South China Sea Current Affairs

China, Russia conduct joint naval exercises Joint Sea-2016 in South China Sea

China and Russia have carried out joint naval exercises dubbed as Joint Sea-2016 in the resource-rich South China Sea (SCS) off China’s southern Guangdong province.

The exercises follow a spike in tensions after Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected China’s claims in the SCS and slammed it for causing environmental damage there.

Key Facts

  • The eight-day naval exercises (from September 13 to 19) were held in a non-disputed area in SCS off China’s southern Guangdong province.
  • It had featured surface ships, missile destroyer, anti-submarine vessels, missile frigates, ship-based helicopters and conventional submarines among others from both navies.
  • The vessels were divided into two fleets and confrontations were staged off the eastern waters of Zhanjiang in Guangdong which is close to Chinese coast.
  • Both sides had undertaken defence, anti-submarine operations and rescue operations in addition to joint island seizing and other activities
  • They had carried out live-fire drills, sea crossing and island landing operations, and island defence and offence exercises among other.

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China, ASEAN countries agree to form South China Sea framework

China and ten member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to form a framework for a code of conduct to ease tension in disputed South China Sea.

The agreement was reached between both sides during a meeting at Inner Mongolia in northern China held on August 15 and 16, 2016.

Key Facts

  • The two sides also agreed to get the framework for the code of conduct done by mid-2017.
  • They also approved guidelines for a China-ASEAN hotline for use during maritime emergencies.
  • They also agreed that a pact on unplanned maritime encounters signed by countries in the region in 2014 is applied to the SCS.

Comment

  • This decision is considered as a significant rapprochement between China and ASEAN bloc, especially after Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling against China in July 2016.
  • The PCA had ruled that China has no historical title over the disputed South China Sea and it has breached the Philippines sovereign rights. However, China had dismissed the ruling and had urged bilateral talks to resolve the issue.

Background

Since 2010, China and the 10 members of ASEAN have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the busy waterway in South China Sea. China based on historical assumptions has claimed almost the entire South China Sea as its part. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan (not member) also have claimed their rights in the sea through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually and is believed to be rich in energy deposits.

10 ASEAN Members: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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