In­done­sia re­names part of Sea

China slams US de­fence bill over Tai­wan pro­vi­sion

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

Friendlier

“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.

BEI­JING:

Also:

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.

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