China’s security obsession is now a point of national pride

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC.NET)

 

China’s security obsession is now a point of national pride

Updated 

China is the world’s ultimate security state.

Beijing police proudly boast there is no corner of public space that surveillance cameras cannot see.

Every subway entrance involves bag scans and metal detectors.

Armed military police stand guard at major public spaces.

Various levels of lower down security guards are ever present, right down to the elderly civilian volunteers who keep watch on the street when big political events take place.

Away from the capital of this authoritarian superpower things are more relaxed, but the political culture prioritising stability permeates deep.

Recently I was in the city of Dandong — bordering North Korea — where an airport video showed off SWAT patrol officers marching around empty streets.

Then a cartoon showed how they would respond to Islamist terrorists bringing fire and fury to Dandong — an unlikely scenario to contemplate in a city more well known for being China’s gateway to North Korea.

Over in far western Xinjiang the prospect of Islamist terror is far more realistic, and in recent months authorities have mobilised thousands of military police in several public displays of force.

The underlying rationale for all this security is to ensure the Communist Party’s control of China remains unchallenged — meaning some political activists and crusading lawyers have felt the full force of China’s security apparatus just as much as terror suspects.

The total annual domestic security budget hasn’t been published since 2013, when overseas media noted how it outstripped the rapidly growing funding for China’s military.

China’s massive internet censorship operation is also deeply linked to the overall concept of safeguarding stability.

Safer than other countries?

The normalisation of such a huge security presence is helping create a growing belief here that China is far safer than countries abroad.

Well-publicised cases of Chinese students and young nationals being kidnapped or murdered in the United States, Australia and elsewhere along with news coverage of mass shootings and violent protests in the West appear to affirm the idea that China’s security state is superior.

When similar incidents happen domestically, such as a violent face-off between a group of Muslims and police in the northern city of Tangshan in August, censors scrub any mention of it.

Events that could dominate the news agenda for days in a country like Australia can be neutralised and snuffed out before most people have a chance to hear about them.

“Chinese society is stable and orderly, people happily live and work in peace,” President Xi Jinping recently told an Interpol conference in Beijing.

“More and more people believe China is one of the world’s safest countries.

“This is China’s contribution to the world for security and stability.”

This emphasis on stability and security is only likely to increase in the weeks ahead as Mr Xi presides over a major Communist Party meeting confirming his leadership for another five years.

“The idea of stability is central to the Chinese Communist Party”, said Dr Michael Clarke, a specialist in China’s domestic security policies at the Australian National University.

“It also plays into this wider narrative of China returning to its place of great power status and its ability to be a leader in international affairs.

“So I think there’s a real link between stability and Xi’s concept of the China Dream.”

Topics: world-politicsdefence-and-national-securitycommunity-and-societychinaasia

First posted 

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASIA FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FORBES)

 

Asia #ForeignAffairs

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.
  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.
  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”
  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”
  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.

Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

(FOLKS THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TAIWAN’S ‘THE LIBERTY.COM’ NEWS AGENCY)

 

Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

An Interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng, the Democratic Progressive Party Legislator in Taiwan

 

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Lo Chih-cheng

Taiwanese politician, Legislator, Director for the Department of International Affairs, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Associate professor of Political Science at Soochow University.

Last year Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected as the president of Taiwan. This made big changes from the previous government. The former president Ma Ing-jong (馬英九) and his Chinese Nationalist Party government was relatively close to the Chinese Communist Party in China. Regarding the “One China” policy, there remains some controversy among the U.S., China and Taiwan. The following interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) will benefit us for a better understanding of these issues. He is in charge of international affairs for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

 

The Meaning of Peaceful Transition of Power

Interviewer: How did you see the change of government in Taiwan last year? It was a transition from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT or Kuomintang) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Lo: This is the third time we had a peaceful transition of power from one party to another. In 2000, we had a transition from the KMT to the DPP. In 2008, we had the DPP to the KMT. Now we are coming back to power. So, this is further evidence of consolidation of democracy in Taiwan. In other words, democracy is the rule of the game. That is, whoever is in power has to respect the will of the people. That’s very important. That makes a big difference between Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Hong Kong as well. Democracy is a very important mechanism for making policies in Taiwan, such as the Cross Strait policy, foreign policies or even defence policies. When it comes to the future of Taiwan, everybody including the leaders in parties will have to respect the will of the people. Taiwan now has a mature, consolidated democracy.

Secondly, we are in absolute control of the government. Last time, the DPP administration did not control the majority in the legislature. This time, we control the Executive Branch and also the Legislative Branch. So in general, we can get things done all by ourselves.

Thirdly, there is a difference between the first time in power and the second time. For the past eight years from 2008 to 2016, the KMT was in power and created a situation that was quite unique from the previous DPP administration. Taiwan had become very dependent on China, economically, politically and even militarily. That’s a new situation.

When Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was in power, the interaction between Taiwan and China was very limited in general. We didn’t have that kind of dependency. As a matter of fact, when the Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) administration was in power, their policy was “no haste, be patient, go slow”. But when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was in power, they very much depended on China. That puts our DPP administration in a much more difficult situation, because we hadn’t reversed this kind of dependency on China. That’s quite a different situation. We should not depend too much on China.

 

Mr. Lee, a NGO Activist Caught in China

Interviewer: Regarding China, there was an incident in March where Mr. Lee Ming-cheh (李哲明), a human rights activist, disappeared in China. He was also known as a former DPP worker.

Lo: Unfortunately Mr. Lee, a NGO activist, has been caught in China. So far, we have very limited information about his whereabouts and situation. This is further evidence that China is not a democratic country and not under the rule of law. More importantly, that will damage the mutual trust between Taiwan and China. Some Western media – the U.S. media and the European media – covered the story. I don’t know how much coverage you have in Japan.

Interviewer: I think there are very few.

Lo: I don’t think that kind of thing just happened to Taiwan. It happened to Hong Kong. That could also happen to other countries. I don’t think it’s an isolated case only for the Taiwanese people to pay attention to. It’s an incident that everybody living in free democratic countries should pay close attention to. In the past, when the DPP was in power, there was a direct hot line between our government and the counterparts in China. But when this was took place, the hot line was cut off. So, there was no direct contact. The very purpose of having the hot line is that when there was an incident, we could connect ourselves to solve the problem. But the opposite is happening. That’s an unfortunate development.

 

The U.S-Taiwan Relation in the Trump Administration

Interviewer: What is your view on U.S-Taiwan relations? Last December, the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had a phone call with Trump. That was a surprising move.

Lo: First of all, the direct phone call that happened last December was between President Tsai and President-elect Trump. That was a very unique development. After President Trump was sworn in, that kind of phone call with a direct hot line did not happen again. We know the situation is quite tough and Trump needs cooperation from China, so they want to play down the importance of this kind of direct hot line between our president and her counterpart in the United States. Having said that, our direct contacts between our representatives and his counterparts in the United States are very direct and personal. We do have a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

Interviewer: In June, the Trump Administration approved a 1 billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan.

Lo: The arms sale package is a very good case in point. We welcome the arms sale to Taiwan. That’s a very important decision. The timing of the decision was very important, because there were rumours about the U.S. Navy postponing it. According to the reports, the U.S. had concerns about a possible reaction from China. I think obviously, the U.S. cared too much about any possible negative response from China. As a matter of fact, after the announcement of the arms sale package, China did not react too strongly about it. So, we hope this deal can be implemented very smoothly. More importantly, we hope that our defence cooperation can be further enhanced.

The U.S. Congress has passed several resolutions. For instance, the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), encouraged the interaction between our high-level defence officials and their counterparts in the United States. So, that’s a good development. That’s also up to the administration to decide how to implement the NDAA. Let’s just wait and see. When it comes to the relationship with the United States, it takes two to tango. Our goal is to increase interactions between the two countries – to enhance our ties. But it is also up to the United States to respond to our requests.

There are two general questions about the future of the U.S. policy towards Taiwan in particular and to Asia in general. We don’t know who’s in charge and what Trump’s doctrine is. The people in charge change very quickly. They just changed the Chief of Staff. Who’s in charge of the East Asian policy? We don’t know. When it comes to daily operations, we need someone in charge in that particular position.

 

The Differences of the “One China” Policy Between the U.S and China

Interviewer: After conversation between Tsai and Trump, the “One China” policy became controversial again. There are different views between the U.S and China.

Lo: There’s a big difference between the “One China” policy and the “One China” principle. China insists on the so-called “One China” principle. According to that principle, Taiwan’s a part of the PRC. That’s something we can’t accept. The U.S. “One China” policy has some ambiguities. There’s some room for developing the idea that Taiwan is an independent country. The very reason that the U.S. can maintain military ties with Taiwan is because of this One China policy. It is somewhat ambiguous.

At some point in time, according to President Trump, the so-called One China policy isn’t negotiable. If that’s the case, we do have concerns about that. So, Taiwan doesn’t want to be bound by the One China policy. Taiwan wants to be separated from these interactions between the two big powers. We hope to develop a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. regardless of what happened between the U.S. and China. But obviously China always wants to bring Taiwan into the dialogues between the U.S. and China.

Interviewer: On a January article for The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., advocated that the U.S. army should station in Taiwan.

Lo: When John Bolton said that, he was not in the government. He said that because he was a scholar who had freedom of speech. He’s a very good friend of Taiwan. He has been very supportive of Taiwan. So, we appreciate those kinds of comments. But when it comes to actual policies, I don’t think that kind of policy is feasible in the near future. Of course, there were rumours last year that he may be joining the government. At the end of the day, we haven’t seen that yet.

 

Rising China’s Strategy Against Taiwan

Interviewer: Last year there was another incident. Chinese fighter jets circled Taiwan.

Lo: China is becoming stronger economically and militarily. China would definitely show their muscles to their neighbouring countries that they are stronger. Sending their aircraft carriers and their fighter jets to circle Taiwan is evidence to show that they can kick Taiwan into orbit. They don’t want Taiwan to lead the way from their sphere of influence.

Secondly, if there’s a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan is always hoping that we can sustain our survivability until other countries, especially the United States, come to our assistance. The China’s strategy is the Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2/AD). Circling Taiwan is the way to show that they have the A2/AD capabilities. That’s reasonable.

Thirdly, the Taiwan Strait is an international waters for freedom of navigation for all the ships. But to send aircraft carriers and fighter jets to circle Taiwan is the way the Chinese are hoping to show the world that the Taiwan Strait is in their sea and that it’s not international waters. It is a symbolic and political gesture.

Finally, it’s one way to substantiate their One China policy or One China principle. Taiwan will never accept the so-called One China principle. But China wants to show the world that there’s de facto One China principle, “Taiwan is a part of China” and “It is under our control”. Although it is very symbolic, it’s quite important for China.

 

The Disputed Island in the South China Sea

Interviewer: Last year, the Taiping Island in the South China Sea was disputed at the International Tribunal court of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. After its ruling denied Taiwan’s claim, you paid a visit. Could you give us tips on how to defend territorial rights?

Lo: It’s quite easy because we already control the island. We have controlled it for decades. We sent our marine guards. We continuously occupy and control it. There’s no way that other countries can ignore our actual occupation and control of it. There’s no way that we need to prove further that we have the territorial rights on the Taiping Island.

But when it comes to other islands, we claim that issues should be settled in a very peaceful way. We don’t want to use force to solve the problem. So, we are urging all the neighbouring claimant countries that we should put aside our differences. But unfortunately, when China and other claimant countries talk about the Code of Conduct in South China Sea, Taiwan has not been invited although we occupy the biggest island in the area. Taiwan is not even consulted about the issue. That’s a very unfortunate development, because Taiwan is a very important claimant of those disputed islands.

 

Disappearing Freedom in Hong Kong

Interviewer: What do you think of the situation in Hong Kong on the human rights issue? In July, the memorial event was held there.

Lo: When Beijing introduced the “One Country, Two Systems”, the goal was to make it appeal to the people in Taiwan. It’s the very reason that China used Hong Kong as a model for Taiwan. When China began to realize there was no use of using the Hong Kong model, then the importance of Hong Kong started disappearing. That’s why Beijing is tightening their control there for freedom of the press, freedom of association and so on. That’s why they began to wage some of the demonstrations on the streets.

A lot of people learned what happened in Taiwan for the past few decades. You start with the opposition movement and the opposition party. Then, you have this kind of democratic transition of power. Hong Kong is quite different. It is already controlled by China. It is a part of China. There’s not much room that can be negotiated about the future of Hong Kong. That’s why there are more and more Hong Kong people immigrating to Taiwan. They can enjoy much more freedom and democracy in Taiwan.

 

Japan and Taiwan Share Common Interests

Interviewer: What do you think the Japan-Taiwan relation should be like? The Japanese government has not recognized Taiwan as a nation.

Lo: On the bilateral relation between Taiwan and Japan, we have to start with the discussion about the nature of our relationship. I have to say that Taiwan and Japan are natural partners. We are facing many similar challenges. We have many common interests. For instance, Taiwan and Japan are both democracies. We share some of the philosophies behind our democracies, human rights, freedom, free market economy, etc. So, the two nations share some universal values. That’s a very important foundation for our bilateral relationship.

Secondly, there is a historical connection between Taiwan and Japan. We were under the colonial rule of Japan for fifty years, but there are some legacies of this kind of historical connection, for better or for worse. Especially for the older generations, people feel connected to Japan when something happens. For instance, when the tsunami and the earthquake happened in Japan, Taiwanese mobilized themselves to give some support to their Japanese friends. When asked which is the most friendly country to the Taiwanese, Japan is the number one country. The same thing can be said about the Japanese. So, we have this kind of strong people to people connection.

Both Japan and Taiwan are facing a rising China. I’m not saying that China is a threat already, but China’s increase in power in the region has put pressures on both of them. Japan and Taiwan cannot fight against the rising China by themselves. We need cooperation and coordination between the two countries in the face of the rising China. That’s very important. We have come up with a strategic interest. Having said that, we know there are some political obstacles, difficulties that we need to overcome to fully enhance our relationship.

Japan doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country in all the difficulties, in all the impossibilities. Short of this formal diplomatic recognition, there are so many things that can be done. In other words, why don’t we try our best to enhance our de facto ties between the two countries? For instance, military cooperation between the two sides. We probably can’t come to the point of a direct, joint military exercise. There is no way for now. Some sort of dialogue between our two militaries should be feasible. Probably not in public, but at least in private. As you know, Taiwan and the United States have all levels of dialogue. Starting from strategic dialogue, defence dialogue, arms sale dialogue or people to people, and military to military on a daily basis.

We don’t have that kind of thing between Taiwan and Japan. For us, we have no reservation about having this kind of dialogue. It is Japan that is more reluctant or more reserved about having this kind of dialogue. Of course, you would be under a lot of pressure from China. However, it’s about common national interests. We have overlapped national interests. So, if that is the right thing to do, we should do it. We can start with the engagement of dialogues between the two governments and the two militaries. It will require a very strong political will to do it. We do have the political will to do it. We know there’s subtlety of doing these kinds of things. We need substantial cooperation between the two countries. We should get the things done in a more substantial way.

 

How to Deal with North Korea

Interviewer: My last question is on North Korea. Kim Jong-un is continuously launching ICBMs especially in recent months.

Lo: First of all, we welcome Japan to play a more proactive role in the regional security issues. Secondly, we welcome the enhancement of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. We welcome Japan being proactive in many regional issues. As you know, China has always been very proactive in setting some agendas in the region. In the past, you had several Six-Party Talks to solve the North Korea nuclear issue. But now they have gone.

I think the Trump administration has a very naive expectation from China to help them to solve the North Korean issue. Personally, I don’t think China is sincere in helping other countries such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S., because North Korea is China’s bargaining chip. What China really wants is to contain the situation. They don’t want the escalation of crisis, but I don’t think they will help us to solve the problem. North Korea is a troublemaker. However, once the problem is solved, China will not have this bargaining chip.

Interviewer: What do you think our next move should be?

Lo: Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Taiwan should intensify their dialogues to come up with a coordinated strategy towards North Korea. North Korea’s and China’s policy is always the “divide and defeat” strategy – “divide and conquer” strategy. They want to divide the alliance countries, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. That will give them room for manoeuvring. If they can come up with an orchestrated, coordinated policy and work together with a unified position, then I don’t think North Korea can have anything to play with.

But that’s not happening now. Trump is talking to China directly, bypassing Japan and South Korea. Trump did not consult its allies before then. They think China is the only country that can help the U.S. solve the problem. I don’t think that’s the case. The U.S., Japan and South Korea should come up with a coordinated policy in a unified position. That is the only way you can counter them.

Vietnam Urges Stronger Stand Against China At ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN DAILY TIMES)

 

MANILA: Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, as a tense regional security forum began Saturday with North Korea also under fire over its nuclear program.

Ahead of the launch of the annual gathering of foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam made a bold play against China with a raft of suggested changes to a planned joint communique.

It set the stage for what was expected to be a fiery few days of diplomacy in the Philippine capital, with the top diplomats from China, the United States, Russia and North Korea set to join their ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific counterparts for security talks from Sunday.

The meetings will take place as the United Nations Security Council votes this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea to punish the isolated regime for its missile and nuclear tests. The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event — known as the ASEAN Regional Forum — and Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Pyongyang would receive a strong message.

But on the South China Sea dispute — one of Asia’s other top powder keg issues — there was far less consensus with Vietnam resisting efforts by the Philippines to placate Beijing, diplomats told AFP.

Vietnam on Friday night sought to insert tough language against China in an ASEAN statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday.

According to a copy of a draft obtained by AFP, Vietnam lobbied for ASEAN to express serious concern over “construction” in the sea, in reference to China’s ramped up artificial island building in the disputed waters in recent years.

Vietnam also wanted ASEAN to insist in the statement that a planned code of conduct for the sea with China be “legally binding”, which Beijing opposes.

The lobbying occurred when the ASEAN foreign ministers held unscheduled and informal talks late on Friday night.

“The discussions were really hard. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea. Cambodia and Philippines are not keen to reflect that,” one diplomat involved in the talks told AFP.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.

Alongside Vietnam, the Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Beijing’s expansionism.

But, under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

China has in recent years also successfully lobbied other ASEAN nations, particularly Cambodia, to support its diplomatic maneuvering in the dispute.

At the ASEAN opening ceremony on Saturday morning, Cayetano confirmed there had been strong debates on Friday.

“You have to excuse my voice as, my colleagues, we kept each other up until almost midnight last night. In the true ASEAN way we were able to passionately argue our national interest,” Cayetano said.

Various diplomats said that Vietnam was likely to lose its battle to insert the strong language against China, with the Philippines as host of the talks wielding greater influence.

ASEAN is set to this weekend endorse a framework for a code of conduct with China, which is meant to pave the way for more concrete action.

 

 

Published in Daily Times, August 6th 2017.

China’s tough stance on India dispute raising concern across Southeast Asia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST UNDER DIPLOMACY AND DEFENSE)

 

China’s tough stance on India dispute raising concern across Southeast Asia, analysts say

Beijing’s handling of protracted conflict in Himalayas has had a spillover effect in the region and fueled suspicion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 11:15pm
Catherine Wong

 

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The protracted border dispute between China and India in the Himalayas has created a “spillover effect” as China’s neighbours become unsettled by its tough handling of the escalating conflict between the two Asian giants, foreign policy experts have said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Smt. Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to attend the Asian foreign ministers’ meeting in Manila later this week. And while the North Korean nuclear crisis and South China Sea disputes are expected to dominate the meeting, analysts will also be keeping a close eye on how members of the 10-nation group interact with China and India.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations generally regards a robust Indian presence in the region as a useful deterrent against China, which has been increasingly assertive in its approach to handling territorial issues, as has been the case in the Himalayas.

China and India last week held their first substantial talks since the dispute broke out more than a month ago in the Dolklam region, where the pair shares a border with Bhutan. Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi met Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Beijing, though neither showed any signs of backing down and tensions remain high.

Also last week, China’s defense ministry issued its strongest warning yet to India, with a spokesman saying Beijing had stepped up its deployment along the unmarked border and would protect its sovereignty “at all costs”.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political scientist at the Manila-based De La Salle University, said the stand-off in Doklam had a “spillover effect” by fueling suspicion among countries that are caught in separate territorial disputes with China.

“People are asking, if China is really peaceful, why are there so many countries having disputes with China?” he said.

Such sentiment may create fertile ground for Southeast Asian countries to leverage China’s influence with engagement with India.

Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Pham Binh Minh, has called on India to play a greater role in the region and to partner with Southeast Asian countries on strategic security and promoting freedom of navigation in South China Sea.

A few days after Minh spoke, Vietnam granted Indian Oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension on its plan to explore a Vietnamese oil block in an area of the South China Sea contested by China and Vietnam.

Analysts said recent developments have wide strategic implications – pointing to how Asia is increasingly defined by the China-India rivalry and the renewed tensions between the two Asian giants.

Nisha Desai Biswal, former US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, was quoted by Indian media PTI as saying that China needs to acknowledge that “there is growing strategic and security capability across Asia” and that “India is a force to be reckoned with”.

Wang Yi on Tuesday backed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s idea of forming joint energy ventures in the disputed South China Sea, warning that unilateral action could cause problems and damage both sides.

Duterte on Monday said a partner had been found to develop oil fields and exploration, and exploitation would restart this year.

However, analysts warn that India’s strong position in the standoff has strengthened the hawkish voices in the Philippines who seize opportunities to criticise Duterte’s détente policy towards China and “push forward the narrative that the Philippines needs to be careful on how to approach China and its territorial expansion”, Heydarian said.

Under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Act East” policy, India in recent years has formed strategic partnerships with Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and Northeast Asian countries including Japan and South Korea.

During the “India-Asian Delhi Dialogue IX” early this month, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi remained committed to enhancing maritime cooperation with Asian as well as upholding freedom of navigation and respect for international law in the region.

Heydarian suggests that India’s upgrading of its strategic partnership with Asian and increasing its strategic presence in the South China Sea could be a way of pushing back against China.

Even a non-claimant Southeast Asian state such as Thailand “would see the benefit of China being challenged in the South Asia theatre”, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an international relations scholar at Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University.

“India’s standing up to China can only be a boon for Southeast Asian countries even when they don’t say so openly,” he said, “Any major power keeping China in check can only yield geopolitical benefits to Southeast Asia as the region is wary of China’s growing assertiveness.”

But Pongsudhirak also said that India, a “latecomer to Southeast Asia’s geopolitics”, still lacks strategic depth in terms of military reach and economic wherewithal. “But in combination with other middle powers like Japan, India can have a significant impact in Southeast Asia’s power dynamics,” he said.

Despite Southeast Asian countries’ welcoming attitude, India has remained cautious towards more strongly engaging with the region, observers said.

“Southeast Asia is a natural extension of India’s security horizons in light of its growth as a regional power,” said Rajesh Manohar Basrur, a South Asia specialist with Nanyang Technological University.

Basrur said that while competition with China is a major driver of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia, India’s commitment to the region remains limited with measures amounting to no more than “symbolic acts such as military exercises, [to] generate a strategic environment aimed at building up political-psychological pressure on [China].”

Sourabh Gupta, a senior specialist at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, said that as India tries to limit fallout from its Doklam intervention, it will not want to expand the theatre of conflict or widen the geography of competition in the short-term.

“But I can foresee India making a qualitatively greater effort, albeit quietly, to build up Vietnam’s naval and law enforcement capacity to confront and deter Chinese assertiveness,” he said.

Gupta also warned that the situation in the South China Sea could lapse into even further conflict.

“India and China have a fairly rich menu of boundary management protocols which effectively translate into engagements between very lightly armed personnel from either side when a standoff breaks out,” he said.

“That is different from the situation in the South and East China Sea where engagement protocols are still very rudimentary and could see sharp Escalator spirals.”

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

Story highlights

  • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said carriers will embark on freedom of navigation exercises
  •  Beijing says “certain outside countries” attempting to “stir up trouble”

Hong Kong (CNN) China has hit back at the UK after the country’s foreign secretary said two British aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea.

Speaking Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region.
“Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance,” he added.
His remarks come after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking in Australia Thursday, said “one of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area.”
Johnson did not specify exactly where the carriers would be sent, but added the operation was designed to “vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the deployment area was not finalized “but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.”

Johnson spoke alongside Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Speaking at an event in Sydney Thursday evening, Johnson urged all parties in the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law” and suggested the UK could sail ships through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.
All or parts of the sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has led to intense territorial disputes and naval stand-offs.

The new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Rosyth dockyard in Scotland to be tested in the North Sea on June 26, 2017.

Freedom of navigation

Beijing has accused the United States of creating a “serious political and military provocation” by conducting similar freedom of navigation operations.
US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation this month, according to Canada’s National Post, during which they were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels.
Neither the UK or US recognize Beijing’s territorial claims — which were largely thrown out by an international tribunal last year — and maintain vessels should be able to pass through the waters around the islands occupied by China the same as other international waters.
The South China Sea sees $5 trillion in shipborne trade every year, and also has major fishing and energy resources.
That the UK is apparently taking sides in the dispute is likely to especially rankle in Beijing, where memories of China’s so-called “century of humiliation,” during which it suffered embarrassing defeat to the UK in the Opium Wars, are still fresh — and kept so by state propaganda and the country’s education system.
Speaking in Hong Kong this month to mark 20 years since the city was handed over from the UK to China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, said that China “was again and again beaten by countries having far smaller territories and populations than itself … the history of China at that time was filled with the nation’s humiliation and its people’s grief.”

Waning ties

Under former British Prime Minister David Cameron, London had warmed to Beijing, and Cameron had hailed a new “golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
The luster has faded somewhat in the wake of Brexit however. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. The UK’s decision to leave the bloc has shattered any assumptions about a tight London-Beijing relationship acting as a gateway to the wider EU.
Cameron’s successor Theresa May has also brought the UK closer to the US, visiting Donald Trump in Washington and seeking to improve economic ties with the US to make up for lost European trade.
Speaking Thursday evening, Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK’s carriers — the 280 meter and 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, neither of which is yet fully commissioned — was “not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
The vessels have cost British taxpayers upwards of $8.1 billion and been subject to criticism for taking up a large chunk of the UK’s defense budget. The carriers are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Johnson did not give a timeline as to when any South China Sea deployment by the carriers is likely to start. His comments come after the Royal Navy shadowed a Chinese flotilla through the English Channel on its way to exercises with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea.

U.S. warship challenges Beijing’s claims in South China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS NETWORK)

In first under Trump, U.S. warship challenges Beijing’s claims in South China Sea

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON

A U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Dewey traveled close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The so-called freedom of navigation operation, which is sure to anger China, comes as Trump is seeking Beijing’s cooperation to rein in ally North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Territorial waters are generally defined by U.N. convention as extending at most 12 nautical miles from a state’s coastline.

One U.S. official said it was the first operation near a land feature which was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague. The court invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea.

The U.S. patrol, the first of its kind since October, marked the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of the man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.

U.S. allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the new administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.

Last month, top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Harry Harris, said the United States would likely carry out freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea soon, without offering any details.

Still, the U.S. military has a long-standing position that these operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Pentagon said in a statement it was continuing regular freedom of navigation operations and would do more in the future but gave no details of the latest mission.

“We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. We operate in accordance with international law,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in the statement.

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS

Under the previous administration, the U.S. Navy conducted several such voyages through the South China Sea. The last operation was approved by then-President Barack Obama.

China’s claims to the South China Sea, which sees about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade pass every year, are challenged by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.

The latest U.S. patrol is likely to exacerbate U.S.-China tensions that had eased since Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit at the U.S. leader’s Florida resort last month.

Trump lambasted China during the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing Beijing of stealing U.S. jobs with unfair trade policies, manipulating its currency in its favor and militarizing parts of the South China Sea.

In December, after winning office, he upended protocol by taking a call from the president of self-ruled Taiwan, which China regards as its own sacred territory.

But since meeting Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump has praised Xi for efforts to restrain North Korea, though Pyongyang has persisted with ballistic missile tests despite international condemnation.

U.S.-based South China Sea expert Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the operation was also the first conducted by the United States close to an artificial feature built by China not entitled to a territorial sea under international law.

Previous freedom of navigation operations have gone within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Fiery Cross reefs, two other features in the Spratlys built up by China, but both of those features are entitled to a territorial sea.

Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China and was not close enough to another feature entitled to such a territorial sea, said Poling.

He said the key question was whether the U.S. warship had engaged in a real challenge to the Chinese claims by turning on radar or launching a helicopter or boat — actions not permitted in a territorial sea under international law.

Otherwise, critics say, the operation would have resembled what is known as “innocent passage” and could have reinforced rather than challenged China’s claim to a territorial limit around the reef.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting and writing by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Sandra Maler)

For China And The U.S. ‘Cooperation Is The Only Way Forward’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

HOME » NATION

Cooperation the only way forward

COOPERATION is the only correct choice for China and the United States, President Xi Jinping told visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Beijing yesterday.

There are important development opportunities resulting from China-US relations, said Xi during the meeting in the Great Hall of People in Beijing.

Xi said he had maintained sound communications with his US counterpart Donald Trump through phone calls and messages, and they had agreed that the two countries could be good cooperative partners.

Xi said that to advance China-US ties in a healthy and steady manner, both sides could enhance exchanges at various levels; expand cooperation in bilateral, regional and global fields; and properly address and manage sensitive issues.

Xi suggested the two countries increase strategic trust and mutual understanding, review bilateral ties from long-term and strategic perspectives and expand fields of cooperation for their mutual benefit.

The two countries should also enhance coordination on regional hotspot issues, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and encourage friendly exchanges between their two Peoples.

Tillerson told Xi, who extended an invitation for President Trump to visit China, that the US president valued communications with his Chinese counterpart and looked forward to meeting Xi and visiting China.

The US side is ready to develop relations with China based on the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, said Tillerson.

China and the US are discussing arrangements for a meeting between the two presidents and exchanges at other levels, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his talks with Tillerson on Saturday.

“We attach great importance to your visit,” Wang told the US visitor at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

It was Tillerson’s first visit to China since he assumed office last month and he is also the first Cabinet-level official in the new US administration to visit.

China-US ties are developing steadily in a positive direction, Wang said.

He called for more cooperation in foreign affairs, the economy and trade, the military, law enforcement, people-to-people exchanges and local communication.

The essence of China-US trade relations is mutual benefit, said Wang, and he encouraged both countries to expand trade and investment cooperation.

Wang also restated China’s position on Taiwan and South China Sea issues, emphasizing that China and the US should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, discreetly deal with sensitive issues to protect bilateral ties from unnecessary influences.

Tillerson said the US adheres to the “One China” policy and added that closer cooperation and coordination between the two countries was necessary in the face of a changing international situation. The US would like to have more high-level exchanges with China, and more dialogue in diplomatic security, macroeconomic policy coordination, law enforcement, cyberspace and people-to-people exchanges, he said.

Tillerson’s visit aims to make “political preparations” for the meeting between two presidents, and both sides would make the best use of this chance to seek common ground, said Jia Xiudong, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.

Tillerson arrived in Beijing on Saturday from Seoul. His first official Asian tour began on Wednesday and also took him to Japan.

China’s Premier Says Hong Kong Will Never Be Allowed Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Hong Kong (CNN) China’s second highest-ranking politician criticized calls for Hong Kong independence in a speech to the nation’s parliament Sunday.

Speaking at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said calls from within the city to go it alone would “lead nowhere.”
This was the first time “Hong Kong independence” has ever been mentioned in any Chinese premier’s annual address.
“We will continue to implement, both to the letter and in spirit, the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” Li said, referring to the doctrine by which Hong Kong maintained certain freedoms and rights after it passed from British rule to Chinese in 1997.
“We pledge our full support to the chief executives and governments of (Hong Kong and Macau) in exercising law-based governance, growing their economies, improving people’s well-being, advancing democracy and promoting social harmony,” Li said.
Macau, a small island near Hong Kong, is also a special administered region of China.
He also had strong words for those who might seek independence for Taiwan. Officially the Republic of China, Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, but Beijing claims it as an inalienable part of its territory.
“(China) will resolutely oppose and contain separatist activities for Taiwan independence,” Li said. “We will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland.”
Growing trend?
Within Hong Kong, calls for independence from China have been growing since the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests ended in no reforms to the existing political system.
For 79 days, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong’s financial district and elsewhere to demand true universal suffrage — one person, one vote, without the interference of Beijing.
The crowd was eventually dispersed by police, and organizers vowed to push for change by other means.
Hong Kong voters elect pro-democracy activists
In parliamentary elections last year, several pro-independence candidates were blocked from standing, but there was nevertheless a pronounced swing towards so-called localist parties, which support anything from greater autonomy to full self-rule.
Two pro-independence lawmakers who were elected never managed to take their seats however, having been ejected by the courts for failing to take their oaths of office properly after they staged a curse word-filled protest during the swearing-in process.
The intervention by Beijing into that case sparked more concerns by many Hong Kongers that the city’s autonomy — as guaranteed by “One Country, Two Systems” — is being eroded.

Fears

Anti-American views clear in new China propaganda

Beijing has always reacted angrily towards any promotion of independence for its special administered regions of Hong Kong and Macau, or suggestions from self-ruled Taiwan that the island should seek full legal independence.
A bizarre propaganda video posted online by the Chinese Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the country’s top prosecutor’s office, in August contrasted apocalyptic images of Syria and Iraq with bucolic views of China today.
“The haze of ‘domestic and international concerns’ has not dispersed from the Chinese sky,” the video said.
“Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan separatism, as well as dissident leaders, lawyers who would fight until death and other agents of Western forces are damaging China’s internal stability and harmony. Behind all these incidents, we can often catch a glimpse of the dark shadow of the Stars and Stripes.”
Speaking to the South China Morning Post Sunday, political advisory body delegate Tam Yiu-chung said the mention of Hong Kong independence by Li shows that “Beijing is very concerned about the problem.”
“The central government would not tolerate it … it’s a very serious problem,” Tam said.
Some commentators have predicted that Hong Kong’s next leader, who will be chosen by a Beijing-dominated “election committee” later this month, will be told to crack down harder on pro-independence sentiment.
“(They) might be asked by Beijing to enact Article 23,” Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Willy Lam told CNN last year, referring to a hugely controversial anti-subversion law that led to mass street protests in 2003 and the eventual resignation of then Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

China navy says aircraft carrier conducted routine drills in South China Sea

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

China navy says aircraft carrier conducted routine drills in South China Sea

WORLD Updated: Jan 03, 2017 10:09 IST

Reuters, Shanghai

Highlight Story

China’s Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Liaoning sails the water in East China Sea on December 25, 2016. (Reuters file photo)

China’s sole aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea, the navy said, days after neighbouring Taiwan said the carrier and accompanying ships had passed 90 nautical miles south of the island amid renewed tension between the two sides.The Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier and accompanying warships sailed round the east coast of Taiwan in what China called a routine exercise complying with international law.The carrier’s J-15 fighters conducted flight exercises in “complex sea conditions” on Monday, the People’s Liberation Army Navy said on its official microblog later on the same day.

The carrier group also ran helicopter exercises, it said, but did not give details on the exact location.

China claims most of the South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The drills also come at a time of heightened strain with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, following US President-elect Donald Trump’s telephone call with the island’s president that upset Beijing.

Last month, China conducted its first ever live-fire drills using an aircraft carrier close to Korea and announced on December 25 that the Liaoning and its accompanying fleet will carry out what it called routine exercises in the Western Pacific.

Taiwan’s defence ministry on December 26 said the Liaoning and five accompanying ships had entered the top half of the South China Sea after passing south of Taiwan, and later docked at a base on China’s Hainan island.

The flotilla raised alarm in Japan when it steamed between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa.

Japan said one of its maritime self defence force ships and a P3C patrol aircraft had spotted six Chinese naval vessels including the Liaoning travelling through the passage, and they also scrambled jets after a helicopter which took off from a Chinese frigate flew near Miyako Island.

China has been angered recently by US naval patrols near islands that China claims in the South China Sea. This month, a Chinese navy ship seized a US underwater drone in the South China Sea. China later returned it.

China’s air force conducted long-range drills this month above the East and South China Seas which rattled Japan and Taiwan. China said those exercises were also routine.