South China Sea

South China Sea

China says much of the resource-rich South China Sea is its own, and is building islands and facilities to bolster its claims.

China and America’s rivalry heads to Manila
The United States and China have both stepped up their efforts to woo the Philippines as the two global powers fight for supremacy on multiple fronts, including the South China Sea. On Friday, the agriculture ministry in Manila announced that a US-funded animal disease laboratory had opened in the northern region of Luzon, The Manila Bulletin reported. Earlier in the week, Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said he had handed over 5,000 hygiene kits and 16 handwashing stations to Manila’s mayor to aid local efforts to combat Covid-19.  That donation came after the US last month provided the Southeast Asian nation with 100 new ventilators. The latest American charm offensive cam
US sanctions Chinese firm for ‘seizure’ of Cambodian land
The US Treasury Department issued sanctions on Tuesday against a Chinese company developing a sprawling tourism zone in Cambodia. It is the latest sign that Washington’s increasingly heated competition with Beijing has now spread to Southeast Asia. The Treasury Department accused Union Development Group (UDG) of “seizure and demolition of local Cambodians’ land” for the construction of Dara Sakor, a coastal resort area that is planned to include golf courses, casinos, luxury housing, an airport, and a port large enough for cruise ships. In announcing the sanctions, the US cited reports that Dara Sakor could be converted to host Chinese military assets, which could “threaten regional stabilit
Beijing warns its neighbors not to back America in South China Sea
Beijing has dialled up the pressure on its Southeast Asian neighbors ahead of key talks in the South China Sea dispute, with a senior diplomat warning them against backing US efforts in the region. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have competing territoiral claims with China and one another in the resource-rich waterway. These countries are increasingly torn between China and the United States amid a growing risk of an all-out confrontation in the region. Tensions in the waters have escalated during a flurry of recent military activity by the feuding superpowers. The US has no claims in the region but has ramped up its patr
What is Asean, the group that (loosely) binds Southeast Asia
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Around the turn of the 21st century, the global community saw China as the next great economic opportunity.  The country’s workforce was young, and labor cheap and abundant. This attracted foreign investment and helped build China into the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, in the process lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But as growth in China has slowed and labor cost has risen, those seeking the next great growth story are increasingly looking south – toward Southeast Asia.  The culturally diverse region is connected by an alliance
US-China tensions are getting worse in the South China Sea
China on Friday said it had warned off a US warship in the South China Sea that was deployed to the disputed waters after a Chinese missile launch in the latest of a series of escalating tensions in the region. The encounter followed China’s launch on Wednesday of its most advanced land-based anti-ship missile into the waterway, a move seen as a warning to the United States. Analysts said the launch of the missile might push the US to deploy more missiles and take a more aggressive stance toward Beijing, elevating the risk of an accidental armed conflict. According to a statement from the US Pacific Fleet, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) sailed into the vicinity of the Para
Beijing tells troops ‘not to fire the first shot’ in South China Sea
China has told its service personnel “not to fire the first shot” as Beijing looks to de-escalate tensions with the United States in the South China Sea. Both sides have stepped up their operations in the disputed waters, increasing the risk of incidents that spiral out of control. Still, Beijing does not want to give American hawks the opportunity to escalate things further, sources familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post. Beijing had ordered pilots and naval officers to exercise restraint in the increasingly frequent stand-offs with US planes and warships, the sources said. Meanwhile, further details emerged about a phone conversation between the two countries’ defens
Philippines caught between superpowers in South China Sea
The Philippine navy has been ordered not to join US-led military exercises in the South China Sea, in what analysts said was an attempt to placate China while distancing the Philippines from Washington, its traditional ally. President Rodrigo Duterte decided his country should not take part in naval exercises in the disputed sea “except in our national waters, [within] 12 miles of our shores,” defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday. Lorenzana said the decision was aimed at keeping a lid on tensions in the region, where there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of US military activity, including the recent deployment of two aircraft carriers. With ties between Beiji
China unsure if it should unveil its new stealth bomber this year
China’s new generation strategic bomber is likely to be ready for delivery this year, but Beijing is said to be undecided about unveiling it at a complex time in regional relations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Military sources said the Xian H-20 subsonic stealth bomber – expected to double the country’s strike range – could make its first public appearance at China’s largest air show, in the southern city of Zhuhai in November, if the pandemic is sufficiently under control. “The Zhuhai Airshow is expected to become a platform to promote China’s image and its success in pandemic control – telling the outside world that the contagion did not have any big impacts on Chinese defense enterpri
Could the pandemic trigger conflict in the South China Sea?
As the USS Barry, one of the US’ most advanced destroyers, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday last week, an officer on board posted a message on Facebook: “They don’t call us the Finest Forward Deployed Destroyer for nothing! Your Bulldogs always have the watch – together, we ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific!” Based in Yokosuka, Japan, the guided-missile destroyer was no stranger to the sensitive channel separating Taiwan and mainland China. In fact, this was its second passage this month through the 112-mile-wide waterway – defined as part of the South China Sea under international protocol. As the Covid-19 global health crisis continues to rage, infecting more than 3 million p
What’s in a name? China hopes territory
China has named 80 geographical features in the disputed South China Sea in the latest move to assert its territorial claims in the face of increasing opposition from Vietnam. According to a notice jointly released by China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry, it has given names to features in both the Paracel and Spratly islands. These include 25 islands, shoals, reefs and 55 oceanic mountains and ridges. China has not named geographic features in the disputed area since 1983, when 287 features were named.  The Spratly and Paracel islands are a geopolitical flashpoint because multiple countries have competing territorial claims over the region.  It has also become anoth