November 2013

By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's PC3 surveillance plane flies around the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in this October 13, 2011 file photo Tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of wider regional strains

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s PC3 surveillance plane flies around the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in this October 13, 2011 file photo Tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of wider regional strains

China’s declaration of an “air-defence identification zone” that extends over disputed islands in the East China Sea is just the latest step in Beijing’s effort to assert its claims over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel described the move as “a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region”.

And on Saturday, almost as if to underline the risks involved, the Japanese authorities say that they scrambled two F-15 fighters to intercept two Chinese surveillance planes that were approaching the islands.

China’s more assertive policy and Japan’s apparent willingness to push back against it raises the possibility of sparking a wider conflict, albeit by accident perhaps, rather than by design.

All of the necessary points of friction are there. Last January, Japan insisted that a Chinese frigate locked its targeting radar on to a Japanese warship near the disputed islands. China denied it.

Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone

Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone

In the year ending last March, Japan scrambled aircraft to intercept what it regards as Chinese intruders a record number of times. And both China and Japan have mounted exercises that encompass the seizure or the defence of remote islands.

Having sought to draw lines at sea, Beijing is now seeking to draw lines in the air.

The upshot could be greater instability, with the ever-present danger that an incident between warships or aircraft could precipitate a localised conflict between China and Japan.

The consequences of such an encounter risk an escalation that could ultimately draw in other powers.

‘Trump card’

While China is pursuing the rapid modernisation of its air and naval forces, in any localised conflict it might be at a disadvantage compared to the modern and probably more capable Japanese.

But drawing up a military balance between Japan and China is not really the issue here. The real question is how might such a crisis be managed? How might it be contained? Indeed is containment actually possible?

For there is a growing concern that the traditional tools of crisis management may be less useful than in the past.

Earlier this month a wargame was held at the US think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, acting out just such a scenario involving China and Japan.

It focused on how the US might respond to such a crisis. As matters got increasingly fraught between China and Japan the players acting out the roles of senior US officials resisted the deployment of US military muscle for fear of worsening the drama.

But then the Chinese actors in the wargame escalated significantly. Long-range Chinese anti-shipping missile units were moved to high-alert. Forces were despatched towards the islands in contention. The US was forced to act; the recommendation was made to send two aircraft carrier strike groups to the East China Sea.

At this point the wargame apparently ended; the US having played its trump card, and with the heavyweights of US naval power on the way the assumption was that the crisis would die down.

But one US strategic expert who follows events in this region closely – Robert Haddick – has warned that such assumptions may be outdated.

In the past, he notes, the despatch of a US carrier battle group was seen as the escalatory trump card, because there was very little that potential adversaries could do against them.

Antidote

However, China’s growing area-denial or access-denial strategy seeks explicitly to put such US assets in jeopardy. Long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles are intended specifically to take out US carriers.

Escalating by despatching a carrier or two might in future not calm a crisis, warns Mr Haddick. It could actually encourage the Chinese to strike out against them.

The growing tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of the wider strains in the region, which both Chinese and US strategy may actually be making worse.

One antidote is for better understanding between the US and Chinese militaries and there has been some recent progress here.

But in a broad sense the whole US strategic doctrine in the region – dubbed Air-Sea Battle – seems designed to contain China’s rising military might, while China’s area-denial strategy seems intent on hampering the ability of US air and naval forces to make significant interventions in waters that it regards as its strategic backyard.

This is why an unwanted Sino-Japanese clash puts so many experts’ teeth on edge.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25092156

Staff Reporter
Want China Times

Disputed-South-China-SeaChina is about to establish a second air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, Qin Gang, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said on Nov. 25, according to the Moscow-based Voice of Russia.

Qin said the air defense identification zone over the East China Sea announced by Beijing on Nov. 23 was a buffer zone to defend the territorial integrity of China and said a second air defense identification zone which may cover the disputed South China Sea will be established in due course.

Zheng Zeguang, the Chinese assistant foreign minister, summoned both Gary Locke and Masato Kitera, the US and Japanese ambassadors to protest against opposition from both nations to the East China Sea ADIZ.

In his meeting with Locke on Nov. 24, Zheng suggested the United States stop making comments regarding Beijing’s move. Zheng also stressed that it is necessary for Washington to redress its “mistake” in expressing its support for Tokyo. In his meeting with Kitera on Nov. 25, Zheng said Japanese politicians should stop provoking China because it will bring instability to the region.

On Nov. 25, Akitaka Saiki, Japan’s vice foreign minister, also summoned Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua to express Tokyo’s opposition to the newly established air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

Yang Yujun, spokesperson for the Chinese defense ministry, said on Nov. 25 that Japan was the party which first sent its fighters to follow and monitor Chinese aircraft over the East China Sea first. Yang also called for the United States to remain neutral in the dispute.

http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20131128000132

By Simon Denyer
The Washington Post

B-52 Stratofortress

B-52 Stratofortress

BEIJING — It was designed as a forceful response to Japanese assertiveness. But Beijing’s creation of an air defense zone may have backfired, experts said, eliciting a strong joint response from the United States and Japan.

Instead of strengthening China’s position, the “air defense identification zone” has unsettled and united its neighbors. It provided Washington with a perfect opportunity to reassure its Asian allies that it remains committed to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

On Saturday, the Communist Party government said any non­commercial aircraft entering a broad zone over the East China Sea should first identify itself and warned that failure to do so could provoke “defensive emergency measures” by China’s armed forces. The statement heightened an already tense standoff with Japan over several disputed islets in the area.

Air-defense-identifcation-zone-B-52-flyoverBut the United States called China’s bluff by sending two warplanes into the zone Tuesday, and Beijing’s response was muted. The Defense Ministry merely said it had identified and monitored the planes, while the Foreign Ministry stressed that the zone was purely defensive and offered to strengthen communications with other regional players to maintain peace and security.

“We hope relevant countries do not make too much of a fuss about it, panic and read too much into it,” spokesman Qin Gang said.

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said the mild reaction was surprising. “It is almost as though they hadn’t anticipated the U.S. response and didn’t know what to do,” he said.

In Chinese eyes, the standoff began in September 2012, when the Japanese government purchased three of the islands — known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China — from a private Japanese landowner. In response, Beijing stepped up its own claims to the rocky landmasses, increasing sea patrols and pressing Japan to accept that the territory is disputed.

Japan, like numerous other countries, has its own air defense identification zone. The country increasingly has cited the zone as a reason to warn or intercept Chinese planes in the area, according to military experts in Beijing. In September, Japan threatened to shoot down Chinese drones flying over the disputed islands; China warned that such a move would constitute an act of war.

The Chinese military had been considering establishing its own air defense zone for some time, and this increased tension may have tipped the balance, experts said.

“Japan has been acting more and more confrontational with regards to the Diaoyu islands, so China had to roll out its own measures to balance it out,” said Zhou Yongsheng of the Center for Japanese Studies at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. “Whenever Chinese aircraft entered Japan’s zone, they would dispatch fighter jets to intercept us, which put us in a very passive position.”

‘A hawkish voice’

Popular sentiment in Japan and China also has become increasingly hostile toward the other country. Rising nationalism in China is now coupled with genuine concern about the intentions of a more nationalist Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His government has raised military spending since coming to power in December.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinas-move-to-establish-air-defense-zone-appears-to-backfire/2013/11/27/74313faa-5784-11e3-bdbf-097ab2a3dc2b_story.html

By Paul Armstrong
CNN

As the United States prepared to mark Thanksgiving, the centerpiece of the U.S. 7th fleet in the Pacific, the USS George Washington, was deployed off the Japanese island of Okinawa.

As the United States prepared to mark Thanksgiving, the centerpiece of the U.S. 7th fleet in the Pacific, the USS George Washington, was deployed off the Japanese island of Okinawa.

USS George Washington, East China Sea (CNN) — The deafening roar of state-of-the-art warplanes being catapulted into the air from its huge flight deck signaled that the USS George Washington was back in combat mode after its recent detour to the Philippines to take part in the aid effort in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Barely a week on and the 90,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is now patrolling waters off the island of Okinawa as part a huge naval exercise — AnnualEx 2013 — involving dozens of warships, submarines and aircraft from the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

Led by the huge Nimitz-class carrier, this year's AnnualEX 2013 war games brought together dozens of warships from both navies to test their ability to work effectively in a volatile region.

Led by the huge Nimitz-class carrier, this year’s AnnualEX 2013 war games brought together dozens of warships from both navies to test their ability to work effectively in a volatile region.

The aim? To provide a stern test of their ability to effectively and mutually respond to the defense of Japan or to a regional crisis or contingency situation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to the U.S. Navy.

But this year’s war games have taken on an added dimension given the high-pressure atmosphere in the region at present — they take place in the shadow of a controversial new Air Defense Identification Zone announced by the Chinese last weekend.

Map showing the controversial air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

Map showing the controversial air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

This zone, which incorporates among other areas an East China Sea island chain at the center of an acrimonious tug of war between Tokyo and Beijing, requires that all military aircraft in the area must report their flight plans to China, maintain two-way radio and clearly mark their nationalities on the aircraft. China has warned it will take “defensive measures” if their orders are ignored.

‘Steady as you go’

The commander of the U.S. 7th fleet, Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas, appeared relaxed about the situation while addressing a group of reporters aboard the USS George Washington. He said while China’s air defense zone did not appear to be “well thought out” given the overlap with both Japanese and South Korean territorial claims, he did not think U.S. military activity in the region would be negatively affected.

“We are going to continue with our operations in international airspace as we always have,” he said. “It’s about international norms, standards, rules and laws. When anybody makes an extreme claim it is really an imperative that the international community can continue to operate in accordance with international law and not be distracted.

“So for us it’s ‘steady as you go.’ Our operations in the East China Sea will continue as they always have.”

‘Profoundly dangerous’

Japan, which administers the largely uninhabited island chain — known as Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by the Japanese — has described China’s move as “a profoundly dangerous act that may cause unintended consequences in the area,” while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “this unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.”

China has rebuffed any criticism by stating that its action is not directed at any one in particular, and that other countries — including Japan — have established similar control zones in the past.

In recent months, both sides have been involved in a dangerous game of “cat and mouse,” prompting fears that any miscalculation could set the two Asian powers on a collision course — with the United States likely to be dragged into such a conflict to defend its Japanese ally. Tokyo says it has twice scrambled fighter jets this month after Chinese aircraft appeared on course to enter its airspace. For its part, China lodged a complaint after it said a Japanese warship recently entered waters where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy was holding live-fire drills, noting “the provocative move may have led to unexpected emergencies.”
For us, it’s ‘steady as you go.’ Our operations in the East China Sea will continue as they always have.
Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas

Meanwhile, China’s first aircraft carrier, the “Liaoning,” set sail this week from its home port of Qingdao in eastern China. According to the PLA Navy’s website, it will head for the South China Sea to “conduct scientific experiments and military training.” This course would take it through the East China Sea accompanied by four other warships.

Restraint

Yet with so many potential flashpoints in the region, Thomas is optimistic that conflict will be avoided. He pointed to the professionalism shown by the armed forces on all sides in the region as the basis for this confidence.

“The South Koreans have shown great restraint with regard to North Korea and those severe provocations, while the Japanese Self Defense Force has also been very measured,” he said. Significantly, he pointed to China’s development of a “world class” navy, with a level of professionalism that matches its improving infrastructure.

“The more confident they become in their own capabilities, then this will actually ‘depressurize’ the situation,” he said. He added that the People’s Liberation Army Navy was no longer an unpredictable, conscription-based force training only at certain times of the year.

He said the PLA Navy was now showing signs of being able to operate far beyond its own waters, carrying out missions — such as anti-piracy patrols — that could make it a useful and responsible global operator.

Humanitarian challenge

With F-18 fighters taking off and landing almost every few minutes, it was easy to forget the role the carrier played in the Leyte Gulf more than a week ago. Many of its fighter jets were flown back to Japan to make room for more helicopters able to ferry in supplies to remote areas of the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

“The ship became a ‘lily pad’ for relief operations,” said the carrier’s commander, Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery. “This is something we’ll train more for,” he added, citing the need for a modern navy to be able to adapt to an increasingly diverse range of challenges and missions within its theater of operations.

“It was humbling to be able to take part in the extraordinary humanitarian effort in the Philippines.”

Yet the sight of dozens of warships in tight formation in high seas off Japan was another reminder of how serious the U.S. and Japan are taking the threat to regional security — undeniably their biggest challenge.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/28/world/asia/japan-us-annualex-war-games/

By MARK MERUEÑAS
GMA News

(Updated 11:40 p.m.) Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said Friday that although he has yet to see documents on graft complaints filed against him and 33 others over the alleged misuse of “pork barrel” funds, he is ready to face the charges.

“I welcome the opportunity to clarify and answer the accusations whether before the National Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman or the courts,” he said on his personal website.

He said he had “always exercised prudence and fidelity” while congressman for Muntinlupa City and that he pursued projects that benefitted his constituents.

“But as we have seen in some instances, the processes involved have been vulnerable to abuse by certain parties,” he said.

Biazon, Muntinlupa representative from 2001 to 2010 and a party-mate of President Benigno Aquino, was the most surprising name among the 34 individuals comprising the second batch of criminal complaints, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima at a press briefing on Friday morning.

BOC chief Ruffy Biazon

BOC chief Ruffy Biazon

Among the 34 respondents in the malversation, direct bribery and graft and corrupt practices complaints are seven former congressmen, three heads of implementing agencies, two presidents of non-government organizations linked to trader Janet Lim-Napoles, as well as seven other officials and employees of implementing agencies. Also to be charged are 12 state auditors.

Napoles, already a respondent in the first pork barrel scam-related complaint, was once again slapped with a complaint for malversation, bribery, graft and corrupt practices, and corruption of public officials.

Aside from Biazon, who allegedly earned a kickback of P1.95 million, the other former lawmakers in the new complaints are:

1. Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur (P9.3 million)
2. Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur (P7.5 million)
3. Marc Douglas Cagas IV of Davao del Norte (P5.54 million)
4. Arrel Olano of Davao del Norte (P3.175 million)
5. Arthur Pingoy Jr of South Cotabato.(P7.055 million)
6. Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro (P2.4 million)

Also included in the complaints filed Friday afternoon before the Office of the Ombudsman were individuals who acted as “representatives or agents” of the seven former lawmakers:

1. Zenaida Cruz-Ducut (former congressman of Pampanga and incumbent chairperson of the Energy Regulatory Commission)
2. Celia Cuasay, representative of ex-Rep. Valencia

The heads of agencies charged with malversation, bribery and graft and corrupt practices are:

1. Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp (Nabcor)
2. Antonio Ortiz, former director general, Technology Resource Center (TRC)
3. Dennis Cunanan – former deputy director general (now director general), TRC

Javellana, Ortiz, and Cunanan are also respondents in the first pork barrel scam-related complaint.

Heads of Napoles’ NGOs were likewise included in the complaints for charges of corruption of public officials. They are:

1. Mylene Encarnacion of the Countryside Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc (CARED)
2. Evelyn de Leon of the Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc. (PSDFI)

Meanwhile, the implementing agency officials and employees charged with malversation, bribery, and corrupt practices are the following:

1. Victor Cacal, NABCOR
2. Romulo Revelo, NABCOR
3. Ma. Ninez Guanizo, NABCOR
4. Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, NABCOR
5. Rhodora Mendoza, NABCOR
6. Francisco Figura, TRC
7. Marivic Jover, TRC

The resident COA auditors named as respondents are:

1. Annie Recabo, state auditor IV, team leader
2. Rebecca Aquino, state auditor III, member
3. Bella Tesorero, state auditor II, member
4. Susan Guardian, state auditor II, member
5. Elizabeth Savella, state auditor IV, team leader
6. Merle Valentin, state auditor IV, team leader
7. Diana Casado, state auditor III, member
8. Aida Villania, state auditor II, member
9. Laarni Lyn Torres, state auditor I, member
10. Herminia Aquino, state auditor V, supervising auditor
11. Jerry Calayan, state auditor IV, team leader
12. Sylvia Montes, state auditor V, supervising auditor

Not politically motivated

Like in the first batch of charges filed in September, De Lima said the filing of the new set of criminal charges was not politically motivated.

“Hindi nagiging criterion ang political affiliation. Nalalaman na lang namin ang affiliation kapag kumpleto na ang ebidensya,” she said.

Asked why no senators were included in the fresh charges this time, De Lima said no Senate members this time qualified in the four “standards” investigators used in determining who to be charged, namely:

– those who used Napoles non-government organizations
– those who used the Priority Development Assistance Fund
– those who have knowledge of the scam and the whistleblowers
– supporting documents from the COA

De Lima maintained the government’s position that all the respondents are considered “co-conspirators with varying degrees of participation.”

“These (complaints) covered 2007 to 2009 kasi ito ang covered ng COA (Commission on Audit) kaya mas madali kami nakakuha ng dokumento,” she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the alleged scam and was a co-complainant along with Levito Baligod, legal counsel for the whistleblowers, said the implicated lawmakers coursed their pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through the Napoles NGOs using either the TRC or the NABCOR as implementing agencies.

The NBI said the lawmakers received their kickbacks from Napoles through Cruz-Ducut. Investigators said Pingoy’s kickback was deposited in the Metrobank account of Ducut in San Fernando, Pampanga.

“The lawmakers took advantage and abused their official position and authority as congressmen of the Republic, thereby unjustly enriching themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people and the Republic,” the NBI said in its executive summary.

“The act constituting the offenses were performed willfully, deliberately, and maliciously with the legislators knowing fully well that their act of receiving the large amounts of cash from Napoles for their private use resulted in the corresponding diminution of the funds actually expended for the public purpose intended by law,” it added.

During the press briefing, De Lima said there was a “possibility” that the government would issue a lookout bulletin order and once again ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the passports of the respondents in the second batch, just like what the Department of Justice did in the first batch of implicated people.

Palace defers commenting

Malacañang, for its part, deferred from commenting on the filing of charges.

“I would not have any comment on that for the moment. My instructions are to defer until such time that I have been able to discuss this with the President,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said during a press briefing on Friday.

But the Palace official, quoting Aquino, said that “you go where the evidence takes you.”

“We have always said that there is no partiality. I think that has been repeated, not just by the President, but by the investigators themselves, by the Secretary of Justice. And, you know, people will interpret things according to how they see it but these are the facts,” she said.

Asked whether they are disappointed that no senators were included in the second batch of those who will be charged, she said they leave the matter with the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman.

“There is a process that we have to follow. And, while we in the Executive understand the import of these cases, I would assume that the Ombudsman also would not want to be peppered with allegations of ni-railroad… There is a process that has to be followed and, of course, we should allow time for that,” she said.

Why the delay?

Explaining why the filing of the second batch got delayed, De Lima said: “Nung una gusto namin i-cover maski ‘di covered ng 2007 at 2009 so therefore may dagdag sa pitong former congressmen na ito pero nahihirapan kumuha ng dokumento outside 2007 and 2009.”

De Lima said there were supposed to be 11 former congressmen to be charged in the second batch, but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) trimmed it down to seven because four of the lawmakers have already passed away.

“It’s not gonna be fair (to name them) because they are no longer around to defend themselves,” she said.

Earlier reports quoted Baligod, legal counsel for whistleblowers in the fund scam, as revealing former congressmen Pingoy of South Cotabato, Maite Defensor of Quezon City, Cagas of Davao del Sur and Isidoro Real of Zamboanga del Sur as being charged with malversation.

De Lima, frustrated over the supposed “leak,” refused to confirm at that time if the former lawmakers were indeed among the respondents.

The complaints were filed in connection with the supposed diversion of money from the PDAF to spurious projects supposedly implemented by NGOs linked to Napoles.

Government officials allegedly ended up splitting the money with Napoles.

The new string of complaints came more than two months after the first batch of PDAF-related criminal charges were lodged against 38 individuals, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada, as well as alleged fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

The four were charged with plunder, along with incumbent Masbate Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete (P108.4 million), a former lawmaker, and former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez (P56.09 million).

Meanwhile, three former congressmen were charged with malversation, direct bribery, and other graft and corrupt practices:

– former Rep. Rodolfo Plaza (P42.1 million)
– former Rep. Samuel Dangwa (P26.77 million)
– former Rep. Constantino Jaraula (P20.84 million)

The following staff members of the lawmakers are also facing charges:
– Atty. Jessica Reyes – Enrile’s former chief of staff
– Atty. Richard Cambe – Revilla’s staff
– Ruby Tuason – representative of Enrile and Estrada
– Pauline Labayen – Estrada’s staff
– Jose Sumalpong – chief of staff of Lanete
– Jeanette Dela Cruz – district staff of Lanete
– Erwin Dangwa – chief of staff of Dangwa
– Carlos Lozada – Dangwa’s staff

Also named respondents were a number of officials and personnel and various government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government agencies, as well as officials of Napoles’ non-government organizations.

As requested by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Court of Appeals in August ordered that the accounts of Napoles, her family, relatives, employees, and her non-government organizations be frozen.

The CA would also later freeze the accounts of former congresmen Valdez, Plaza, Dangwa, and Jaraula, as well as those of the implicated staff of Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla.

On top of the PDAF-related complaints, the government has likewise lodged with the Ombudsman separate plunder charges against Napoles, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 20 others over the P900-million Malampaya gas fund mess. — with a report from Kimberly Jane Tan/KG/HS/KBK/JDS/ELR, GMA News

 http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/337571/news/nation/pnoy-ally-customs-chief-biazon-among-34-names-in-new-pork-case

By Rey O. Arcilla
Malaya

House-of-Representatives.2SENATE President Franklin Drilon, he who was Senate President once and a staunch ally of Ms. Gloria Arroyo till his personal interest no longer jibed with the latter’s, expressed fears that the Supreme Court’s ruling that pork barrel is unconstitutional may curtail Congress’ power to review the annual budget proposal from the executive branch.

Drilon was echoing the view of his speedy-mouthed colleague, Chiz Escudero, Senate finance committee chairman, who said that the SC ruling appears to prohibit legislators from making insertions in the budget proposal before its enactment into law.

Why are these people so concerned about “insertions”? The word has a very bad connotation. It could mean a way of circumventing the prohibition of pork barrel.

Why can’t these people stop talking about curtailment of their powers (and about money) and start talking about service to the people for a change?

In this connection, it is common knowledge that this evil invention called pork barrel is also present in provincial, city, municipal and even barangay levels. I would assume that the SC ruling applies to those as well. Does it?

***

For the first time in a very long, long time, the members of the lower house of Congress did something noteworthy – they approved at the committee level a proposed enabling act that would give substance and meaning to the constitutional provision against political dynasties.

But as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said, the bill is certain to face rough sailing in plenary. A significant number of congressmen belong to political dynasties.

“I believe it will experience rough sailing but I could be wrong, we’ve put up a big stone in one day, and I think that is something to be happy about but it’s a long way (to final passage),” Belmonte said.

***

As far as can be reasonably determined, it was only in this space last week where mention was made of the virtual invisibility of our armed forces in the Yolanda-stricken areas of Visayas. They could have helped initially in the clearance of debris, collection of dead bodies, prevention of looting and the maintenance of peace and order.

As Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, defense secretary during the Marcos regime, said during the Senate hearing on the DND budget, “why was the defense secretary relegated to a support position when he was supposed to be in command?”

He added that during his time as defense chief, the military was always informed when a typhoon was about to hit a certain area to give it time to gather its resources to assist the people, including delivering necessary equipment and materiel to ensure their safety.

A retired general confirmed this to me. He also cited the fact that there are military divisions based in nearby Cebu, Samar, Panay and Iloilo.

Another retired military officer also wrote me:

“Sir, I share your observation about the absence of AFP in the relief operations. I had also expected that the ground commanders in the affected areas, on their own, would have launched ‘immediate action’ responses to the crisis. This requires no instructions from higher ups because the response is part of every unit’s mission.

“As regards command and control, by this time, we should already be familiar with him. He should have been designated since Day 1. There should have been a central command center at Tacloban with detachments all over the affected areas. An hourly briefing should be given to the government spokesperson to avoid rumors, speculations and to discourage misinformation.

“But only the AFP has the capability, the concept and the competence to undertake such operations. The AFP is trained to set up command centers, distribution points, evacuation centers, field hospitals, disease control measures, engineering works, security, and last but not least, rehabilitation.

“It would have been the AFP’s finest hour had it been given the chance to serve. I have no doubt our men in uniform would have responded with patriotism.”

Given the foregoing information, the question begging for an answer is why was the military not given the role that it should have played in the Yolanda-hit areas? Possible answers: President Nonoy Aquino wanted DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to play the lead role; he does not have enough confidence in Gazmin; he does not trust the military; nobody was thinking straight at the height of the crisis; etc. Your guess is as good as mine.

***

Nearly two weeks repeat two weeks after Yolanda struck, Xinhua reported that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it was on red alert “to coordinate and organize its ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster operations in areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda.”

The AFP spokesman said the military was placed on red alert starting November 18 “to ensure that all troops are prepared for disaster operations”. Huh?

“The red alert status was issued not because of the supposed attempts by some quarters to destabilize the administration of President Benigno Aquino but because we wanted to coordinate and organize all our efforts,” the spokesman said.

That says volumes, if you ask me.

***

A confirmed spy has just been appointed US ambassador to the Philippines.

Philip Goldberg, who was the intelligence bureau chief of the US State Department before his present assignment, will be arriving in Manila this week.

He was once ambassador to Bolivia where he was declared persona non grata for allegedly spying on the government of President Evo Morales.

The allegation was denied by Goldberg.

Goldberg’s assignment comes at a very crucial point in US-PH relations: The fallout of Ed Snowden’s revelations about US and Australia spying on leaders of friend and foe alike, presumably including Noynoy (Indonesia has just withdrawn her ambassador to Australia), the stalled negotiations on the proposed Increased Rotational Presence of US forces in the Philippines and the ongoing US assistance in the relief operations for the victims of Yolanda.

***

Warm congratulations to Manny Pacquiao for his masterful domination of Brandon Rios!

***

Reminders (for Noynoy):

1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.

2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and ordering his successor, Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former.
Noynoy should also order Vergara to report to him on COA’s findings that:

(a) He received the obscenely excessive compensation of P16.36 million last year making him the highest paid government servant and;

(b) That, as of five or six months ago, at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.

COA also said the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.

There are three questions being raised when remittances, or parts thereof, of government agencies are not recorded by the GSIS on time: a) Where are these huge sums “parked” in the meantime?; b) Do they earn interest?; and c) To where (whom?) does the interest, if any, go?

Pray tell, Mr. Vergara, what is the present status of these funds?

3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments.

4) Resort to his immense presidential powers to expedite the resolution of the Ampatuan massacre case that is now on its fourth year.

***

Today is the 205th day of the seventh year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance

The Justice Department has dismissed the charges against several of those accused in Jonas’ disappearance. Cleared were former AFP chiefs of staff Hermogenes Esperon and Alexander Yano, ex-PNP chief Avelino Razon, retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ano and Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano. Only Maj. Harry Baliaga will be charged for arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice on the disappearance of Jonas.

“Pwedeng kasuhan ang kamay ng krimen pero ang utak ay hindi?” rued Lorena Santos, daughter of a desaparecido like Jonas.

Mr. President, is this what you meant when you called for a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive” probe of what really happened to Jonas?

***

From an internet friend:

A blind guy on a bar stool shouts to the bartender, “Wanna hear a blonde joke?”

In a hushed voice, the guy next to him says, “Before you tell that joke, you should know something.”

Our bartender IS blonde, the bouncer is blonde. I’m a 6’ tall, 200 lbs black belt. The guy sitting next to me is 6’2”, weighs 225, and he’s a rugby player. The fella to your right is 6’5” pushing 300 and he’s a wrestler. Each one of US is blonde. Think about it, Mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?”

The blind guy says, “Nah, not if I’m gonna have to explain it five times.”

***

Email: ambaroarcilla@gmail.com
– See more at: http://malaya.com.ph/business-news/opinion/red-alert#sthash.okj7y93T.dpuf

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma Montelibano

Benhur-Luy-testifying-SenateThis is the public reality. A Benhur Luy claimed he was kidnapped and, through his family, requested the NBI to rescue him. The NBI did, and the drama does not end, it just begins.

Benhur then tells a story of unimaginable greed and political arrogance. Quickly, from storyteller, Benhur transforms to being a whistleblower. If Benhur were an actor, he has had a genius of a director. The case that is now most celebrated simmered before it burst into a conflagration. In fact, a TV show seemed friendly to Janet Napoles and attempted to show she had business dealings in Indonesia – maybe to prove where she got her money.

Anyway, that is now mostly water under the bridge. After the key points of Benhur’s serial unfolded, if true, explains why he had to talk. He must know he is a dead man walking without government protection. And that protection at the level Benhur needs it would not have been given if he, and other whistleblowers who followed, did not have that truckload of documents to back up their affidavits.

The Filipino people have been regaled with a scandal that involved senators and congressmen – and fake NGOs. According to Benhur and a growing number of whistleblowers, the scheme to steal people’s money needed conduits which would appear as recipients of the funds. But special conduits were needed because the money, after being released by the Dept. of Budget Management, had to be returned as kickbacks. Fake NGOs are naturally easier to deal with than real NGOs, especially where dirty money is concerned.

When the public began to show its anger at the way senators and congressmen, as alleged by whistleblowers to have connived with Napoles through fake NGOs, a strange announcement, more like an indictment, was uttered by a senator. Like a rabbit from a magician’s hat, NGOs were banned entities worthy of support from Congress. Of course, I found it strange. It defied logic. Unless one puts malice in the decision. Or Congress has an IQ that can be grotesque when confronted that some of its members are accused of graft or plunder.

How can disqualifying real NGOs not be malicious or grotesque? If there is malice, shifting the focus of public perception from the guilt of senators and congressmen to the guilt of NGOs, even if these are fake, is logical. Ugly, immoral, but logical.

Or, if Congress, and Congress here means both the Senate and the House of Representatives, subscribes to the grotesque as acceptable behavior, then banning the innocent to mitigate the crime of the guilty becomes logical. Ugly, immoral, but logical.

Just how grotesque is amplified by the post-Yolanda relief effort. The performance of government has been under fire – valid or not. It has the power, the resources, the food, mountains of it, in fact, but it does not reap the goodwill. With very much less, NGOs do. Armed mostly with just heart and nobility, this sector we call non-government, all of whom, by the way, are the bosses of government according to our President, are swarming all over affected areas they can reach. The hungry and cold among the victims are grateful to them, praise and thank them, and will forever be etched in their memory. With just so little food or medicine to give.

In contrast, a government with money and food flowing out of its ears, plus billions more from foreign donors, gets a backlash for not going fast enough, not giving what sits in warehouses, and not looking at NGOs are capable enough to be their co-workers in an emergency. That is grotesque, when government distrusts its own bosses for no good reason except to deflect the wrongdoing of some if its own senior officials. That is malicious, when the guilty penalize the innocent to escape their own culpability.

Typhoon Yolanda did not inflict a wound on the areas she devastated, she inflicted a collective wound. The Filipino people are one body even when we disagree among ourselves. A national wound deserves a national response, not from DILG, not from DSWD, but from as many Filipinos as possible. And Filipinos worldwide responded, passionately, aggressively, raising awareness, raising sympathy, raising resources. And many more were not content with that and went to ground zero in Leyte, in Samar, in Cebu, in Negros, in Iloilo, in Capiz, in Antique, in Aklan, in Palawan.

Everybody felt the wound, and everybody wanted to heal the wound. Except the government agencies most involved with the relief. Somehow, they want to do it by themselves, as though they can, as though all the resources of the people belonged only to them, as though NGOs on the ground would steal them like some senators and congressmen, in connivance with several government agencies, as alleged by whistleblowers and now as charged by the Department of Justice.

There is a long road ahead, and a whole world watches. After all, the whole world is giving to the Philippines, not because it loves government, but because it is concerned about the Filipino people. That global attention brought in all the foreign aid and donations. it can also bring in the world’s admiration, or scorn.

The internal conflict called politics is rearing its ugly head in a humanitarian disaster. In the field of operations, many players are performing in a global stage to a global audience. If at the height of the relief work, domestic intramurals found coverage in domestic media, more of the same will find its way to international media and every private report of every foreign donor. Even today, technology allows every hungry barrio inside any ground zero to send a text message to family and friends around the world.

The challenge is for government and people to rise from tragedy instead of going deeper into it. The challenge is how to work together, not against each other. This is our moment, government and people, to find solidarity in our nobility. We cannot afford otherwise.

By Pacifico M. Talens*

Typhoon-Yolanda-evacuation.2When the Philippines, that beautiful and scenic place of many islands, was overrun by super typhoon Yolanda, citizens of the world were captivated by images of heartbreaking devastations. Thriving communities gone. Almost all housing structures and trees and roads destroyed, uprooted, and washed away by almost biblical forces of rain, wind, and rising sea.

In the aftermath of the epic storm, it became apparent multitude of government apparatus for relief and humanitarian undertakings were ill-equipped, powerless, and ignorant on means and ways to respond. Days after the cataclysm, corpses remained lying in the streets, victims hungry, without shelters and between life-and-death gasping for breathes of life. Dismal realities in complicated humanitarian operations revealed the ugly faces of incompetent leadership by local and provincial governments—but more so by the national government. President Aquino’s mettle of leadership has been tested in a draconian way by this event, when the level of devastations became almost surreal, almost mimicking the unimagible catastrophies in Japan that resulted from tsunamis created by very powerful undersea earthquakes.

As a former believer and supporter, until recently, of President Aquino, I would argue that history will judge this as one glaring example of his failed demonstrable inspirational leadership. He was as if the Commander in Chief of a nation who remained absent-without-leave (AWOL) in such a momentous time in history to witness at hand, and to guide and inspire his troops and people in a similarly tragic, bloody war. He eventually showed up but for a short time indeed only to manifest ugly political exercises of handing out relief rations to the victims. He remained awol still, up to now, to ease the pain, to mingle in sympathy in those other unfortunate lands. To date, weeks after the storm, many still are yet to realize the experience of receiving humanitarian aids.

In the economic and political contexts, the Philippines, even in best of times, is a country that is very difficult to govern. Corruption seems ingrained in the fabric of society and it runs rampant and unabated in the institutions of government; and it is this corruption that is the dominant culprit for a weakened national apparatus for disaster preparedness. The national coffers kept being plundered by the very people and legislators in the pedestals of government. Stolen funds, or lack thereof, brought about deficient and inefficient military air capabilities that had it been the otherwise could have been conducive to reliably long sustained humanitarian rescue and relief operations to hard-to-reach far flung stricken areas. Rapid rescues could have been possible; additional lost of precious lives could have been mitigated.

The horrendous devastations by the super typhoon, considered the most powerful typhoon in the recorded history of the world, will now be in the pages of history. The massive losses to lives and property can not be undone. But may further narratives to this saga unfold in ways it brings about deep soul-searching in so many people—that those, who plunder the state and only think of their self-interest, to make amends and now to truly serve their people. And for President Aquino, in serving the remaining years of his presidency as the political leader of a devastated nation, to morph and to become that inspirational leader the people long for.

In light of complicated and massive humanitarian undertakings currently ongoing to feed and assist thousands of victims, it is imperative the national government must exercise utmost vigilance to prevent corruption to taint the administration of humanitarian aids accorded by so many.

My words of advise to the Philippine government is to start wising up and start finding ways to distribute these cash moneys to the intended victims. To begin with, instead of using these donated cash to purchase so much rice, sardines, biscuits, noodles to make food packs (which require so many volunteers and much time to prepare), they should begin distributing these cash to each of all the families affected by the storm. Twenty-five thousands (25,000) pesos (about 1,000dollars) along with initial aids in material/food reliefs, be given to each family unit. Additional 10,000 pesos (about 400 dols) be given to family for each family member killed during the storm. This massive cash donations from the local communities and around the world should more than cover this project of giving out cash moneys to the victims. Upon these cash donations, the victims can start rebuilding their lives and their houses, instead of relying in fragile, uninhabitable tents and shelters.

It is in the realm of illogical thinking for the government to institute this so-called food-for-work programs in the ravaged areas. It is even inhuman and without basis to set deadlines in giving out humanitarian aids to the victims. The affected people are not required to work to receive what was accorded to them by noble people and governments. The Aquino administration must not lose sight that all these cash and relief aids have been given to the victims pro bono.

Now in the protocols and means of distributing these cash moneys to the family units. Of course, politicians must not be allowed controls in this complicated undertakings. Someone needs not be a rocket scientist to know why. Proven good citizens of the world are thus encouraged to participate in this no ordinary endeavor. Cardinal Tagle, a proven leader of the Church, in partnership with other religious leaders and some members of the court such as judges in the Visayas, should lead in the noble tasking of judiciously distributing cash moneys (by issuing checks) to all affected family units. I believe this protocol is the t way to make life anew and to bring back joy and hope to so many people whose lives have been altered and ruined. And failure by the government to give out these enormous donations of cash to the victims will only guarantee the making of thousands of additional beggars in the supposed to be beautiful lands of the Philippines.

*Pacifico (Pat) M. Talens—is a retired United States Navy Senior Chief who served as Personnel Officer and Admin Officer on board U.S. Navy war ships and on shore installations.

By Barbara Starr and Greg Botelho
CNN

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt Jeff Walston)

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt Jeff Walston)

(CNN) — Two U.S. military aircraft flew into China’s newly claimed and challenged air defense zone over the East China Sea, a U.S. official said, an action that could inflame tensions between the world powers.

The U.S. Air Force B-52 planes — which were not armed because they were on a training mission — set off Monday from Guam and returned there without incident. The mission lasted for several hours, and the aircraft were in China’s newly declared air zone for about an hour, according to the U.S. official.

The planes’ pilots did not identify themselves upon entering the disputed airspace, as China would have wanted, according to the official.

The official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The flights came two days after China unilaterally announced the creation of a “Air Defense Identification Zone” over several islands it and Japan have both claimed. The two countries have been sharply at odds over those isles, which are believed to be near large reserves of natural resources.

Air-defense-identifcation-zone-B-52-flyoverWashington responded negatively to what Secretary of State John Kerry characterized as an “escalatory action (that) will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.” The U.S. government has rallied around its ally Japan, where thousands of its troops are stationed as part of a security treaty.

And specifically regarding China’s new air defense zone, the United States has said it won’t recognize it — nor China’s call that aircraft entering it identify themselves and file flight plans.

Beijing, though, has dismissed the American position as unjustified and urged Washington to butt out of the territorial dispute.

Chinese defense ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun on Sunday called such criticism “completely unreasonable,” “irresponsible” and “inappropriate,” telling the United States to stop taking sides and not send more “wrong signals” that could lead to a “risky move by Japan.”

And China’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint with U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke asking Washington “to correct its mistakes immediately.”

On Tuesday, China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi sidestepped a question about American warplanes violating his nation’s new air defense zone. At the same time, he defended the zone’s creation, calling it a “normal arrangement” that “doesn’t really change anything.”

“It’s natural, it’s indeed the right of every country to defend its airspace and also to make sure that its territorial integrity, its sovereignty are safeguarded,” Liu said at the United Nations.

Japan’s two main commercial airlines said Wednesday that following a request from the Japanese government, they and other members of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan will not submit flight plans to Chinese authorities for flights through the zone claimed by Beijing.

The two carriers, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, said the association had concluded that there would be “no impact” on the safety of passengers on board flights through the zone without the submission of flight plans to China.

Long-running dispute over islands

The disagreement centers around what’s known as the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by China, which are close to strategically important shipping lanes and surrounded by waters full of rich marine life.

China says its claim to these islands extends back hundreds of years. Japan, on the other hand, says it saw no trace of Chinese control of the islands in an 1885 survey, so formally recognized them as Japanese sovereign territory in 1895. Japan then sold the islands in 1932 to descendants of the original settlers.

The dispute intensified in the second half of 2012.

Protests erupted in China after Japan announced it had bought several of the disputed islands from private Japanese owners. The deal was struck in part to prevent the islands from being bought by the controversial Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, who had called for donations for a public fund to buy them.

This sale outraged China’s government, and groups of its citizens protested violently in several Chinese cities, calling for boycotts of Japanese products and urging the government to give the islands back.

In December 2012, the dispute escalated further when Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese plane was seen near the islands. That situation has recurred repeatedly since, and China’s latest announcement makes it likely it will keep happening.

At sea, Chinese ships have frequently entered contested waters despite warnings from the Japanese Coast Guard.

How does the new air defense zone factor into these disputes?

Some in Japan, for one, have viewed the Chinese move as provocative, as does the United States.

“This … appears to be an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea, and thus will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation, confrontation and accidents,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

A story in China’s state-run Xinhua news agency plays down its significance, with naval expert Zhang Junshe insisting “other nations do not need to be alarmed.”

He noted that Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam all have their own air defense zones. Given these nations’ close proximity to each other, it’s inevitable some such zones will overlap, another expert, Chai Lidan, said in the same report.

Psaki said Washington is bothered by China — or, for that matter, any country — asking foreign planes entering what it calls its airspace to identify themselves.

“The United States does not apply that procedure to foreign aircraft,” she added, “so it certainly is one we don’t think others should apply.”

Chinese aircraft carrier group on the move

China’s military, meanwhile, announced on its website early Wednesday that its navy’s sole aircraft carrier was heading toward the South China Sea.

That’s where China has had territorial disputes with other Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam. At the same time, the East China Sea — where it recently declared an “air defense zone” causing a stir with Japan and its ally the United States — is not far away.

The carrier, named Liaoning, set out from a shipyard in eastern China’s Qingdao city on Tuesday morning, the military said on its website. China’s state-run CCTV also reported the news, showing the carrier — which was commissioned in September 2012 and first had aircraft leaving and landing on it two months later, according to the U.S. Defense Department — heading out to sea.

As with U.S. aircraft carriers, it doesn’t travel alone: Two guided missile destroyers and two guided missile frigates are accompanying the massive ship as part of its group.

Why?

The Chinese military makes no mention of the dispute with Japan and its ally, the United States. Rather, its website post notes that the carrier group’s mission is to conduct scientific experiments and military training.

That said, it is noteworthy that — in order to get from Qingdao to the South China Sea — the aircraft carrier group has to first go through the East China Sea.

CNN’s Kevin Wang and Junko Ogura contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/26/world/asia/china-us-b52s/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

By Erik Slavin
Stars and Stripes

Senior Airman John Myer fixes a tire on a B-52H Stratofortress at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. in January. On Tuesday, the United States sent two B-52s on a previously planned mission into China's newly created East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The U.S. and Japan have both said they will not recognize the zone, which includes airspace over the Japan-administered Senkaku islands. (Vernon Young Jr./Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

Senior Airman John Myer fixes a tire on a B-52H Stratofortress at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. in January. On Tuesday, the United States sent two B-52s on a previously planned mission into China’s newly created East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The U.S. and Japan have both said they will not recognize the zone, which includes airspace over the Japan-administered Senkaku islands. (Vernon Young Jr./Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — An unarmed B-52 bomber mission Tuesday into China’s three-day-old Air Defense Identification Zone may well have been planned far in advance, but there was nothing routine about it.

The two-bomber flight sent a message to China: You will not drive a wedge between close allies Japan and the U.S. over the sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, regional analysts said Wednesday. The dramatic response by the United States served as a deterrent to China’s designs on Japanese-administered Senkaku, claimed by China as the Diaoyutai islands, they said.

China claims the islands — and their resource-rich waters — by right of historical discovery. Senkaku was claimed by Japan in 1895 and restored to its possession by the United States in 1972, along with Okinawa.

The East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, created unilaterally by Beijing, includes airspace over Senkaku and runs for roughly 600 miles from north to south.

“The United States has a long tradition of upholding international law in the seas and air,” said Carlyle Thayer, an American author and professor emeritus at Australia’s University of New South Wales. “It doesn’t allow a creeping change of the status quo in international law by individual countries.”

For now, it appears the United States’ unequivocal rejection of the air defense zone has been strategically successful. It gave Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cover to talk tough about defense of Senkaku and freedom of the skies in a televised parliamentary session.

“We demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” Abe said Monday.

South Korea, a key U.S. ally, which has been warming to China under its new presidential administration, also chastised Beijing. Australia called in China’s ambassador for an explanation of the move.

It was China’s move Wednesday.

Three days earlier, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman called Japan’s rejection of the zone “groundless and totally unacceptable,” while accusing the U.S. of “inappropriate remarks” in support of Japan.

China’s Wednesday afternoon statement was far more muted. It noted that U.S. aircraft had spent more than two hours in the newly created air defense zone.

“China has the capability to exercise effective control over the relevant airspace,” the brief statement said.

The statement said nothing about demands for flight plans, active transponders or any of the rules that, if broken, China said Sunday might justify “emergency defensive measures.”

From the Chinese point of view, the United States is being hypocritical. The U.S. set up its own air defense identification zone in 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War.

The zone stretches for hundreds of miles on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as along the Canadian and Alaskan borders, and along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

However, there are two key differences. First, China wants to apply its zone to any non-commercial traffic in a wide swath of the East China Sea, no matter where the planes are headed.

The United States “does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Saturday.

Second, the U.S. zone doesn’t include land claimed or administered by another country, as the new Chinese zone does with Senkaku.

Chinese officials told reporters earlier this week that the air defense zone isn’t aimed at one particular country, but most analysts see it squarely aimed at Japan and its ownership of Senkaku.

Both Japan and China call the uninhabited islands an “inherent part” of their countries, though their interests lie less in the vegetation-covered rocks than in the projected energy reserves surrounding their nearshore waters.

“I just see this as the latest attempt to get Japan back into talks … to gain an admission that there is a dispute,” Thayer said.

China hopes it can use Senkaku to create a wedge between the U.S. and Japan, said Thayer — the thinking being that the U.S. will back down to avoid a war over a pile of rocks.

Instead, China’s actions are probably strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance and may ultimately support the U.S. rebalance strategy toward Asia, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan think tank.

“Support for Japanese views may grow in Southeast Asia as states bordering the South China Sea worry about a similar Chinese move to place a South China Sea ADIZ over their disputed islands,” CSIS stated in a report released Tuesday.

A Chinese air defense zone in the South China Sea would be extremely difficult to enforce, Thayer said, because there are so many multinational military exercises there. But it is not out of the realm of possibility.

China claims most of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, some of which it guards with coast guard cutters. Six other nations also claim some of those territories.

Several of those countries’ leaders would love to make demands of China the way Japanese Prime Minister Abe did, but wouldn’t risk it.

“Japan can sort of make those comments because they have the military capability to do so, and they have assurance of the United States coming to their aid in case those incidents happen,” said Lauro Baja, the Philippines’ former ambassador to the United Nations.

At the same time, Southeast Asia is growing more dependent on China’s economic might. The U.S. is also keen to maintain economic relations with Beijing, and well aware of its fear of the United States “encircling China” with bases and troop rotations in allied nations.

In its 2013 Defense White Paper, China noted that it has entered a “period of strategic opportunity,” but that the U.S. rebalance toward Asia is the source of “unprecedented stress” on that opportunity.

“Against that backdrop, [Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s] frequent admonitions to the People’s Liberation Army to be prepared to ‘fight and win wars’ take on added significance,” the CSIS report noted.

http://www.stripes.com/news/quick-us-response-tones-down-china-rhetoric-in-air-defense-row-1.254835