Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

21
Mar

 

While much of the world was busy watching Russia swallow Crimea, few realised that an also dangerous territorial tit-for-tat had begun to unfold earlier this month more in the South China Sea.

 

At Second Thomas Shoal, a handful of Philippine marines have long been stationed and re-provisioned on the rusting deck of the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine naval ship half-sunk into the reef in 1999. Ever since, the vessel and the marines have served to embody Manila’s claim of sovereignty over the shoal. More recently, China has tried to raise the salience of its own claim by intensively patrolling the area.

 

Protesters picket the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines Monday, 3 March 2014, to protest the recent use of water cannons by the Chinese coast guard to drive away Filipino fishermen off the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. (Photo: AAP)

 

On 9 March 2014, China made a move to end the status quo at the shoal. For the first time in 15 years, Beijing stopped Manila from delivering supplies to the Sierra Madre. The Chinese Coast Guard forced two Philippine ships to turn away. Manila answered the blockade by successfully dropping food and water to the marines by air. It was then up to Manila whether to send in another supply ship or plane, and up to Beijing whether to leave it alone, chase it away, sink it, or shoot it down.

 

China claims that the Philippine ships were ‘loaded with construction materials’ to build up Manila’s position. Manila says the ships were merely trying to re-provision the marines ‘to improve the conditions there’, not ‘to expand or build permanent structures on the shoal’.

 

A dozen years ago China and the 10 ASEAN states signed a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC. The signers undertook ‘to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force’. China’s threat of force against the Philippine supply ships at Second Thomas Shoal on 9 March violated the DOC.

 

The long and ongoing record of unilateral Chinese assertions or aggressions in the South and East China Sea no longer leaves room for doubt as to Beijing’s intention. China wants and is trying to achieve dominance over the waters behind what it calls the ‘first island chain’ and land features that fringe the U-shaped line.

 

The question is not ‘what does China intend?’ The answer — dominance of some kind and degree — is known. The question is ‘what, if anything, is anyone else prepared to do?’ Read more…

Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Forum in the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.

Published on 18 March in http://www.eastasiaforum.org

 

17
Mar

Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a billthis year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

Controversy has erupted, and justifiably so. Based on the leaks — and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts — it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.

Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.

Let’s tackle the history first. In general, trade deals today are markedly different from those made in the decades following World War II, when negotiations focused on lowering tariffs. As tariffs came down on all sides, trade expanded, and each country could develop the sectors in which it had strengths and as a result, standards of living would rise. Some jobs would be lost, but new jobs would be created. Read more…

 

By Joseph Stiglitz, Mar. 15, 2014; Published in The New York Times

7
Mar

China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

 

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Sheila Smith.

Russia’s de facto assertion of military control in Ukraine’s Crimean region has put China in a bind. Moscow’s actions fly in the face of one of China’s longest held tenets of foreign policy: “no interference in the internal affairs of others.” Yet China is loathe to criticize publicly one of the few countries that never criticizes it. So what is Beijing to do?

Reading media headlines in the United States, it would be easy to assume that China had simply cast its lot with Russia. Referring to commentary in state-run media such as theGlobal Times and Xinhua, many western outlets see Beijing as unequivocally supporting Moscow. And indeed, an editorial in the Global Times is particularly clear in its preference that China stand with Russia. It notes that Russia is China’s “most reliable strategic partner” and urges that China not “disappoint Russia when it finds itself in a time of need.” According to the Global Times, China should prove itself a reliable strategic partner: “This way, we will make friends.” It is tempting to ask what kind of friends China will be making by supporting Russia, but that seems beside the point. As for China’s long-standing commitment to non-interference, the Global Times offers this rather confused commentary: “Some think China’s policy of non-interference will be tested in this matter, and that if China supports Russia, it will become ensnared in a diplomatic trap. This is the mentality of the weak. The West has interfered in the internal affairs of many countries, but never admitted it.”

Yet before we assume that the Global Times is a government mouthpiece, I am mindful of a meeting I had a few years back with officials from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). They were emphatic in arguing that the Chinese media—whether state-funded or not—were not a reliable proxy for official Chinese policy. Indeed, there is nothing to date in statements by the PRC’s foreign ministry to suggest that Chinese president Xi Jinping is prepared to hold hands with Putin and jump off a diplomatic cliff. Here is what MOFA spokesman Qin Gang has said thus far: “It is China’s longstanding position not to interfere in others’ internal affairs. We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” And further, he noted, “We understand the historical background of the Ukraine issue, and the complexity of the current reality. As I have said yesterday, to get to this point today, things happened for a reason. We hope that all parties can, through dialogue and consultation, find a political situation, prevent further escalation and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the region.”

What is behind China’s failure to stand up for Moscow? As Voice of America has reported, China has strong business interests in Ukraine that would undoubtedly be threatened were China to come out in support of Russia. Ukraine is a major source of arms for China and a growing partner in China’s resource quest. For example, Ukraine has agreed to lease 5 percent of its land to China for agricultural purposes in exchange for Chinese infrastructure investment. Of course these deals were struck under ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. It is possible that the new government will not recognize or revoke them if they were struck under terms perceived as unequal by the new government. Certainly, however, Chinese-Ukrainian business relations will suffer more if Beijing overtly backs Moscow. Read more…

 

By Elizabeth Economy, Published on March 5, 2014 in http://blogs.cfr.org

21
Feb

Decoding two sets of surprising Asia peace talks

Written on February 21, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy

Is there something in the water?

Suddenly peace, or at least peace talks, are breaking out in the most unlikely places. In Asia, entrenched enemies – China and Taiwan, North and South Korea – have agreed to sit down at the table.

In an effort to decode the surprising developments, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke on Tuesday with Kurt Campbell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who is widely credited with being the key architect of America’s “Pivot to Asia.”China and Taiwan are holding their first-ever official face-to-face talks since Mao Zedong’s communists won their civil war in 1949 – a “quite significant” turn of events, Campbell said.“Over the course of the last 30 years, people thought that the most tense situation in Asia was between China and Taiwan, but in recent years the relationship has improved substantially – commercially, economically, and now politically.”What both sides are getting out of the talks, he told Amanpour, is “a greater sense of predictability.”

China does not recognize the independence of Taiwan, and Taiwan is not a U.N. member state, but the island is self governing and generally conducts itself in terms of bilateral relations as an independent country.Over the years, Taiwan and China have built a thriving commercial relationship, with hundreds of billions of dollars in trade.Some sectors, he told Amanpour, think of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou as “pro-Beijing,” but that view is “probably simplistic.”

“I think he is actually a Taiwan nationalist. I do believe he thinks that closer economic and commercial ties are just the wave of the future, and that Taiwan has few other options, and that to stand against the giant just across the Taiwan straits in a sort of militaristic pose makes no sense.”

Another surprise set of Asian talks, between North and South Korea, has grabbed attention in diplomatic circles.North Korea offered talks with South Korea, and “high-level” officials are set to meet on the two countries’ border on Wednesday.“I do not believe that it holds the same hope that we’ve seen between China and Taiwan. If anything, North and South Korea are more estranged than ever,” Campbell said.The talks come ahead of planned reunions between Korean families estranged by the Korean war more than half a century ago.

“These family reunifications and meetings have taken place over a period of decades, and they almost always get abruptly cancelled at the last minute or abbreviated,” Campbell said.Indeed, Pyongyang said last week it may back out of the reunions of the families if South Korean forces participate in annual joint military exercises with the United States later this month – Campbell said such exercises “will not” be cancelled.

“It’s really North Korea playing on the heartstrings of the South Koreans.”“South Korea has had almost no contact with this new government, and now suddenly North Korea dangles what really matters a lot to South Korea, which is the family reunifications.”The talks, Campbell said, will not lead to a significant “warming.”“On every issue – whether it’s the territorial issue, the islands, the manufacturing that’s on-going inside North Korea – tensions abound.”

Published on Feb. 11, 2014

By Mick Krever, CNN http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/11/kurt-campbell-north-korea-south-korea-taiwan-china-talks/

12
Feb

india-japan-game-changer-china.siThree major concrete deliverables emerged during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state visit to India, and in all three China is revealed to be a Shakespearean Banquo’s Ghost in the India-Japan discourse.

First and foremost, the India-Japan Global and Strategic Partnership, which hitherto was largely confined to Japanese assistance in infrastructure projects in India, is now set for a push in the political aspects of the bilateral relationship with security and strategic overtones. This is clear by the decision of the two prime ministers – Abe and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh – to have an institutionalized mechanism of regular consultations between the two sides’ national security advisors. Unlike India, Japan does not have a post of National Security Advisor; therefore, the Secretary-General of National Security Secretariat of Japan (the equivalent of India’s NSA) will be the point person for holding talks with the Indian NSA.

Two, India has taken an unambiguous position for the first time on the recent Chinese policy of declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which has been stiffly opposed and defied by powers including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. A joint statement released at the end of delegation-level talks between Singh and Abe in New Delhi on January 25, clearly stated: “The two Prime Ministers underscored the importance of freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the recognized principles of international law and the relevant standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”

This is a bold foreign policy move by the Indians, especially when China had clarified shortly after its introduction of the ADIZ dispensation that India was out of its ambit. It shows that New Delhi has finally mustered enough gall and courage to side with Japan at the expense of China on the ADIZ controversy. In a sense, this is India’s way of squaring up with the Chinese for the discriminatory Chinese policy of issuing stapled visas for Indians domiciled in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. By the stapled visas policy, the Chinese had taken sides with Pakistan at the expense of India.

Three, India and Japan decided to put a deeper emphasis on military-to-military exchanges and joint exercises and prepared an ambitious roadmap in this regard. Singh and Abe underscored the importance of such exercises and decided to hold these with increased frequency. Indian Navy (IN) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) held the second bilateral exercise in December 2013 off the coast of Chennai and will now have its next edition in the Pacific Ocean in 2014. The focus on the Indo-Pacific is unmistakable. Abe has been a vocal supporter of India’s increased presence in the Pacific – another red rag for China. Read more…

Published in http://rt.com on Jan. 29, 2014