Indonesia renames part of Sea
China slams US defence bill over Taiwan provision
BEIJING, July 17, (Agencies): A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
Indonesia has named waters in its exclusive economic zone that overlap with China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, an assertion of sovereignty that has angered Beijing.
The decision announced Friday by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been in the works since mid2016 and was vital to law enforcement at sea and securing Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, said Arif Havas Oegroseno, the deputy minister for maritime sovereignty.
He said the name would reduce confusion and is already used by the oil and gas industry for the waters.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said at a regular news briefing that the “so-called change of name makes no sense at all.”
“We hope the relevant countries can work with China for the shared goal and jointly uphold the current hard-won sound situation in the South China Sea,” he said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, putting it in dispute with many Southeast Asian nations, and has carried out extensive land reclamation and construction on reefs and atolls to bolster its claims.
Indonesia doesn’t have a territorial dispute with China, but Beijing’s nine-dash line, which signifies its claims, overlaps with Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone extending from the Natuna islands.
“The map of Indonesia has clear coordinates, dates and data, and the government would not negotiate with other nations that make unconventional claims ... including those who insist on a map of nine broken lines,” Oegroseno said.
Filipino officials behind an arbitration case in which the Philippines won a resounding victory over China last year are expressing alarm that Beijing continues to defy the decision, in what they are calling a setback to the rule of law.
Last week, they urged President Rodrigo Duterte, who has indefinitely set aside the decision that invalidated China’s sweeping historic claims in the South China Sea, to explore diplomatic and legal means by which to pressure China into complying.
Duterte has promised to take up the arbitration ruling with China before his six-year term ends in 2022, but is also courting China as an economic partner and possible security ally. His administration says his pragmatic outreach has calmed tensions, revived dialogue and reaped pledges of huge Chinese investments and other benefits.
“Despite its friendlier face, we do not see restraint in China’s militarization and unlawful activity in the West Philippine Sea,” said former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who spearheaded moves to bring the Philippines’ disputes with China to international arbitration in 2013. He cited China’s moves to fortify its seven man-made islands in the Spratly group with missile defense systems.
Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said China is reneging on its treaty obligation because it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea under which the arbitration decision was based.
China last week marked the anniversary of the ruling with the relatively mild language it has adopted toward the Philippines in recent months. “With the joint efforts by China and the Philippines over the past year, the dispute has been brought back to the peaceful settlement through dialogue and consolation, and bilateral ties have improved overall,” spokesman Geng Shuang said.
China on Monday said it had lodged an official protest with the United States following the passage of a defence spending bill that could lead to American warships visiting Taiwan.
Beijing has long objected to any military assistance from Washington to the self-governed island, which it considers a breakaway province.
“China firmly opposes any forms of official exchange and military contact between the US and Taiwan,” foreign ministry spokesman
Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing, adding that Beijing had made “stern representations” to Washington over the bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, passed by the US House of Representatives Friday, contains a section on Taiwan, which calls on Washington to provide the island’s military with increased military training and to encourage it to expand its defence spending.
An amendment to the bill directs the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress on the feasibility of reestablishing port calls between the US and Taiwanese navies.
The American navy stopped such visits to Taiwan in 1979, when Washington changed diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. “We urge the US side to fully recognise that the relevant articles in the act are severely harmful,” he said.
The US Congress, he added, “should not turn back the will of history lest it should harm the general interests of China-US relations”. The bill must pass the US Senate and be signed by the president before becoming law.
It comes at a sensitive moment in US-China relations, as the two sides are at odds over how to handle
North Korea and President Donald Trump’s administration angered Beijing last month over its approval of $1.3 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan.
Concerns that Taiwan would become a bargaining chip were raised soon after Trump’s election, when he suggested he may abandon the “One China” policy that underpins US-China relations, unless he could strike better deals with Beijing.
But once in office the president unequivocally endorsed the “One China” policy during a visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.