Mischief Island in focus.
PICS BBC and Inquirer.net
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The United States Navy has initiated the first “freedom of navigation” after President Donald Trump, took over. Under the exercise, a US Navy ship sailed into the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The US ship sailed quite close to the disputed reef; it ventured to within 12 nautical miles.
A US official revealed that the USS Dewey sailed near Mischief Reef that has been under dispute. It is a part of the Spratly islands claimed by Beijing.
This activity took place early Thursday morning local time, the official said. There were such exercises conducted in 2016 by the US. The US navy visited 22 states last year for challenging excessive maritime claims.
On the one hand the US is asking China to control North Korea; on the other, it is making such provocative gestures.
In the backdrop is the expansionist tendency of China. It has running disputes with Taiwan and several members of the ASEAN.
China embarked on a strategic construction of military installations on shoals and built artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
These annexations are the reason for tensions in the region.
Under the Freedom of navigation, the US Department of Defense performs these exercises regularly. Ther are not meat as a provocation nor are they spherically aimed at any one nation. The US does not aim to make any political statement.
But, the annexations and artificial islands of the South China Seas are questioned by the United States that seeks a diplomatic settlement.
The US has challenged annexations of these islets and advocated for a diplomatic settlement to the disputes.
There was a protest from the Chinese to the ship’s transgression.
The background (Earlier this year)
China seems to be on unconcerned about the other countries watching its expansionist designs in the South China Sea.
In the vicinity of the disputed Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), its objectionable reclamation activities go on with disdain. For this purpose, it deployed a dredging ship at the disputed Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef).
It appears that China is rapidly constructing and reinforcing its facilities there. The military command that secures the country’s maritime interests in the West Philippine Sea, stated so.
Panganiban Reef—a Philippine-claimed area in the Spratly group of islands, was annexed by China in the 1990s. The Chinese continued with their reclamation and consolidation all around the Spratlys. The explanation given by China at that time was that Panganiban Reef is a fishermen’s shelter.
But, they gradually converted into a military fortress Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez stated.
Lopez is chief of the Western Command (Wescom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Thus, the world keeps looking helplessly while China goes about in its consolidation and grabbing.
Moreover, the dredging activities are ongoing without any clue to other nations as to what is transpiring there.
Lopez did not say divulge any details of the work, its starting or the status about the Chinese work. He could not say as to the extent of reclamation by the Chinese except that it was substantial.
Furthermore, he stated that the Filipino Navy had photographed the complete work of reclamation. The amount of activity in Panganiban Reef has converted it to a fortress with immense potency.
Panganiban Reef, he continued, is a base for Chinese frigates that patrol the area.
Panganiban Reef, is one of the many rocky structures that make up the Spratlys archipelago.
The first argument that the Philippines put forth to back up its claim is that it lies within the country’s continental shelf.
Secondly, being just 135 kilometers southeast of Palawan it falls within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Under the pretext of building shelters to protect visiting Chinese fishermen, China occupied Panganiban Reef.
In addition, China has stepped-up the building activities at Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), also part of the Spratlys,
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines lodged a protest with China regarding the illegal reclamation activities at Mischief Island.
DFA also issued a note verbale to the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday. It included a strong accusation that the Chinese were building air strips in contravention of maritime agreements.
By its continuous violations of the exclusive rights of the Philippines over its islands and waters, China has increased tensions. Thus, China was willfully contravening International Maritime Laws under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).
This violation by China is not acceptable and the Philippines demanded an immediate stoppage to the illegal activities. The South China Sea has oil and gas deposits in abundance.
Moreover, trade surpassing $5 trillion passes through these waters of the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
These are some factors that make China throw its weight around on the smaller nations in the region. Therefore, China is party to running disputes with Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.
Furthermore, China is going around grabbing any uninhabited islands or building artificial islands in the region.
China is behaving inconsistently; on the one hand it denies any expansionist expansions while acting differently elsewhere. The Chinese President Xi Jinping denied any territorial ambitions last year but continued its reclamation work in the Spratlys.
In addition, the Chinese have illegally occupied six other reefs where it continues its construction work. This has resulted in a five-fold increase in the land that it occupies.
The serial photographs reveal a series of military installations including airstrips and seaports. The fortification of the artificial construction allows heavy military planes to operate from these islands.
Images by IHS Jane have showed the Chinese-built Island on the Kagitingan Reef; it was 300 meters wide and 3,000-meters long. Images by Reuters displayed two structures sitting on artificially conjured atolls. The larger one was 3 stories high and was equipped with solar panels and wind turbines.
There was the signing of a code of conduct between China and other South East Asian Nations. They agreed to prohibit any nation from occupying or constructing garrison on the disputed Spratly Islands.
But, this did not deter the Chinese who continued their reclamation activities. The Philippines and Vietnam had protested this reclamation work as a violation of the informal code.
There was also the incident in January in which Chinese ships rammed Filipino boats.
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Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson.
Thursday, May 25, 2017