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Hypothetical War : Contest For The Spratleys

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191006-N-VI515-0396 SOUTH CHINA SEA (October 6, 2019) Ships from Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group sail in formation while conducting security and stability operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)
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A Filipino crewed, Greek owned, 60,000 ton class ship passing near Scarborough Shoal to a destination in China was radioed by a Chinese warship to change course away from Scarborough Shoal. The Filipino ship captain maintained course and questioned why must he change course, is it Chinese territory? No response and just again was demanded for the ship to change course.


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China set up administration districts in the South China Sea.



MANILA, Philippines — In an apparent move to further tighten its grip in the South China Sea, Beijing recently announced it was establishing two districts in Paracels and Spratly Islands.

The two administrative units are under the control of Sansha City, Chinese People’s Liberation Army said in its news website on Friday (April 17).

The ”Nansha District” would be in charge of Spratly Islands, where the Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea are located, as well as the surrounding areas. Its government will hold office on Yongshu Jiao, China’s name for Philippine-claimed Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef.

The “Xisha District” would manage Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and other areas close to it.

Vietnam was outraged by China’s latest move, and has strongly protested it.

“The establishment of the so-called Sansha City and related activities seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

“Vietnam demands that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty and abolish its wrongful decisions,” she said.

Absolute control
Maritime expert Prof. Jay Batongbacal said China’s creation of new districts is an attempt to demonstrate that it has absolute control of the disputed waters.

If no other state objects, it can be interpreted as consent.

“Absence of protests on the part of the other countries, especially those directly affected, will be seen and portrayed as acquiescence and acceptance or recognition of the exercise of such control as valid,” he told Inquirer.net on Monday.

It will be a recognition of China’s sovereignty in the area, and the validity of its claims despite their being obviously excessive, illegal and unsupported by law or facts, he said.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who played a crucial role in securing the Philippines’ historic victory against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, urged the Philippine government to object to China’s creation of new districts.

“DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) should protest because Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef is part of our Kalayaan Island Group. Vietnam already protested. If we do not protest, China will later claimed we acquiesced,” he told INQUIRER.net.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said this move only goes to show that “China has been relentless in exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues to pursue its illegal and expansive claims in the South China Sea to the prejudice of Filipinos, Asean states and the international community as a whole.”

Like Carpio and Batongbacal, he also called on the Philippine government to protest China’s recent actions, the way it recently did over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in early April.

“These recent events in the South China Sea remind us Filipinos to be eternally vigilant in the defense of our country’s territory and sovereign rights even as we confront a very grave threat as COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

As the coronavirus pandemic rampages across the world, China continues its expansionist activities in the South China Sea.

The Chinese government last month opened two research stations on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) reefs, two of China’s seven man-made military bases in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

A military transport plane was also spotted on Kagitingan Reef in March, another indication of China’s unceasing operations despite the global pandemic.

“China’s not going to stop. If a global pandemic doesn’t cause China to calm things down the South China Sea, There’s not much that will,” American maritime security expert Gregory Poling said in an online news conference last week.


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US naval activities in the SCS.



SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 18, 2020) - The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), front, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) transit the South China Sea. Bunker Hill is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and is operating with the America Expeditionary Strike Group in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh) 200418-N-IW125-2047






SOUTH CHINA SEA 04.18.2020 Photo by Seaman Jonathan Berlier USS America (LHA 6) - Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) transits the South China Sea. America, flagship of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.



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HMAS Parramatta joined the three US warships two posts above since April 13th, up to at least the 18th.





SOUTH CHINA SEA - The U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy came together for operations in the South China Sea starting April 13.

HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) began sailing with Ticonderoga-class guided missile-cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) then rendezvoused with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) April 18. Their combined operations started with force integration training and maneuvering exercises between Parramatta and Bunker Hill.

“It is great to be operating with the Australians again,” said Capt. Kurt Sellerberg, commanding officer of the USS Bunker Hill. “Every time I have deployed to this region, and to the Middle East, I have had the good fortune to operate with the Royal Australian Navy.”

Operations with USS America started with a precision maneuvers that included Barry in the South China Sea.

“We look forward to every opportunity we get to work with our stalwart Australian allies at sea,” said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of the America Expeditionary Strike Group. “To bring this much combat capability together here in the South China Sea truly signals to our allies and partners in the region that we are deeply committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Operations with Parramatta have included integrated live fire exercises, coordinated helicopter operations, small boat force protection drills, command and control integration, and maneuvering interoperability.

“San Diego [HM-60] ‘Romeo’ pilots have a long flying history with Australian pilots,” said Lt. Cmdr Jacob “Shaky” Norgaard, “it’s a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship and practice joint tactics, techniques and procedures.”

The events gave both navies the opportunity to integrate all warfare areas, and further strengthen the bond between both countries.

"I was super pumped to participate in cross-deck operations with the Royal Australian Navy,” said Lt. Rachael “Janet” Davis. “We are stronger together, and this type of integration promotes our commitment to maritime security as well as increases our presence here.”

The U.S. and Australia share a long history of integrated military exercises. Over 3,000 U.S. Sailors and Marines had the opportunity to observe or participate in the combined exercise.

“They have the same interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and observance of internationally accepted norms and customs pertaining to the law of the sea,” said Sellerberg. “The Aussies are true professionals in every sense of the word, and our current combined deployment exemplifies a shared commitment to our historically strong and enduring relationship.”

U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.


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Two PRC ships surveying Reed Bank.

At least two Chinese vessels have been surveying Recto Bank (Reed Bank) for at least a "week" already without the proper clearance, Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo said on Monday, August 10.


"It has come to my attention, the presence of two Chinese surveillance vessels in Recto Bank. Right now, I think there is only one," Bacordo said in a press briefing organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.


He added: "We have checked if they have any clearance to conduct survey in that area and we found out that there is none." (READ: LOOK: Chinese survey ship found operating in PH waters)


Bacordo said they concluded that the vessels were surveying the area because they were moving at 3 knots or around 5.5 kilometers per hour.


"You are only doing that if you are conducting actual survey," Bacordo added.


Why does this matter?

Recto Bank is an underwater reef formation that belongs to the Philippines, but is coveted by China because it is said to contain huge reserves of oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea.


China and the Philippines are currently in talks over a joint exploration for the West Philippine Sea. They started in October 2019, but talks have been delayed in 2020 because of the pandemic.


Not even the virus, however, has stopped China from continuing its campaign to assert its dominance in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Beijing continues South China Sea aggression during pandemic)


Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the military has been directed to avoid all risks of confrontation, going as far as banning the Navy from participating in joint drills in the area.


Bacordo said they will file a report on the incident and will ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest.


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