China under pressure at Asia summit over sea row
An artificial island at Scarborough Shoal could be a game changer in China’s quest to control the sea and raises the risk of armed confrontation with the US, according to security analysts. However, Beijing has insisted that it had not started building at the shoal – a move that could lead to a military outpost just 230km from the main Philippine island, where US forces are stationed.
But the Philippines on Wednesday released images, which it said showed Chinese ships in the area that were capable of dredging sand and other activities required to build an artificial island. “We have reason to believe that their presence is a precursor to building activities on the shoal,” said defence department spokesman Arsenio Andolong. He added: “We are continuing our surveillance and monitoring of their presence and activities, which are disturbing.”
China claims nearly all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes annually, even waters approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.
The competing territorial claims have long been a major source of tension in the region, with China using deadly force twice to seize control of islands from Vietnam. Tensions have escalated sharply in recent years as China has built islands on reefs and islets in the Spratlys archipelago – another strategically important location – that are capable of supporting military operations.
The US has reacted to that build-up by sailing warships close to the new islands, and sending warplanes over them, deeply angering China. A UN-backed tribunal ruled in July that China’s claims to most of the sea had no legal basis and its construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters was illegal. But Beijing vowed to ignore the ruling. China took control of Scarborough shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippine Navy, and has since deployed large fishing fleets while blocking Filipino fishermen.
Japan ‘seriously concerned’ over South China Sea tension
Japan is “seriously concerned” about Beijing’s increasingly muscular claims in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Asian leaders on Wednesday. Beijing insists that it has sovereign rights to almost all of the strategically vital waters, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims.
It also has a simmering territorial row with Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
“I am seriously concerned with the continuing attempts to change unilaterally the status quo in the East and South China Sea,” Abe said in Laos.
“I hope that both parties to the dispute in the South China Sea will abide by the ruling by the China-Philippines tribunal court, which legally binds the parties to the dispute, and it will lead to a peaceful settlement of the dispute,” he added, according to a briefing by foreign press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura.