Stop militarization in disputed sea


The White House pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to expand his non-militarization pledge to cover the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), despite Beijing’s recent military activity in the area.

Daniel Kritenbrink, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, spoke amid rising tensions between the two countries over China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles, radar gear, air strips and fighter jets on an islet there.

During a state visit in September, Xi insisted that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” in the Spratly Island chain—known as Nansha in Chinese.

The islands are claimed in part or whole by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“We think it would be good if that non-militarization pledge, if he (Xi) would extend that across the entire South China Sea,” Kritenbrink told a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“We’re going to encourage our Chinese friends and other countries in the region to refrain from taking steps that raise tensions.”

China claims almost the whole of the area—through which a third of the world’s oil passes—while several other littoral states have competing claims, as does Taiwan.

“This is an incredibly important waterway through which much of international trade flows,” Kritenbrink said.

“We are concerned that China has taken a number of unilateral steps over the last several years that we think raise tensions in the region and are destabilizing.”

The Asian giant is using dredgers to turn reefs and low-lying features into larger land masses for runways and other military uses to bolster its claims of sovereignty.

Earlier this week, US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris warned that China was changing the “operational landscape in the region.” He has called for more flyovers and patrols.

“Short of war with the United States, China will exercise de facto control of the South China Sea,” Harris said.

Kritenbrink also urged China to respect an international court’s decision due later this year on Manila’s dispute with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Kritenbrink said he expected the upcoming ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration to be “extremely important” because it will mark the outcome of a process that allows countries to use peaceful legal means to pursue disputes.

China does not recognize The Hague-based court’s authority, but it has ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea at the center of the case.

“When that ruling comes out, it will be binding on both parties,” Kritenbrink said.
“That will be an important moment that all of us in the region should focus on.”

Asean leaders tackle China
China’s recent artificial island-building and fortification of its garrison is disputed areas was among the pressing political and security challenges that ASEAN foreign ministers discussed when they met in Vientiane, Laos Saturday, ASEAN diplomats interviewed by Kyodo News said.

One diplomat told Kyodo News that ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are “seriously concerned” by recent and ongoing developments in the South China Sea.

Specifically, ASEAN sources said the ministers had frank discussions about the land reclamation and escalation of activities in the disputed sea, saying “these assertive moves erode trust and confidence, increase tension and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, told a news conference in Manila on Tuesday that the Philippines will focus on maritime security, saying that China’s construction of islands in the disputed waters has heightened tensions.

Jose said that reports claiming Beijing has positioned surface-to-air missiles in the disputed territory in the Paracel Islands chain are a cause of concern.

“Of course all these things raise our concern and its effect on freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded flow of commerce. In this meeting we will continue to express our concern with the developments in the South China Sea,” Jose said.

Laos, this year’s ASEAN chairman, was expected to issue a press statement at the end of the day-long retreat Saturday.

“There are ongoing discussions and consultations on whether to include in the press statement a line that says that ministers reaffirmed their commitment to non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea,” an official source said.

As of Thursday night, an ASEAN official said the draft press statement still contains paragraphs on maritime security and the South China Sea “that may or may not be there (in the final statement).”

Like in past meetings, the ministers are expected to stress the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea.

ASEAN officials said the ministers will again “emphasize the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation” in the disputed sea.

The ministers are also expected to underscore the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that China and the 10-member ASEAN signed in 2002, according to the officials.

Another ASEAN official said that ASEAN wants “substantive development” and “an expeditious establishment” of the code of conduct, a binding code aimed at reducing the risk of conflict in the disputed sea that ASEAN and China have been trying to hammer out since efforts to reopen talks began in 2012.

The overlapping territorial and maritime disputes involving China and four ASEAN members —Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam—have divided ASEAN on how to deal with the issue.

On January’s terror attacks in Jakarta, the draft said the ministers will again reaffirm “ASEAN’s commitment to working with the international community to further intensify its cooperation to combat terrorism in all its form and manifestations, regardless of their motivation, wherever, and by whom.”

Four of the South China Sea’s six claimants—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam—are members of the 10-nation ASEAN that also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore. Taiwan is also a claimant.

The South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, passes through the South China Sea.


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  1. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    28 Feb. 2016

    The pressure on China to stop its aggressive hegemonic moves in both the East China Sea and the South China is continuing to gain momentum with these recent statements by United States officials, as well as by officials of Japan and a few other Asian countries.

    China’s illegal grabbing of territories it does not own in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and ominously MILITARIZING these,,is beginning to cause serious concern among the countries involved in the dispute.

    Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the powerful US PACIFIC COMMAND based in Hawaii just the other day minced no words when he warned that after China installed those surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels chain, China now has “DE FACTO” control over the South China Sea!

    I would not at all be surprised if China’s next move would be to impose an ADIZ over the whole of the South China Sea, the same way it imposed an ADIZ over the East China Sea several months ago.

    If it does, probably as part of its FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION OPERATIONS in international waters in the South China, Sea, Admiral Harry Harris may challenge China’s second ADIZ and send two B52 bombers to fly over the disputed area without submitting flight plans first to China, let alone “follow Chinese instructions” once inside the ADIZ.

    In the event, let’s see what happens.


  2. The chinese government will not follow the rule of law and right now they have already establish their beach head on those islands. They will not allow again to loose these islands..This is the biggest mistake of yellow regime after edsa 1 revolution. Aside from kicking out the US military bases on 1992. Ito lang ang hinihintay ng chinese na mawala ang the best military bases of USA in our country. And the chinese succeeded in their long term plan..During marcos era, Marcos bluf the american president not to renew the Agreement if they will not give additional amount of money as RENTAL of our military base. Marcos knew that their US military bases in our country is the most important strategic locations around the world and america will let to loose this bases. Pero ng maupo na si cory after EDSA revolution, naalis na ang military bases ng US na ikituwan ng mga beho, dhil they always keep eye on us. Dahil nuong nandito ang US bases,ni hindi makalapit ang mga beho isa man sa ating isla… And now they have a chance. Pwede umalis iyang mga beho na kung gigiyerahin natin kasama ang Japan,Austrailia, usa, at ang kasapi ng Asean natios. Matigas na ang beho ngayon.. di tulad ng araw, iyan sinabi ni Apo na sleeping giant, at kailangan agapan. pero now its too late.. dahil napabayaan din ng dilawang gobyerno ang ating military defense o talagang sinadya ng mga dilawang gobyerno na huwag idevelop ang military equipments para makakilos ang mga beho sa ating mga isla..????

  3. To President Noynoy Aquino and incoming DFA Chief,

    Please ensure that the UNCLSO/ITLOS hearing reach its completion. The Chinese are making noise as they knew that the final decision on the arbitration is near. They are making a threat for Philippine Government to Withdraw the arbitration. DONT withdraw the case filed in UNCLOS/ITLOS. We are already seeing the benefit of law as the great equalizer against Big China. They a scared that they will lose credibility in their country and to the world. Pnoy will leave a lasting legacy and will place a permanent mark in Philippine History and to the World that only Pnoy stood against the Asian Giant and win without firing a single shot. It doesn’t whether the China will follow UNCLOS/ITLOS, it may take 100 years for them to follow the decision. What is important is the decision of UNCLOS/ITLOS that define which one is ours and which one is not. Please Don’t Withdraw from the arbitration, let it finish.