Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In a game of brinkmanship, which ship brinks first?

The Philippines is standing naval to naval with China.

So far.

Like Travis, Crockett and Bowie against Santa Ana and his thousands of soldiers.

We Texicans know how that ended.

China sends 3rd ship in standoff with Philippines April 12, 2012
A Philippine warship attempted to arrest several Chinese fishermen accused of illegal entry and poaching, but was prevented by the arrival of two Chinese surveillance ships.

One of the Chinese ships blocked the entrance to a lagoon at the shoal, where at least eight Chinese fishing vessels were anchored. The Chinese ships also ordered the Philippine warship to leave Scarborough, claiming Chinese sovereignty over the rich fishing ground.

Philippines shuffles ships in maritime standoff with China April 12, 2012
The Philippines said Thursday that it had pulled its largest naval vessel away from a remote lagoon in the South China Sea where it was engaged in an uneasy standoff with two Chinese maritime surveillance ships.

The Philippine naval vessel -- the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a 378-foot cutter -- has moved away from the lagoon for "reprovisioning" and a decision has not yet been announced on whether it will return, Hernandez said.

Commentary: The Spratly standoff
The heat is rising in Southeast Asia as China and the Philippines are in the third week of a naval standoff in the strategic South China Sea.

Although these islands lie 700 miles from China and only 100 miles from the Philippines, China claims what is commonly called “the cows tongue” – a vast swathe of sea shaped like a tongue that reaches close to the shores of the other claimant nations.

China bases its claim on maps dating back 500 years.

Back in 1988 clashes over the Spratlys between China and Vietnam left nearly more than 60 Vietnamese dead.

The United States stands smack in the middle of this tension:

The absolutist attitude over what it sees as its core geographic interest has been extended to include the South China Sea for the past two decades. Angry editorials in the China Daily threaten the Philippines, saying its American protector won’t be around to help them and it should sit down alone at the table with China.

The risks are great. Warships standing bow to bow over a speck of sand and rock in the sea can suddenly explode into an escalating conflict that would drag in the United States. This can also happen if our small allies wrongfully believe they have a blank check from the U.S. military to open fire in the expectation that the U.S. fleet will be standing behind them.

Read more at links to each article.

Island belongs to China Updated: 2012-05-08
A Philippine gunboat harassed 12 Chinese fishing boats that were taking refuge from harsh weather in a lagoon near China's Huangyan Island last month, triggering the current standoff between China and the Philippines.

The Philippines never disputed China's sovereignty over the island until 1997, and a 1978 map sanctioned by the Philippines' National Mapping and Resource Information Authority placed Huangyan Island outside the Philippines' territorial limits. However, in May 1997, the Philippine navy intercepted two vessels carrying a group of amateur radio enthusiasts from China, Japan and the United States, who had planned an expedition to Huangyan Island. Before long, a group of Philippine congressmen sailed to the island and posed for photos under a Philippine flag, and later the Philippines navy arrested 21 Chinese fishermen near the island and filed an illegal entry charge against them.

Manila bases its claim on proximity and insists that the island is within its exclusive economic zone. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows a coastal state to claim a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, but the state has no right to change the ownership of territory by doing so.

China is the first country to name Huangyan Island and incorporate it into its territory and exercise jurisdiction over it. In 1935, the then Chinese government included the island with the name Scarborough Shoal as part of the Zhongsha Islands into Chinese territory. In 1947, the government announced a new list of South China Sea islands, in which Scarborough Shoal was also included and renamed as Democratic Reef, and in 1983, China released a list of some South China Sea islands and began to use Huangyan Island as the island's standard name.

While China has legal foundations for its sovereignty over Huangyan Island, the Philippines' claim that Huangyan Island is within its exclusive economic zone lacks legal basis. Back in 1997, Judge Eliodoro Ubiadas of the regional trial court of Olongapo in Zambales province dismissed the illegal entry charges filed against the Chinese fishermen, invoking a provision in the Presidential Decree No 1599, a law issued in 1978 to establish an exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The provision stipulated that even though the Philippines' exclusive economic zone extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles beyond and from the baseline, provided that where the outer limits of the zone as thus determined overlap that of an adjacent or neighboring state, the common boundaries shall be determined by agreement with the state concerned. The judge thus ruled that the accused "were apprehended in a place over which there is yet no agreement between the Chinese and the Philippine governments" and thus there is no legal basis to conclude that "the accused entered Philippine territory illegally".

Although the bilateral agreement to resolve the issue diplomatically makes war unlikely, the Philippines continues to escalate tensions. For instance, the Philippines has declared that it will unilaterally bring the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and it has confirmed its plans to open an elementary school on Zhongye Island, which belongs to China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.

In this way the Philippines is attempting to turn its claimed sovereignty over Huangyan Island into reality and intensify nationalistic sentiments as a means of re-channeling dissatisfaction with domestic problems. The Philippines is also trying to play off the members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations against China.

The ongoing standoff might leave China facing some disconcerting questions about its foreign policy and its ability to defend its interests in the South China Sea, but it also offers an opportunity for Beijing to gain the upper hand, as the ongoing crisis initiated by the Philippines serves as a good chance for China to enforce its jurisdiction over the island.

The confrontation is actually to China's advantage, as Beijing is better equipped than the Philippines, and once the Philippines withdraws its ships, China should thereafter block entry to the lagoon and better excise its jurisdiction over the island.

Last but not the least, China should send construction teams and equipment to the island and speed up the building of shelters for fishermen, lighthouses and military outposts. Once these are established, military units can be stationed on the island to further safeguard the country's sovereignty and maritime interests in the area.

China prepared for escalation of Philippine standoff May 8th, 2012
Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying said Beijing was fully ready for an escalation of a drawn-out maritime standoff with the Philippines, as a tense row over a disputed shoal continues.

“The Chinese side has… made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” she told a Philippine diplomat in Beijing Monday, according to a statement posted on the foreign ministry website Tuesday.

Currently, four Chinese surveillance ships and 10 fishing boats have anchored off the disputed shoal, facing off with two Philippine coast guard ships and a fisheries bureau vessel.

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