Thursday, March 24, 2022

Mischief Reef |Mar. 25

 WH keeping public in dark on what Biden demanded of China’s Xi over arming Putin​

Mar. 18 - The White House was tight-lipped Friday about what President Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping beyond saying there would be “consequences” if China supplies weapons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly deflected questions at her afternoon White House briefing regarding what, if anything, Biden threatened during a nearly two-hour video call between Biden and Xi.

“He made clear what the implications and the consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” Psaki said, repeating the vague term “Implications and consequences” multiple times under withering questioning from reporters.

Reporter Joey Garrison of USA Today pressed Psaki, “What can you say about the severity of the implications and consequences for China if they do indeed … provide material support to Russia? Does this rise to the level where it would really make China think twice before assisting Russia?”

Psaki again deflected on specifics and wouldn’t characterize the possible “consequences” — leaving it unclear if China would face sanctions or some other penalties, such as trade policy changes or a more symbolic step such as a public verbal reprimand.

“It’s up to President Xi and the Chinese to make that decision, but the president again laid out very clearly and directly in the call what the implications and consequences would be if they provided material support,” Psaki said.

​Garrison persisted, “Why is the White House choosing not to elaborate and disclose more about what the consequences would be?”

​Psaki responded, “Because we feel that it would be most constructive to have those conversations directly with the Chinese.”

Later, she gave the same answer to another reporter, saying Biden was “specific” with Xi, but failing to provide specifics to the public.

Xi made clear Friday that China would not join NATO-led sanctions against Russia to punish its invasion of Ukraine, but hinted at potential openness to holding back weapons transfers requested by Russian President Vladimir Putin...     more to read

China fully militarizes key South China Sea features
​Ukraine war may have provided strategic cover for China’s full militarization of Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross reefs

Mar. 25 - While international attention is transfixed on the war in Ukraine, China has fully militarized three of its occupied islands in the contested South China Sea.

Speaking aboard a P-8 Poseidon on patrol in the South China Sea, US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino said on March 20 that “China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and fighter jets in an increasingly aggressive move that threatens all nations operating nearby.”

​According to Aquilino, China’s facilities on Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Fiery Cross Reef appear to have been completed. He said it is yet to be seen whether China will start construction of additional military facilities in its other occupied features in the maritime area...     more to read

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is a guided missile destroyer of the United States Navy. She is the lead ship of the Zumwalt class and the first ship to be named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt.[10][11] Zumwalt has stealth capabilities, having a radar cross-section similar to a fishing boat despite her large size.[12] On 7 December 2015, Zumwalt began her sea trial preparatory to joining the Pacific Fleet.[13] The ship was commissioned in Baltimore on 15 October 2016.[1] Her home port is San DiegoCalifornia.

​quoted from Wikipedia
China ‘fully militarized’ three islands in South China Sea: US commander
Mar 22, 2022

China has fully militarized three islands in the South China Sea, according to a top U.S. military commander. U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander John Aquilino says China armed three of its seven artificial islands with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems. The move directly threatens all nations in the region, he says. To counter China’s expansionist ambitions, the U.S. military says it will deploy its Zumwalt-class destroyer in the Indo-Pacific as early as the end of next year. 

U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander John Aquilino and two AP reporters recently went onboard a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon to patrol the skies over the South China Sea.

During the patrol, they saw that Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef were armed with missile systems, fighter jets, and other weapons systems, as well as military facilities. The three artificial islands were, quote, “fully militarized,” according to Aquilino.

The U.S. commander said China was undermining regional security and betraying its past promises that the islands would not be turned into military bases.

Su Tzu-yun
Institute for National Defense and Security Research
Actually, over in the South China Sea, China is believed to be building an eighth artificial island. The land reclamation work is reportedly underway. At present, it’s very obvious that the three islands named in the report have been militarized. Of course China’s purpose is to announce its expansionist designs. The second thing is that China will continue to militarize its islands, and possibly turn the entire South China Sea into a military fortress.

To contain China, the U.S. plans to deploy its Zumwalt-class destroyer in the Indo-Pacific starting the end of next year. The destroyer can be equipped with the Aegis system for air defense, and it has anti-submarine capabilities. Russia said recently that it deployed hypersonic missiles against Ukraine, marking the weapon’s first use in combat. The U.S. plans to fit one Zumwalt-class destroyer with hypersonic missiles by 2025. Experts say the move is meant to deter China from invading Taiwan.

Su Tzu-yun
Institute for National Defense and Security Research
The vertical launch tube on the Zumwalt-class destroyer can be used to launch hypersonic missiles. With its stealth capabilities, the Zumwalt can operate closer to the East China Sea or around the Taiwan Strait. It can take countermeasures against the Chinese military threat, launching a strike at the source.

In the face of the rising regional threat, the U.S. is keeping a close eye on China’s every move.

The South China Sea dispute explained
Aug 9, 2018
China and several of its neighbours have been involved in a decades-long dispute over who controls the South China Sea. China claims most of the sea as its territory, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan say parts of the sea belong to them. Tensions have risen over the years and resulted in several confrontations as well as US involvement. The South China Morning Post looks at the origins of the dispute, what these countries are fighting over and what they’re doing to assert their territorial claims.

​China’s military buildup on South China Sea islands threatens region: US commander

Mar. 21 - ...The P-8A Poseidon flew about 15,000 feet over the islands, where multi-story buildings, warehouses, hangars, seaports, runways and radar installations could be seen. 

Aquilino said the construction of military structures on Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Fiery Cross appear completed, but it’s unclear if China will pursue construction in other areas. More than 40 vessels were apparently anchored near Fiery Cross.

“The function of those islands is to expand the offensive capability of the PRC beyond their continental shores,” he told the wire service, using the acronym for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China. “They can fly fighters, bombers plus all those offensive capabilities of missile systems.”

Civilian and military planes could easily fly within range of the missile systems on the islands in the disputed waterway, Aquilino noted.

“So that’s the threat that exists, that’s why it’s so concerning for the militarization of these islands. They threaten all nations who operate in the vicinity and all the international sea and airspace,” he said.

China began building bases on the islands about 10 years ago to bolster its territorial claims over the South China Sea.

The US deployed ships to the region to ensure unfettered navigation in the international waterway as part of a mission it calls freedom of operation but which China terms a provocation.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also claim part of the sea through which roughly $5 trillion worth of goods are shipped every year...     quoted from New York Post

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Brent Crude | March 17


Brent Crude may refer to any or all of the components of the Brent Complex, a physically and financially traded oil market based around the North Sea of Northwest Europe; colloquially, Brent Crude usually refers to the price of the ICE Brent Crude Oil futures contract or the contract itself. The original Brent Crude referred to a trading classification of sweet light crude oil first extracted from the Brent oilfield in the North Sea in 1976.[1] As production from the Brent oilfield declined over time, crude oil blends from other oil fields have been added to the trade classification. The current Brent blend consists of crude oil produced from the Brent, Forties (added 2002), Oseberg (added 2002), Ekofisk (added 2007), and Troll (added 2018) oil fields (also known as the BFOET Quotation).[2]
The Brent Crude oil marker is also known as Brent Blend, London Brent and Brent petroleum. This grade is described as light because of its relatively low density, and sweet because of its low sulphur content.
Brent is the leading global price benchmark for Atlantic basin crude oils. It is used to set the price of two-thirds of the world's internationally traded crude oil supplies. It is one of the two main benchmark prices for purchases of oil worldwide, the other being West Texas

Oil price benchmarks fall below $100, first time in weeks

Mar. 15 - Oil prices tumbled more than 6% on Tuesday to their lowest in almost three weeks, as Russia suggested it would allow a revival of the Iran nuclear deal to go forward and as traders worried growing pandemic lockdowns in China could dent demand.

​Both Brent and U.S. crude futures benchmarks settled below $100 per barrel for the first time since late February. Since reaching 14-year highs on March 7, Brent has slid nearly $40 and WTI more than $30. Trading has been extremely volatile since Russia invaded Ukraine more than two weeks ago.

During the session, Brent futures plummeted $6.99, or 6.5%, to settle at $99.91 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $6.57, or 6.4%, to settle at $96.44 a barrel. Brent fell as low as $97.44 and WTI hit $93.53, their lowest since Feb. 25.

On technical charts, both contracts moved the closest to oversold territory since December. They had been in overbought conditions during early March. Brent at one point topped $139 a barrel...     more on Reuters

Yuan Jumps After Report on Saudis Weighing Its Use in Oil Deals​

Mar. 15 - The Chinese yuan reversed earlier declines following a report by Dow Jones that Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in the currency.

​The talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom, Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The offshore yuan erased a loss of as much as 0.3%, and traded slightly stronger at 6.39 per dollar. 

The outbreak of the Ukraine war and the swath of sanctions imposed on Russia as a result has brought to the fore questions about alternatives to U.S. currency-based markets, and the yuan is one in particular focus in light of China’s relationship with Russia. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the U.S., meanwhile, has been buffeted by various issues ranging from Yemen’s civil war to potential negotiations around Iran’s nuclear program.

“Many sovereigns, including U.S.-aligned countries, have realized owning massive amounts of dollars lead to an illusion of stability,” said Victor Xing, principal at Kekselias Inc. “In any moment, a political decision could lead to that dollar reserve being frozen or seized. The Saudis could be anticipating this shift, and pricing crude in yuan would increase their trade surplus in yuan and reduce dollar holdings in an organic way.”

The bump for the yuan comes at a time when Chinese assets more broadly have been under some strain. The renminbi has come under tremendous selling pressure over the past couple days amid a rout in the country’s stocks. The offshore yuan fell more than 1.1% against the dollar in the three days through March 14, its worst such drop in a year. The offshore yuan’s 200-day moving average at 6.4116 per dollar remains key near-term support for the currency...     more

Bohai Sea oilfield output exceeds 500 million tons

Mar. 14 - The Bohai Sea oilfield, China's largest crude oil base, had produced a cumulative total of oil equivalent exceeding 500 million tons as of Monday, after it has been in operation for more than 50 years.

"The 500 million tons of oil equivalent can meet the basic needs of 1.4 billion Chinese people for a year, and can be used by a megacity like Tianjin with a population of over 10 million for nearly a century," media reports said on Monday, citing Wang Yu, a production manager of the Tianjin branch of China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

The term "oil equivalent" is used to facilitate like-for-like comparisons in the energy industry. One barrel of oil (159 kilograms) is generally deemed to have the identical amount of energy content as 6,000 cubic feet (0.03 cubic meters) of natural gas.

Located in the hinterland of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in North China, the Bohai field has cumulative proven geological reserves of more than 4.4 billion tons of oil and nearly 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas...     more from Global Times

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's Dilemma Over China

Mar. 17 - ..."It would be reckless, given global oil pricing in dollars and the currency peg, not to mention the amount of Saudi debt priced in dollars, its reserve assets in dollars and their holdings of U.S. equities," said Karen Young, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. 

"There may be some contracts in yuan between Saudi Arabia and China, but there is no reorientation of Saudi monetary policy," she said.

The Saudi central bank had assets worth $492.8 billion at the end of January, including $119 billion in U.S. Treasuries.

The government had foreign currency debt - mostly in dollars - of $101.1 billion at the end of 2021, while the Saudi sovereign wealth fund held $56 billion in U.S. equities.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said Saudi Arabia could slowly shift some sales to yuan. "A gradual shift would have a limited impact," she said.

And even as U.S. officials were meeting in Riyadh, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that Washington was not asking its allies to choose between the United States and China.     source from NDATV

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Exclusive Economic Zone | March 10, 2022

 Why Biden Wants Taiwan/拜登支持台灣的理由

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.[1] It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from the coast of the state in question. It is also referred to as a maritime continental margin and, in colloquial usage, may include the continental shelf. The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a "sovereign right" which refers to the coastal state's rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters.     quoted from Wikipedia

Loopholes and lawfulness: De-escalating tensions in the South China Sea

Date published on March 4, 2022
Beijing’s progressive inroads are largely for two popularly cited reasons: First, to diversify its sources of acquiring energy as the South China Sea holds an estimated 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of oil in proved and probable reserves along with potentially undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves; and second, to exercise influence over the busy Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) that pass through these waters and, thereby, ensure maritime commercial and naval access towards the Indian and Pacific oceans. In addition to these reasons, China also claims historical rights over the South China Sea and, therefore, control over these waters is a crucial element as far as the Chinese Communist Party’s national aspirations for domestic politics and perception are concerned.

China’s determined projection of control in the area, primarily by establishing physical presence in the many small islands, shoals, atolls, and other rock formations that dot the South China Sea has been steadily expanding over the past decade. Referred to as the “salami slicing” strategy, this leads to a constant state of competition which, over time, has had a debilitating impact on resources and regional stability.

The responses of littorals as well as external powers—US, Japan, Australia—have been largely episodic and reactive in nature. And whilst Beijing is often the principal instigator of tensions, for instance, by marking the Nine-dash line, creating artificial islands, initiating the new coast guard law, and increasing its maritime militia, etc., other littoral countries too have engaged in similar activates though on a much smaller scale.

The phrase ‘sovereign rights’ began to be unsystematically used in international maritime law since the 1970s (around the same time that the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea was held, which led to the signing of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982; it remains to be the key international legal maritime framework till date) to govern the rights of coastal states over resources in the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Since the 1990s, the term has also been associated with reference to determining sovereign rights over energy resources. However, possessing sovereign rights over resources in the EEZ does not confer sovereignty over the same territory. Thus, the sovereign rights (limited set of rights and power) of a coastal state towards the exploitation of resources in the EEZ and the continental shelf is not equivalent to the exercise of sovereignty (supreme political authority) over the area...     quoted from Observer Research Foundation
China is a Threat to World’s Seas

Date published on Feb. 10, 2022
...China’s action doesn’t stop at its doorsteps. An example is the deliberate destruction of coral reefs by Chinese fishermen in areas of the South China Sea close to the Philippines. In the meantime, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to assess the ecological conditions of the disputed sea due to Chinese military buildup. China has dredged up more than 259 square kilometers of healthy coral reefs in the South China Sea to use as construction material for artificial islands. 

China’s attitude seems to be based on zero-sum thinking, bringing tragic consequences for the ecosystem. In 2015, Chinese poachers were arrested by the Philippine coast guard with 350 dead sea turtles on their ship, and in 2013 a Chinese ship got stuck in the Tubbataha Reef protected area in Philippine waters.

Chinese fishermen have been illegally fishing in the maritime zones of KiribatiVanuatu, and the Solomon Islands and New Zealand, as well as  American Samoa , Guam, and Hawaii. They have also been found to be plundering red coral in Japan’s territorial seas. 

There are many other consequences to these actions, including food insecurity in mostly poor tropical nations. Another cost is slave labor aboard the Chinese vessels. Indonesian workers were found to have worked to death in deplorable conditions, which had led to the reappearance of diseases not seen since the time of Captain Cook...     quoted from The News Lens 

Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community—Key China Content

Date published on March 10, 2022

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will continue efforts to achieve President’s Xi Jinping’s vision of making China the preeminent power in East Asia and a major power on the world stage. The CCP will work to press Taiwan on unification, undercut U.S. influence, drive wedges between Washington and its partners, and foster some norms that favor its authoritarian system. China’s leaders probably will, however, seek opportunities to reduce tensions with Washington when it suits their interests. 

China will maintain its statist economic policies because China’s leaders see state direction as necessary to reduce dependence on foreign technologies, enable military modernization, and sustain growth—ensuring CCP rule and the realization of its vision for national rejuvenation.
  • Beijing sees increasingly competitive U.S.–China relations as part of an epochal geopolitical shift and views Washington’s diplomatic, economic, and military measures against Beijing as part of a broader U.S. effort to prevent China’s rise and undermine CCP rule.
  • The CCP is increasing its criticism of perceived U.S. failures and hypocrisy, including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and racial tensions in the United States.
  • Beijing is increasingly combining growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic clout to strengthen CCP rule, secure what it views as its sovereign territory and regional preeminence, and pursue global influence.
  • However, China faces myriad—and in some cases growing—domestic and international challenges that probably will hinder CCP leaders’ ambitions. These include an aging population, high levels of corporate debt, economic inequality, and growing resistance to China’s heavy-handed tactics in Taiwan and other countries.

China uses coordinated, whole-of-government tools to demonstrate strength and compel neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences, including its territorial and maritime claims and assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan.
  • Beijing will press Taiwan to move toward unification and will react to what it views as increased U.S.–Taiwan engagement. We expect that friction will grow as China continues to increase military activity around the island, and Taiwan’s leaders resist Beijing’s pressure for progress toward unification. China’s control over Taiwan probably would disrupt global supply chains for semiconductor chips because Taiwan dominates production.
  • In the South China Sea, Beijing will continue to use growing numbers of air, naval, and maritime law enforcement platforms to intimidate rival claimants and signal that China has effective control over contested areas. China is similarly pressuring Japan over contested areas in the East China Sea...     more

Could China mediate the Ukraine war?
America’s overreach and Russia’s overreaction make possible a diplomatic revolution

Date published on March 9, 2922
...The Chinese news site added, “Xi Jinping stressed that we should jointly support the Russia-Ukraine peace talks, help the two sides to maintain the momentum of the negotiations, overcome difficulties and continue the talks to reach results and peace.”

He called for “maximum restraint to prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” adding that China “is willing to provide further humanitarian aid to Ukraine. We need to work together to reduce the negative impact of the crisis.” The sanctions now in place “will have an impact on the stability of global finance, energy, transportation, and supply chains, and will drag down the world economy.”

Xi added that China will support France and Germany “to act on behalf of Europe’s own interests, consider Europe’s lasting security, adhere to strategic independence, and promote the building of a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security framework. China is also happy to see a dialogue among equals among Europe, Russia, the United States, and NATO.”

These are generalities, to be sure. What matters is relationships: China has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, described as “China’s new bridge to Europe” in one report. Chinese investors have put $2 billion a year into Ukraine since the now-embattled country was the first to sign the statement of intent for the Belt and Road Initiative in 2017. China’s imports from Ukraine nearly doubled to nearly $8 billion in 2020 from just over $4 billion in 2019...     quoted from Asia Times

Featured Post

Mischief Reef |Mar. 25

  WH keeping public in dark on what Biden demanded of China’s Xi over arming Putin​ Mar. 18 - The White House was tight-lipped Friday about ...