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The Philippines' publicity approach to South China Sea clashes tests Beijing

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The Philippines' publicity approach to South China Sea clashes tests Beijing
  • In February 2023, the government of the Philippines decided to change tactics and publicize their encounters with the Chinese military in an effort to build international support and awareness, as well as to force Beijing to face reputational consequences.
  • Publicizing China’s actions, combined with Manila’s deepened military alliance with the U.S., has constrained Beijing’s ability to escalate matters at sea but raised the risks of Chinese economic retaliation and U.S. involvement.
  • A main point of conflict between China and the Philippines is sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, where clashes involving aggressive maneuvering and water cannons have taken place.

Huddled in the presidential situation room in February last year, senior Philippines officials faced a stark choice.

Military and intelligence leaders watched as coast guard officers showed photos of what the agency said was a military-grade laser that China had pointed at a Philippines ship in disputed waters days earlier.

Eduardo Ano, the national security adviser and chair of the South China Sea taskforce, had to decide whether to release the pictures and risk Beijing’s ire, or refrain from aggravating his giant neighbor.

CHINA ATTACKS ON PHILIPPINE BOATS ARE TO PROVOKE US, PREP FOR TAIWAN WAR, EXPERTS WARN

“The public deserves to know,” the retired general told the officials. “Publish the photographs.”

The previously undisclosed meeting marked a pivotal moment, as Manila began a publicity blitz to highlight the intensifying territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where the ramming of ships, use of water cannons and ensuing diplomatic protests have sharply raised tensions.

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“It was a turning point and the birth of the transparency policy,” National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, who attended the meeting and recounted the exchange, told Reuters. “The goal was to eventually impose severe costs to Beijing’s reputation, image and standing.”

An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023. The Philippine navy intentionally ran this ship aground in 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims on the shoal. (Reuters/File Photo)

Malaya said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr had directed officials to “civilianize and internationalize” the dispute, which they had achieved by using the coast guard and routinely embedding foreign journalists on missions. “This became an important component of building international support for the Philippines, because our audience is also foreign governments,” he added.

This account of the Philippines’ policy switch and its implications is based on interviews with 20 Philippine and Chinese officials, regional diplomats and analysts. They said publicizing China’s actions, combined with Manila’s deepened military alliance with the U.S., had constrained Beijing’s ability to escalate matters at sea but raised the risks of Chinese economic retaliation and U.S. involvement.

The February 2023 meeting occurred days after Marcos granted the U.S. access to four more military bases in the Philippines, rekindling defense ties that had suffered under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

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“China has few escalatory options left without triggering the U.S.-Philippines mutual defense treaty and risking a military confrontation between Chinese and U.S. forces,” said Ian Storey, a security scholar at Singapore’s ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Marcos has also pursued a diplomatic offensive, gaining statements of support for the Philippines’ position from countries such as Canada, Germany, India and Japan.

The South China Sea is rich in oil and gas. About $3 trillion in trade passes through it annually. U.S. access to Philippine bases could prove important in a war over Taiwan.

PHILIPPINES WARNS OF ‘RED LINE’ WITH BEIJING AMID HEIGHTENED TENSIONS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA

China, whose claims to most of the sea were invalidated by an international tribunal in 2016, says Philippine vessels illegally intrude into waters surrounding disputed shoals. It has warned Marcos, who took office in June 2022, against misjudging the situation.

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“This is brinkmanship, poker,” said Philippine legal scholar Jay Batongbacal. “Brinkmanship is taking things to the edge, trying to see who loses his nerve. Poker is a game of bluffing and deception – one could be doing both at the same time.”

In response to Reuters questions, China’s foreign ministry said the Philippines had been stoking tensions with “provocative actions at sea in an attempt to infringe on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights”.

China, it said, would defend its interests while handling the dispute peacefully through dialogue.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Manila’s transparency initiative had succeeded in calling greater attention to China’s “disregard for international law” and actions that endangered Philippine service members.

The spokesperson would not comment on the risk of U.S. military involvement but said the U.S. would support the Philippines if it faced economic coercion from China.

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Conflict in the South China Sea

The conflict is over Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippine navy maintains a rusting warship, BRP Sierra Madre, that it beached in 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims. A small crew is stationed on it.

Chinese ships have sought to block resupply missions, by encircling Philippine vessels and firing water cannons that in March shattered a boat’s windshield, injuring its crew. Manila released footage of the incident; China said it acted lawfully and professionally.

In February, Philippine ships recorded Chinese counterparts placing a barrier across the entrance to Scarborough Shoal. This week, both sides traded accusations over a collision involving their vessels near Second Thomas Shoal.

Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela taunts Chinese officials and state media on X, sometimes posting drone footage of maritime clashes. “If I were doing anything incorrect, I would have been shut down,” he said.

Tarriela said the transparency drive had worked, by galvanizing support for Manila while the threshold of China’s aggression had not changed, despite an increase in incidents.

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“They are still depending on their water cannon … they are still stuck with that kind of tactic,” he said.

The number of Chinese vessels around Second Thomas Shoal during Philippine resupply missions has grown from a single ship on average in 2021 to around 14 in 2023, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in January.

CHINESE COAST GUARD BLOCKED MEDICAL EVACUATION, PHILIPPINES SAYS: ‘BARBARIC AND INHUMANE’

Last month, China’s coast guard came within feet of the Sierra Madre and seized supplies air-dropped to troops stationed there, according to Philippine officials. China, whose navy patrolled nearby, said Filipino soldiers pointed guns at its coast guard; Manila said they just held their weapons.

Philippine officials say they fear a fatal accident could escalate into open hostilities.

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“That keeps a lot of us awake at night,” the Philippines’ ambassador to Washington, Jose Manuel Romualdez, told Reuters.

Manila also wants to avoid the kind of economic pressure it faced around a decade ago, when protracted Chinese customs checks caused Philippine bananas to rot on Chinese docks.

China was the Philippines’ second-biggest export market in 2023, taking nearly $11 billion worth or 14.8% of all its shipments. China is the Philippines’ top source of imports, mainly refined petroleum products and electronics.

Romualdez said Manila hoped China would “see the value of continuing our economic activity while trying to peacefully resolve the issue”.

Edcel John Ibarra, a political scientist at the University of the Philippines, said Marcos risks provoking China into “a harder approach”, such as non-tariff barriers and tourism restrictions. He pointed to changes China announced in May that allow its coast guard to detain foreigners without trial for 60 days.

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China ‘feeling the squeeze’ of the Philippines’ publicity approach

The intensity of Manila’s campaign has surprised its neighbors. Vietnam and Malaysia, which also have maritime disputes with Beijing, have been more cautious about what they release from their skirmishes with China.

“We are all watching this and talking amongst ourselves,” said one Asian diplomat, who was not authorized to be named. “The Philippines has carved out a new strategy in standing up to Beijing over a point of friction.”

Marcos said in December that diplomacy with China had achieved little, calling on Southeast Asia “to come up with a paradigm shift”.

China’s state media have expressed irritation with the transparency push.

The Philippines has been “playing the victim to deceive international public opinions”, the state-backed Global Times said in an op-ed in May.

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A key aspect of Manila’s approach has been solidifying the U.S. alliance. Both countries made clear in May last year that their defense treaty also covers the coast guard. In April, Marcos participated in an unprecedented summit with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts.

A U.S. official involved in U.S.-China talks that month said Chinese officials have complained about these diplomatic breakthroughs behind closed doors, adding that Beijing was “feeling the squeeze”.

Some Chinese scholars, like Zha Daojiong, at Peking University’s School of International Studies, say the situation is at an impasse and that China will continue to be “essentially reactive” at flashpoints like Second Thomas Shoal.

“By responding to the Philippines’ action, I guess they want to keep the message that this shoal is in dispute,” he said.

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Paris Olympics: Pitch stormings and Israel jeering marr opening games

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Paris Olympics: Pitch stormings and Israel jeering marr opening games

Paris Olympics day one summary and scores. Argentina-Morocco football game suspended for nearly two hours amid pitch invasions, as Israel’s national anthem jeered loudly before Mali clash in Paris.

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The Paris 2024 Olympic Games opened with a surprising 2-1 victory by Morocco’s men’s football team against pan-American champions Argentina, in Saint-Étienne, in a chaotic game that was suspended for nearly two hours after multiple individuals stormed the pitch.

Another stunning result came from Bordeaux, where Japan thrashed Paraguay 5-0, while France pleased the home crowds with a comfortable 3-0 win over the US.

The hosts got off to a less sparkling start in men’s rugby sevens, as they beat Uruguay 19 to 12 but tied with the US 12-12.

Tokyo 2020 gold medallists Fiji defeated the US too, 38-12, as well as Uruguay, 40-12, while Ireland overcame reigning world champions South Africa 10 to 5, who also lost to New Zealand 17-5.

Full football and rugby scores below.

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Israel’s national anthem loudly jeered before football clash against Mali

Israel’s national anthem was loudly jeered before the kick-off of their opening Olympic game against Mali at Paris Parc des Princes in Paris on Wednesday.

The game began with a massive security presence outside the stadium amid an increasingly strained international climate that has France’s safety efforts squarely in the spotlight.

The Israeli team arrived under a heavy police escort, with motorbike riders at the front and about a dozen riot police vans following behind.

Armed police officers patrolled the Parc des Princes stadium, although the atmosphere outside the venue was calmer.

Mali fans sang proudly when their anthem was played first. When it came to Israel’s anthem, boos and whistles immediately rang out. The stadium speaker system playing the anthems then got notably louder in what seemed like an effort to drown out the jeers.

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Once play began, Israeli players were booed each time they touched the ball. Security officials intervened in what appeared to be a heated argument between some fans.

Several fans on the Mali stands were holding Palestinian flags.

Morocco stun pan-American champions Argentina following nearly two-hour game suspension

Morocco secured a wild 2-1 win over Argentina at the start of the Olympic men’s football tournament on Wednesday – but not before furious fans invaded the pitch to protest what appeared to be an equaliser in the 16th-minute of stoppage time.

Objects were thrown onto the field and security had to restrain fans, causing the game in Saint-Etienne to be suspended for nearly two hours and the crowd being told to leave the stadium.

The goal was eventually ruled offside just before play resumed, sparking celebrations from Morocco players as the final minutes concluded.

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It was a chaotic and dramatic start to the tournament after Argentina, which won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and are viewed as the favourites in France, mounted a comeback after going 2-0 down on goals from Soufiane Rahimi.

Giuliano Simeone struck in the 68th minute and Argentina peppered Morocco goalkeeper Munir El Kajoui with shots before Medina’s header from close range appeared to tie it.

That caused outrage from Morocco fans, who rushed the field, while others threw trash, and the game was officially put on hold.

Rahimi had put Morocco ahead in first-half stoppage time, then converted on a penalty kick in the 49th, which proved to be the decisive goal against an Argentina team that included four members of the squad that won the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Hosts France off to good start in football

Stunning goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Michael Olise helped France to a 3-0 victory over the United States. Loic Bade added the third with a late header to seal a win that had looked in doubt until former Arsenal striker Lacazette struck with a long-range effort in the 61st minute in Marseille.

The host nation had to ride their luck against an American team that saw a shot from Djordje Mihailovic hit the crossbar when the game was still goalless. Lacazette’s goal came almost immediately after.

Paris Olympics day 1 results

Men’s Football, group stage

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  • Argentina 1-2 Morocco
  • Uzbekistan 1-2 Spain
  • Guinea-New 1-2 Zealand
  • Egypt 0-0 Dominican Republic
  • Iraq 2-1 Ukraine
  • Japan 5-0 Paraguay
  • France 3-0 US
  • Mali 1-1 Israel

Rugby sevens, men’s pool

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  • Australia 21-14 Samoa
  • Argentina 31-12 Kenya
  • France 12-12 US
  • Fiji 40-12 Uruguay
  • Ireland 10-5 South Africa
  • New Zealand 40-12 Japan
  • Australia 21-17 Kenya
  • Argentina 28-12 Samoa
  • France 19-12 Uruguay
  • Fiji 38-12 US
  • Ireland 40-5 Japan
  • New Zealand 17-5 South Africa
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How Fast Is That Going?

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How Fast Is That Going?

You won bronze!

Lindon Victor, an Olympic decathlete from Grenada, threw this at [46] In competition, the discus can reach over [50]

Flying Objects at the Games

From the fast-flying badminton birdie to the slower and heavier shot-put, we’ve shown you a wide range of speeds that will play a critical role in who wins a medal. Is the object fast enough to go great distances? Is it fast enough to befuddle an opponent? Will the speed keep an arrow true?

The birdie and the shot-put could not be more different. The birdie is about the fastest projectile you’ll see at these Olympics, and it’s as light as a feather — literally. It’s made of 16 goose feathers and weighs less than two-tenths of an ounce (about five grams).

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Compare that with the men’s shot, one of the heaviest and slowest objects at the Summer Games. It weighs a whopping 16 pounds (7.26 kilograms) — the maximum weight of a bowling ball. To win an Olympic medal, an athlete will need to put it more than three-quarters of a basketball court.

When you’re watching the Games, keep in mind just how much an object’s speed can determine the outcome. Follow The New York Times Olympic coverage.

Methodology: The speeds of the objects were collected using a sports radar gun. Speeds were tracked throughout the flight and the peak speeds were used for this game.

Sources: U.S.A. Archery; Lancaster Archery Academy; Seng Ming Tan, Long Island Badminton Center; Chris Huffins, Olympics bronze medalist in decathlon and current decathlon coach; Marissa Chew, ​​assistant coach, combined events/vertical jumps, Texas Christian University; Yu Shao, New York Indoor Sports Club; U.S.A. Volleyball; Guinness World Records

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Britain’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer faces his first House of Commons grilling from lawmakers

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Britain’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer faces his first House of Commons grilling from lawmakers

Newly elected British leader Keir Starmer faced a House of Commons milestone on Wednesday, fielding lawmakers’ queries at the boisterous weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session.

It was the first such session since Starmer’s Labour Party won a landslide election victory on July 4, returning to power after 14 years. The center-left party won 412 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

KEIR STARMER ELECTED NEW UK PRIME MINISTER AFTER BIG LABOUR PARTY WIN

Starmer is more accustomed to asking the questions after spending four years as leader of the opposition to a Conservative government. Former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now fills that role as leader of the defeated Conservative Party.

Starmer was greeted with a loud cheer by Labour lawmakers packed onto the green benches in the Commons. The often rambunctious spectacle of PMQs struck an unusually cordial note, as Sunak and Starmer stressed their mutual commitment to supporting Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Keir Starmer leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers Questions session in parliament in London, Wednesday, July 24, 2024.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The prime minister told the opposition leader he “wholeheartedly agree” on the need to arm Ukraine and set it on the path to NATO membership — words not often heard between them.

The two politicians also sent best wishes to British athletes at the Paris Olympics, although, Sunak added, “I’m probably not the first person they want to hear advice from on how to win.”

Labour won a landslide election victory over the Conservatives on July 4 on a promise to get the U.K.’s sluggish economy growing, unleash a wave of housebuilding and green energy projects and patch the country’s frayed public services.

Labour’s large majority means Starmer should easily be able to pass legislation. But he has already had to quell a rebellion, suspending seven Labour lawmakers for voting against the party over social welfare.

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The government is under pressure from anti-poverty groups and many Labour lawmakers to scrap a policy introduced by the Conservatives that limits a widely paid welfare benefit and tax credit to a family’s first two children. The new government says it can’t afford to immediately abolish the two-child cap.

On Tuesday night, seven Labour lawmakers on the left of the party sided with an opposition call to scrap the limit. The party said the seven, who include former deputy leader John McDonnell, had been suspended from Labour’s parliamentary caucus for at least six months. They will remain lawmakers, but will sit as independents.

Zarah Sultana, one of the suspended legislators, said she had “slept well knowing that I took a stand against child poverty that is affecting 4.3 million people in this country.”

“It is the right thing to do and I am glad I did it,” she told broadcaster ITV.

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