Beijing’s dangerous arrogance in the South China Sea

Philip Bowring says Beijing’s superiority complex and selective reading of Southeast Asian history have become the toxic brew fuelling tensions in the South China Sea

Philip Bowring BIO

China’s current behaviour vis-à-vis its South China Sea neighbours is aggressive, arrogant and smacks of Han chauvinism and ethnocentrism. Far from being an expression of national pride, it is giving patriotism a bad name. Patriotic Hongkongers should recognise it for what it is: a dangerous ploy.

Not only has Beijing bared expansionist teeth to Vietnam and the Philippines, it has now succeeded in shifting Indonesia from a position of trying to act as a moderator between China and the other South China Sea states to opponent. Twice in recent months, Indonesia has accused China of claiming part of its Natuna island archipelago. So much for a “peaceful rise” when you rile neighbours with populations of more than 400 million, who you assume to be weak. Continue reading “Beijing’s dangerous arrogance in the South China Sea”

Hong Kong issues Vietnam travel warning after mobs torch Chinese factories

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities warn against travel to Vietnam after protesters, angry over oil drilling in disputed waters, run amok

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 12:23pm

Denise Tsang and Agencies in Hanoi

The Hong Kong government issued an amber travel warning for Vietnam after protesters there vandalised hundreds of foreign-owned factories and torched at least 15 of them.

The riots followed a large protest by workers on Tuesday against China’s recent placement of an oil rig in disputed waters around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Continue reading “Hong Kong issues Vietnam travel warning after mobs torch Chinese factories”

War of words erupts as John Kerry calls Beijing ‘provocative’ in South China Sea disputes

Foreign minister hits back after John Kerry calls Chinese actions in South China Sea ‘provocative’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 5:09pm

Teddy Ng and Agencies in Hanoi and Washington

Several thousand Vietnamese workers protested at Chinese-owned factories yesterday, vandalising some of them, as anger flared at Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig in the Paracel Islands. Photo: SCMP Pictures

China and the United States exchanged heated words yesterday over the recent tensions between Beijing and its neighbours about disputed territory in the South China Sea. Continue reading “War of words erupts as John Kerry calls Beijing ‘provocative’ in South China Sea disputes”

China warns Vietnam to leave South China Sea drilling area – Situation is Escalating Rapidly

Beijing accuses Vietnamese vessels of ramming Chinese ships, and tells Washington to mind its own business as tensions rise in South China Sea


English: Map (rough) of South China Sea, own w...

Teddy Ng in Beijing

China has demanded that Vietnam withdraw its ships from a part of the disputed South China Sea where a Chinese firm is establishing an oil rig, and accused Vietnamese vessels of ramming Chinese ships in the area.

After the latest confrontation between vessels from the two countries, a senior Foreign Ministry official in Beijing said China was “shocked” at the “provocations of Vietnam” and vowed the drilling in the disputed Paracel Islands would continue. Continue reading “China warns Vietnam to leave South China Sea drilling area – Situation is Escalating Rapidly”

Ships collide as Vietnam tries to stop China oil rig deployment in disputed waters

Beijing hits out after Philippines seizes fishing vessel and collision with Vietnamese boats


Just Added from the – A low-quality version of that video has been posted on Youtube. It appears to have been taped by one of the media outlets that attended the press conference. English language subtitles of Thu’s remarks also appear on the video:



PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 4:42pm

Teddy Ng in Beijing and Agencies in Hanoi and Manila


Tensions in the South China Sea flared up yesterday as China exchanged harsh rhetoric with the Philippines and Vietnam after confrontations in the waters. Continue reading “Ships collide as Vietnam tries to stop China oil rig deployment in disputed waters”

Chinese media threatens Vietnam with a ‘lesson it deserves’ over oil rig row



PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 10:47am


Map of the South China Sea


Agence France-Presse in Beijing


Vietnam reacted furiously to a decision by Beijing to move a deep-water drilling rig into disputed waters for the first time. Photo: Xinhua


China should give Vietnam a “lesson it deserves to get” if Hanoi ratchets up tension in the South China Sea, an aggressive editorial in state-run media said on Tuesday.


The editorial in the Global Times newspaper comes after Vietnam reacted furiously to a decision by Beijing to move a deep-water drilling rig into disputed waters for the first time. Continue reading “Chinese media threatens Vietnam with a ‘lesson it deserves’ over oil rig row”

Men with stolen IDs on missing Malaysian jet used stolen Austrian and Italian passports

Men with stolen IDs on missing Malaysian jet not of Asian appearance

Photo: EPA

The two unidentified men who used stolen passports to board the Malaysian airliner that went missing on Saturday were not of Asian appearance, the chief Malaysian investigator said today. Flight MH370 disappeared early on Saturday about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers had used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had also used false identity documents.

Debris not from missing Malaysian plane – Vietnam

A floating object previously reported to resemble an overturned liferaft was not part of the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing over the South China Sea, Vietnamese authorities said Monday. Continue reading “Men with stolen IDs on missing Malaysian jet used stolen Austrian and Italian passports”

7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas

By Rachel Tackett

Lifestyle Dec. 05, 2013 – 06:20AM JST ( 24 )


Here’s a collection of seven observations that Japanese people made while doing business in foreign countries.

1. The lack of overtime

In Germany and Spain, there is practically no overtime. Spending time with the family is paramount. Work does not infringe on a person’s personal life. In Australia, people go home precisely at the end of their work hours. They can be somewhat lax when it comes to meeting other deadlines, but if their work day lasts until five, then at five sharp they are out the door.

Continue reading “7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas”

Taiwan Risks Tensions With Survey of Disputed Spratlys

Oct. 9, 2013 – 02:06PM   |

TAIPEI — Taiwan has conducted a natural gas and oil survey in the disputed Spratly Islands, a legislator said Wednesday, the latest in a string of moves that risk stoking tensions over the South China Sea archipelago.

A team of technicians from the state-run CPC Corporation, Taiwan sailed to Taiping, the island in the chain that is controlled by Taipei, on Monday, legislator Lin Yu-fang’s office said in a statement.

“They completed the survey on Tuesday afternoon and were on their way back to Taiwan escorted by a naval fleet” composed of a dock landing ship and a frigate, the statement said.

Taiwan risks ratcheting up regional tensions over the Spratlys with the move. The islands are also claimed entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

All the claimants except Brunei have troops based on the group of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which are spread across a vast area but have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).

A senior assistant to Lin told AFP the step is expected to be followed by more sensitive surveys of the water in the vicinity, declining to provide details.

The geological survey came after the Taiwanese government granted the company permission in 2011 to explore for oil and natural gas in the waters off Taiping.

Taiwan maintains a small coastguard garrison on Taiping, 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from its southern coast, and earlier this year sent new mortar and anti-aircraft systems to the islet, angering Vietnam.

Taipei also said it plans to build a dock big enough for warships in the disputed archipelago, an upgrade from the existing pier that caters only to small patrol boats.

Taiwan built a 1,150-meter (3,800-foot) runway on Taiping in mid-2006, despite protests from other countries.

The Philippines and Vietnam have been strengthening their military deployment in the area after complaining that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in asserting its own claims.

Kosovo school book: Rock Music is Criminal


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Kosovo authorities are telling teachers and students to ignore a paragraph in a high school textbook that labels rock music as criminal.
The citizenship textbook states that “rock music, pornography, violence on television – all not good acts – have been proven to be totally criminal.” The Ministry of Education on Wednesday ordered teachers to disregard that part and said the paragraph will be deleted in future editions, AP news agency reported.

The textbook has been in circulation for at least eight years, but sparked outrage when the news of the contentious paragraph emerged on Kosovo’s public television last week.

“Rock and roll is not a crime”, said Bujar Berisha, the front man of leading Kosovo rock band Troja. “It is rebellious but it is a positive rebellion. It has always been the voice of the people against injustice, from Vietnam to Kosovo.”

The author said the entire embarrassing episode is a technical mistake.

“It should say ‘commercial,’ not ‘criminal,'” Bajram Shatri, who wrote the book alongside an author from Albania, told the AP. Shatri apologized to Kosovo rockers, but insisted not all music is good for body and soul.

“Some musical content can negatively affect the children,” Shatri said, acknowledging that his children listen to rock music.

Kosovo authorities say the paragraph must go although no one can put an estimate on how many generations of teenagers may have been turned away from electric guitars and long hair.

“The publishers are asked, when they republish the book, to immediately eliminate this shortcoming,” said Ramush Lekaj, an official in Kosovo’s Ministry of Education that oversees the content of textbooks.

Kosovo is a majority ethnic Albanian former province of Serbia that seceded with NATO help in 2008.


Inflammatory Beijing restaurant sign triggers online fury

World Feb. 28, 2013 – 06:30AM JST

Inflammatory Beijing restaurant sign triggers online fury
A Beijing restaurant sign that reads, “This shop does not receive the Japanese, The Philippines, The Vietnamese and Dog” AFP


A sign at a Beijing restaurant barring citizens of nations involved in maritime disputes with China—along with dogs—has triggered a wave of online outrage among Vietnamese and Filipinos.

The Beijing Snacks restaurant near the Forbidden City, a popular tourist spot, has posted a sign on its door reading “This shop does not receive the Japanese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese and dog(s).”

Photographs of the controversial sign have gone viral in Vietnamese-language forums and featured heavily in Philippine newspapers and websites on Wednesday.

Vietnam’s state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper ran a story saying the sign had “ignited online fury”. It claimed many Vietnamese feel this is another example of Chinese “extreme nationalism that deserves to be condemned”.

“It’s not patriotism, it’s stupid extremism,” Sy Van wrote in Vietnamese in a comment under the story, published on the paper’s website.

The sign provoked thousands of posts on Vietnamese social networking sites and newspaper comment threads.

“This is teaching hate to the younger generation,” Facebook user Andrea Wanderer wrote in Vietnamese. “The owner of the restaurant has obviously been brainwashed by their government,” added Facebook user Chung Pham.

Filipinos greeted the photo with a mixture of fury and amusement.

“Blatant racism at Beijing Restaurant,” journalist Veronica Pedrosa wrote in one widely-shared tweet, while Facebook user Rey Garcia used a comment thread on a news site to retort: “Who cares, they almost cook everything, even fetus and fingernails.”

Vietnam and the Philippines are locked in a longstanding territorial row with China over islands in the South China Sea. China and Japan have a separate acrimonious dispute over islands in the East China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Department spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters in Manila Wednesday that the Beijing restaurant sign was simply one “private view” about the maritime dispute.

The photos were originally posted on Facebook.

The sign’s wording is particularly inflammatory as it recalls China’s colonial era, when British-owned establishments barred Chinese from entering.

A sign supposedly reading “No Dogs and Chinese allowed” became part of Communist propaganda after it was said to have hung outside a park in Shanghai when Western powers controlled parts of China.

It has become part of Chinese folklore and featured in the 1972 Bruce Lee film “Fists of Fury”—but many historical experts say no such sign ever existed.

The controversial Beijing sign was still in place Wednesday, according to the restaurant owner who gave only his surname of Wang. “No officials have contacted me about it. This is my own conduct,” Wang told AFP.

© 2013 AFP

– See more at:

Indian navy prepared to deploy to South China Sea to protect oil interests: Asian giants could be on a collision course

India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration. -AFP

Mon, Dec 03, 2012         AFP

NEW DELHI – The Indian navy is prepared to deploy vessels to the South China Sea to protect India’s oil interests there, the navy chief said on Monday amid growing international fears over the potential for naval clashes in the disputed region.

India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam. China claims virtually the entire mineral-rich South China Sea and has stepped up its military presence there. Other nations such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia have competing claims.

Indian state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has a stake in a gas field in the Nam Con Son basin, off Vietnam’s south coast.

Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K Joshi said while India was not a claimant in the dispute over territorial rights in the South China Sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests in the region.

“When the requirement is there, for example, in situations where our country’s interests are involved, for example ONGC … we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that,”Joshi told a news conference.

“Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes,” he said.

He described the modernisation of China’s navy as “truly impressive” and acknowledged that it was a source of major concern for India.

Any display of naval assertiveness by India in the South China Sea would likely fuel concern that the navies of the two rapidly growing Asian giants could be on a collision course as they seek to protect trade routes and lock in the supply of coal, minerals and other raw material from foreign sources.

“It is one of the most important international waterways and freedom of navigation there is an issue of utmost concern to India because a large portion of India’s trade is through the South China Sea,” said Brahma Chellaney, analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.

Chellaney, however, played down Joshi’s comments, saying the Indian navy’s focus would remain on the Indian Ocean, which the Asian nation views as its strategic backyard.


In September 2011, an Indian warship sailing in the South China Sea to the Vietnamese port of Haiphong was challenged when a caller identifying himself as an official of the Chinese navy warned the ship on an open radio channel that it was entering Chinese waters.

Nothing happened, the ship sailed on, and both India and China have since played down the incident, with New Delhi saying the vessel was well within international waters in the South China Sea and that there was no confrontation.

China’s neighbours are fretting about a recent Chinese media report on new rules that will allow police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” its waters from Jan. 1.

The Philippines on Saturday condemned the Chinese plan as illegal and Singapore, home to the world’s second-busiest container port, said on Monday it was concerned.

Asked about the report of China’s plan to board ships, Joshi said India had the right to self-defence.

Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the US Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report. That would surpass every country’s proven oil reserves except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review.

Chinese police plan to board vessels in disputed seas

From Jan 1, Hainan police will seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” Chinese waters. -Reuters

Thu, Nov 29, 2012


CHINA – Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move which could raise tensions further.

The South China Sea is Asia’s biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty.

New rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow Hainan police to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the official China Daily reported.

“Activities such as entering the island province’s waters without permission, damaging coastal defence facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal,” the English-language newspaper said.

“If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations,” it added.

China’s assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

China occasionally detains fishermen, mostly from Vietnam, who it accuses of operating illegally in Chinese waters, though generally frees them quite quickly.

Hainan, which likes to style itself as China’s answer to Hawaii or Bali with its resorts and beaches, is the province responsible for administering the country’s extensive claims to the myriad islets and atolls in the South China Sea.

The newspaper said that the government will also send new maritime surveillance ships to join the fleet responsible for patrolling the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas and straddling shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe and the Middle East.

The stakes have risen in the area as the US military shifts its attention and resources back to Asia, emboldening its long-time ally the Philippines and former foe Vietnam to take a tougher stance against Beijing.

China has further angered the Philippines and Vietnam by issuing new passports showing a map depicting China’s claims to the disputed waters.

China angers neighbors with sea claims on new passports


By Manuel MogatoPosted 2012/11/22 at 4:58 am EST

MANILA, Nov. 22, 2012 (Reuters) — The Philippines and Vietnam condemned Chinese passports containing a map of China’s disputed maritime claims on Thursday, branding the new design a violation of their sovereignty.

The map means countries disputing the Chinese claims will have to stamp microchip-equipped passports of countless visitors, in effect acquiescing to the Chinese point of view.

Stand-offs between Chinese vessels and the Philippine and Vietnamese navies in the South China Sea have become more common as China increases patrols in waters believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

“The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Thursday, referring to the lines on the passport map.

Vietnam had written to China in protest against the new passports and had asked it to “reverse their incorrect content”, said Luong Thanh Nghi, a spokesman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry.

“This action by China has violated Vietnam’s sovereignty to the Paracel and Spratly islands as well as our sovereign rights and jurisdiction to related maritime areas in the South China Sea, or the East Sea,” he told a news conference.

Malaysia and Brunei are also claimants in the dispute which overshadowed an Asian leaders’ summit in Cambodia this week. China is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan.

China’s foreign ministry said in a faxed response to questions that the new passports met international standards.

“The passports’ maps with their outlines of China are not targeting a specific country. China is willing to actively communicate with the relevant countries and promote the healthy development of Sino-foreign personnel exchanges,” it said.

It was not clear when China began printing the new passports.

The dispute spilled over into Southeast Asia’s normally serene government summits this year, with China accused of seeking to stall debate and divide the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the issue.

Philippine diplomats accused China at this week’s summit in Phnom Penh of using its influence over host Cambodia to push a formal statement saying that ASEAN did not want to “internationalize” the dispute.

The Philippines, which sees its alliance with the United States as a crucial check on China’s claims at a time when the United States is shifting its military focus back to Asia, protested to Cambodia and succeeded in having that clause removed from the final statement.

(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing and Ngo Chau in Hanoi; writing by Stuart Grudgings in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Temperature rising in the South China Sea / Territorial showdown overshadows Obama’s trip to Southeast Asia


November 21, 2012 06:00


BANGKOK, Thailand — China’s largest claimed island in the disputed South China Sea, Yongxing, is just over half the size of New York’s Central Park. Its next-largest claim in the sea, Taiping Island, would fit inside Beijing’s Forbidden City palace with room to spare.

These outcroppings are crumbs peeking up from a vast abyss. Many are swallowed by waves at high tide. Yet many of the sea’s dribs and drabs of soil are the focus of a territorial dispute with ever-sinking odds of resolution.

This week’s East Asia and Asean summits in Cambodia highlighted again the inability of the many countries involved to reach a consensus on how to reduce tensions. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao fervently defended his country’s claim to almost all of the sea, while Obama urged Asean to work cooperatively toward a solution but stopped short of backing smaller nations against China.

China’s chief rivals in the conflict are Vietnam and the Philippines, both trumped by Beijing’s military and diplomatic might. Both now contend that as China summons more villagers, troops, tourists and even aerial drones to these islands, the dispute appears more intractable by the day.

“We’d like to shake hands with China. But it’s difficult to shake hands when your foot is on my foot,” said Henry Bensurto Jr., secretary general of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs’ maritime commission.

“There is a saying … if you’re being raped, maybe it’s good to just enjoy it,” Bensurto said. “We refuse to be like that.”

Both Vietnam and the Philippines claim dominion over large blocks of the sea extending off their shorelines. China, however, claims nearly the entire body of water. In July, it locked this zone into be a new prefecture named Sansha: a mere five square miles worth of actual land swimming in an aquatic zone larger than France.

“China’s act of defending its sovereignty is necessary and legitimate,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at this week’s summit.

Much of this territory is far closer to either Vietnam or the Philippines than China’s mainland. But China’s claim rests not on proximity but on accounts of ancient mariners who got there first and occasionally left a few fishermen behind.

According to a Chinese government statement obtained by GlobalPost, the government has drawn upon “local chronicles” and ancient maps to determine that its seafarers reached these islands as early as the Han Dynasty (2nd-century BC) and no later than the Tang Dynasty in the late 8th century.

“They have been parts of China’s territory since ancient times,” according to the report. As for the yawning distance between these islands and China’s mainland turf, the report maintains that “many countries have territories which are far away from their home territory but are closer to other countries.”

Philippine or Vietnamese incursions onto these islands — sometimes situated less than an hour’s boat journey from their home terrain — are seen as “acts of invasion.” Both Vietnam and the Philippines insist that old maps don’t cut it.

“Some of these claims aren’t even generated from international law,” said Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, deputy director of Vietnam’s Center for South China Sea Studies. “They’re from historical titles. At least we need rules for this game. If no one knows the rules of the game, we can’t control the outcome.”

The driver behind this conflict is not dominion over sandy atolls jutting above the surf. These nations desire the resources that lie beneath the sea. According to China, the region is home to more than 200 billion barrels’ worth of untapped oil, an amount equal to 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s acknowledged reserves.

Neither the Philippines or Vietnam have the money or tech savvy to conduct their own studies. “It’s just too costly and too expensive to do so at the moment,” Anh said. Still, Bensurto said, China’s citing of 1,000-year-old mariner routes is hardly a claim to the seabeds that hold all that oil.

“Is it possible,” he said, “for a country to actively claim historical title over a seabed in the Song Dynasty? Was there a submarine in the 11th century that allowed some entity to occupy property under the sea?”

Today, however, China does ply the sea with submarines. So does another lurker, the United States. Announced nuclear submarine visits to the Philippines, a longstanding ally and former US colony, are paired with forays by American surveillance ships near China’s new submarine bases in the region. In recent years, these missions have goaded China’s navy into surrounding US vessels — a message to get off Chinese turf.

China also uses airborne drones to maintain a gaze from above. Recently, the Philippines’ naval defense department threatened to shoot Chinese drones out of the sky. Recurring standoffs between Philippine and Chinese vessels at sea have revived anxiety over American intervention as the US is treaty-bound to protect the Philippines from foreign invasion.

But the South China Sea’s potential to become a new naval battlefield between the two major powers — China and the US — is still low, Bensurto said. “A very good plot in a very good movie,” he said, “but it’s not reality … our hope is that these two superpowers will come together and find a way to stop this.”

Treaty or not, America can’t risk scrambling its relationship with China over this marine dispute, said Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University.

“They have deep interdependency. They might not agree on everything but they will definitely not go into open conflict,” Kavi said. “The South China Sea is not the Middle East. The Philippines is not Israel.”

So far, China’s harshest rebukes of its rivals are voiced through government media. An op-ed in the state’s “China Internet Information Center” diminishes the Filipino and Vietnamese argument to a dishonest distraction technique: “To prevent the economic crisis from turning into social unrest, some neighboring countries chose to divert domestic tensions by hyping the so-called ‘China Threat’ and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.”

Both the Philippines and Vietnam are open to discussing joint-development projects that would benefit both China and their own governments. “The peace and stability of the region is in jeopardy,” Anh said. “We have to shelve the sovereignty dispute.”

But China, for now, appears unbudging. The government continues to promote cruise ship tourism to its claimed islands while also deploying troops and barreling ahead with oil-drilling projects in disputed terrain.

“We at least need rules of engagement so we’re able to avoid accidents with each other,” Bensurto said. “A protocol to make sure the guns pointed at each other don’t shoot.”

At the close of the Asean summit on Tuesday, they were no closer to this goal.

US risks drawing Beijing’s ire with military cruise in disputed waters

USS George Washington enters South China Sea as display of naval strength and support of smaller Asian nations claims


  • Associated Press on board the  USS George Washington
  •,             Saturday 20 October 2012 10.10 EDT
US carrier strike group cruises in South China Sea

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier cruising the disputed South China Sea. Photograph: Brian H. Able/EPA

A US aircraft carrier group cruised through the disputed South China Sea on Saturday in a show of American power in waters that are fast becoming a focal point of Washington’s strategic rivalry with Beijing.

Vietnamese security and government officials were flown onto the nuclear-powered USS George Washington ship, underlining the burgeoning military relationship between the former enemies.

A small number of journalists were also invited to witness the display of maritime might in the oil-rich waters, which are home to islands disputed between China and the other smaller Asian nations facing the sea.

The visit will likely reassure Vietnam and the Philippines of American support but could annoy China, whose growing economic and naval strength is leading to a greater assertiveness in pressing its claims there.

The United States is building closer economic and military alliances with Vietnam and other nations in the region as part of a “pivot” away from the Middle East to Asia, a shift in large part meant to counter rising Chinese influence.

The Vietnamese officials took photos of F-16 fighter jets taking off and landing on the ships 1,000-foot-long flight deck, met the captain and toured the hulking ship, which has more than 5,000 sailors on board.

The mission came a day after Beijing staged military exercises near islands in the nearby East China Sea it disputes with US ally Japan. Those tensions have flared in recent days.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, where the US says it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in an area crossed by vital shipping lanes.

Vietnam, the Philippines and several other Asian nations also claim parts of the sea.

The disputes attracted little international interest until the late 1990s, when surveys indicated possible large oil reserves.

American rivalry with China has given the disputes an extra dimension in recent years.

The US navy regularly patrols the Asia-Pacific region, conducting joint exercises with its allies and training in the strategic region.

The trip by the George Washington off the coast of Vietnam is its third in as many years.

A second aircraft carrier, the USS John C Stennis, has also conducting operations in the western Pacific region recently, according to the US Pacific Fleet.

Captain Gregory Fenton said the mission was aimed in part at improving relations with Vietnam and ensuring the US had free passage in the South China Sea.

China’s military buildup, including the launch of its own carrier last year and rapid development of ballistic missiles and cyber warfare capabilities, could potentially crimp the US forces’ freedom to operate in the waters.

The United States doesn’t publicly take sides in the territorial disputes among China and its neighbors.

“It is our goal to see the region’s nations figure out these tensions … on their own, our role of that to date is to conduct freedom of navigation exercises within international waters,” Fenton said in an interview on the bridge.

Although claimant countries have pledged to settle the territorial rifts peacefully, the disputes have erupted in violence in the past, including in 1988 when China and Vietnam clashed in the Spratly Islands in a confrontation that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers.

Many fear the disputes could become Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.

Vietnam is pleased to accept help from its one-time foe America as a hedge against its giant neighbor China, with which it also tries to maintain good relations.

Still, the Hanoi government reacted angrily to recent moves by Beijing to establish a garrison on one of the Paracel islands, which Vietnam claims. The United States also criticized the move by Beijing, earning it a rebuke from the government there.

“China will take this (cruise) as another expression by the United States of its desire to maintain regional domination,” said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii.

“The US also wants to send a message to the region that it is here for the long haul … and that it wants to back up international law.”

While most analysts believe military confrontation in the waters is highly unlikely anytime soon, they say tensions are likely to increase as China continues pressing its claims and building its navy.


Dioxin Causes Disease and Reproductive Problems Across Generations, Study Finds

Even if all the dioxin were eliminated from the planet, researchers say its legacy will live on in the way it turns genes on and off in the descendants of people exposed over the past half century. (Credit: iStockphoto/Dmitry Oshchepkov)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2012) — Since the 1960s, when the defoliant Agent Orange was widely used in Vietnam, military, industry and environmental groups have debated the toxicity of one of its ingredients, the chemical dioxin, and how it should be regulated.

But even if all the dioxin were eliminated from the planet, Washington State University researchers say its legacy would live on in the way it turns genes on and off in the descendants of people exposed over the past half century.

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, biologist Michael Skinner and members of his lab say dioxin administered to pregnant rats resulted in a variety of reproductive problems and disease in subsequent generations. The first generation of rats had prostate disease, polycystic ovarian disease and fewer ovarian follicles, the structures that contain eggs. To the surprise of Skinner and his colleagues, the third generation had even more dramatic incidences of ovarian disease and, in males, kidney disease.

“Therefore, it is not just the individuals exposed, but potentially the great-grandchildren that may experience increased adult-onset disease susceptibility,” says Skinner.

Skinner is a professor of reproductive biology and environmental epigenetics — the process in which environmental factors affect how genes are turned on and off in the offspring of an exposed animal, even though its DNA sequences remain unchanged. In this year alone, Skinner and colleagues have published studies finding epigenetic diseases promoted by jet fuel and other hydrocarbon mixtures, plastics, pesticides and fungicides, as well as dioxin.

The field of epigenetics opens new ground in the study of how diseases and reproductive problems develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, work in Skinner’s lab further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through epigenetic changes in sperm.

This latest study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Skinner designed the study; the research was done by Assistant Research Professor Mohan Manikkam, Research Technician Rebecca Tracey and Post-doctoral Researcher Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna

Vietnam bloggers ‘anti-state propaganda’ trial open

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 24, 2012 7:25 EDT

This file photo shows policemen standing guard in front of Ho Chi Minh City People's Court House in 2010 via AFP

Hundreds of police surrounded a court in Vietnam on Monday for the opening of the trial of three bloggers, including one whose case has been raised by US President Barack Obama.

Heavy security flanked the building in southern Ho Chi Minh City as the case began against Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai and policewoman-turned-dissident Ta Phong Tan, an AFP reporter saw.

The trio face charges of conducting propaganda against the one-party communist state, which are routinely used to prosecute dissidents in a country that rights groups say is conducting a growing crackdown against freedom of expression.


There were no sign of supporters outside the court, after a popular banned blog, Dan Lam Bao (the People Report), claimed they had been prevented from approaching the area by security forces.

The blog ran photographs of people carrying large signs calling for the trio’s release, and reported that at least seven supporters had been arrested early Monday. Police would not comment on any arrests.

Mobile phone signals had apparently been blocked inside the court compound, the AFP reporter said.

The bloggers are to be tried under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail, a lawyer for Dieu Cay told AFP earlier.

In a desperate protest over the detention of her daughter, Tan’s mother committed suicide by setting herself on fire in front of a local authority building in July, causing one of several postponements to the controversial trial.

Tan was arrested last year, while Phan Thanh Hai, who blogs under the name Anhbasg, was arrested in 2010.

Nguyen Van Hai has been in detention since September 2008, when he was jailed for two-and-a-half years for tax fraud.

The trio are all accused of posting political articles on the banned Vietnamese website “Free Journalists Club” as well as writing on their own blogs, denouncing corruption and injustice and criticising Hanoi’s foreign policy.

Communist Vietnam bans private media — all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

In May, Obama said “we must not forget (journalists) like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam”.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called upon the government to drop the charges and release the three bloggers immediately.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Vietnam 172 out of 179 countries in its 2011-2012 press freedom index and identified the authoritarian state as an “Enemy of the Internet” because of systematic use of cyber-censorship.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]