the effect of regional agreements like the TPP on broader trade rules, Begich said commerce that benefits all nations requires coordination. Another of these is the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership the US recently began discussing with the European Union.
"With all of these moving pieces, we have to know, 'What does every country want to do?' It's all happening fast, and we have to be careful everyone isn't leveraging against each other."
He also said US negotiators shouldn't shy away from using trade talks to raise concerns with China in sensitive areas such as cyber security, labor standards and human rights.
"For us to put a kind of blind eye to that would be a mistake," said Begich, who in early April was named to head the Senate's US-China Inter-Parliamentary Group, which works with members of China's National People's Congress to improve bilateral ties through visits to each other's country. He said his top priority in the informal post will be to advance trade between the world's two biggest economies and that NPC members will likely visit Washington later this year.
Obama, addressing an APEC summit in Hawaii in November, said the TPP "has the potential to be a potential model not only for the Asia-Pacific but for future trade agreements" because it "addresses a whole range of issues not covered by past agreements, including market regulations".
Unlike most past trade agreements, the various texts from TPP negotiations haven't been made public, prompting criticism from government-accountability activists in the US. In a letter to Obama, two dozen groups including Public Citizen and the American Library Association demanded greater transparency given the "unprecedented scope" of the TPP's subject matter and the countries potentially involved.
Several Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives have also complained to the administration for leaving them out of the loop and have pushed for greater access to the talks themselves. Like the activists in their letter, the lawmakers have noted the sweeping impact of the pact - on labor, food safety, environmental protection, patents, financial services, health care, energy and telecommunications, all of which are normally regulated by Congress.
The US Trade Representative's Office has said that the TPP parties are engaged in a customary agreement to keep their talks private but that the agency "consults extensively with key congressional committees, interested members of Congress, as well as a wide range of trade advisory committees".
David Dreier, a Republican former congressman from California, believes the US should push for China's accession to the TPP.
"It is in the interests of the US that China be part of this partnership. It is inconceivable that either nation could thrive if the other doesn't," he wrote last week in a Wall Street Journal opinion essay.
"China can ultimately be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the TPP and its high standards on investment, services and intellectual property," wrote Dreier, who served in the House for 32 years until January. US officials, he said, "must find ways to talk to a wide spectrum of stakeholders in China ... on TPP and a shared future as leaders in global trade".
Contact the writer at email@example.com
======================================================Chinese Defense White Paper Challenges American Leadership, Military Readiness
April 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm
On the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony to Congress on securing American interests abroad, the release of the Chinese defense white paper is a reminder of the significant challenges confronting the U.S. in the Asia–Pacific region.
Sequestration may have Washington in knots, but there is no comparable situation in Beijing. The eighth Chinese defense white paper highlights that China’s military is not only substantial and modernizing, but that it will be a growing factor worldwide. This matters immensely to the U.S. because our interests and those of the Chinese—from Syria and Iran to the Korean Peninsula, East China Sea, and South China Sea—so often are at odds.
Retitled “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” this year’s white paper discusses the roles and organization of the Chinese armed forces, including not only the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but also the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) and the militia.
For the first time, the Chinese are providing some insights into the PLA’s “order of battle,” i.e., how their forces are organized and deployed. The PLA Army, for example, is described as fielding some 18 combined-arms corps, as well as some independent divisions, with a strength of 850,000 men. These 18 corps are deployed to seven “military area commands,” what were formerly termed “military regions.”
The PLA Navy (PLAN) is formed into three fleets, with a total of 235,000 personnel. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has 398,000 personnel, with an “air command” (formerly “military region air force”) in each of the military area commands. The PLA Second Artillery Force controls both nuclear and conventional missile forces, and is “primarily responsible for deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China, and carrying out nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles.”
The key tasks for the PLA include:
Safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity, and supporting China’s peaceful development;
Preparing to fight and win “local wars under informationized conditions,” and expanding and intensifying military preparedness;
Supporting comprehensive security and effectively conducting military operations other than war (MOOTW), such as disaster relief and counterterrorist operations; and
Deepening security cooperation with other nations and fulfilling international obligations.
Interestingly, all of this is to be achieved while “acting in accordance with laws, policies, and disciplines.” This last line reflects an ongoing effort by the PLA to establish a framework of national laws and military policies and regulations to govern military activities—essential as the PLA becomes a larger player on the international stage.It is also a reminder of the Chinese emphasis on legal warfare.
The latest white paper provides further insight into the role of the Chinese military in supporting national development. This entails not only helping to build key infrastructure projects and promoting scientific and technological development, but also supporting civilian authorities. While some of this relates to disaster relief, the Chinese armed forces, especially the PAPF, are also charged with maintaining social stability.
Strikingly, this edition of the Chinese white paper emphasizes maritime roles. In discussing the defense of national sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity, the maritime aspect is specifically referenced. Much of the discussion of border security, for example, is about coastal security. Safeguarding national development is equated with safeguarding maritime development and maritime interests.
The need to maintain combat readiness is exemplified by naval training. Indeed, it would seem likely that the PLAN will be pursuing more realistic blue-water training in the future. And China’s international cooperative efforts will include additional focus on preserving the security of the international sea lanes.
With each edition of the Chinese defense white paper, a little more is revealed about the Chinese military. How this compares with the American assessment, embodied in the annual Department of Defense report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities, remains to be seen. But what the Chinese report makes clear is that the Chinese will not be reducing their capabilities or shrinking their presence any time soon.
As every American Presidential Administration makes clear, in word, if not always in deed, the U.S. is a Pacific nation and a resident power in Asia. It cannot continue to play its indispensible role in Asia if current trend lines continue. The region, the global economy, and ultimately the United States itself will pay a price for its absence, in blood and treasure.
=========================================================An ascendant Japan would boost U.S. interests
By Vance Serchuk, Published: April 18
Vance Serchuk, a former foreign policy adviser to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, is a Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi international affairs fellow, based at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, in Tokyo. He writes a monthly column for The Post.
As the Obama administration grapples with North Korea, U.S. officials are investing considerable hope in securing Chinese cooperation. If that support fails to materialize — while Beijing continues to display unhelpful assertiveness on issues such as cyberspace and the South China Sea — concerns are likely to deepen in Washington about the kind of great power China is proving to be.
Here in Tokyo, such worries about China are already well-entrenched — and provoking as much anxiety as are developments on the Korean Peninsula. But they are also the source of something paradoxically hopeful: an impetus, albeit still tentative, for reform and renewal.
In the past two decades, Japan has become all too synonymous with decline, hobbled by anemic growth, dysfunctional politics and death-spiral demographics.
But, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like a noose, and for the Japanese, China’s recent assertiveness — in particular, its continuing dispatch of ships and aircraft to a group of East China Sea islands (called the Senkakus by the Japanese and the Diaoyu by China) — has previewed the future they face if Beijing keeps rising and Tokyo keeps falling. It is an East Asia, many here fear, that will be governed not by the rules-based international order the United States has nurtured but rather by Thucydides’s dictum in the Melian Dialogue: “The strong do as they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”
Behind closed doors, as a result, Japanese leaders and officials speak with new urgency about the necessity of painful and long-deferred reforms — including structural, economic and defense-related measures — that, until recently, seemed politically infeasible.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which required going against deeply entrenched interests in the governing Liberal Democratic Party, is one example. There are encouraging signs that more will follow. While no one is eager to say so publicly, fear of being eclipsed by China is a major reason this decisiveness is now possible.
Of course, no one in Tokyo welcomes deteriorating relations with Beijing. Contrary to cliches about Japan’s resurgent nationalism, leaders have sought to contain and deescalate the confrontation over the Senkakus, exercising caution.
But Tokyo is right to worry about the implications of the growing gap between Chinese and Japanese power, and the United States has an overwhelming interest in a Japan that gets off the sidelines and back on its feet — economically, diplomatically and militarily.
In fact, nothing would bolster the Obama administration’s rebalance of East Asia more than a reinvigorated Japan. While most of the Asian countries that China has tried to intimidate in recent years have been developing powers — considerably weaker and poorer than Beijing — Japan is still the world’s third-largest economy and a high-tech powerhouse that, despite spending less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, possesses one of the most advanced militaries in Asia.
This means Japan is among the very few Asian powers with considerable untapped capacity not only to shoulder a greater share of its own defense but also to help the United States reinforce broader regional security — provided it can summon the political will to do so.
Of particular importance will be the raft of defense reforms the Abe government is likely to take up later this year. These include steps that many U.S. strategists have long sought, such as a reinterpretation of the Japanese constitution that would allow Tokyo to engage in“collective self-defense” with Washington; the creation of a national security council to better manage decision-making; and, possibly, a boost in spending on the Japanese Self-Defense Forces beyond the modest increase adopted this year.
The Obama administration has responded to Chinese-Japanese tensions over the Senkakus with appropriate caution, expressing support for its allies in Tokyo while urging “cooler heads to prevail.”
At the same time, the next 12 to 24 months could prove a rare window of opportunity to take the U.S.-Japan alliance to the next level. Washington should strongly encourage the tough reforms that will allow Tokyo to play a larger role on the world stage.
To be sure, Japan’s structural problems, particularly in its economy and demographics, are daunting and deeply rooted. Even with China providing an inadvertent push, it is far too early to judge whether the Abe government will prove capable of overcoming these — the real key to long-term renewal.
But even a partial reversal, or deceleration, of Japan’s decline could make a big difference to the Asian balance of power and to the U.S. position in the region.
Legend has it that the commander of Japan’s fleet during the strike on Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, warned afterward , “I fear all we have done today is awaken a great, sleeping giant.” The quote is likely apocryphal, but its strategic insight is not — as China’s leaders may discover, should they continue antagonizing their neighbor to the east.
===========================================================Gazprom to Drill Vietnam Offshore Gas in June
MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian energy giant Gazprom plans to start gas production off Vietnam’s coast in June, Gazprom Deputy CEO Vitaly Markelov said on Thursday.
In 2012, Gazprom received stakes in developing Blocks 05-2 and 05-3 in the southeastern part of the South China Sea. Two gas condensate fields have been opened in the blocks, Moc Tinh (05-3) and Hai Tchach (05-2 and 05-3) with reserves estimated at 55.6 billion cubic meters of gas and 25 million tons of gas condensate.
The deposits are located some 320 km from the Vung Tau coast area. The Nam Con Son underwater gas pipeline is in close proximity to the blocks. The deposits are 100-135 meters deep water.
“It is planned to build 16 exploitation wells to develop the deposits. Currently, the project is at the deposit development infrastructure stage. Work continues to build the fourth exploitation well at the WHP-MT1 extracting platform (the Moc Tinh deposit). Gas extraction is expected to start in June 2013,” Markelov told Gazprom magazine.
============================================China Unveils Its Military Structure for First Time
BEIJING, April 16 (RIA Novosti) – China revealed the composition and structure of its armed forces, including its nuclear deterrent, for the first time on Tuesday in a new edition of a white paper on national defense that also elaborates the country’s new security plan.
The document, titled “The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces,” is China’s eighth white paper on national defense since 1998, but it is the first time the country has made public figures and information regarding the structure of its armed forces.
According to the white paper, China's armed forces are composed of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the People's Armed Police Force and the militia.
The PLA, in turn, consists of an army, navy, air force and the Second Artillery Force, which is the core of China’s nuclear deterrence.
The army includes 18 combined corps and has a total of 850,000 troops. They are deployed in seven military area commands (MACs): Beijing, Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
The navy is composed of three fleets: the Beihai Fleet, the Donghai Fleet and the Nanhai Fleet, comprising a total of 235,000 sailors.
The air force has a total of 398,000 troops, and deploys an air command in each of the seven MACs.
The Second Artillery Force is mainly composed of nuclear and conventional missile forces and operational support units, and is “primarily responsible for deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China, and carrying out nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles,” the document said.
The force has a series of Dong Feng ballistic missiles and Chang Jian cruise missiles, it said.
According to the white paper, “China advocates a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and pursues comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security.”
However, it stresses that the country is facing "multiple and complicated security threats" and emphasizes China’s need to protect its "national unification, territorial integrity and development interests."
The document lists the growing US presence in the Asia-Pacific region, territorial disputes with Japan and the activities of separatist forces in Taiwan as major challenges on the international arena.
These and other challenges make it necessary “to build a strong national defense and powerful armed forces which are commensurate with China's international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests.”
China is the second largest military spender in the world after the United States. Its military spending rose by 175 percent between 2003 and 2012, reaching $166 billion last year, according to data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on Monday.
China's first aircraft carrier 'preparing for first long distance mission'
By Tom Phillips, Shanghai
10:34AM BST 19 Apr 2013
China's first aircraft carrier could make its maiden long distance journey "within the year", state media has announced in a further indication of the country's growing military clout.
The 990ft Liaoning carrier – which was formally brought into service last September – is now preparing for its first major outing, CCTV reported.
"A big country cannot do without aircraft carriers," said Zhang Zheng, the carrier's captain, whose first encounter with an aircraft carrier came in Portsmouth, in 2002.
The Liaoning is a former Soviet carrier that was reportedly purchased from Ukraine in 1999 before being refitted at a naval base in northeast China.
In March, a Chinese shipping expert, Lan Yun, told state media its first major voyage could take between one and three months and see the Liaoning reach "waters near Japan's Okinawa islands and even Guam".
The high-profile announcement came in a series of reports about the aircraft carrier, timed to coincide with the 64th anniversary of China's navy next Tuesday.
"The navy has to protect the security of the country and its economic interests," the China Daily reported in a front-page article headlined: "China's ocean-going giant."
A J-15 fighter jet on the flight deck of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning (Reuters)
Carriers made "a huge difference to the military capabilities of the countries that had them," the newspaper added, pointing to the Royal Navy's HMS Argus which became the first fully-functional vessel of its type in 1918.
Liu Zhigang, a first officer on the carrier, told the newspaper the carrier could "serve as a guide for the transformation of the Chinese navy, from coastal defence to greater responsibilities in deep oceans."
"The Chinese navy needs to reach every place that other countries can reach to support the country's growth. The navy has to be able to compete with any naval force from any country in any area," he said. "We can refit an aircraft carrier and be fully combat-capable much faster than most experts expected."
Beijing's apparent determination to extend its control over the seas with a "blue-water force" comes at a time of increasingly acrimonious maritime disputes with neighbouring countries such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
China has also expressed public concern over the United States' "pivot" to Asia, which Beijing views as a direct threat to the country's rise.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for China's defence ministry said the US' growing presence in the region was "not conducive to the upholding of peace and stability".
Reports suggest China is currently developing at least two "home-grown" aircraft carriers and is now moving ahead with plans to build nuclear-powered carriers. Last year, the country's annual defence budget grew to over £65bn, making it the world's second largest.
Behind China's suggestion of COC
VietNamNet Bridge – China’s unexpected proposal to negotiate with ASEAN on the Code of Conduct on the East Sea (COC) after its recent provoking activities makes related countries feel incomprehensible.
The East Sea disputes
A soldier on Da Tay B Island.
On April 11, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in the meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Brunei, that China and ASEAN countries would come together to discuss the building of the COC. It is special in this statement is that the meeting was proposed by China, the country that recently strengthen the implementation of aggressive behaviors in the disputed area in the East Sea.
China’s proposal has caused a bit of a surprise to many people because China is still carrying out actions asserting its sovereignty in the east Sea. These are mainly unilateral actions based on power to negate the interests of other countries in the disputed area. It had been thought that Beijing would continue tough attitude in the issues of territorial sovereignty, then they proposed to discuss the COC, the mechanism that China always refused to discuss.
The COC, in principle, is a more binding mechanism than the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC). More specifically, the COC will be a code of conduct for the purpose of managing disputes, not to let’s dispute evolve into unnecessary conflicts.
China’s initiative in this case would create more confusion, but it is sure to get huge welcome from the ASEAN countries. So far, the delay of COC has made the situation in the East Sea become uncertain and difficult to predict. China is still doing what they think right, while other countries such as Vietnam or the Philippines are still struggling to protect their sovereignty. If the COC is signed, it will bring about many long-term benefits, and the nearest benefit is to reduce tensions in the East Sea, help make this important region into a zone of peace, stability and sustainable development.
But China’s sudden offer to negotiate with ASEAN on the COC after a period of time making provoking activities in the East Sea makes related countries feel incomprehensible. However, some predictions can be made for this situation.
Firstly, it seems that after the time of provoking, with tests, and was violently protested from the international community, China has realized that they cannot continue to maintain the "hawk" policy if it still wants to continue development without having pressure or criticism.
China is now criticized and under pressure of the West on its monetary policy, with the maintenance of low price for the yuan, while its policy on the East Sea has made its image in the eyes of neighbors and other countries worse.
The deterioration in economic relations with partners and in political relations with neighboring countries is certainly not a positive expression for the "peaceful rise", and its declaration of "peaceful coexistence is visible a lie. Therefore, making proposal on the negotiation of the COC can be a positive change (!), showing China’s wish of mediation, a manifestation of the self-limitation of power and be willing to participate in institutions, thereby reducing the threat to neighboring countries and improving the image of China (?).
Second, China may worry about the lawsuit of the Philippines against it at the International Court when the Philippines seem to be quite confident. If the Philippines are successful in the lawsuit, China will be subject to the mandatory legal rulings, even have to abandon its ambitious U-shaped line. It is more danger that this lawsuit will create legal precedent for the countries with maritime disputes with China to sue China.
With weak legal basis primarily based on the distortion, the possibility that China can protect itself against these lawsuits is not high, and then the maritime interests of China will no longer exist. Compared with that, the prospect of a COC, if binding, is also a smart choice because it still guarantees the long-term interests of China. Furthermore, in the process of building COC, China may also hope that the Philippines will withdraw its lawsuit.
Third, under the pressure of the international community and the lawsuit of the Philippines, China finds that it does not want to be pushed or passive, so to avoid other countries, particularly the United States, to put it into the rules of the game that they do not want, China will actively establish its rules.
In the previous tenure, the Obama administration expressed the view of endeavoring to put through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), so in this tenure, the adoption of UNCLOS likely happens if China continues to act regardless of international law health.
With the thought of being the leader and the protector of the world order, the U.S. will rely on international law to create legitimacy, to intervene in the East Sea conflict and promote the building of a more building COC with China. Meanwhile, China will also be constrained by the U.S. military power, and the legal constraints created by the U.S.
Meanwhile, the active building of the COC will help china make the rules in their favor, thereby ensuring long-term interests of China in the East Sea and eliminating the excuse for the US to be able to participate in the region.
Fourth, the lessons of the negotiation process of the COC with China in 1999 - 2002 showed that under the increasing pressure of the international community and the US’ assertion of support for the building of the COC, China likely COC proposed negotiation of the COC to distract the world opinion without the goodwill of cooperation to build the COC.
In the past, China agreed to negotiate the COC with ASEAN just because of the pressure from international community and the increase of the risk of war in the region. But the negotiations failed due to disagreements between the parties and instead of the COC, the DOC was signed, with no legal value.
Therefore, in this case, it can be worried that China offered the proposal just to remove pressure from the international community, as well as the U.S. intervention in the process of building COC. Since then, China may put pressure on the ASEAN countries in the negotiation process, and most likely, this COC will also go into the same track with the COC negotiation in 1999 - 2002 if the ASEAN countries do not have careful preparation and needed support.
A more appropriate COC must meet several basic elements and the most important thing is the binding that all related countries, especially China, has to support and follow.
Such a mechanism needs to be established based on multilateral cooperation between the parties. China’s move, as being discussed above, there will be no major impact to the field sovereignty and the current situation in the East Sea. This action only as a way for China to ease the current situation, reduce tension to deal with more pressing issues (North Korea) because after all, the COC is only a management mechanism not the way to resolve disputes.
Vu Thanh Cong - Nguyen The Phuong