Thursday, May 28, 2015

• Pentagon chief urges end to island-building in South China Sea By David Alexander

 Pentagon renews call for China to end island building in South China Sea
WASHINGTON - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter met a top Chinese general on Thursday and repeated a U.S. call for a halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea while stressing that the Pentagon remained committed to expanding military contacts with China.

In the meeting with General Fan Changlong, a deputy head of China's powerful Central Military Commission, Carter stressed his commitment to developing "a sustained and substantive U.S.-China military-to-military relationship," the Pentagon said.

It said this would be based on a shared desire to deepen cooperation in areas, including humanitarian assistance, disaster response, peacekeeping, counter-piracy, as well as "constructive management of differences".

In reiterating U.S. concerns about tensions in the South China Sea, Carter called on China and all rival claimants to halt land reclamation and militarization of disputed territory, and to pursue a peaceful resolution in accordance with international law, the Pentagon statement said.

Carter also reaffirmed his commitment to reach a consensus by September on a memorandum of understanding aimed at reducing the risk of accidents when the two countries' aircraft operate in close proximity, the statement said.

Fan's visit to the Pentagon was part of a week-long visit to the United States, which will include a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice at the White House on Friday. Earlier this week, Fan visited the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and U.S. military bases.

Wu Xi, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Wednesday that Fan's trip was aimed at preparing the way for a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.

Wu said differences over the South China Sea and issues such as cyber security should not be addressed by "microphone diplomacy" but in "a proper way" to ensure Xi's visit was successful.

China protested to the United States last month after a U.S. spy plane with a television crew aboard flew close to artificial islands China has been building in the South China Sea. China says it has the right to build such islands.

The need for an understanding on air operations was shown last year when the Pentagon accused a Chinese fighter pilot of conducting a "dangerous intercept" of a U.S. Navy patrol plane by flying a few yards (meters) from the U.S. jet and performing acrobatic maneuvers around it. — Reuters

Pentagon chief urges end to island-building in South China Sea
By David Alexander

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives to make a personnel announcement in the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas 
"We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come," Carter said.
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called on Wednesday for an immediate end to island-building by China and other countries near the South China Sea, urging the participants to stop militarizing the dispute and find a peaceful solution.

Carter said China's island-building efforts were "out of step" with the regional consensus and that U.S. military aircraft and warships would continue to operate in the area as permitted under international law.

"China's actions are bringing countries in the region together in new ways," he said in a military ceremony in Hawaii. "They're increasing demand for American engagement in the Asia-Pacific. We're going to meet it."

"We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come," Carter said.

Carter's comments, at Pearl Harbor, came a week after the U.S. Navy sent a P-8 reconnaissance plane carrying navy and television camera crews to film Chinese island-building activity in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

In Beijing, the foreign ministry said the United States had "double standards."

"I want to empathize that the U.S. has been selectively mute on individual countries that have selectively occupied China's islands and reefs, but have made irresponsible remarks on the construction activities that are lawful, fair and reasonable within China’s scope of sovereignty," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing on Thursday.

"The Chinese people can make their own judgment. No one has the right to tell China what to do," she added.

U.S. officials say China has added some 2,000 acres (800 hectares) to five outposts in the Spratlys, including 1,500 acres since the start of this year.

"We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features," Carter said in his remarks.

"With its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific's security architecture," he added.

The U.S. aircraft that flew near the Spratlys was repeatedly warned by a Chinese navy radio operator to leave the area.

The islands are claimed by several other countries in the region, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Manila has been particularly vocal in the region in criticizing China's reclamation work, and Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin had talks with Carter while attending the ceremony in Hawaii.

"The US expressed alarm on unilateral activities that are inconsistent with international law," Gazmin said in a text message. "Unilateral actions escalate tensions which may lead to actual conflict. Actions that could lead to accidents and untoward incidents due to miscalculations should be avoided."

Carter is on the first leg of a trip that will take him to Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security conference and then on to Vietnam and India, where he will discuss maritime security issues and boosting security ties.

His comments came at a change-of-command ceremony for the U.S. military's Pacific Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region.


Singapore (AFP) - The United States on Saturday vowed to keep sending military aircraft and ships to disputed parts of the South China Sea and called for an immediate halt to reclamation works by Beijing in the tense region

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a high-level security conference in Singapore that Beijing's intensifying reclamation activity was "out of step" with international norms.

"First, we want a peaceful resolution of all disputes. To that end, there should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants," Carter said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on security with a high-level Chinese military delegation attending.

"We also oppose any further militarisation of disputed features," he said.

He acknowledged that other claimants have developed outposts of differing scope and degree, including Vietnam with 48, the Philippines with eight, Malaysia with five and Taiwan with one.

"Yet, one country has gone much farther and much faster than any other.

"And that's China. China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other claimants combined and more than in the entire history of the region. And China did so in only the last 18 months
," Carter said.

Sun Jianguo (R) from the Chinese PLA Navy, attends US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's speech, during the 14th Asia Security Summit, the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore, on May 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

"It is unclear how much farther China will go. That is why this stretch of water has become the source of tension in the region and front-page news around the world."

- Chinese actions 'reasonable and justified' -
In comments during a question and answer session after Carter's speech, a Chinese military official said his criticism was "groundless and not constructive".

"Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is not at all an issue because the freedom has never been affected," said Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo from China's Academy of Military Science.

"I think China's activities are legitimate, reasonable and justified," Zhao added.

Chinese delegation head Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff department at the People's Liberation Army, is scheduled to address the forum on Sunday.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter attends the first plenary session at the 14th Asia Security Summit, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore, on May 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Last week the Chinese military ordered a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to leave an area above the heavily disputed Spratly Islands. But the American plane ignored the demand.

"There should be no mistake

the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as US forces do all around the world," Carter said in Singapore.

"America, alongside its allies and partners in the regional architecture, will not be deterred from exercising these rights -– the rights of all nations. After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit."

Beijing has accused Washington of singling out China over an activity that other countries in the region are also engaged in.

China insists it has sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, a major global shipping route believed to be home to oil and gas reserves.

- Code of conduct -
In his speech, Carter urged China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to adopt a "code of conduct" in the disputed waters this year.

The code is expected to build on a non-binding 2002 pledge by countries with competing claims to respect freedom of navigation, resolve disputes peacefully and refrain from inflaming the situation.

ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the sea, along with Taiwan.

Washington on Friday accused China of deploying two artillery pieces on one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, calling it an unprecedented move that suggests Beijing is trying to extend its military reach in the contested waters.

The heavy weapons, since removed, posed no security threat but their positioning -- within range of territory claimed by Vietnam -- underscored Washington's concerns that China is pursuing a massive island-building project for military purposes, US officials said.

Carter said Washington "will support the right of claimants to pursue international legal arbitration and other peaceful means to resolve these disputes."

The Philippines infuriated China when it filed a formal complaint to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in March 2014. China has so far refused to recognise the process.

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter told top defense officials from Asian countries on Friday night that the U.S. opposes any further militarization of islands in the South China Sea, and that surfacing new land and building airfields didn't create sovereignty for China, the Associated Press reports.

A Chinese military official at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore countered that the country's actions were "reasonable and justified," the AP reported, and told Carter that U.S. surveillance and accusations were doing nothing to maintain peace and stability.

The AP wrote that Carter's remarks could be construed as also being directed at other countries in the region, including U.S. allies Taiwan and the Philippines, that have undertaken smaller reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

Original Post:
The European Union and Japan are expressing concern over China's escalating moves to claim sovereignty over disputed islands in the East and South China Sea, a day after reports that U.S. officials have spotted large artillery vehicles on a newly created artificial island in the Spratly chain.

In a joint statement from Tokyo and Brussels, diplomats said they "are concerned by any unilateral actions that change the status quo and increase tensions." Reuters says the statement was issued after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with European Council President Donald Tusk and other EU leaders.

"We urge all parties ... to refrain from unilateral actions, including the threat or use of force and coercion," the statement said.

The Philippines Star writes:
"Latest surveillance photos of the five other reefs where reclamation work was discovered early [this] year now show an advanced stage of construction that clearly show a military facility being built there based on the configuration and the fixed structural design of the buildings.

"The Philippine military believes that no matter what pronouncement and declaration of China on the intended purpose of the reclamation, clearly it will support naval and air asset operations in the area."


In recent months, the situation in the South China Sea has escalated dramatically amid the construction on the uninhabited islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Chinese workers are building lighthouses and weather stations there:

— The Philippines calls the dispute with China over islands in the South China Sea its most pressing concern. Manila's undersecretary for foreign affairs said his country was "focusing immediately on acquiring and building up our capabilities that we should have done before ... so we can protect what's ours."

— On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that: "U.S. imagery detected two Chinese motorized artillery pieces on one of the artificial islands built by China about one month ago. While the artillery wouldn't pose a threat to U.S. planes or ships, U.S. officials said it could reach neighboring islands and that its presence was at odds with China's public statements that the reclaimed islands are mainly for civilian use."

As The Associated Press notes: "The revelation comes as Defense Secretary Ash Carter begins an 11-day trip, including several stops in the Asia Pacific. He is slated to speak Saturday at an international security summit here, and is expected to reassert America's views that China and other nations must stop all land reclamation projects in the region."

— Last week, the U.S. Navy released a video of its aerial surveillance of the Spratly construction, including a warning issued by the Chinese navy.

— In April, China's land reclamation on Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, as it's called by China) in the Spratly Islands is revealed.

— Also in April, Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, acknowledged that if construction continued on the scale China was pursuing, it "would give [Beijing] de facto control" of the maritime territory it claims.


• US warns China not to challenge military flights over South China Sea
• South China Sea Tensions Simmer Ahead of Security Summit
• China Defends South China Sea Island Building Development
• China Land Reclamation in South China Sea Creates 'New Facts': U.S.

• B-1 bombers coming to Australia to deter Beijing's South China Sea ambitions - By Philip Dorling
• Poseidon Over the China SeaThe U.S. is right to resist China’s new territorial claims - by HELENE COOPER and JANE PERLEZ
• Kerry: US concerned by China's actions in South China Sea - BBC
• U.S., China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea By Greg Torode
• China’s Arrogance Can Be Shaken Firm opposition to its expansionism in the South China Sea might make Beijing think twice. By MICHAEL AUSLIN
• US anxious over China's 'great wall of sand' - By Dan De Luce
• Kerry to confront China over island-building in South China Sea - Kirk Spitzer
• Pentagon mulls sending planes, ships near disputed South China Sea islands by Phil Stewart, David Alexander and David Brunnstrom
• U.S. Military Proposes Challenge to China Sea Claims By Adam Entous, Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes
• U.S. Says Beijing Is Building Up South China Sea Islands - By Gordon Lubold And Adam Entous
• Pentagon raises the alarm over Beijing's territorial expansion in South China Sea
• US official: China island building now totals 2,000 acres - By LOLITA C. BALDOR
• US rejects China's offer over disputed islands - AFP

Defense Secretary Ash Carter strongly defended U.S. flights over artificial islands that Beijing is building in the South China Sea Wednesday, but did not give any indication of what the U.S. was willing to do to stop the buildup.

"There should be no mistake in this, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Carter said, responding to Chinese complaints about U.S. military flights over the projects.

Carter’s comments come in the wake of a formal Chinese protest over last week's flight of a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft over Fiery Cross Reef. Carter’s message signals a sharp start to his 11-day trip in Asia, where he will make stops in Singapore, Vietnam and India.

However, Carter did little to clarify what the U.S. is willing to do to get China to halt the island construction.

One senior U.S. official told The Associated Press there are discussions about conducting more military flights and patrols in the South China Sea near the projects. Officials are also looking at ways to adjust the military exercises in the region to increase U.S. presence there if needed.

One possibility would be for U.S. ships to travel within 12 miles of the artificial islands, to further point out that they are not sovereign Chinese land.

The Navy routinely conducts surveillance and other aircraft flights in the Asia-Pacific region, but China's escalating land reclamation projects have raised concerns about the country's military intentions. China further inflamed tensions Tuesday by issuing a report that laid out Beijing's more assertive national defense posture.

China insists the building is within its rights and has no intention of stopping.

Carter, who spoke during a leadership handover ceremony Wednesday in Hawaii, called for an “immediate and lasting halt” to all land reclamation projects by all Pacific nations.

China’s building far outstrips any other nation's efforts, though Vietnam has also done some land reclamation projects.

While the U.S. has many disagreements with China, the two nations have worked to improve relations in recent years through increased diplomatic and military contacts.

The Pentagon said in a recent report that the construction — estimated at more than 2,000 acres — could be used for military airstrips, naval ports or to host surveillance systems. U.S. officials are concerned that China's land reclamation projects may be a prelude to enforcing a possible air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, similar to one it declared over disputed Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea in 2013.

The U.S. official said there are concerns that China is working to build a perimeter around the South China Sea so it potentially can claim the entire region as its own economic zone, with rights to all the natural resources there.