China’s military said on Monday that a Philippine military ship “illegally entered” waters near Scarborough Shoal without authorisation and it urged the Philippines to immediately stop its provocations.
The statement marks a rare warning from the Chinese military towards the Philippines over its moves in disputed waters in the South China Sea. The military had mostly directed its warnings against U.S. warships in the region.
China and the Philippines have had several confrontations in the South China Sea, recently trading accusations about a collision between a Chinese coastguard vessel and a boat from the Philippines.
“We are urging the Philippine side to immediately stop its infringement and provocations, and earnestly avoid further escalation,” said senior colonel Tian Junli, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command.
The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by China, the Philippines and Taiwan.
“The Philippine side’s actions have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and international law and basic norms governing international relations, and are prone to misunderstanding and miscalculation,” Tian said.
He said China followed, monitored, warned and blocked the ship in accordance with the law.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
This has caused escalating maritime friction and territorial disputes.
The Chinese military base on Mischief Reef, off the Philippine island of Palawan, loomed in front of our boat, obvious even in the predawn dark.
Radar domes, used for military surveillance, floated like nimbus clouds. Lights pointed to a runway made for fighter jets, backed by warehouses perfect for surface-to-air missiles. More than 900 miles from the Chinese mainland, in an area of the South China Sea that an international tribunal has unequivocally determined does not belong to China, cellphones pinged with a message: “Welcome to China.”
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Chinese Coast Guard vessel CCG 4201 fired a water cannon at Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea
Two Vietnamese fishermen were injured when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fired a water cannon at their boat near the contested Paracel Islands, the latest casualties in China’s aggressive campaign to expand its control in the South China Sea.
Tuesday’s incident, ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Vietnam on Sept. 10, happened as the fishing boat was moving from Woody Island to Observation Bank in the waters surrounding the Paracels, Vietnamese state media reported.
The ship’s owner, Huynh Van Hoanh, 43, suffered a broken right arm while fisherman Huynh Van Tien sustained a head injury during the attack by Coast Guard ship 4201.
The Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in Chinese and the Hoàng Sa Archipelago in Vietnamese, comprise about 130 small coral islands and reefs.
Claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, they have been occupied entirely by Beijing since 1974 after the Chinese navy defeated the then-South Vietnamese navy in a brief sea battle. Triton is the closest island in the chain to Vietnam.
Researcher Nguyen The Phuong from the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, said he expected to see more tensions between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea as the date of Biden’s trip approached.
Regardless of whether Vietnam and the U.S. upgrade their relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” or “strategic partnership,” China will continue its maritime strategy of “rocking the tree to threaten the monkey,” he said.
The Vietnamese fishing boat QNg 90495T is seen in port after it was attacked with a water cannon by Chinese Coast Guard vessel CCG 4201 near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, Aug. 29, 2023.
Marine Traffic data
Meanwhile, the same Chinese Coast Guard vessel and an unspecified Vietnamese boat, Ly Son 62908, have been chasing each other since Aug. 19 in the waters around Triton Island, where China recently built a 600-meter (2,000-foot) military airstrip.
China’s Coast Guard in recent years has ramped up its attacks on Vietnamese fishing boats by ramming them or firing water cannons to assert Beijing’s territorial claims in the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.
The Coast Guard ship was operating in the middle of the Paracel Islands on the day of the attack, according to the automatic identification system, or AIS, data from maritime analytics provider Marine Traffic. The self-reporting system lets vessels broadcast their identification information, characteristics and destination.
The Vietnamese boat Ly Son 62908 was once only 300 meters from the Chinese coast guard vessel CCG 4201 near Triton Island in the South China Sea, Aug. 25, 2023. Credit: MarineTraffic.com
Raymond Powell of the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University and a former U.S. defense official, told Radio Free Asia that the position of the Coast Guard vessel coincided with the location of the attack reported by the fishing boat owner.
Marine Traffic data also indicated that the second Vietnamese ship had been moving around Triton Island. Since Aug. 19, the Coast Guard ship and Vietnam’s Ly Son 62908 have been following each other closely, and at one time were only 300 meters (1,000 feet) apart in distance.
On Aug. 27, the Chinese Coast Guard ship left the Triton Island area, headed northeast and arrived in the middle of the Paracel Islands, where it assaulted the other Vietnamese fishing boat, QNg 90495TS, two days later.
After the attack, the Coast Guard ship returned to the Triton Island area and continued the chasing game with Vietnam’s ship, Ly Son 62908. To date, the two ships are still following each other in the area.
Into the zone
Researcher Hoang Viet pointed out that China has intensified its aggressive actions since a phone conversation between U.S. President Joe Biden and Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in March and the visit to Vietnam by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in mid-April.
China had repeatedly sent its survey ship Xiang Yang Hong 10 into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, which extend 200 nautical miles (230 miles) beyond a nation’s territorial sea, he said.
Powell told RFA he believed it was a small militia vessel, and that the fishing boat had gone further east than the regular route of Vietnamese Coast Guard or militia ships. He also said although Vietnam claimed sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, it rarely sent security vessels to the middle of this archipelago.
“In fact, I’ve never seen them do that,” he said.
The attack on the fishing boat also followed an Aug. 5 incident in which a Chinese Coast Guard ship shot water cannons at a Philippine boat en route to providing food and supplies to Philippine forces on the Second Thomas Shoal.
China appears to be constructing an airstrip on a disputed South China Sea island that is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press.
The work on Triton island in the Paracel group mirrors construction on seven human-made islands in the Spratly group to the east which have been equipped with airstrips, docks and military systems, although it currently appears to be somewhat more modest in scale.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own, denying the claims of others and defying an international ruling invalidating its assertion.
Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by the AP show construction on the airstrip first visible in early August. The runway, as currently laid out, would be more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) in length, long enough to accommodate turboprop aircraft and drones, but not fighter jets or bombers.
Also visible are large numbers of vehicle tracks running across much of the island, along with what appear to be containers and construction equipment.
Triton is one of the major islands in the Paracel group, which is roughly equidistant from the coast of Vietnam and China’s island province of Hainan.
The U.S. takes no stance on the sovereignty claims, but regularly sends Navy ships on “freedom of navigation operations” near the Chinese-held islands. Triton was the focus of one of those missions in 2018.
China has had a small harbor and buildings on the island for years, along with a helipad and radar arrays. Two large fields on the island sport a star from the Chinese flag and a hammer and sickle representing the ruling Communist Party.
China has refused to provide details of its island construction work other than to say it is aimed at helping global navigation safety. It has rejected accusations that it is militarizing the crucial waterway, through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade passes annually, and says it has the right to do as it wishes in its sovereign territory.
China seized full control of the Paracels from Vietnam in a brief 1974 naval conflict.
The event drew attention not only from the local community but also from tourists, providing an opportunity for activists to explain the historical and legal evidence supporting Vietnam’s rightful claim to the Paracel Islands.
Their colorful banners and compelling messages drew attention, sparking discussions about justice, territorial sovereignty, and international law. The event concluded with an impressive number of signatures collected, showcasing the power of grassroots activism and inspiring similar initiatives worldwide.
In a significant move aimed at solidifying Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty, an international campaign has been launched to collect signatures for a petition urging prominent international institutions to officially recognize the Paracel Islands as an integral part of Vietnam. The initiative seeks to bring attention to the historical and legal evidence supporting Vietnam’s rightful claim to these islands in the South China Sea.
The campaign, spearheaded by Vietnamese activists and supported by various civic organizations, aims to gather a substantial number of signatures from individuals worldwide who share the belief that a fair and just resolution should be reached. The petition will be submitted to influential international institutions, such as the United Nations, Leaders of AUKUS and the Quad and Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The organizers of the initiative highlight the importance of upholding the principles of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides a framework for resolving maritime disputes. They emphasize that recognizing the Paracel Islands as Vietnamese territory would contribute to regional stability, promote peaceful negotiations, and safeguard the rights and interests of all parties involved.
Passionate activists gathered in Paris, setting up booths and engaging with residents and tourists, to collect signatures for a petition urging international institutions to recognize the Paracel Islands as an integral part of Vietnam. Their colorful banners and compelling messages drew attention, sparking discussions about justice, territorial sovereignty, and international law. The event concluded with an impressive number of signatures collected, showcasing the power of grassroots activism and inspiring similar initiatives worldwide.
Check out these photos from an event in NSW, Australia, where individuals came together to sign the petition. The event was a powerful display of community engagement and activism, showcasing how even small actions can make a big impact on the issues that matter most.
Vietnam took aim at China on Thursday for imposing an annual ban on fishing in a vast area of the South China Sea, calling it a violation of its sovereignty and urging Beijing not to complicate matters.
China has imposed the ban each year since 1999 and Vietnam routinely opposes it. China says the ban, which will apply from May 1 to Aug. 16, is to promote sustainable fishing and improve marine ecology.
It covers waters 12 degrees north of the equator and includes parts of Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as well as the Paracel islands, which the two countries have both occupied and have contested for decades.
“China’s so-called fishing ban violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and the sovereign rights and jurisdiction in Vietnamese waters and its exclusive economic zone,” Doan Khac Viet, a Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesperson told a regular news briefing.
Hoang Sa is the Vietnamese name for the Paracel Islands.
Viet called on China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty and “not to complicate the situation”.
China claims more than 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea via a U-shaped “nine-dash line” on its maps, which stretches deep into Southeast Asia and cuts into the EEZs of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
China has deployed hundreds of vessels to bolster its claims, some more than 1,000 km off its mainland, and has been accused by some neighbors of trying to disrupt energy exploration activities.
Last month, Reuters reported based on vessel-tracking data that a Vietnamese ship had been sent to monitor a Chinese coast guard vessel patrolling near a Russian-operated gas field in Vietnam’s EEZ exclusive economic zone, one of dozens of such patrols.
Around 200 U.S. military advisers have been deployed to Taiwan, reportedly to train local troops against potential attacks from China, five times the number of American personnel based on the island at the end of last year.
U.S. advisers had been sighted as early as the end of March at a base in Kaohsiung’s Gangshan District, according to local media reports.
The advisers “have been primarily assigned to boot camps and reserve brigades,” the official Central News Agency (CNA) quoted unnamed sources within the armed forces as saying.
Currently stationed at bases across Taiwan, they will provide practical consultations on training methods to the Taiwanese military, CNA reported.
The Pentagon’s plans to deploy military advisers to Taiwan were first revealed in February. It is understood that they were prearranged for months and not connected to the latest developments in the Taiwan Strait, such as China’s recent military exercises.
Taiwan also plans to send a combined arms battalion to the United States for training in the second half of this year, it was reported earlier.
Taiwan plans to purchase up to 400 land-launched Harpoon missiles from the United States.
Meanwhile, several Southeast Asian governments are reportedly putting their own contingency plans in place for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Indonesia is working on an emergency plan to evacuate 350,000 Indonesian nationals from Taiwan if war breaks out, reported Kompas newspaper. Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians living in Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan would also have to be evacuated should there be a war in Taiwan.
The Philippines has also confirmed it has an evacuation plan for 150,000 Filipinos currently living in Taiwan.
There are around 730,000 migrant workers from Southeast Asia currently in Taiwan, representing 3% of the population, according to official statistics.
The largest groups are from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
There are around 200,000 migrant workers from Vietnam and more than 60,000 from Thailand living in Taiwan. So far the Vietnamese and Thai governments have not announced any emergency plans for their citizens.
The Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies stressed their solidarity against Russia’s assault on Ukraine, and called on China to “abstain from threats,” in a communique Tuesday following talks in Japan.
The bloc’s top diplomats promised “severe consequences” for any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia in the on-going conflict in Ukraine, and pledged that those supporting the Kremlin’s war effort there would face “severe costs.” In particular, they pointed to Russia’s threat to deploy nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus.
The ministers also called on China to “abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or the use of force” and raised “serious concerns” about the situation in the East and South China Seas – opposing “militarization” of the South China Sea, while presenting a unified front on Taiwan.
“There is no change in the basic positions of the G7 members on Taiwan, including stated one China policies,” their communique said, which also “reaffirmed” the importance of “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait as an “indispensable element in security and prosperity in the international community.”
That statement, which goes further than typical language in recent communiques, comes after French President Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy among western allies earlier this month for telling reporters Europe must not become “just America’s followers,” including over the issue of Taiwan.
The statement appeared to soften Europe’s reaction to a potential conflict involving a Chinese invasion of the self-governing island democracy, which China’s Communist Party claims as its own despite never having controlled.
Macron has since sought to downplay his comments, made during his recent state visit to China, saying on Wednesday that France was “for the status quo in Taiwan” and that his country’s position “has not changed.”
Following his departure, China held three days of military drills in the air and sea around the island, in retaliation for a visit between US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen – a meeting Beijing claims is in violation of its sovereignty.
The G7 foreign ministers said, however, that they “recognized the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China” and working together with Beijing on global challenges, according to the statement.
Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, said that as far as Taiwan is concerned, the communique appeared to see the G7 “balancing two competing priorities.”
They “underscore the interdependence between peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and that of the broader international community,” but also “reassure” Beijing they do not support Taiwan independence, he said. He pointed to the language referring to “one China policies” or agreements by which governments have established diplomatic relations with Beijing and not Taipei.
This year’s G7 meetings are hosted by the bloc’s only Asian member. The communique was released as the foreign ministers wrapped up three days of talks in the central Japanese town of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture.
Next month leaders from the member countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives from the European Union, will gather for a summit in Hiroshima.
In their communique Tuesday, the bloc’s foreign ministers stressed their interest in working together in the Indo-Pacific – a region now viewed by the US as a key theater for its competition with China.
The statement also touched on a number of global issues, including condemning North Korea’s weapons testing and nuclear programs, as well as the military coup in Myanmar and an deadly April 11 airstrike by the Myanmar military that left civilians, including children dead.
The minister also urged fighting parties in the recent outbreak of violence in Sudan to “end hostilities immediately,” and return to negotiations.