Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measures      Renewed Tensions and Continuing Maritime Security      ...
International Forum on Maritime Security 2010China, Taiwan and Vietnam immediately protested the passage of the New Philip...
Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measuresover the past two years despite the adoption of the Declarati...
International Forum on Maritime Security 2010are for “defensive” or “offensive” purposes.7 With the concept of security di...
Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresSea.11 All claimants are driven by their desire to protect th...
International Forum on Maritime Security 2010Because baselines controversies among claimants in the South China Sea have n...
Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresIsland also has a well-maintained lagoon suitable for tourist...
International Forum on Maritime Security 2010just wooden structures and two small single-storey hexagonal concrete buildin...
Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresTaiwanTaiwan only occupies one island called Itu-Aba, officia...
International Forum on Maritime Security 2010the Spratlys. Malaysia does not occupy any island like China.        But all ...
Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measuresopined that the South China Sea Disputes would not be on ASEA...
International Forum on Maritime Security 20106. ConclusionsBased on photographic evidences gathered by the author from var...
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Renewed Tensions and Continuing Maritime Security Dilemma in the South China Sea by Romme Banlaoi

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Renewed Tensions and Continuing Maritime Security Dilemma in the South China Sea by Romme Banlaoi

  1. 1. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measures Renewed Tensions and Continuing Maritime Security Dilemma In The South China Sea* Prof. Rommel C. Banlaoi, Executive Director Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research AbstractSince 2007, there have been renewed tensions in the South China Sea. Thoughtensions de-escalated in 2002 with the passage of Declaration on the Conduct of Partiesin the South China Sea (DOC), there has been continuous development of civilianand military facilities on all the occupied islands, islets, reefs and shoals. Thedevelopment of these facilities indicates that with the exemption of Brunei, all theclaimants are consolidating their physical presence in the Spratlys with the intention tostrengthen their effective occupation to prove ownership. The growing seapower ofChina and the on-going naval upgrade of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippine, Taiwan andVietnam are indicators of renewed military tensions that exacerbate the maritimesecurity dilemma in the South China Sea.1. IntroductionOn 10 March 2009, the Philippine government signed Republic Act (RA) 9522 tocomply with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas(UNCLOS), which stipulates that all claims to be made for sea bed or continental shelfextensions to Exclusive Economic Zones allowed under the treaty be filed by 13 May2009. Otherwise known as the New Philippine Baselines Law, RA 9522 reaffirms thePhilippines’ claims to its territorial waters, including its extended continental shelf,economic zones and an area of the contested Spratlys archipelago known as theKalayaan Island Group (KIG).1* Paper presented at the International Forum on Maritime Security, Keelung, Taiwan 16 April 2010. Also presented in China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Korea & Vietnam.**The author is the Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and Head of its Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies (CINSS). He provides consulting services to the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan 49
  2. 2. International Forum on Maritime Security 2010China, Taiwan and Vietnam immediately protested the passage of the New PhilippineBaselines Law, which is part of a regional pattern of developments that have inevitablyled to an upsurge of security tensions in the South China Sea. These developmentsinclude the China-Vietnam controversy over Sansha island in December 2007,2 theChina-Philippines hullaballoo on the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) inearly 2008, 3 the discovery of a major Chinese naval base on Hainan Island inmid-20084 and a naval skirmish involving the US surveillance ship Impeccable and fiveChinese vessels off Hainan Island in March 2009.5This paper argues that security tensions over the disputed Spratly Islands have increased and serves as a Senior Adviser of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines. He was a professor of political science at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) and was a consultant for plans and programs at the Department of National Defense (DND). He is currently lecturing international relations and regional security at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Yuchengco Center of De La Salle University, Manila where he once held an appointment as Assistant Professor in International Studies. He also held an appointment as University Research Associate at the University of the Philippines, Diliman and Instructor in Political Science at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos. Email: rbanlaoi@pipvtr.com.1 For a complete electronic copy of the New Philippine Baselines Law or Republic Act 9922, see http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2009/ra_9522_2009.html.2 For an analysis of this controversy, see Ian Storey, “Trouble and Strife in the South China Sea: Vietnam and China”, China Brief, vol. 8, no. 8 (14 April 2008).3 For an article that triggered the hullaballoo, see Barry Wain, “Manila’s Bungle in the South China Sea”, Far Eastern Economic Review (January-February 2008). For further analysis, see Ian Storey, “Trouble and Strife in the South China Sea: The Philippines and China”, China Brief, vol. 8, no. 8 (28 April 2008).4 See David Lague, “Dangerous Waters: Playing Cat and Mouse in the South China Sea”, Global Asia, vol. 4, no. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 56-61.5 For an excellent analysis, see Ian Storey, “Impeccable Affair and Renewed Rivalry in the South China Sea”, China Brief, vol. 9, no. 9 (30April 2009). 50
  3. 3. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measuresover the past two years despite the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Partiesin the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002. While tensions in the South China has nodoubt de-escalated during and after the signing of the DOC,6 security irritants pervadedas claimants continued to improve their civilian and military facilities in their occupiedislands, islets, reefs and shoals. Taiwan even protested the signing of the DOC as it onlyincluded Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. It is believed that theexclusion of Taiwan in the DOC has made the declaration ineffective in managingtensions in the South China Sea.Though the DOC temporarily calmed the waters in the South China Sea byupholding the principle of amicable settlement of maritime boundary disputes, its“non-binding” character made the DOC fragile and tenuous. Thus, disputes in theSouth China Sea continue to be major sources of maritime security dilemma in Asia.China’s growing naval power in recent years has exacerbated this regional maritimesecurity dilemma, leading the other claimants to upgrade their naval assets andmodernize their maritime capabilities. The maritime security dilemma in the SouthChina Sea raises the possibility of armed conflict in the Spratlys, something claimantsand stakeholders alike are keen to avoid. These renewed tensions and continuingmaritime security dilemma in the South China Sea pose formidable challenges for thepromotion of maritime security in Asia.2. Security Dilemma: A Framework For Analyzing Renewed Maritime Security Tensions In The South China SeaSecurity dilemma is the best framework to analyze the renewed tensions in the SouthChina Sea. Security dilemma exists when the military preparations of one state create anun-resolvable uncertainty in the mind of another state as to whether those preparations6 For a study of the de-escalation of conflicts in the South China Sea, see Ralf Emmers, “The De-escalation of the Spratly Dispute in Sino-Southeast Asian Relations”, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Working Paper Series, No. 129 (6 June 2007). 51
  4. 4. International Forum on Maritime Security 2010are for “defensive” or “offensive” purposes.7 With the concept of security dilemma,states are always in a “guessing game” situation trying to speculate on each others’strategic intention whether it is benign or malign. States perceptions of securitydilemma create a paradox in which states believe that their security requires theinsecurity of others.8 This difficult situation occurs because of the anarchic nature ofinternational system where there is the absence of an overarching authority that canregulate the behavior of sovereign states.In an anarchic international environment, states constantly compete with one another toprotect their sovereignty and to pursue their national interests.9 Though the state ofanarchy can also encourage states to cooperate by building international regimes orconstructing international norms, mutual suspicions continue to describe the reality ofinternational politics. Thus, security dilemma is a tragedy because war can occurbetween and among states though none of them desire such an outcome.10 Becauseeach state is mandated to pursue its own national interests, security uncertaintiespervade and these uncertainties also create security anxieties that in turn exacerbate thesecurity dilemma.The principle of security dilemma can describe the renewed tensions in the South China7 Nicholas J. Wheeler and Ken Booth, “The Security Dilemma” in John Baylis and N.J. Rennger (eds), Dilemmas of World Politics: International Issues in Changing World (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 29-60.8 Jack Snyder, “Perceptions of the Security Dilemma in 1914” in Robert Jervis, Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross (eds), Psychology and Deterrence (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1985), p. 155.9 For a concept of anarchy, see Robert C. Art and Robert Jervis, International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, 4th edition (New York: Harper-Collins College Publishers, 1996), pp. 1-148.10 The concept of security dilemma as a tragedy was popularized by Herbert Butterfield. See Herbert Butterfield, History and Human Relations (London: Collins, 1951), pp. 6-20. 52
  5. 5. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresSea.11 All claimants are driven by their desire to protect their territorial integrity andadvance their national sovereignty in this contested water. Because of conflictingclaims that are motivated by sovereignty issues, claimants in the South China Seacontinue to make unilateral moves that aim to strengthen their effective occupation ofislands, islets, reefs, cays and shoals in the area. Claimants also continue to build andenhance their maritime capability to protect their interests in the South China Sea.3. Strengthening Effective Occupation In The SpratlysThe South China Sea is composed of two major island-chains: the Paracels and theSpratlys. The Paracels are being contested between China, Taiwan and Vietnam whilethe Spratlys are being claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwanand Vietnam. This paper focuses only on the disputed islands, islets, reefs, shoals andcays in the Spratlys.Based on the ten-day field research of the author in the Spratlys on 6-15 May 2009,12all claimants involved in the disputes, with the exemption of Brunei, are strengtheningtheir effective occupation of what they consider their territories in the Spratlys. China,Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have been seriously consolidating theirphysical presence in the South China Sea since the adoption of the DOC.Photographic evidences indicate that claimants have been involved in variousinfrastructure projects that aim to intensify their military and civilian presence in theiroccupied islands, islets, reefs and shoals with the strategic intention to prove theireffective occupation of these areas and thereby strengthen their claims for ownership.Proving their ownership of these areas has huge implications for the definition of theirbaselines and exclusive control and exploitation of rich maritime resources in the SouthChina.11 For an earlier account of security dilemma in the South China Sea, see Alan Collins, The Security Dilemmas of Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), pp. 133-172.12 The author made a follow-up visit on 23-25 September 2009 at the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in Puerto Princesa Palawan where the author received a restricted security briefing in the South China Sea. 53
  6. 6. International Forum on Maritime Security 2010Because baselines controversies among claimants in the South China Sea have not beensettled, there have also been overlapping fishing activities in the whole area. Fishingactivities in the South China have been major sources of irritants among claimants asthey accuse each other of illegal fishing and poaching in their internal waters. Tojustify the construction of facilities in their occupied territories, claimants even callthese facilities “fishermen shelters”. Some claimants even erected some light postsand observation towers in their controlled areas in aid of navigation. It is alreadyknown that there is an enormous navigational traffic in the South China Sea making itone of the maritime superhighways of the world. The huge number of ships andtankers passing through the South China Sea, which account for more than 50% of theworld’s annual navigational activities.Because of strategic and economic value of the South China Sea, all claimants, exceptBrunei, have invested their resources in their occupied territories to maintain andconsolidate their physical presence and prove their effective occupation. Since 2002,claimants have been engaged in a number of construction activities that aim to improveand fortify their military and civilian presence in their occupied areas.VietnamVietnam presently occupies 21 islands, reefs and cay in the Spratlys. It has impressivefacilities in the Spratlys. Its largest occupied island, Lagos (or Spratly Island), is themost heavily fortified with a solid runway, a pier, at least 35 building structures, around20 storage tanks, at least 20 gun emplacements, at least 5 battle tanks and someparabolic disk antennas and a spoon rest radar. In April 2009, Philippine aerialsurveillance found a two newly-constructed two-storey building in the Lagos Islandwith 12 newly-installed light posts and 12 wind mills.Aside from Lagos Island, Vietnam also maintains facilities at Pugad Island (SouthwestCay), which is just less than two nautical miles away from the Philippine occupiedisland of Parola (Northeast Cay). Pugad Island has several gun emplacements, gunshelters, civilian buildings, military barracks, parabolic disc antennas, concrete bunkers,a light house, a football field, a helipad, and many light posts. In April 2009, thePhilippine Air Force sighted a supply ship in the vicinity of Pugad Island with newlyinstalled light posts, polarized dipole array antenna, and a broadband facility. Pugad 54
  7. 7. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresIsland also has a well-maintained lagoon suitable for tourists. The surrounding watersof Pugad Island are also good for scuba diving and other water-based sports.Other facilities of Vietnam in at least 14 occupied reefs seem to follow a standardpattern of construction. South Reef, Pentley Reef, Discovery Great Reef, Collins Reef,Pearson Reef, Lendao Reef, West Reef, Ladd Reef, Central London Reef, East Reef,Cornwallis Reef, Pigeon Reef, Allison Reef, and Barque Canada Reef have identicalstructures featuring a golden-painted three-storey concrete building with built-in lighthouse on top, gun emplacements on both sides, T-type pier, solar panels, parabolic discantennas, and garden plots.The PhilippinesThe Philippines ranks second in the most number of occupied areas in the Spratlys. It ispresently in control of nine facilities that are considered parts of the Municipality ofKalayaan. Its largest occupied facility is the Pag-Asa Island (Thitu Island), theclosest island to the Chinese occupied Subi Reef. Pag-Asa Island has an alreadydeteriorating run-way maintained by the 570th Composite Tactical Wing of thePhilippine Air Force. It also has a naval detachment maintained by the Naval ForcesWest of the Philippine Navy. Pag-Asa island has municipal hall called Kalayaan Hall,a village hall called Barangay Pag-Asa, a police station maintained by the PhilippineNational Police (PNP), sports facilities, observation tower, a commercial mobile phonestation, and several civilian houses and military barracks.Pag-Asa Island is the only occupied island of the Philippines with civilian residents.At least five families reside in Pag-Asa. This island is the main seat of theMunicipality of Kalayaan established by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1596 issuedby then President Ferdinand Marcos on 11 June 1978. Registered voters of KalayaanMunicipality cast their votes in Pag-Asa Island during local and national elections.The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) maintains an office in Pag-Asa Island.The Mayor of Kalayaan Municipality has released the Kalayaan Medium TermDevelopment Plan, 2006-2010 to civilianize the management of KIG.The Philippines also maintains makeshift naval detachment facilities in five otherislands, one reef and one shoal. Its facilities in the Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef) are 55
  8. 8. International Forum on Maritime Security 2010just wooden structures and two small single-storey hexagonal concrete buildingsmanned by four personnel of the Philippine Navy. The Philippines also maintains anaval detachment in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) established out of adilapidated Landing Ship Tank called LST 57. Ayungin Shoal is the closest structureof the Philippines to the controversial Mischief Reef occupied by China.ChinaThough China does not occupy any island in the Spratlys, it has solid facilities in sevenreefs and shoals with concrete helipads and military structures. Its much publicizedstructure is in the Mischief Reef, which currently has a three-storey concrete buildingand five octagonal concrete structures in the vicinity. The three-storey building has abasketball court, dipole and parabolic disc antenna, search lights, solar panels andcross-slot type radar. In April 2009, the Philippine Air Force sighted three navalvessels in the vicinity of Mischief Reef: Fulin Class Survey Ship, Shijian Class SurveyShip and Yannan Class Survey Ship. Three fishing vessels were also sighted in thelagoon of Mischief Reef.China maintains a very impressive helipad facility in the Johnson Reef. This reef hasthree-storey concrete building armed with high powered machine guns and naval guns.Johnson Reef has identical structures in Chigua Reef and Gaven Reef. In April 2009,the Philippine Air Forces sighted in Johnson Reef a Huainan Jiangwei Class Frigatewith body number 560 and it was believed to be armed by surface to surface missile,surface to air missile, 100mm guns, 32mm guns, anti-submarine mortars, andMalaysiaMalaysia, which presently occupies five areas in the Spratlys, has well-maintainedfacilities in the Swallow Reef. This reef has a diving center called “Layang-Layang”.Swallow Reef has a resort-type hotel, swimming pool, windmills, communicationantennas, control communication tower, civilian houses, military barracks and a helipad.Malaysia also has a very good facility in the Ardasier Reef with an excellent helipad,sepak takraw court, gun emplacements and control tower. The facilities in the ArdasierReef are almost identical with the Malaysian facilities in Erica Reef, Mariveles Reef andErica Shoal. Malaysia also maintains a symbolic obelisk marker in the Louisa Reef. 56
  9. 9. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security MeasuresTaiwanTaiwan only occupies one island called Itu-Aba, officially named by Taiwangovernment as Taiping Island. It is the largest and the most heavily fortified amongthe occupied islands in the Spratlys. It has more than 50 buildings used for militaryand civilian purposes. Itu-Aba has excellent helipad and a very long run-wayinaugurated by then President Chen Shuibian in March 2008. The whole island isprotected by at least 500 troops armed with at least 20 coastal guns, 20 gunemplacements and communication towers. Like other occupied islands in the Spratlys,Itu-Aba has several parabolic disc antennas, radars, solar panels and concrete bunkers.The island also has firing range and sports facilities. Aerial surveillance of thePhilippine Air force in April 2009 indicated that Itu-Aba has newly-constructedthree-storey building, new access ramp, and a new firing range.BruneiBecause Brunei does no occupy structure in the Spratlys, it is the most passive andbenign claimant in the South China Sea. However, the South China Sea forms asignificant part in the strategic agenda of Brunei because of its claims in its ExclusiveEconomic Zone (EEZ) that creates some occasional irritants with Malaysia. As a partyto the DOC, Brunei promotes regional security cooperation and development in theSouth China Sea.4. Summary Of Infrastructure Improvements And Construction ActivitiesFrom the foregoing, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have invested their resourcesto erect solid and more stable structures in their occupied areas. Philippine structuresin its nine occupied territories remain modest and in the dismal stage of rapiddeterioration. However, the Philippines occupy the most number of Islands (Kota,Lawak, Likas, Pag-Asa, Parola and Patag) that are vegetated and suitable for humanhabitation if properly developed.China does not occupy any island in the Spratlys. But its occupied reefs have solidand highly cemented structures. Majority of the areas occupied by Vietnam are alsoreefs. Like China, Vietnam’s occupied reefs have solid three-storey buildings that areidentical. Though Taiwan only occupies one island, it is, however, the largest island in 57
  10. 10. International Forum on Maritime Security 2010the Spratlys. Malaysia does not occupy any island like China. But all Malaysianoccupied reefs are located in an area of huge oil and natural gas deposits. Moreover,its Swallow Reef called Layang-Layang is the most developed reef in the Spratlys fortourism purposes. Brunei does not occupy any island or islet in the Spratlys. But itsclaims to EEZ overlaps with other claimants including conflict with Malaysia over theLouisa Reef.5. Renewed Tensions In The South China Sea: Challenges For Maritime Security In AsiaThe South China Sea Disputes still pose a major challenge in maritime security Asia,particularly between China, Taiwan and ASEAN claimants. Though China andASEAN countries have initiated various steps to build confidence for the peacefulmanagement of their differences on many maritime security issues in Southeast Asiaand the wider Asia Pacific region, the complex maritime boundary conflicts in the SouthChina Sea make the cooperation of China and Southeast Asia in the maritime domainvery difficult to pursue because of the principle of security dilemma. Though theDOC expressed the intention of China and ASEAN to peacefully manage territorialdisputes in the South China Sea, the exclusion of Taiwan from the DOC made itincomplete and ineffective to reduce tensions.When China signed the DOC in 2002 with other claimants in the South China Sea(except Taiwan), there was an international jubilation that China has shifted itsparadigm of relationship in Southeast Asia from bilateralism to multilateralism.Since 2008, however, when China declared the Vietnamese-claimed Sansha City as anintegral part of Hainan Province, there seems to be a retrogression of China’s attitude onthe South China Sea. There was a view that China was becoming more and moreunilateral in its behavior in the South China Sea.The USS Impeccable incident in March 2009 aggravated the fear of its Asian neighborsthat China was increasingly being more unilaterally assertive in advancing its claimsin the disputed water. Security anxieties of Southeast Asian claimants andstakeholders were heightened when China’s Ambassador to ASEAN, Xue Hanqin, 58
  11. 11. Developing Effective and Efficient Maritime Security Measuresopined that the South China Sea Disputes would not be on ASEAN agenda.13 ASEANclaimants have been wanting to put the South China Sea Disputes, particularly theSpratly Disputes, in the ASEAN agenda in order to increase its bargaining position withChina. Vietnam even wants the Paracels to be included in the ASEAN agenda butother ASEAN claimants just want to focus on the issue of the Spratlys.There is no doubt that China’s attitude on the South China Sea is a major factor thataffects the behavior of other claimants. Behaviors of other claimants are, more oftenthan not, reactions on China’s move in the South China Sea. When the issue of Yulin(Sanya) Submarine Base in Hainan Province became controversial in mid-2008, itraised alarms in Southeast Asia as it was reported that the Sanya Submarine Base hada Jin Class type ballistic missile submarine that could enhance China’s sea-baseddeterrent capability.As a reaction, Southeast Asian claimants became more serious in their programs toupgrade their naval capabilities. Malaysia, for example, acquired in October 2009 aScorpene Class submarine to bolster its capability to guard its waters. Vietnam, on theother hand, ordered in 2007 two Gepard Class frigates from Russia. Vietnam alsoexplored the procurement of six Kilo Class submarines from Russia to increase itsmaritime capabilities. The Philippines, though financially challenged to acquiremodern naval ships, has revised in March 2009 its Rules of Engagement in the SouthChina Sea. Taiwan, for its part, upgraded its military facilities in Itu-Aba and inApril 2009, a new firing range was sighted to have been completed.In other words, other claimants Sea were reacting on China’s increasing assertiveness inthe South China.Thus, ameliorating maritime security dilemma in the South China Sea and maritimesecurity cooperation between China and Southeast Asia will largely depend on howChina will behave on the issue. China’s behavior on the South China Sea will be alitmus test of China’s peaceful development as a rising regional and global power.13 “Beijing: South China Sea Disputes Not on ASEAN Agenda” (29 October 2009) at http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/10/22/2009102200245.html. 59
  12. 12. International Forum on Maritime Security 20106. ConclusionsBased on photographic evidences gathered by the author from various official andnon-official open sources, all claimants, with the exemption of Brunei, have beenconsolidating their civilian and military presence in the Spratlys to assert their territorialclaims. Though there seems to be a de-escalation of conflict in the South China Seawith the adoption of DOC in 2002, renewed security tensions have occurred in the late2007 indicating the limitations of DOC in managing territorial disputes and perpetuatingthe maritime security dilemma in one of the contested waters in the Asia Pacific.Beyond doubt, the territorial disputes in the South China continue to play a destabilizingrole in the security of the Asia Pacific region. 14 There is therefore a great need toincrease transparency and to enhance confidence-building among claimants and otherstakeholders in the disputes to effectively overcome the security dilemma in the SouthChina Sea and decisively create a cooperative management regime necessary forregional peace and stability.1514 For an excellent analysis of the most recent developments in the South China Sea, see Ralf Emmers, “The Changing Power Distribution in the South China Sea: Implications for Conflict Management and Avoidance”, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Working Paper Series, No. 183 (30 September 2009).15 See Sam Bateman and Ralf Emmers (eds), Security and International Politics in the South China Sea: Towards a Cooperative Management Regime (New York and London: Routledge, 2008). 60

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