News / Asia

Asia Military Tensions Addressed at Regional Naval Forum

Chinese navy officers (backs to camera) stand in formation as Pakistan naval frigate Shamsher arrives at a military port before a maritime drill during the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao, Shandong province, April 20, 2014.
Chinese navy officers (backs to camera) stand in formation as Pakistan naval frigate Shamsher arrives at a military port before a maritime drill during the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao, Shandong province, April 20, 2014.
VOA News
Delegates at a regional naval forum - including representatives of China, the United States, and Japan - have agreed on a set of rules meant to prevent accidents and miscommunication at sea.
 
The agreement was adopted by all 21 member nations during a meeting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which opened Tuesday in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao.
 
Chinese Navy Commander Wu Shengli said he hopes the meeting will help reduce tensions among Asia-Pacific countries.
 
"We hope that we can increase understanding and trust among navy forces across the region and further promote pragmatic maritime cooperation and achieve expected goals through discussions at this year's symposium," said Wu.
 
Despite the focus on cooperation, the two-day symposium has been complicated by military friction between Beijing and its neighbors.
 
China refused to invite Japan to a multinational naval drill held during the forum. Japan's delegate also said there are no plans to meet one-on-one with his Chinese counterparts at the symposium.
 
Japan-China ties have been strained by a worsening dispute over territory in the East China Sea. Beijing is also upset over what it sees as Tokyo's reluctance to atone for abuses before and during World War II.
 
Many of China's other neighbors, especially those bordering the South China Sea, accuse Beijing of using bullying tactics to defend its vast, disputed maritime claims.
 
Small-scale clashes occasionally break out between surveillance or fishing vessels from various countries. Some fear the incidents could someday spark a wider military clash.
 
However, naval officers from China and the United States told Reuters the document was not meant to directly address problems, including territorial issues, pitting China against several of its neighbors in the East and South China Seas.
                  
The United States wants clearer operational communications with the growing Chinese fleet, arrangements in part hampered by different interpretations of what operations are acceptable in international waters, U.S. naval officers have said.
          
The risks of a mishap were highlighted in December when the U.S. guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens had to take evasive action in the South China Sea to avoid hitting a warship supporting China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
          
A late draft of the non-binding document, obtained by Reuters, is essentially a handbook for maneuvers and communication when naval ships and aircraft from the signing countries encounter each other unexpectedly.
          
Navies are told to fire off flares in green, yellow and red in different situations and given a list of English-language terms.
          
“The document is not legally binding, rather, it's a coordinated means of communication to maximize safety at sea,” the draft reads.
          
The final version has not been publicly released, but a naval official privy to the discussions said the language in the draft was close to what had been formally agreed upon.
          
The document defines “unplanned encounters” as when vessels from two countries meet “casually or unexpectedly.”
          
Assertive China stokes concerns
          
Beijing's increasingly assertive stance on maritime security in what it sees as its territorial waters has stoked concerns in the region, particularly as its military and civilian ships increase patrols in disputed areas.
          
Chinese and Japanese ships routinely shadow each other near a chain of disputed islets in the East China Sea, a development which analysts have said raises the risk of a conflict.
          
“The number of communications between the Japanese and Chinese defense forces is small,” said Japanese Navy Captain Masahiro Sakurai without elaborating.
          
The United States has long-standing defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines, raising the prospect of Washington being drawn into a potential conflict if a collision sparks wider tensions.
          
It is unclear whether this agreement clears up differences rooted in different interpretations of military activity.
          
Beijing has objected, for example, to U.S. surveillance operations near its coast, even if Washington insists they are in international waters.
          
Separately, China and the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are negotiating a binding Code of Conduct to ease tensions in the South China Sea before territorial disputes can be resolved.
          
The code extends far beyond improved communications, seeking to halt military exercises in disputed waters and limit construction on empty reefs and islands, diplomats say.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs