Category Archives: Vietnam

International tribunal rejects China’s territorial claims in South China Sea

China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea were dealt a blow today when in a landmark ruling, an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, rejected Beijing’s claims.

Six regional governments have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, waters that are rich in fishing stocks and potential energy resources and where an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year.

South China Sea - China's claim

South China Sea – China’s claims

The AP reports that China claims vast areas of the South China Sea have been Chinese territory since ancient times and demarcated its modern claims with the so-called nine-dash line, a map that was submitted under the U.N. treaty.

In 2013, under a U.N. treaty governing the seas, the Philippines had asked The Hague for arbitration on a number of issues it had with treaty co-signee China, on the grounds that China’s claims infringe upon the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

On July 12, 2016, the five-member panel from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, unanimously ruled against China. The tribunal also found the following:

  • Any historical resource rights China may have had in the South China Sea are nulled if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under the U.N. treaty signed by both China and the Philippines.
  • China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the regional dispute while the settlement process was ongoing.
  • By building up artificial islands in the Sea, China had caused “permanent irreparable harm” to the coral reef ecosystem.
  • China had violated the Philippines’ maritime rights by:
    • Disrupting Philippine’ oil exploration at Reed Bank.
    • Disrupting fishing by Philippine vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.

China, which boycotted the entire proceedings, immediately rejected the ruling as a “farce” and “a US-led conspiracy,” and declared it does not accept the panel’s jurisdiction. Beijing regards bilateral talks with the other claimants as the only way to address the South China Sea disputes.

China’s foreign ministry declared that “the award is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognizes it,” and that “China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards.” The ministry repeated China’s often-expressed stance that the Philippines’ move to initiate arbitration without China’s consent was in “bad faith” and in violation of international law.

The editor-in-chief of China.org.cn writes:

The U.S. actions near China, particularly those on the South China Sea issues, are part of its Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategies. Its intentions are no more than containing China to preserve its interests in the Asia-Pacific region and its global hegemony.

The U.S. motives are apparent to the world, especially to the Chinese people. The current China is nothing like the country it was one hundred years ago. Any act that tries to violate China’s territorial sovereignty will fail.

Although the tribunal has no power of enforcement, nor can its findings reverse China’s actions, nevertheless the ruling constitutes a rebuke with the force of the international community’s opinion. A professor of Asian political economy said the ruling could be a “transformative moment” in the region. Speaking outside the Peace Palace in The Hague, Leiden University professor Jonathan London said the decision will “give countries with a common interest in international norms something to point to and to rally around.” He said they can say to China: “Look, here are the results of an international organization that has found that your claims have zero historical basis.”

The tribunal’s decision also gives heart to small countries in Asia that have helplessly chafed at China’s expansionism, backed by its military and economic power.

In Manila, dozens of rallying Filipinos jumped for joy, wept, embraced each other and waved Philippine flags after news of their victory. One held up a poster that said: “Philippine sovereignty, non-negotiable.”

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay hailed the ruling as a “milestone decision” and “an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea,” and called on “all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety.” For his part, Philippines’ former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who helped oversee the filing of the case at Hague, said the ruling underscored “our collective belief that right is might and that international law is the great equalizer among states.” He urged that the ruling be accepted by all relevant countries — without exception — in order to maintain international order “so that we can work together on how remaining issues can be peacefully resolved.”

Vietnam’s government also welcomed the ruling. Just today, Vietnam accused Chinese vessels of sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in disputed waters. Nguyen Thanh Hung, a local fisheries executive in the central province of Quang Ngai, said two Chinese vessels chased and sank the Vietnamese boat around midday Saturday as it was fishing near the Paracel islands. The five fishermen were rescued by another trawler around seven hours later.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the tribunal’s decision is “final and legally binding” and that the two sides should comply with it. He said in a statement that “Japan strongly expects that the parties’ compliance with this award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.”

The disputes have also increased friction between China and the United States. Washington has ramped up U.S. military presence in the region as China expands its navy’s reach farther offshore.

At a news conference in Afghanistan where he was meeting with U.S. commanders, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the ruling is an opportunity for everyone in the region to act in a sensible way in accordance with the rule of law in order to settle disputes. The United States has not taken sides in the South China Sea disputes but has worked to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

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China announces biggest overhaul of military in 60+ years

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Citing China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Bloomberg News reports on Nov. 26, 2015 that at the end of a three-day meeting in Beijing attended by about 200 top Chinese military officials, President Xi Jinping Xi announced a major overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest army, to make it more combat ready (“an elite combat force”) and better equipped to project force beyond China’s borders by 2020.

Upon taking power in 2012, Xi also became chairman of the Central Military Commission. He is directly managing the overhaul.

“This is the biggest military overhaul since the 1950s,” said Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the PLA’s General Staff Department. “The reform shakes the very foundations of China’s Soviet Union-style military system and transferring to a U.S. style joint command structure will transform China’s PLA into a specialized armed force that could pack more of a punch in the world.”

The overhaul of the PLA will include:

  1. All branches of the PLA would come under a joint military or forces command. In its annual report to the U.S. Congress in May, the Pentagon said creating joint-command entities “would be the most significant changes to the PLA’s command organization since 1949.”
  2. China’s seven military regions may be merged into four. (The PLA’s last major overhaul — carried out under Deng Xiaoping in 1985 — had reduced the number of military regions to 7 from 11.)
  3. The PLA will be leaner by shedding 300,000 troops. (The reform of 1985 reduced the PLA by some 1 million soldiers.)
  4. Stronger top leader: Yue said “The reform enhanced the power of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and its chairman [Xi Jinping] . . . as the former CMC chairman had little real power over the armed forces.” Xi Jinping has made the military one of the targets of his anti-corruption campaign as he consolidates his power over the PLA. Two former CMC vice-chairman were both expelled from the party since Xi took power in 2012, as were dozens of generals accused of everything from embezzling public funds to selling ranks.
  5. Strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on the military by building a new disciplinary structure and a new legal and political committee to make sure the army is under “the rule of law”.

Under Xi, China has been more assertive over territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea, raising tensions with neighbors such as Japan and the Philippines, as well as with the United States. In the South China Sea, the PLA is constructing artificial islands with military installations.  Xi’s policy marks a shift from China’s previous approach under Deng Xiaoping of keeping a low profile and not attracting attention on the world stage.

The overhaul of the Chinese military into “an elite combat force” also includes armed attack robots.

PLA armed attack robotAs reported by Neil Connor for The Telegraph, Nov. 26, 2015, “armed attack” robots that carry rifles and grenade launchers were recently unveiled at the 2015 World Robot Conference in Beijing. China’s state media called the robots the latest line of defense in the fight against “global terror”.

Xinhua news agency said the toy-sized attacker is one of a trio of new “anti-terror” machines that “can coordinate with each other on the battlefield.”

The first model is known as a “reconnaissance” robot, which scouts for poisonous gases, dangerous chemicals and explosives before transmitting its findings back to base. If this initial investigation detects a simple bomb is the source of danger, the second robot model – a small explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) machine – would be sent in to diffuse it.

But with other, more complicated threats, an attacker robot would start its mission, armed with “minor-caliber weapons, recoilless rifles and grenade launchers”. Xinhua said, “With a sighting telescope, a trigger and a safe installed, the attacker can hit its target from a long distance.

The local police force in Beijing was reported to be among the buyers for the three robots, which are priced at 1.5 million yuan (£156,000) for the set by manufacturers HIT Robot Group, based in the northern city of Harbin. The company’s sales manager Chen Deqiang said, “Apart from anti-terror operations, they can also be applied in fire fighting, public security, forestry and agriculture.”

-StMA

A drone that can turn door knobs

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that were first developed for military use.

Increasingly, however, drones are used for domestic police work in the United States, which led former Texas Department of Agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower to warn about potential privacy abuses from aerial surveillance.

Add to this the news that they’ve now developed a drone that can use its arms to turn a valve, which also means the drone can turn door knobs.

Some facts about drones from Wikipedia:

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.

An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

Drones are usually deployed for military and special operation applications, but also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as policing, border patrol, forest fire detection and firefighting, and nonmilitary security work, such as surveillance of power lines and pipelines. Other uses include aerial surveying of crops, acrobatic aerial footage in filmmaking, search and rescue operations, counting wildlife, delivering medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions, search & rescue missions, detection of illegal hunting, land surveying, large-accident investigation, landslide measurement, illegal landfill detection, and crowd monitoring.

The birth of U.S. UAVs began in 1959 when Air Force officers, concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, began planning for the use of unmanned flights. On 26 February 1973, during testimony before the House Committee on Appropriations, the U.S. military officially confirmed they had been utilizing UAVs in Vietnam.

There are two prominent UAV programs within the United States:

  • Military: The government’s overt UAV program that only operates where US troops are stationed.
  • CIA: The government’s clandestine drone program that conducts missions also in places where US troops are not stationed. The CIA’s UAV program was commissioned as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This clandestine program is primarily being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

In February 2013, it was reported that UAVs were used by at least 50 countries, several of which made their own: for example, Iran, Israel and China.

As of 2008, the United States Air Force employed 5,331 UAVs, which is twice its number of manned planes. Out of these, the Predators are the most commendable, with the following capabilities:

  • The Predator is armed with Hellfire missiles so that it can “terminate” the target that it locates.
  • The Predator is capable of orchestrating attacks by pointing lasers at the targets, thereby putting a robot in a position to set off an attack.
  • From June 2005 to June 2006 alone, Predators carried out 2,073 missions and participated in 242 separate raids.

As of August 2013, commercial drones (unmanned aerial system – UAS) licenses were granted on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency expects that five years after it unveils a regulatory framework for UASs weighing 55 pounds or less, there will be 7,500 such devices in the air.

~StMA

China stakes claim to South China Sea by building islands in the Spratlys

South China SeaThe South China Sea, believed to hold large deposits of oil and natural gas, is contested by the governments of countries surrounding the Sea, as well as by China.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia all control islands in the South China Sea. But China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

South China Sea - China's claimIn 2012, China declared the region a “core national interest,” and it has been increasingly aggressive in asserting control over it, deploying an aircraft carrier in 2013, and moving an enormous oil rig into the area earlier this year.

Now, China is building its own islands, including a suspected air base, by dredging millions of tons of rock and sand and piling it on top of submerged reefs in the Spratlys.

Below is a BBC news video on some of China’s construction sites projects on five different reefs, including one that appears to be a concrete runway long enough to accommodate fighter jets.

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~StMA

The Stolen Valor of Military Imposters

Matt BuckinghamMatt Buckingham was uncovered by KMOV of St. Louis as a fake veteran soliciting donations to a fake military charity

STOLEN VALOR REDUX

By John J. Molloy, OSJ
National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition

Over the years since Vietnam veterans have been recognized for their service and patriotism rather than being disparaged as war criminals, a phenomenon has occurred whereby some veterans who have served in our armed forces, and other individuals who have never served at all, claimed to have distinguished themselves in combat or served as members of elite units. This situation has become so pronounced that it appears that a disproportionate number of veterans and non-veterans claim to have served in elite units — US Navy SEALS, US Army Special Forces, USAF Reconnaissance, Army Rangers, Marine Corps Force Recon or Scout Snipers or even prisoners of war — and wear decorations to which they are not entitled.

In the first few years of the last decade, I was disappointed to learn that a friend, the late founder and national commander of the Veterans of the Vietnam War, who claimed to have spent his tour in Southeast Asia as an Airborne Ranger/Phoenix Operative, had actually served as a truck driver. All of us who have served, and do serve in America’s armed forces, essentially sign a blank check payable to the United States of America, representing our commitment of our lives for the benefit of our country. Everyone who serves honorably, in whatever capacity, should not feel it necessary to embellish his or her record of service.

Despite the publication of Stolen Valor authored by B.G. Burkett in 1998, and Fake Warriors by Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer in 2003, the phonies and fakers continue to exit the woodwork and persist in their deception. The proliferation of fake veterans has led to the number of persons who claim to have served in Vietnam now exceeding several times over the number of those who are still alive who actually did serve.

In my own community, I have come across friends and others who are considered to be patriotic but who have been untruthful regarding their military service. Typically, on first acquaintance, these individuals offer some indication of the nature of their service and are given benefit of the doubt. But if one shows that they accept their claims, they begin to expand and embroider and so entrap themselves. What these deceivers fail to recognize is that in my capacity as Coalition chairman, and based on my familiarity with veterans and veterans’ issues, I can see through their deception and will seek to expose their falsehoods.

During the course of the year, and especially on anniversaries of their deaths, I reflect on my buddies and comrades with whom I’d served in the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, and 11th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, but who did not return home alive:

  • Sgt. David Fielding, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, wounded on Nui Hoac Ridge, May 7, 1968 and killed by a sniper on July 7, 1968.
  • SFC Abraham Ahuna, also of the 1st Platoon, who died on May 17, 1968 from wounds sustained from his fall into a pungi pit.
  • Sgt, Wayne Proctor of the Weapons Platoon, Bravo Company who died on June 4, 1968 from wounds sustained after being hit by a white phosphorus rocket-propelled grenade on Nui Hoac Ridge a month earlier.
  • Sgt. Ambrose Clay of Delta Company who was captured during the initial probe of Nui Hoac Ridge on May 7, 1968, and was tortured and beheaded by the North Vietnamese.

Sadly, the above are but a few of the fallen troopers.

Given the fact that the actual percentage of veterans in our armed forces actually assigned to a combat zone and actually engaged in combat is 10% for the Army and 15% for the Marine Corps, that so many veterans claim to have received combat-related awards is a statistical improbability. The fake veterans who steal the valor of those who had given their last full measure have become increasingly irritating. They must be exposed and publicly humiliated if they do not desist and acknowledge their deception.

While it is criminal to falsify one’s military records or wear decorations of the Silver Star for distinguished or gallant service, unfortunately it is not considered illegal to lie about one’s military service, however dishonorable. It is also not illegal for us to expose those who lie. Here are some signs that you may be dealing with an imposter:

  • When the individual who claims to have served in a certain unit is asked what he did, he answers: “If I tell you, then I will have to kill you.”
  • If a person claims to have been wounded in the military or claims to have what appears to be a service-connected disability when asked if they go to a Veterans Administration Hospital for treatment or if they are receiving a service-connected disability, they claim that they want nothing from the government.

If you come across an individual whose claims regarding their military service you suspect may be false, try to obtain as much information as you can, including the imposter’s full name, date of birth, period of service and unit. Once you have obtained that information, you may send an inquiry to fakewarriors.org, a division of the POW Network so that they may investigate. (Click here for Fake Warriors’ report form.) I also encourage you to consider sending a contribution to the POW Network for their dedication to and their diligence in obtaining the truth.

Once your suspicions are confirmed you will be in a position to confront and/or expose the individual who had made the false claim(s) regarding their military service. The method of exposure should be determined by the extent and nature of the falsehood.

Simply put, it is our moral obligation to uncover imposters who would steal the valor of those who have served honorably and died in our nation’s service.

China is using its world’s largest fishing fleet as surrogate Navy

Adam Pasick reports for Defense One, July 28, 2014, that China has the world’s largest commercial fishing fleet, totaling 695,555 vessels. That fleet is more than double the size (pdf, pg. 36) of the next biggest, from Japan. That’s primarily because China eats a lot of fish per capita, and catches more fish than any other country in the world by a huge margin.

But it’s not just about keeping Chinese bellies full. According to an excellent in-depth report from Reuters, Beijing is increasingly equipping fishing boats with geolocation devices, filling them up with subsidized fuel, and dispatching them to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where they are clashing with rival fishermen from Vietnam and the Philippines.

When China stationed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands in May, provoking violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam, Chinese fishing boats were part of the ad hoc armada protecting the rig (which was later withdrawn). At one point a Chinese fishing vessel rammed and sunk one of its Vietnamese counterparts (paywall), according to video evidence published by Hanoi.

South China Sea

“It’s pretty clear that the Chinese fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters,” Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told Reuters. “I think that’s now become policy as distinct from an opportunistic thing, and that the government is encouraging its fishing fleet to do this for geopolitical as well as economic and commercial reasons.”

China has laid claim to about 90% of the South China Sea, most notably the tiny island chains know as the Spratlys and Paracels, which are claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, respectively, along with many other countries in the region. The disputes encompasses issues of sovereignty and energy exploration, but it’s also about fishing rights. And as China’s near coastal waters become increasingly over-fished, its vast armada of fishing boats will have to travel even further to fill their nets, to sate their countrymen’s ever-growing hunger for seafood.

By 2030, the UN projects that China’s fish consumption will increase more than 60% from 2008 levels, to 57.4 million tonnes (63.3 million tons)—more than a third of the global total (pdf, pg. 205).

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~StMA

China builds artificial island in South China Sea

South China Sea China is stepping up its irredentist claim to ownership of islands in the sub-soil  oil and gas rich South China Sea, by constructing an artificial island in the Spratlys.

Kristine Kwok and Minnie Chan report for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, June 7, 2014:

China is looking to expand its biggest installation in the Spratly Islands into a fully formed artificial island, complete with airstrip and sea port, to better project its military strength in the South China Sea, a Chinese scholar and a Chinese navy expert have said.

Chinese artificial island in South China Sea The planned expansion on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef, if approved, would be a further indication of China’s change of tack in handling long-running sovereignty disputes from a defensive stance to an offensive one, analysts said.

They said it was seen as a step to the declaration of an air defence identification zone.

The Philippines last month protested against China’s reclamation activities at nearby Johnson South Reef, site of a 1988 skirmish between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies that was triggered by China’s occupation of Fiery Cross Reef.

With recent developments in the South China Sea having again focused the international spotlight on China, the analysts warned reclamation at the Fiery Cross atoll – which China, the Philippines and Vietnam all claim – would further strain Beijing’s relations with neighbours. South China Sea The proposal to build an artificial island there had been submitted to the central government, said Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

The artificial island would be at least double the size of the US military base of Diego Garcia, a remote coral atoll occupying an area of 44 square kilometres in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Jin added.

The reef currently houses Chinese-built facilities including an observation post commissioned by Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Li Jie, a naval expert from the Chinese Naval Research Institute, said the expanded island would include the airstrip and port. After the expansion the island would continue to house the observation post and to provide military supplies and assistance, he said.

A retired People’s Liberation Army senior colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the construction of a landing strip on Fiery Cross Reef would allow China to better prepare for the establishment of an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.

Beijing’s declaration of such a zone over the East China Sea in December prompted concerns among Southeast Asian countries that a similar arrangement could be imposed in the South China Sea.

Fiery Cross Reef, known as Yongshu in China, Kagitingan in the Philippines and Da Chu Thap in Vietnam, is close to sea lanes and could serve as a strategic naval staging post, said Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow.

Jin said consideration of whether and how to go ahead with the Fiery Cross Reef proposal would depend on progress on reclamation at Johnson South Reef. “It’s a very complicated oceanic engineering project, so we need to learn from the experience” on Johnson South, Jin said.

Late last month, renditions of a proposed artificial island were circulated among Chinese media. Citing a report posted on the website of the Shanghai-based China Shipbuilding NDRI Engineering, the Global Times said the unidentified artificial island could include a landing strip and a 5,000-tonne berth.

Zhang Jie, an expert on regional security with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China had long been researching island reclamation. Institutes and companies had drafted various designs over the past decade, said Zhang, adding that she had attended deliberation of one proposal years ago. “We had the ability to build artificial islands years ago, but we had refrained because we didn’t want to cause too much controversy,” she said.

However, this year had seen a “turning point” in which Beijing appeared to be making more offensive moves in the area, said Zhang, citing the recent deployment of an oil rig to disputed waters near Vietnam.

“Building an artificial island can no doubt provide supplies to ships and oil rigs nearby, but this would also cause very severe negative impacts in the region.” Such moves, she added, would further deepen mistrust among China’s neighbours and cause instability in the region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment.

H/t CODA’s Sol Sanders

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~StMA