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Old 08-11-2016, 08:56 AM
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Default New photos cast doubt on China's vow not to militarize disputed islands

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/w...w/53610095.cms

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When President Xi Jinping of China visited President Barack Obama at the White House last September, he startled many with reassuring words about his intentions for the Spratly Islands, a contested area where the Chinese government has been piling dredged sand and concrete atop reefs for the past few years and building housing and runways on them.
"China does not intend to pursue militarization," Xi said, referring to the area as the Nansha Islands, a Chinese name for what most of the rest of the world calls the Spratlys in the South China Sea+ .
The most recent satellite photographs suggest a different plan. The photos, collected and scrutinized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization, show the construction of what appear to be reinforced aircraft hangars at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs, all part of the disputed territories.
There were no military aircraft seen at the time the photos were taken. But a summary of the center's analysis suggests that the hangars on all three islets have room for "any fighter-jet in the People's Liberation Army Air Force."
A larger type of hangar on the islets can accommodate China's H-6 bomber and H-6U refueling tanker, a Y-8 transport aircraft and a KJ200 Airborne Warning and Control System plane, the center said in its analysis.
While China may assert that the structures are for civilian aircraft or other nonmilitary functions, the center says its satellite photos strongly suggest otherwise. Besides their size — the smallest hangars are 60 to 70 feet wide, more than enough to accommodate China's largest fighter jets — all show signs of structural strengthening.
"They are far thicker than you would build for any civilian purpose," Gregory B Poling, director of the center's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said Monday in a telephone interview. "They're reinforced to take a strike."
The largest hangars, 200 feet wide, are "more than enough for strategic bombers and refuelers," Poling said.
If those planes were deployed, they would greatly complicate China's disputes with the Philippines+ and other nations, and add a level of military risk to the United States' "freedom of navigation" patrols through the area.

Even before the hangars appeared, it was clear to independent military analysts that China's intention was to use the islands to flex military might+ in the area.
"We knew from the day they started building those runways," Poling said. For China to assert a more benign purpose, he said, would be "like saying you're building a mansion, but only living on the first floor."
Evidence of the military hangars emerged a month after an international tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, sharply rebuked China over its behavior in the South China Sea, including its assertion of expansive sovereignty and construction of artificial islands.
The tribunal's ruling was a response to a landmark case brought by the Philippines, which called it an "overwhelming victory." Infuriated, China said it would ignore the ruling.



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Some analysts cautioned that the hangars were not a response to the ruling and had likely been under construction for some time.
"The foundations may have been laid months ago," said M Taylor Fravel, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of its Security Studies Program.


Fravel said the hangars are not necessarily inconsistent with the Chinese president's assertions.
"China has given itself the option to use these reefs as military facilities, but has not decided yet to what degree it is going to use them," he said. "It creates the option for a robust defense of those places or even a power projection."
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Old 08-12-2016, 09:55 AM
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Default Exclusive: Vietnam moves new rocket launchers into disputed South China Sea - sources

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-so...-idUSKCN10K2NE

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By Greg Torode | HONG KONG
Vietnam has discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with new mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China's runways and military installations across the vital trade route, according to Western officials.

Diplomats and military officers told Reuters that intelligence shows Hanoi has shipped the launchers from the Vietnamese mainland into position on five bases in the Spratly islands in recent months, a move likely to raise tensions with Beijing.

The launchers have been hidden from aerial surveillance and they have yet to be armed, but could be made operational with rocket artillery rounds within two or three days, according to the three sources.

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said the information was "inaccurate", without elaborating.

Deputy Defence Minister, Senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Chi Vinh, told Reuters in Singapore in June that Hanoi had no such launchers or weapons ready in the Spratlys but reserved the right to take any such measures.

"It is within our legitimate right to self-defense to move any of our weapons to any area at any time within our sovereign territory," he said.

The move is designed to counter China's build-up on its seven reclaimed islands in the Spratlys archipelago. Vietnam's military strategists fear the building runways, radars and other military installations on those holdings have left Vietnam's southern and island defenses increasingly vulnerable.

Military analysts say it is the most significant defensive move Vietnam has made on its holdings in the South China Sea in decades.

Hanoi wanted to have the launchers in place as it expected tensions to rise in the wake of the landmark international court ruling against China in an arbitration case brought by the Philippines, foreign envoys said.

The ruling last month, stridently rejected by Beijing, found no legal basis to China's sweeping historic claims to much of the South China Sea.

Vietnam, China and Taiwan claim all of the Spratlys while the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim some of the area.

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"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly islands and nearby waters," China’s Foreign Ministry said in a faxed statement on Wednesday. "China resolutely opposes the relevant country illegally occupying parts of China’s Spratly islands and reefs and on these illegally occupied Spratly islands and reefs belonging to China carrying out illegal construction and military deployments.”

The United States is also monitoring developments closely.

"We continue to call on all South China Sea claimants to avoid actions that raise tensions, take practical steps to build confidence, and intensify efforts to find peaceful, diplomatic solutions to disputes," a State Department official said.



STATE-OF-THE-ART SYSTEM

Foreign officials and military analysts believe the launchers form part of Vietnam's state-of-art EXTRA rocket artillery system recently acquired from Israel.

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U.S. says it's aware of reports Vietnam fortified South China Sea islands
EXTRA rounds are highly accurate up to a range of 150 km (93 miles), with different 150 kg (330 lb) warheads that can carry high explosives or bomblets to attack multiple targets simultaneously. Operated with targeting drones, they could strike both ships and land targets.

That puts China's 3,000-metre runways and installations on Subi, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef within range of many of Vietnam's tightly clustered holdings on 21 islands and reefs.

While Vietnam has larger and longer range Russian coastal defense missiles, the EXTRA is considered highly mobile and effective against amphibious landings. It uses compact radars, so does not require a large operational footprint - also suitable for deployment on islets and reefs.

"When Vietnam acquired the EXTRA system, it was always thought that it would be deployed on the Spratlys...it is the perfect weapon for that," said Siemon Wezeman, a senior arms researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

There is no sign the launchers have been recently test fired or moved.

China took its first Spratlys possessions after a sea battle against Vietnam's then weak navy in 1988. After the battle, Vietnam said 64 soldiers with little protection were killed as they tried to protect a flag on South Johnson reef - an incident still acutely felt in Hanoi.

In recent years, Vietnam has significantly improved its naval capabilities as part of a broader military modernization, including buying six advanced Kilo submarines from Russia.

Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam's military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the deployment showed the seriousness of Vietnam's determination to militarily deter China as far as possible.

"China's runways and military installations in the Spratlys are a direct challenge to Vietnam, particularly in their southern waters and skies, and they are showing they are prepared to respond to that threat," he said. "China is unlikely to see this as purely defensive, and it could mark a new stage of militarization of the Spratlys."

Trevor Hollingsbee, a former naval intelligence analyst with the British defense ministry, said he believed the deployment also had a political factor, partly undermining the fear created by the prospect of large Chinese bases deep in maritime Southeast Asia.

"It introduces a potential vulnerability where they was none before - it is a sudden new complication in an arena that China was dominating," he said.



(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michael Martina in Beijing and Martin Petty in Hanoi.; Editing by Lincoln Feast)
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Old 08-12-2016, 09:56 AM
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Default Beijing Crosses Washington's 'Red Line' in South China Sea

http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160812...-red-line.html

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The Chinese military appears to be dramatically increasing its presence around a key island in the South China Sea, sending a strong message to Washington.

As Beijing continues its land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, Washington has remained adamant about one island in particular: Scarborough Shoal. Located northeast of the Spratly archipelago, it is claimed by China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and the US has maintained that any attempts to militarize the shoal would cross a "red line."

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a multiple rocket launcher
© FLICKR/ FORT BRAGG
South China Sea Ticking Time Bomb: Vietnam’s Mobile Rockets Risk Arms Race, War
According to Pentagon officials, Beijing may have just crossed it.

While China has maintained a small presence of two or three maritime security vessels around Scarborough Shoal, that number has escalated in the last few weeks. US officials familiar with intelligence reports tell the Washington Free Beacon that there are now over a dozen Chinese ships in the area.

In addition to security vessels, Beijing will also permit hundreds of fishing vessels to harvest the rich waters around Scarborough Shoal. This tactic was similarly deployed in the East China Sea, where Beijing sought to legitimize its claim to the Senkakus, islands claimed by both China (where they are known as the Diaoyus) and Japan.

A destroyer of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fires a missile during a training exercise.
© AP PHOTO/ ZHA CHUNMING
Beijing Installs Supersonic Missiles on South China Sea’s Most Lethal Destroyer
In March, US President Barack Obama met with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, issuing a stern warning against the militarization of Scarborough Shoal, given its strategic proximity to the Philippines.

"The signaling from the US side was that this was serious," a former US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Financial Times.

China’s apparent decision to flout that warning is likely related to last month’s ruling by the Hague-based Court of Arbitration. That decision sided against China’s nine-dash territorial claims in the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing does not recognize as legitimate.

In this undated photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a carrier-borne J-15 fighter jet lands on China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning
© AP PHOTO/ XINHUA, ZHA CHUNMING
South China Sea Ramp-Up: New Chinese Aircraft Carrier’s Shocking Combat Features
In the wake of the ruling, both the US and China have stepped up combat patrols in the region.

Earlier this week, satellite images revealed that China is building up its military presence in the Spratly archipelago as well, with new aircraft hangars at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs.

A highly-disputed waterway through which $5 trillion in international trade passes annually, most of the South China Sea is claimed by China, though there are overlapping claims by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The United States has no claims in the region.
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The wisdom of the ancients has been taught by the philosophers of Greece, but also by people called Jews in Syria, and by Brahmins in India
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In my veins runs the blood of the poets and wise men of old, and it is my desire to come to you and receive, but I shall not come with empty hands - Kahlil Gibran
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Old 08-13-2016, 01:27 PM
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Default Philippines urges China to "uncompromisingly" respect rule of law

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-so...-idUSKCN10M0KL
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In my veins runs the blood of the poets and wise men of old, and it is my desire to come to you and receive, but I shall not come with empty hands - Kahlil Gibran
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Old 08-17-2016, 10:00 AM
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Default Report: China May Cross Obama’s ‘Red Line,’ Reclaim Scarborough Shoal Next Month

http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160815...ugh-obama.html
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The wisdom of the ancients has been taught by the philosophers of Greece, but also by people called Jews in Syria, and by Brahmins in India
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In my veins runs the blood of the poets and wise men of old, and it is my desire to come to you and receive, but I shall not come with empty hands - Kahlil Gibran
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