MonitorsPublished on Mar 08, 2017
South China Sea | Vol. VI, Issue 3

THE ISSUE: China announces observation platforms in the South China Sea

 Adding to the already existing number of constructions, Beijing announced that it is in the process of building an underwater observation platform in the South China Sea. The platform will serve as an observation station for studying underwater conditions in real time and will be built with the help of Tongji University and the Institute of Acoustics. The announcement came in late February and close on the heels of another declaration that the country plans to develop floating nuclear power plants in the South China Sea. The purpose of the plants will be to supply electricity to islands in the region, especially to the offshore projects being established by China and to benefit oil and gas exploration. The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has informed that the country plans to develop 20 such nuclear plants, which are expected to begin operations around 2019, to boost both power and water supplies. The platforms are also expected to facilitate power supply in times of emergency and natural disasters. China started building its first floating nuclear power reactor in November last year. The underwater observation platform, which will be the first of its kind, will explore undersea physical, chemical, and geological dynamics along with being directed at other purposes. It is not very clear what these other purposes might be. Constructions being built by China on the islands and reefs that dot the South China Sea have the subject of deliberations over the last few years. They have drawn attention primarily for three reasons. First, these constructions which include artificial islands and air strips besides the platforms announced in February are located in maritime territory that is disputed with competing sovereignty claims made by China and littoral countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia among others. Second, the nature and objective of the constructions is of concern among countries in the Asia-Pacific region which many suspecting that military and naval utilization by China cannot be ruled out.  The third reason is the pace at which China seems to be developing the constructions. While the reefs, atolls and waters of the South China Sea have been disputed for years, it is only recently that Beijing has begun to ‘reclaim’ the physical space of the region. China is increasingly and intensely feeling the pressures of rising energy needs along with what gradually appears to be a slowing economic growth. The developments being pursued by China in its immediate maritime space can be understood as the country’s response to the need for meeting its energy demands and also giving a fillip to the economy. What is interesting for observers and disconcerting for those concerned is the ambit that China regards as its sovereign space. Having refused to acknowledge the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July last year, Beijing’s insistence and interpretation of what constitutes as its sovereign territory and its denial of international law and dispute resolution measures have contributed to both ambiguity and apprehension regarding the objectives behind its actions in the South China Sea.


China to build first underwater platform in South China Sea

China will build its first long-term underwater observation platform in resource-rich South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with many south-east Asian countries including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The platform aims to observe underwater conditions in real time. “Construction work on the long-term observation platform covering key areas in the South China and East China seas will be done with the help of Shanghai’s Tongji University and the Institute of Acoustics,” Wang Pinxian, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said. Source:(The Indian Express)

Indonesia to raise prospect of joint patrols with Australia in South China Sea

Indonesia President Joko Widodo will discuss the prospect of joint patrols with Australia in the South China Sea when he meets his counterpart Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the weekend. Widodo said he would like to see joint patrols with Australia, but only if did not further inflame tensions with China. Indonesia has traditionally taken a neutral position on the South China Sea, acting as a buffer between China and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that have the most at stake, the Philippines and Vietnam. Source: (Reuters)

China urges US to contribute to peace in South China Sea

China said on Tuesday that it hoped the United States would do what is good to the peace and stability in the South China Sea as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began patrolling the region. "China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight of all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, but we oppose those who threaten and harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation and overflight," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at the daily press briefing. Source: (Xinhua)

ASEAN ministers call for continuous South China Sea dialogue

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) noted the importance of sustaining the momentum of dialogue in easing the tensions in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines' top diplomat said on Tuesday. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said that a number of his counterparts expressed concern over the possible militarization of some areas in the region during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Boracay. The foreign ministers affirmed the importance of pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to use of force and in accordance with the international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Source: (Philstar)

China wraps up exercise with three warships in South China Sea

Three Chinese warships on Friday wrapped up a week of scheduled training exercises in the South China Sea, shortly after China's sole aircraft carrier tested its weapons in the disputed region. The flotilla of warships, including a destroyer that can launch guided missiles, had been conducting drills since Friday last week and were now sailing to the eastern India Ocean and the Western Pacific. The training included sudden attack drills and had been carried out successfully in poor sea conditions. Source:(Economic Times)

Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea

Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China, three people with knowledge of the plan said. Japan previously was building one 5,000-ton class destroyer a year, but will now make two 3,000-ton class ships a year, beginning from the April 2018 fiscal year, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media. It aims to produce a fleet of eight of the new class of smaller, cheaper vessels, which may also have mine-sweeping and anti-submarine capability. Source: (Reuters)

China plans to build floating nuclear plants in South China Sea

China has said it will develop floating nuclear power plants on a priority basis in the South China Sea as it seeks to beef up electricity supply to the islands in the disputed maritime region. China will prioritise the development of a floating nuclear power platform in the coming five years, in an effort to provide stable power to offshore projects and promote ocean gas exploitation. The development of the facility is a crucial part of the country's five-year economic development plan, running through 2020. Source: (NDTV)

China says US  should 'brush up on' South China Sea history

The United States needs to brush up on its history about the South China Sea, as World War Two-related agreements mandated that all Chinese territories taken by Japan had to be returned to China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Australia. China has been upset by previous comments from the new U.S. administration about the disputed waterway. In his Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built there. The White House also vowed to defend "international territories" in the strategic waterway. Source: (Reuters)

China welcomes Mattis' emphasis on South China Sea diplomacy

China welcomed U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' suggestion that diplomacy should be the priority in the South China Sea, and that major U.S. military action was not being considered to contend with China's assertive behavior there. Mattis, speaking in Tokyo, blamed China for "shredding the trust of nations in the region", but also played down any need for U.S. military maneuvers in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and instead called for open lines of communication. Source: (Reuters)



 Quoc-Thanh Nguyen, “Vietnam's Energy Exports Could Help Rebuild Ties With China”, The Diplomat, February 28, 2017 Charmaine Deogracias, “ASEAN’s 50th Year Agenda: Beyond the South China Sea?”, Myanmar Times, February 28, 2017 Raissa Robles, “Duterte plays a dangerous game in the South China Sea”, South China Morning Post, February 27, 2017 Lyle J. Morris, “The New ‘Normal’ in the East China Sea”, The Diplomat, February 24, 2017 Richard Javad Heydarian, “Why Asia Is Trembling Over a U.S.-China South China Sea Showdown”, The National Interest, February 23, 2017 Koh Swee Lean Collin, “Vietnam's Got a New South China Sea Strategy”, The National Interest, February 16, 2017 Alexander L. Vuving, “How America Can Take Control in the South China Sea”, Foreign Policy, February 13, 2017 Kyle Mizokami, “What Makes China's Fake Island Military Bases in the South China Sea So Dangerous”, The National Interest, February 12, 2017 Amy Searight and Geoffrey Hartman, “Donald Trump's Huge South China Sea Problem (And What To Do About It)”, The National Interest, February 8, 2017 Harry J. Kazianis, “Why China could declare a South China Sea ADIZ right about now”, Asia Times, February 1, 2017
Editor: K. Yhome Associate Editor: Pratnashree Basu    
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