South China Sea Brief: April 13, 2022
Vietnam - China
According to a NOTAM issued by the ACC Ho Chi Minh on April 11, aircraft flight safety in the area off the coast of Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces may be affected due to aerospace flight activities from China on April 15.
Specifically, the unburned debris is expected to fall in 14-39-47N/109-52-59E between 17:50 and 19:06 on April 15, 2022 (GMT).
It is not clear what type of space junk this is. However, China's Shenzhou-13 astronauts are planning to return to Earth in mid-April following the completion of their missions. China has not made any official announcement on the specific date (or time) for the landing.
Japan Coast Guard also issued a NAVAREA Navigational Warning for the area.
Remarkably, ACC Ho Chi Minh's NOTAM says:
· The aerospace flight activity conducted by China directly affects flight operations within Ho Chi Minh FIR. China is requested to coordinate with the competent authorities of Vietnam in line with the procedures set out in Annex 11 to the Chicago Convention and the Asia/Pacific SEAMLESS ANS PLAN.
· This NOTAM issued is in accordance with ICAO requirements for the safety of aircraft operations within Ho Chi Minh FIR.
Philippines - China
On April 6, China Coast Guard vessel 4201 appeared in the northeast of Palawan, shadowing the survey ship Geo Coral which was conducting survey activities in the Philippines' Block SC 75.
This is also the area where the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group USS Abraham Lincoln sailed through in late March.
SC 75 is operated by PXP Energy Corp., the oil and gas exploration unit of Philex Mining Corp. In February, PXP Energy Corp. said it would conduct a 3D seismic survey in the area. PXP Energy Corp also revealed that they set to drill two exploratory wells in SC 72 (Reed Bank) on or before June.
But on April 11, PXP Energy Corp. said it put on hold exploration activities for SC 72 and SC 75 until all the clearances are issued by government agencies.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday, PXP Energy said it received a DOE order dated April 6 “to put on hold all exploration activities for SC 75 and SC 72 until such time that the SJPCC (Security, Justice and Peace Coordinating Cluster) has issued the necessary clearance to proceed.”
A copy of the letter signed by DOE Undersecretary Donato Marcos was disclosed by PXP Energy. In the letter, the department said the cluster has agreed that its approval is required as a pre-condition to any oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.
Interestingly, the directive was issued on April 6, three days after the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Filipino counterpart Teddy Locsin in Anhui province.
During the meeting, Mr. Wang Yi warned against "improper measures which could disrupt or even damage bilateral relations and the stability of the South China Sea."
On April 8, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping also held an hour-long phone conversation discussing the South China Sea issue.
“The leaders stressed the need to exert all efforts to maintain peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea by exercising restraint, dissipating tensions, and working on a mutually agreeable framework for functional cooperation,” Malacañang said in a statement.
“Both leaders acknowledged that even while disputes existed, both sides remained committed to broaden the space for positive engagements which reflected the dynamic and multidimensional relations of the Philippines and China,” it added.
Ship tracking data shows that Geo Coral left the area on April 12.
Indonesia - China
Joint US-Indonesia war games to expand to 14 nations as tensions simmer in Indo-Pacific - CNN
The Indonesian and United States militaries are expanding their annual bilateral exercises to 14 participating countries, the Indonesian Army said in a news release Thursday.
Troops from the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Canada will be among those joining the Garuda Shield 2022 exercises from August 1 to 14, the army said. The 16th edition of the war games will include live-fire exercises, special operations and aviation components among other disciplines, it added.
It is worth noting that China protested against the exercises last year, according to an exclusive report by Reuters. It looks like Jakarta wants to deliver an answer to Beijing's demands by expanding the exercises.
Farhan said that China, in a separate letter, also protested against the predominantly land-based Garuda Shield military exercises in August, which took place during the standoff.
The exercises, involving 4,500 troops from the United States and Indonesia, have been a regular event since 2009. This was China's first protest against them, according to Farhan. "In their formal letter, the Chinese government was expressing their concern about the security stability in the area," he said.