Trump Administration officially rejects China’s island claims
The United States has for the first time formally rejected China’s claims to the South China Sea, with a statement released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 14 calling Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea “completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”
It added that the US is aligning with the 2016 decision made by an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention following a legal case brought against China by the Philippines. The finding rejected China’s territorial or maritime claims to islands and features in the South China Sea that are also claimed in part by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines Taiwan, and Vietnam.
As if to underscore Secretary Pompeo’s point, the US Navy destroyer USS Ralph Johnson conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in waters near the disputed Spratly Islands on the day the statement was released.
Japan releases defence white paper
Japan has released its annual defence white paper, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the regional security and international order being a central theme.
The document warned that a prolonged global pandemic, “may exert various impacts on countries’ military capability”. It added that operations conducted by military vessels and aircraft primarily from China, and to a lesser degree, Russia in the waters and airspace surrounding Japan have continued in recent months despite the pandemic.
The White Paper also touched on Japan’s intention to acquire the Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning II, noting that its Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) capability will improve the operational flexibility of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) by expanding the number of runways throughout Japan and offshore island from which the service can generate air power.
Japan receives its first MV-22 Ospreys
Bell Boeing has delivered the first MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) on July 10. The aircraft flew to Camp Kisarazu south of Tokyo, from the sprawling port and airbase at Iwakuni near Hiroshima where they were assembled and test flown after arriving by ship on May 10.
The JGSDF is the first operator of the V-22 outside of the US military. Japan has signed contracts for five MV-22s from a published requirement of 17 aircraft, although permanent basing for the tilt-rotors is still uncertain due to opposition from local residents’ groups over safety concerns.
Indonesian naval vessel sinks
An Indonesian Navy ship has sunk off the eastern coast of Indonesia’s main island of Java on July 15.
According to the country’s official news agency, the KRI Teluk Jakarta sank in 90 metres of water after it lost watertight integrity in heavy seas while on a logistics run to eastern Indonesia. Nearby vessels rescued all 55 personnel that were on board the stricken ship.
The KRI Teluk Jakarta is a former East German Frosch class Landing Ship Tank transferred to Indonesia in the 1990s, one of 39 former East German ships it acquired in 1993 following German reunification.