Filipino Senator: China bully Southeast Asian countries

VietNamNet Bridge – China will always try to bully the Philippines and other countries in the Southeast Asian region in a bid to control massive oil resources in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on the Philstar recently.

While the Philippines obviously does not have enough defense capability against a power such as China, Santiago advised the government to be circumspect and be extra wise in dealing with its big neighbor.

Santiago also warned the Philippines might end up as a “satellite country” of China.

Despite this, Santiago said the US as well as the rich countries in western Europe would not allow China to have leverage in terms of oil and natural gas development in the Spratlys.

“America and the countries in western Europe will not allow it because there will be imbalance in the distribution of power in the world once China is able to take over oil and mineral resources underneath the South China Sea,” she said.

On May 24 2011, the Philstar cited News5 as saying that China has set up military garrisons and outposts on six reefs that are part of the Kalayaan Island Group, part of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.

According to the Philstar, apart from the military garrisons and outposts, China is aggressively pursuing large-scale maritime projects aimed at cementing its claim on the Spratlys. These projects include construction of port facilities, airports, navigation buoys, lighthouses, ocean observatories and maritime meteorology networks.

At the recent meeting with Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie (during Liang’s visit to the Philippines), Filipino President Benigno Aquino III warned Liang that alleged intrusions and encounters in disputed islands in the South China Sea area could lead to a dangerous arms race in the region.

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Asia’s quiet anger with ‘big, bad’ China

By David Pilling

Published: June 1 2011 22:36 | Last updated: June 1 2011 22:36

Last month, a man rode up to China’s well-protected embassy in Hanoi, unfurled a bed-sheet-sized banner reading “China has no right to ban fishing or take Vietnam’s Paracel islands” and promptly set fire to his motorbike....

But this month, in the rhetorical equivalent of motorbike immolation, the Vietnamese government was itself protesting against China. At a hastily convened weekend press conference, the foreign ministry accused Beijing of committing a “serious violation” in the South China Sea, which Hanoi predictably calls something else – the East Sea. Beijing was said to have used “legally groundless” claims to assert its ownership of the whole sea and turn it into its “home pond”.....

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which also borders on the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. These countries, sticking to the principle of “where there is land, there are sea rights”, have overlapping claims to waters off their coast. Hanoi ridicules the dotted line that China draws on maps to indicate its ownership of the entire sea as like a lolling “bull tongue”. There are also competing claims to the Paracel and Spratly islands.....

In the short term, China’s assertiveness appear to have backfired. Smaller nations are huddling together under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They are also moving closer to the US, which has restated its commitment to having a strong presence in the Pacific and annoyed China by calling the South China Sea an area of strategic interest.

Thanks to Vietnam’s protest, the South China Sea will dominate this weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional defence forum held in Singapore. This year, both Liang Guanglie and Robert Gates, the defence chiefs of China and the US, will be attending. There could be some fireworks. But there will also be plenty of talk about the need for greater transparency between the two powers to ensure that maritime frictions don’t get out of hand.

Everyone knows, though, that China’s naval might is waxing. As it does, US regional influence will surely wane. When I asked Mr Aquino about turning to the US for protection, he didn’t miss a beat. “If they are around,” he replied. Countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are happy for American support. But sooner or later, they know they are going to have to reach accommodation with China.

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China steps up drilling, intimidation


SINGAPORE — China recently launched an oil and natural gas drilling platform that may be as significant as military modernization in buttressing Beijing's claims to control most of the islands, water and seabed in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Designed to withstand typhoons, the giant rig.......It has not said where, but China's Global Times said that the deepwater rig, which is taken to its destination by powerful tugs, would "help China establish a more important presence in the largely untapped southern part of the South China Sea."

It is in this zone, which includes the widely-scattered Spratly Islands, that China's sweeping South China Sea claim overlaps with those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian states — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

According to Hanoi, the clash occurred just 215 km from Vietnam's shore, deep inside its Exclusive Economic Zone. China responded by saying that the measures taken by Chinese authorities are "normal marine law enforcement and surveillance activities undertaken in territorial waters under China's jurisdiction."

China claims control over approximately 80 percent of the South China Sea, as far south as waters off Indonesia's Natuna Island and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. But so far, China has limited its unilateral oil and gas search to the northern sector, which is contested only by Taiwan.......

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As one of the reports states, "It is a marine version of a Battleship Galactica. Although unarmed, any attempt by Southeast Asian military forces to restrict the rig's movement in the South China Sea would risk retaliation from Beijing", this region, of late, has become very volatile because of China's proactive 'aggressive' actions that till now was under relative 'peace'.

One wonders how the scenario will pan out.