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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid