South China Sea Watch No. 6

South China Sea Watch No. 6
Photo Credit: 美國海軍 公有領域
What you need to know

An overview of the past week's key developments in the South China Sea.

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A Finnish security company, F-Secure, has released research suggesting that Chinese hackers may have targeted the Philippines during the recently decided international arbitration over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“If in fact our researchers' suspicions are correct, it could be that the Chinese were using cyber espionage to gain better visibility into the legal proceedings," says Erka Koivunen, cyber security adviser at F-Secure.

The firm says targeted organizations include the Philippines Department of Justice; the organizers of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which was held in the Philippines in November 2015; and a major international law firm.

Chinese Air Force aircraft have reportedly flown "combat patrols" around the disputed Spratly Islands. According to China's state-owned CCTV, the flights included H-6K bombers and Su-30 fighter jets. A senior military official is quoted as saying the flights were part of combat training to improve the Air Force's response to security threats.

The U.S. has been active in the South China Sea of late with the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry completing a transit through the area on Aug. 4. The U.S. Navy says the vessel, usually based in Okinawa, had earlier participated in an exchange with Indonesian military forces.

The transit followed an announcement that the U.S. Air Force was sending low-flying B-1B bombers to Guam for the first time in a decade. According to one U.S. military website, the deployment has been made in response to China, which has been boosting its own air power in the region.

Meanwhile, Malaysia appears to have been spurred by Indonesia’s recent efforts to crack down on illegal fishing in the South China Sea. Quartz reports that this could threaten China’s interests in the region.

China appears to have also been stoking flames in the East China Sea. On Aug. 1 China held live-ammunition drills in the East China Sea. According to state-owned Xinhua, the exercise involved submarines, ships and coastguard troops.

According to the Japan Times, Tokyo protested to China after 230 Chinese vessels were seen in the waters near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands.

And Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed China’s at least one of China’s oil rigs in the region has been equipped with radar – Japan says the military technology is not needed for gas field development, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Olivia Yang