Germany, France, U.K. Rebuke Beijing Over South China Sea

The United Kingdom, France and Germany have signed a joint note denouncing China’s claims in the South China Sea, in a sign of growing European interest in the maritime disputes there and China’s militarization of occupied islets. The three countries together sent a note Wednesday to the United Nations, following in the footsteps of Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States. Over the past year, those governments have issued diplomatic rebukes, complaints, and rejections of China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, all through the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. “France, Germany and the United Kingdom underline the importance of unhampered exercise of the freedom of the high seas, in particular the freedom of navigation and overflight, and of the right of innocent passage enshrined in the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], including in the South China Sea,” the note says. The three countries also emphasized that “‘historic rights’ over the South China Sea waters do not comply with international law,” and “recall that the arbitral award in the Philippines v. China case dating to 12 July 2016 clearly confirms this point.” The arbitral award mentioned was a landmark case brought before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration by the Philippines. That tribunal ultimately struck down virtually all of China’s claims in the South China Sea as unlawful and without basis under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. The note rejects other parts of China’s stance over the disputed waters. It states that artificial islands, such as those created by China in the South China Sea through land reclamation and sand dredging, cannot generate maritime entitlements such as exclusive economic zones under UNCLOS. And it also clarifies that France, Germany and the U.K. don’t recognize China’s grouping of rocks and islets in the Paracels into an archipelago that would generate “straight baselines.” Baselines are imaginary lines connecting the outermost points of the features of archipelago that are meant to circumscribe – and effectively maximize – the territory that belongs to it. The Paracels are a cluster of rocks and islets in the northern part of the South China Sea and are disputed between China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. The United Kingdom already did not recognize China’s attempt to draw “straight baselines” around its occupied features in the area and performed a freedom of navigation exercise there in 2018. However, this is the first time France and Germany have explicitly rebuked China’s baselines, as well as China’s “historic rights” position that it insists grants it sovereignty over the waters and rocks spread out over nearly all the South China Sea. Both of those European nations have recently pushed for further involvement in the Pacific. France held a high-level trilateral meeting with Australia and India on Sept. 9, and has signed logistics agreement with both countries that allow its forces to access facilities on their island territories, and vice versa. On Sept. 1, Germany published its first ‘Guideline on the Indo-Pacific,’ updating its policy to reflect growing economic ties to the region and concern over militarized tensions there. “The Malacca Strait may seem a long way away. But our prosperity and our geopolitical influence in the coming decades will depend not least on how we work together with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region. That, more than anywhere else, is where the shape of the international order of tomorrow will be decided,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a press release earlier this month. “We want to help shape that order – so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong.” The Malacca Strait refers to a critical waterway connecting the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal, in the Indian Ocean. About a quarter of the world’s traded goods and oil passes through the Strait. China has come under growing international criticism, particularly from the U.S. government, over its conduct in the South China Sea, and but it has continued to send military and government-controlled civilian vessels into the territory of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Indonesia, one country astride the Malacca Strait, castigated China for sending a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship into its waters over the weekend. At the same time, ship tracking data shows China has sent survey vessels into areas claimed by the Philippines and even into the Philippine exclusive economic zone. The Hai Yang 4 survey vessel operated around Philippine-claimed Macclesfield Bank from Aug. 24 to Sept. 15, and the Dong Fang Hong 3 has been surveying the same area since Sept. 12. Both are operated directly by the Chinese government. The Jia Geng, another Chinese survey vessel owned by Xiamen University, has been sailing within 150 nautical miles of the Philippine coast since Sept. 13. Benar News, an RFA-affiliated online news service, reached out to the Philippine government on Tuesday for comment and was told the Department of National Defense would “validate this report.” It was not immediately clear if they had done so. The U.S. renewed its criticism of China on Thursday. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell – Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia – accused Beijing of “destabilizing territorial revisionism” when he addressed a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in Manila took aim at recent U.S. criticism in a statement, although it did not explicitly name the United States. “[A] certain country outside the region is bent on interfering in the disputes in the South China Sea and the COC [Code of Conduct] consultations to serve is own geopolitical agenda. How to resist the interference is crucial for pushing forward the future consultations of COC,” the statement said, referring to negotiations between China and the Southeast Asian bloc on a code that would regulate conduct at sea.

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If you don’t wear a mask in Indonesia you are forced to dig graves for Corona victims

Anti-maskers forced to dig graves for corona victims in Indonesia. Picture: JP / P.J. Leo At least eight people who have refused to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic have been forced to dig graves for people who died from covid-19 in the province of East Java, Indonesia.“There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them,” explained local politician Suyono. The article notes that anti-maskers who are being punished are not forced to handle the dead bodies and are instead doing the manual labor of digging graves and preparing the plots with wooden planks to support the caskets. Public health officials in the district of Cerme handle the bodies using full-body protective equipment, ensuring there’s no risk of exposure. Indonesia instituted a national law requiring masks to be worn in early April but that policy was strengthened in July after East Java saw a spike in cases and a survey of the region found that 70% of people in the province weren’t wearing a mask. Indonesia, like many other low and middle-income countries, has struggled to contain the spread of the virus for reasons that often center around a lack of wealth and resources—something that can limit testing and contact tracing. But masks are a relatively inexpensive public health measure that can literally save lives. Indonesia has identified over 222,000 cases and 8,841 deaths from covid so far this year, and the country recorded 3,141 new cases on Monday alone, with 118 new deaths for the day. At least 1,550 Americans died over the weekend from covid-19. But who will be sent out to a local cemetery and get digging? More information on Jakarta Post, Gizmodo, Tribun News, Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle. Follow us: Facebook and Twitter. By the way you can also support us on Paypal. Please and thank you!

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Indonesia Protests Presence of Chinese Ship in Its Waters

Indonesia said on Monday that it had protested to Beijing about the intrusion of a Chinese coast guard ship in its exclusive economic zone off the Natuna Islands, as ship tracking data seen by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, revealed a Chinese fishing fleet entered the area around the same time. While the coast guard vessel left the area on Monday, ship-tracking data showed the fishing fleet less than 130 nautical miles from Natuna Besar, and less than 90 nautical miles from Laut Island, in Indonesia’s Natuna regency, at around 11 pm local time. An Indonesian patrol ship spotted China Coast Guard ship 5204 on Saturday and asked it to leave, Indonesia’s maritime agency Bakamla said. It did not mention sighting a Chinese fishing fleet. Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that Jakarta in its protest to the Chinese Embassy emphasized that it rejects China’s so-called Nine-Dash Line, which Beijing uses to demarcate its claims in the South China Sea. The Natuna Islands lie in the southern reaches of the sea, an area that Indonesia calls the Natuna Sea. "We made it clear to the Chinese deputy ambassador that Indonesia's exclusive economic zone does not overlap with Chinese waters," Faizasyah said. China’s Nine-Dash Line, though, overlaps with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in waters off the Natunas, U.S.-based experts on the South China Sea told BenarNews in January after a similar incursion by Chinese coast guard and fishing boats. Faizasyah said that China’s Nine-Dash line violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS defines an EEZ as an area generally extending 200 nautical miles from shore, within which coastal countries retain special rights to exploration and use of marine resources, even though it is international territory. Bakamla spokesman Wisnu Pramandita said that when an Indonesian patrol ship spotted CCG 5204 on Saturday and asked it to leave, the Chinese ship refused. “They said they were patrolling because the area is within China’s jurisdiction,” he told BenarNews. “They can pass by, but patrolling the area means they treat it as their territory, so we told them to go.” CCG 5204 finally left the area at noon on Monday, Wisnu said. Four other Chinese vessels Meanwhile, ship-tracking data shows that CCG 5204 has spent the last month patrolling Vanguard Bank, a submerged feature off Vietnam’s southernmost coast that is disputed between Vietnam and China. Vanguard Bank, which sits a little over 200 nautical miles from Natuna Besar, has been the site of previous stand-offs between the two countries. However, on Sept. 11, the 5204 began broadcasting a contradictory Automatic Identification Signal, or AIS, showing it in multiple places at once. This is typically a sign of ‘spoofing,’ which is a technique Chinese coast guard ships have used in the past to hide their activities.One commercial ship-tracking tool showed the 5204 just within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone on Saturday, while ship-tracking data seen by BenarNews showed it patrolling Vanguard Bank at the same time. Meanwhile, the four fishing vessels that entered Indonesian waters over the weekend are owned and operated by the Fuzhou-based Dong Xin Long Ocean Fishing company, ship-tracking data shows. These vessels on Sunday sailed through an area of the North Natuna Sea where Vietnam and Indonesia both have overlapping EEZ claims. The Chinese vessels were shadowed by two ships from Vietnam’s Fisheries Resources Surveillance agency until they crossed further into Indonesian waters. Ibrahim Almuttaqi, head of the ASEAN Study Center at the Habibie Center think tank, said China isn’t transparent in its actions in the South China Sea. “We don’t really know what justifications the Chinese coast guard vessel had for entering Indonesia’s EEZ,” he told BenarNews. In contrast, Indonesia’s position is very clear and backed by international law,” he said, referring to the 1982 UNCLOS. “I believe Indonesia remains committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea dispute that is acceptable to all parties, including China, and in accordance with international law. It would be a mistake to mistreat Indonesia’s good intentions.” Indonesian and Chinese vessels have had stand-offs before in the South China Sea. In January, Indonesia sent four F-16 fighter jets to the Natuna Islands after incursions by Chinese fishing and coast guard vessels in the area. Indonesia asserts that it is not among countries in the region engaged in territorial disputes over the South China Sea, but Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia's exclusive economic zone. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have territorial claims or maritime boundaries that overlap with the sweeping claims of China in the South China Sea. Concerned On Saturday, the ASEAN Regional Forum – one of the world’s largest multilateral forums on peace and security – noted in its annual chairman’s statement that some countries are concerned about land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. In recent years, Beijing has undertaken major reclamation of disputed land features in the Paracel and Spratly island chains. Such activities “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region,” the forum’s statement said. “The ministers reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation.” China claims most of the South China Sea, saying it has “historic rights” to the waterway, where it has been building military installations and artificial islands as Beijing expands the footprint of its armed forces in the contested maritime region. ASEAN and China have for close to two decades been trying to set out guidelines – a Code of Conduct – for how claimants in the South China Sea must behave. But they haven’t been able to reach an agreement since 2002, when ASEAN member-states inked their willingness to peacefully settle disputes in the waterway. The forum’s 2020 statement expressed optimism that a Code of Conduct would be agreed upon soon and said that it would be “consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” The 27-member forum includes 10 ASEAN states, India, Japan, China, the U.S., Russia and the European Union Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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Pompeo Again Slams Chinese ‘Aggression,’ Says US Is Committed to SE Asia

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Southeast Asia and accused China of “aggression” in the South China Sea and manipulating the flow of the Mekong River in a time of drought. Touting U.S. investment in the region and support for the COVID-19 response of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Pompeo said Washington will speak out in the face of China’s “threats to sovereign nations’ ability to make free choices.” “We stand with our ASEAN partners as we insist on the rule of law and respect for sovereignty in the South China Sea, where Beijing has pursued aggressive campaigns of coercion and environmental devastation,” Pompeo said in a statement released during a summit of top ASEAN diplomats held online this week and hosted by Vietnam. The top U.S. diplomat accused China of exacerbating the drought in nations downstream on the Mekong River. “We stand for transparency and respect in the Mekong region, where the CCP [Chinese Communist party] has abetted arms and narcotics trafficking and unilaterally manipulated upstream dams, exacerbating an historic drought,” Pompeo said. His statement did not provide evidence to support the allegation of the CCP aiding weapons and drugs smuggling. Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have been grappling with variable water flow on the Mekong that supports the livelihoods of tens of millions of people. While poor rains have caused the drought, environmentalists say dams that China has constructed on the upper reaches of the river have worsened the situation. Rising tensions Pompeo’s rhetoric underscores the rapid deterioration in U.S.-China relations on a raft of issues in recent months, including trade, the status of Hong Kong, the plight of Uyghur Muslims and China’s assertion of “historic rights” to most of the disputed South China Sea. On Thursday, Pompeo had urged Southeast Asian countries to reconsider business deals with the 24 Chinese companies that Washington sanctioned last month for their roles in constructing Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. In recent years, Beijing has undertaken major reclamation of disputed land features in the Paracel and Spratly island chains. ASEAN nations Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also have territorial claims in the South China Sea and seek to use resources in areas that China claims for itself. Beijing further claims parts of that sea overlapping the exclusive economic zone of Indonesia, the largest ASEAN member. For its part, Beijing this week accused the U.S. of interference in the region’s affairs. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi called the U.S. the “biggest driver of militarization of the South China Sea,” Chinese media reported. “The United States is becoming the most dangerous factor damaging peace in the South China Sea,” Wang said at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Southeast Asian nations are uneasy about being caught in the war of words between the U.S. and China. In the ASEAN joint communique made public on Thursday, the bloc, which operates by consensus, expressed concern over increased tensions in the South China Sea and called for resolution of disputes in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. A day before that, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters that the group’s countries did not want to “get caught up in the rivalry between major powers.” Vietnam, too, said on Wednesday that the dispute threatens regional stability and that countries should settle the acrimonious row by adhering to international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS. While Friday’s toughly worded statement from the U.S. was issued by Pompeo, the State Department public schedule showed that his deputy, Stephen Biegun, was the leading U.S. delegate at the ASEAN virtual meetings that day. Pompeo was traveling to the Middle East to attend the opening of Afghan peace talks. The ASEAN summit ends Saturday after the ASEAN Regional Forum on peace and security.  The 27-member forum includes 10 ASEAN states, India, Japan, China, the U.S., Russia and the European Union. Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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Sinabung volcano erupts again just hours after twin M6.8 and M6.9 quakes hit off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia – M6.6 earthquake the day before in Malaysia

Continue Reading Sinabung volcano erupts again just hours after twin M6.8 and M6.9 quakes hit off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia – M6.6 earthquake the day before in Malaysia