South China Sea Watch No. 10

South China Sea Watch No. 10
Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

What you need to know

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

Firearms ordered from China by the Philippines are ready to be shipped, GMA News reports. The firearms are payable in 25 years, according to President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte did not immediately disclose the details of the deal, such as the value of the transaction and the number of firearms involved, but said that China is “practically giving” the weapons to the Philippines. He also said that the Philippines will also consider buying weapons from Russia. The deal was driven by the halt of a 26,000 rifles-sale from the U.S. which reportedly stopped the sale of rifles after opposition from U.S. senator amid alleged human rights violations in the Philippines.

China flew a long-range nuclear-capable bomber in South China Sea on Dec. 9, an act considered by U.S. officials to be sparked by the controversial call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Reuters reports. U.S. officials said that the action was meant to send a message to the Trump administration. It is the first time Beijing flew bombers outside of China since the call, and the second in the South China Sea since Trump’s election. U.S. officials are also concerned that China might be implementing its “militarization” of the South China Sea as U.S. intelligence satellites picked up evidence of China preparing to ship more advanced military equipment to the region.

Regarding his phone with the Taiwanese president on Dec. 2, Trump said on Fox News Sunday that the U.S. did not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of "one China.” In an interview on Dec. 11, Trump criticized China over its monetary policies, its activities in the South China Sea, where Trump said it was “building a massive fortress,” and its stance toward North Korea. Chinese officials are “seriously concerned” by Trump's remarks, the Guardian reports. Beijing’s state media Global Times warns Trump in an editorial that "Beijing could offer support, even military assistance to U.S. foes" if the U.S. abandons the “one China” policy or supports Taiwan independence, adding that the U.S. should not use the policy to bargain for economy deals.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio launched the “South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act” on Dec. 6 which aims to sanction businesses and individuals related to the disputed Chinese activities in the area. “China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea are illegitimate and threaten the region’s security and American commerce,” Rubio said. “Consistent with international law, China should not be allowed to interfere in any way with the free use of the waters and airspace in the South China Sea and East China Sea by civilian and military ships and aircraft of all countries.”

Indonesia President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, called for peaceful resolutions and hoped that the South China Sea does not “become a battlefield between big countries,” The Economic Times reports. Claimants in the region include Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. Jokowi said that Indonesia will continue to accelerate the preparation of the Code of Conduct between China and the ASEAN countries. “I believe the states that are involved in the dispute can solve this problem. Indonesia is ready to facilitate," Jokowi said ahead of his visit to India next week.

Editor: Olivia Yang