China flaunts muscle to show coronavirus left might intact â analyst
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017, shows an aerial image, from a Philippine airforce plane, of Subi Reef in the South China Sea and claimed by China.
AFP/Ted Aljibe, File

China flaunts muscle to show coronavirus left might intact — analyst

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 15, 2020 - 4:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — China's recent establishment of new facilities in the South China Sea might be Beijing's way to show the rest of the world that its might was not crippled by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, an analyst has said.

“What we can say for certain is that China clearly wants to demonstrate that it is unimpeded by the pandemic,” said Nguyen Hung Son, director-general of the Institute for the South China Sea under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

If any, what Beijing did not plan was to announce the new establishments this early, but was forced to do so to salvage its tarnished global image caused by the alleged concealment and rapid spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan province.

“Although the pandemic might have pushed them to announce it earlier and the anchoring of the search and rescue vessels in the Fiery Cross (Reef) is also probably recurring Chinese activities. And they planned to do that,” Nguyen said.

Just last month, China announced the establishment of the districts of Nansha (Spratly Islands) and Xisha (Paracel Islands), which would fall under the jurisdiction of its self-declared Sansha City. The Philippines protested the move.

A month before that, state-funded Chinese Academy of Sciences launched research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in the Spratlys, which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

On top of trying to rebuild its damaged reputation from COVID-19, Nguyen further noted Beijing is speeding up building activities in contested waters as a show of force ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party next year.

ASEAN stand

China has butted heads with smaller countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, over its all-encompassing claims in South China Sea, which many observers see as a violation of international law.

In July 2016, the Philippines secured a historic victory on this front when the country won a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration that gave the country jurisdiction over some islands in the West Philippine Sea, an area in the South China Sea that falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

But the international ruling was not recognized by China which persisted to construct new facilities in the area. Nguyen reiterated that as one body, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to counter China by fostering a more “rules-based” approach in navigation. 

“ASEAN needs to encourage and promote the trend relying more on the law of the sea to set and maintain the rules-based order on the South China Sea,” Nguyen said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 3, 2021 - 8:58am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

May 3, 2021 - 8:58am

The DFA protests the illegal presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and their belligerent actions against the Philippine Coast Guard. 

DFA also rejects the statement of Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin that China enjoys sovereignty over Panatag Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc. 

"China has no enforcement rights in these areas... The unauthorized and lingering presence of these vessels is a blatant infringement of Philippine sovereignty," the DFA says in a statement.

April 28, 2021 - 12:24pm

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. orders the filing of another diplomatic protest against China following the statement of a Chinese official on the Philippine Coast Guard's exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

"They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now," says Locsin on Twitter.

April 25, 2021 - 1:08pm

The Philippine Coast Guard sends BRP Malapascua and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (MMOV 5002) — a fisheries bureau vessel manned by PCG personnel — to Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea for maritime exercises.

Pagasa Island is in the Kalayaan Island Group of Palawan province.

April 23, 2021 - 10:29am

Two new diplomatic protests have been lodged against China as of April 21, the Department of Foreign Affairs says.

These are in addition to the daily protests over the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef following reports that at least 160 Chinese maritime militia ships are still in Philippine waters.

"The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region," the DFA says.

April 18, 2021 - 2:44pm

The Department of National Defense denounces as "irresponsible propaganda" social media posts claiming that retired and active military officers have withdrawn support for President Rodrigo Duterte over the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

"Such disinformation is an act of reckless agitation emanating from detractors, who have a limited and myopic appreciation of issues," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says.

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, earlier Sunday also disputed the social media rumor, as well as claims of "'warplanes' from various countries taking off and landing in Clark Airbase." 

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