Archive for ‘Singapore’

23/06/2019

Xi Jinping’s state visit to North Korea aims for ‘new impetus’ in ties

  • Stalled denuclearisation talks also expected to be on the agenda when Chinese president meets Kim Jong-un this week
  • Analysts say Korean peninsula has become intense diplomatic battleground between Beijing and Washington
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) attends a welcome ceremony in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January. Xi will begin a visit to Pyongyang on Thursday. Photo: AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) attends a welcome ceremony in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January. Xi will begin a visit to Pyongyang on Thursday. Photo: AP
Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to 
North Korea

will be a state visit – a higher status than the last trip to the hermit kingdom by a Chinese president, highlighting the close bilateral ties between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Xi’s two-day trip, which 
begins on Thursday

, is the first by a Chinese president to North Korea in 14 years and comes just a week before he is due to meet US President Donald Trump for talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

“Leaders of the two countries will review the development of the bilateral relationship and carry out an in-depth exchange of opinions on the development of Sino-North Korean relations in the new era, and chart the future course of development,” state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.
Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, went to North Korea in October 2005 on a three-day trip described as an “official goodwill” visit.
Speaking at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Xi’s visit aimed to “inject new impetus” into relations in the year the two countries marked the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, and to give stalled denuclearisation talks a much needed push.
“Regarding the progress on denuclearisation, as I said, the result of the Hanoi leaders’ meeting in February was indeed a little unexpected. But after that, everyone actually looks forward to the resumption of dialogue in a good direction,” Lu said, referring to the failed talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Vietnamese capital four months ago.

Trump hinted at the possibility of another meeting with Kim after receiving what he called “a beautiful letter” from the North Korean leader last week. On Tuesday, South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, said the US had been in contact with the North.

Life in North Korea the ‘admiration and envy’ of others, state media says

Washington will also send US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun to South Korea next week, days after Xi’s visit to Pyongyang, to fully align its position on North Korea with its ally.

Meanwhile, Trump confirmed he would meet Xi for talks in Osaka next week, saying in a tweet on Tuesday they had “a very good telephone conversation” and would hold “an extended meeting” at the G20 summit, where they are

expected to try to cool tensions

over an almost year-long trade war.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.

Analysts said the Korean peninsula had become an intense diplomatic battleground between Beijing and Washington.
Cha Du-hyeogn, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said China and the US were competing for influence over the peninsula.
“The US and China are seeking a greater sphere of influence in the region. After the Singapore summit between Trump and Kim last year, the US and North Korea are the only key players on peninsula matters. China may want to restore its influence and become a major player,” Cha said.
“But China is less likely to have a so-called strategic competition with the US – that is to say, it won’t challenge the US-led sanctions regime and its goal in achieving North Korea’s denuclearisation. In fact, it is likely to persuade Kim to come to the negotiating table for complete denuclearisation.”
Chinese tourists flood North Korea as Beijing remains Pyongyang’s key ally

Pyongyang has demanded the lifting of sanctions imposed on the regime following its nuclear and missile tests, while Beijing has said the livelihoods of North Koreans should not be affected. But Washington insists full sanctions should remain in place.

The US has also voiced scepticism about Chinese compliance with the sanctions. At a security summit in Singapore earlier this month, US acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan – who on Wednesday stepped down from his role 

amid domestic abuse claims

– presented his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe with photographs and satellite images of North Korean ships transferring oil near China’s coast.

Analysts said Xi would seek to use the visit to boost China’s diplomatic leverage on the North Korean nuclear front, strengthening its hand in dealing with the US.
Exports from North Korea to China, which account for the bulk of its trade, plunged 87 per cent last year from 2017, and the country has faced other economic problems at a time when Kim has vowed to deliver on the economy.
A diplomatic source said China was expected to offer a large amount of humanitarian assistance, such as food and fertiliser, to North Korea, which could weaken the impact of sanctions.

China’s goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unwavering and will not changeLu Chao, North Korean affairs expert at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences

Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Tuesday said via its social media account that Xi would discuss economic and trade cooperation with Kim during the visit.

Quoting Zheng Jiyong, director of the Centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, the newspaper said Pyongyang had taken steps to reform its economy and introduced China’s industrial manufacturing blueprint.

In September, Beijing proposed building a rail link from the city of Dandong, in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, to Pyongyang and then on to Seoul and Busan in the South, as well as a new road between Dandong and Pyongyang through Sinuiju.

Lu Chao, a North Korean affairs expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said large-scale economic cooperation between China and North Korea was unlikely because of the sanctions, but smaller moves were possible.

Chinese tourists flood North Korea as Beijing remains Pyongyang’s key ally

“For example, China may export daily necessities to North Korea. And if it’s needed, China is very likely to provide [food] assistance to North Korea,” Lu said. “I believe the UN sanctions on North Korea should change, because it has shown a more substantive approach to [achieving] denuclearisation.”

But analysts said Beijing remained firm on the need for Pyongyang to honour its pledges so that denuclearisation could be achieved.

“China’s goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unwavering and will not change … China supports [North Korea] and the US continuing to hold talks,” Lu said.

Beijing also had an important part to play in the peace process, according to Boo Seung-chan, an adjunct professor at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“China can have a positive role as a mediator to facilitate the peace process on the Korean peninsula,” Boo said.

Source: SCMP

Advertisements
23/06/2019

Southeast Asian leaders emphasise economic strength in face of U.S.-China tensions

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Southeast Asian leaders agreed on Sunday to work together on regional economy and security to strengthen their positions amid growing U.S.-China tensions, as they wrapped up this year’s first summit in Bangkok.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will need its collective economic strength for bargaining power globally, especially amid the trade tensions between the world’s top two economies, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told a news conference, as chairman of the 34th ASEAN Summit.
Prayuth urged ASEAN nations to complete negotiations this year for the China-initiated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact that includes 16 countries.
“This will help ASEAN handle the changes and uncertainty that will happen in the region going forward, particularly the impacts of trade tension between ASEAN’s important trade partners.”
Negotiations began in 2012 on RCEP, which envisions the creation of a free trade zone encompassing 45% of the world’s population and more than a third of its GDP, but does not involve the United States.
First proposed by China, RCEP’s 16 signatories include the 10 ASEAN member states and six Asia-Pacific countries, including major economies China, India, Japan and South Korea. ASEAN has existing free-trade agreements with all six countries.
“If we can do this, we will have the bargaining power and base for negotiation. Because when combined, we are 650 million people, the largest regional bloc in the world,” the Thai prime minister said.
Four ASEAN countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam – will discuss the trade war in next week’s G20 summit, which assembles 20 major economies, in Tokyo, Prayuth said.
ASEAN countries also agreed on a common approach on a U.S.-led Indo-Pacific initiative, at a time when U.S.-China tensions were rising and forcing ASEAN countries to take sides.
Prayuth hailed the bloc’s agreement on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific as a “significant step” for the region.
The endorsed outlook document, seen by Reuters, acknowledges “maritime issues such as unresolved maritime disputes that have the potential for open conflict” as existing and emerging geopolitical challenges.
It outlines maritime cooperation “for peaceful settlement of disputes”. It also aims for connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Source: Reuters
12/06/2019

How Tiananmen crackdown left a deep scar on China’s military psyche

  • Many of those involved feel profound ‘guilt and shame’ over the lives lost in Beijing 30 years ago, according to two former PLA officers
  • Move to tone down language used to describe movement – as ‘political turmoil’ rather than a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ – came from army

The brutal military crackdown on peaceful protesters in Beijing 30 years ago might have saved the Communist Party’s rule, but it has since become a cross to bear for the People’s Liberation Army.

Today, the world’s largest fighting force is still haunted by the 

Tiananmen Square

tragedy in 1989, despite efforts to rebuild its image. After the bloodshed, it was the military that suggested the pro-democracy student movement be referred to not as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” but as a time of “political turmoil”, two former PLA officers told the South China Morning Post.

They said the move to tone down the language around the crackdown reflected the anxiety and shame felt by many rank-and-file officers over a fateful decision that has tainted the military’s reputation and legacy.

Up to that point, the PLA had been widely respected by the Chinese public. Even during the turbulent decade of the Cultural Revolution from 1966, the military was largely uninvolved. Rather, it was instrumental in bringing an end to the chaos and setting China on the path of reform and opening up.

The crackdown in 1989 was unprecedented for the PLA and dealt a crippling blow to its reputation and morale – and the question over the legitimacy of the decision to send in the tanks and open fire on the protesters remains.

“[I believe] the Tiananmen crackdown will be revisited one day – it’s just a matter of time. The ultimate responsibility will fall to those military leaders who directly implemented the decision,” a retired researcher with the PLA’s Academy of Military Science, who requested anonymity, told the Post.

PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters
PLA soldiers with automatic weapons eat ice creams as protesters plead with them to leave Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989. Photo: Reuters

Throughout history and across cultures, following orders has been a fundamental principle of military service. But the absence of a written order on the mission from the commander in chief – late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping – puts its legality in doubt.

It is estimated that hundreds, or perhaps more than 1,000, civilians were killed during the crackdown that began on the night of June 3 and continued until the morning.

“No matter whether it is one or 10,000 people killed, it’s still wrong to shoot at unarmed civilians,” said a retired PLA officer who served in the army’s political department and also declined to be named. “But [the troops] had to do this dirty job because the party’s rule was in danger.”

According to the former military researcher, many commanders involved in the crackdown questioned the decision to use force to quell the protests, particularly since they had only been given a verbal order from above and never saw a written instruction from Deng, who was chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
This was further complicated by the fact that Zhao Ziyang, the party’s general secretary at the time, openly opposed a military crackdown. Without the support and approval of the party’s chief, the operation violated the long-held principle of “the party commanding the gun”.
Even then CMC vice-chairman Yang Shangkun and Xu Qinxian, commander of the 38th Army Corps that had been sent to Beijing, had qualms about carrying out the verbal order, according to the former researcher.
It is not known how many troops were sent in to crush the protests, but the number could be as high as 200,000, according to a book by US-based scholar Wu Renhua.
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP
Soldiers patrol Changan Avenue in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener/AP

The retired PLA political officer said the instruction to commanders was to “clear out Tiananmen Square by June 4 – and whoever stands in our way is an enemy of the state”.

“Most officers and soldiers were only trained to use heavy weapons like machine guns and tanks. They didn’t even know there were things like rubber bullets, tear gas or other kinds of non-lethal weapons for crowd control,” said the former officer.

“To meet the deadline to clean up the square, some commanders asked their troops to shoot into the air to scare away the crowds – that was the only thing they could think of doing,” he said.

But although they started off firing into the air, ricocheting bullets hit many protesters as they fled and in the chaos and bloodshed, inexperienced troops panicked and started firing into the crowd, according to the former officer.

The army’s clean image was destroyed overnight, and in the minds of many, renmin zidibing – the army of our sons – became the feared and reviled tool of a killing regime.

It also left a psychological scar on the military, which is reflected in the effort to tone down the narrative around the crackdown.

The former researcher said the push to use “political turmoil” instead of the more provocative “counter-revolutionary rebellion” to describe the movement first appeared in a military academy reference book, the Chinese Military Encyclopaedia, in 1997. He said it was proposed by military advisers who believed it could help soften attitudes towards the crackdown.

Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua
Then president Jiang Zemin with American journalist Mike Wallace during an interview in 2000. Photo: Xinhua

Former president Jiang Zemin spoke of the “political turmoil” in 1989 during an interview with American journalist Mike Wallace in 2000, and the wording has since been widely used by state media.

Meanwhile, the suppression of the protesters also prompted calls for a separation of the army and the party, so the PLA would be a “national” force rather than a political one.

But after 

a decade of debate

, the idea was squashed by the top leadership in 2007, on the eve of the PLA’s 80th anniversary. It was labelled as a plot by hostile Western forces to topple communist rule in China and is now a taboo subject.

“But despite banning discussion of military nationalisation, the calls from within the PLA to rehabilitate the military and for a review of what happened with the student movement have never stopped,” the former PLA political officer said.
“Many senior military officers believe the students weren’t attempting to overthrow communist rule – they were just asking for a better political system. That’s why calling it a counter-revolutionary rebellion is wrong.”
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
Curious Beijing residents gather to look at the military hardware in Tiananmen Square on June 7, 1989. Photo: AP
On Sunday, days ahead of the 30th anniversary, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe

defended the Tiananmen crackdown

, telling a regional defence forum that putting an end to the “political turbulence” had been the “correct policy”.

“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes – do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June Fourth?
There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence,” Wei said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
But according to the former PLA researcher, military top brass involved in the crackdown still felt profound “guilt and shame” over the lives lost.
“None of those people in the PLA would feel a sense of honour for participating in the crackdown,” he said. “Instead they harbour a deep feeling of shame.”
Source: SCMP
12/06/2019

China to send defence minister to Singapore security conference as tensions with US rise

  • Observers will be watching to see if General Wei Fenghe holds talks with his American counterpart
  • Forum comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
China is sending its defence minister to a leading Asian security forum next week, the first time in eight years that a high-ranking Chinese general will represent the country at the conference.
General Wei Fenghe, a State Councillor and China’s defence minister, will speak at the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a gathering that comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade.
“In a highly anticipated speech, General Wei Fenghe will speak on China’s role in the Indo-Pacific at a pivotal time for the region,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an organiser of the conference, said on Monday night.

Chinese military sources said that Wei would lead a “relatively big” delegation to the gathering, which starts on May 31 and is co-organised by the Singaporean government.

South China Sea stand-offs ‘a contest of wills’
The last time Beijing sent a high-ranking officer to the event was in 2011 when General Liang Guanglie, then the defence minister, attended.
Acting US secretary of defence Patrick Shanahan will also attend the conference and deliver a speech.
The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Beijing-based military specialist Zhou Chenming said observers would be watching to see whether the two senior defence officials held talks.

“The whole world will keep a close eye on any possible encounters between the Chinese and the Americans … At least now China has shown its sincerity in sending Wei to attend the conference, who is of equal standing as Shanahan, if the latter is willing to hold talks with him in good faith,” Zhou said.

But he said a meeting between Wei and Shanahan would be difficult because of the current distance between Beijing and Washington on major issues.

How Trump’s tweets bested China in the trade war publicity battle

“It’s not realistic to expect they will make a breakthrough because both sides will just sound their own bugles. The … mistrust between China and the US is actually growing every day,” Zhou said.

Just on Sunday, the USS Preble, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal, an area in the South China Sea claimed by both China and the Philippines.

The 

Chinese foreign ministry responded on Monday

by strongly urging “the US to stop such provocative actions” and saying it would “take all necessary measures” to protect its “national sovereignty”.

Military analysts said the size of the Chinese delegation at the conference would underscore the importance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attached to the event this year.
One military insider said the delegation would also include Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the Academy of Military Science, who headed China’s delegation in 2017 and 2018; and Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the defence ministry’s Centre for Security Cooperation. In addition, the PLA would send a number of Chinese academics to speak at various sessions of the forum.
China tries to go one on one with Malaysia to settle South China Sea disputes

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will deliver a keynote speech on the opening day of the annual dialogue.

Japan and South Korea are also sending their defence ministers, according to a report by The Korean Times on Tuesday. The report also said South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo was keen to hold one-on-one meetings with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the conference.

Source: SCMP

10/06/2019

Why China struggles to win friends and make itself heard

  • Beijing has to reconcile the competing needs to appear tough to the Chinese public and conciliatory to an international audience
  • China feels US has long had the advantage in shaping global opinion but it now needs to make itself heard
China must appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and be conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy. Photo: Xinhua
China must appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and be conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy. Photo: Xinhua
In just the last week, a Chinese official posed a question that would resonate among his fellow cadres: as China rises, why are we not making more friends and why are our voices not heard?
The question has gained weight as the trade war with the United States has deepened, and Chinese officials have scrambled to win the battle of public opinion at home and abroad.
It also came to the fore at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore on the weekend, when Chinese officials were faced with balancing the need to appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and being conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy.
Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, a senior fellow at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences and a public diplomacy veteran for the military, said the expectations clashed in Singapore.
“Currently there are two parallel worlds in the public opinion landscape, one domestic and another international, and the two of them are basically split and in two extremes,” Zhao said.
“[The Shangri-La Dialogue] is a place where the two worlds clash. As the Chinese delegation [at the forum] we need to show our position, but it is becoming more difficult to balance [the expectations of the two sides].
“If you are tough, the domestic audience will be satisfied, but it won’t bode well with the international audience. But if we appear to be soft, we will be the target of overwhelming criticism at home.”
China asks state media to pick battles carefully with long US trade war looming, sources say

Zhao said this was an unprecedented challenge for Chinese cadres, who must also satisfy the expectations of the leadership.

“Our task was about diplomacy and making friends. But [with the tough position] you may not be able to make friends, and might even exacerbate the tension,” he said.

The pressure was immense when Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe took to the stage on Sunday in a rare appearance at the forum. Concerned about how Wei’s performance would be received at home, Beijing ordered Chinese media to minimise their coverage of acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan’s address in case it made China appear weak, according to a source familiar with the arrangements for Chinese media.

In his speech, Wei struck a defiant tone, vowing that the PLA would “fight at all costs” for “reunification” with Taiwan and that China was ready to fight the US to the end on the trade front.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe makes a rare appearance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Reuters
Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe makes a rare appearance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

Major General Jin Yinan, from the PLA’s National Defence University, a member of the Chinese delegation to the Singapore summit, said Wei’s speech defied expectations that China would show restraint with the US, and demonstrated China’s confidence on the world stage.

The public response at home was immediate and positive. Tens of thousands of Chinese internet users flooded social media platforms such as the Twitter-like Weibo service to express their approval for Wei’s hard line.

“This is the attitude that the Chinese military should show to the world,” one commenter said.

“I am proud of my country for being so strong and powerful,” another said.

Over the past year, Beijing’s propaganda apparatus has tightly controlled the domestic media narrative on the trade war, barring independent reporting on the tensions. But since the breakdown of trade talks in early May, the authorities have gone one step further by escalating nationalistic rhetoric in newspapers and on television.

How Donald Trump’s tweets outgunned China’s heavy media weapons in the trade war publicity battle

China has also tried to make its case to the world with an official statement. On the same day that Wei addressed the gathering in Singapore, the State Council, China’s cabinet, put China’s side of the dispute in a white paper, saying the US should bear responsibility for the breakdown of the trade talks.

A Chinese delegate at the forum said Beijing felt Washington had long had the advantage in shaping global opinion and there was an urgent need for China to make itself heard.

“We should get more used to voicing our position through Western platforms. The US has been criticising us on many issues. But why should the Americans dominate all the platforms and have the final say over everything?” the delegate said.

Before Wei’s appearance at the dialogue, China had not sent such a high-ranking official for eight years. It had long sought to play down the importance of the forum, seeing it as a platform wielded by the US and its Western allies to attack China.

In 2002, China set up the Beijing Xiangshan Forum to rival the Singapore gathering and amplify its voice on security issues.

But Chinese officials are well aware that Xiangshan does not have the same impact and profile as the Shangri-La Dialogue, according to Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“[At the same time, the long absence of high-level Chinese representation to the Shangri-La Dialogue also] raises the question of whether it might be sustainable in the long run for [the dialogue] if they continue to not have such ministerial representation [from China],” Koh said.

Zhao, who is also the director of the Xiangshan forum’s secretariat office, agreed that China lagged the US in promoting the image of the military and in winning public opinion.

“China has not fought a war in 30 years. We have only built some islands in the South China Sea and yet have received so much criticism from the international media. The US has engaged in many wars but they are seldom criticised. This reflects that China is in a disadvantaged position in international discourse,” he said.

Expectations collided at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this month. Photo: AFP
Expectations collided at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this month. Photo: AFP
In a rare conciliatory gesture – and just days before the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square – Wei took questions from a room of international delegates on a range of sensitive issues, including the crackdown and China’s mass internment camps in Xinjiang. While he largely toed the official line in his reply, his presence at the forum and willingness to address the questions raised hopes that China would become a more responsible partner in global affairs despite its continuing disputes with the US.
Andrea Thompson, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Wei’s attendance at the Singapore gathering was a “positive sign” and she hoped that China would be more open and transparent in addressing issues such as arms control and cybersecurity.
“I appreciate that he is here. I think it’s important to have a dialogue … There will be areas where we will agree, and some areas where we disagree, but you still have to have dialogue,” Thompson said.
Source: SCMP
10/06/2019

China’s massive military spending is creating a ripple effect across the Asia-Pacific region

  • With a defence budget second only to the US, China is amassing a navy that can circle the globe and developing state-of-the-art autonomous drones
  • The build-up is motivating surrounding countries to bolster their own armed forces, even if some big-ticket military equipment is of dubious necessity
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honour guards before a naval parade in Qingdao. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honour guards before a naval parade in Qingdao. Photo: Xinhua
The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest-growing markets for arms dealers, with economic growth, territorial disputes and long-sought military modernisation propelling a 52 per cent increase in defence spending over the last decade to US$392 billion in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The region accounts for more than one-fifth of the global defence budget and is expected to grow. That was underscored last week by news of 
Taiwan

’s bid to strike a

US$2 billion deal

to purchase US tanks and missiles.

Taiwanese Soldiers on a CM11 battle tank, jointly developed with US arms manufacturer General Dynamics. Photo: EPA
Taiwanese Soldiers on a CM11 battle tank, jointly developed with US arms manufacturer General Dynamics. Photo: EPA
The biggest driver in arms purchases, however, is 
China

– responsible for 64 per cent of military

spending in the region. With a defence budget that is second only to the

US

, China is amassing a navy that can circle the globe and developing state-of-the-art autonomous drones. The build-up is motivating surrounding countries to bolster their armed forces too – good news for purveyors of submarines, unmanned vehicles and warplanes.

It is no coincidence that the recent 
Shangri-La Dialogue

in

Singapore

, a security conference attended by

defence

chiefs, was sponsored by military contractors including Raytheon,

Lockheed Martin

and

BAE Systems

.

Opinion: How the Shangri-La Dialogue turned into a diplomatic coup for China

Kelvin Wong, a Singapore-based analyst for Jane’s, a trade publication that has been covering the defence industry for 121 years, has developed a niche in infiltrating China’s opaque defence industry by attending obscure trade shows that are rarely advertised outside the country.

He said the US is eager to train allies in Asia and sell them arms, while also stepping up its “freedom of navigation” naval operations in contested waters in the

South China Sea

and Taiwan Strait. It has lifted a ban on working with

Indonesia

’s special forces over atrocities committed in

East Timor

. And it is considering restarting arms sales to the

Philippines

.

In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan touted American advancements in technology “critical to deterring and defeating the threats of the future” and said any partner could choose to win access to that technology by joining the US defence network.
Wong said the message was clear: “Buy American.”
Analysts say Chinese soldiers have less training, motivation and lower morale than their Western counterparts. Photo: Reuters
Analysts say Chinese soldiers have less training, motivation and lower morale than their Western counterparts. Photo: Reuters
The analyst said there is a growing admission among the Chinese leadership that the

People’s Liberation Army

has an Achilles’ heel: its own personnel.

He said one executive at a Chinese defence firm told him: “The individual Chinese soldier, in terms of morale, training, education and motivation, (cannot match) Western counterparts. So the only way to level up is through the use of unmanned platforms and 
artificial intelligence

.”

To that end, China has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated drone programmes, complete with custom-built weapon systems. By comparison, Wong said,
US drones rely on weapons originally developed for helicopters.
Wong got to see one of the Chinese drones in action two years ago after cultivating a relationship with its builder, the state-owned China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation. He viewed a demonstration of a 28-foot-long CH-4 drone launching missiles at a target with uncanny ease and precision.
“Everyone knew they had this,” Wong said. “But how effective it was, nobody knew. I could personally vouch they got it down pat.”
China unveils its answer to US Reaper drone – how does it compare?

That is what Bernard Loo Fook Weng, a military expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told the author Robert Kaplan for his 2014 book, Asia’s Cauldron, about simmering tensions in the South China Sea.

He was describing the competition for big-ticket military equipment of dubious necessity.

Southeast Asia

is littered with examples of such purchases.

Thailand

owns an aircraft carrier without any aircraft. Indonesia dedicated about one-sixth of its military budget to the purchase of 11

Russian

Su-35 fighter jets. And

Malaysia

splurged on two

French

submarines it could not figure out how to submerge.

“It’s keeping up with the Joneses,” Wong said. “There’s an element of prestige to having these systems.”

Submarines remain one of the more debatable purchases, Wong said. The vessels aren’t ideal for the South China Sea, with its narrow shipping lanes hemmed in by shallow waters and coral reefs. Yet they provide smaller countries with a powerful deterrence by enabling sneak attacks on large ships.

Nuclear-powered PLA Navy ballistic missile submarines in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
Nuclear-powered PLA Navy ballistic missile submarines in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
Asia and

Australia

are home to 245 submarines, or 45 per cent of the global fleet, according to the US-based naval market intelligence firm AMI International.

The Philippines remains one of the last coastal nations in the region without a sub – though it is in talks with Russian builders to acquire some.
Singapore recently received the first of four advanced

German

Type 218 submarines with propulsion systems that negate the need to surface more frequently. If the crew did not need to eat, the submarine could stay under water for prolonged periods. Wong said the craft were specially built for Asian crews.

“The older subs were designed for larger Europeans so the ergonomics were totally off,” he said.
Singapore, China deepen defence ties, plan larger military exercises
Tiny Singapore plays a crucial role securing the vital sea lanes linking the Strait of Malacca with the South China Sea. According to the

World Bank,

the country dedicates 3.3 per cent of its gross domestic product to defence, a rate higher than that of the United States.

State-of-the-art equipment defines the Singapore Armed Forces. Automation is now at the centre of the country’s military strategy, as available manpower is shrinking because of a rapidly ageing population.
Wong said Singapore is investing in autonomous systems and can operate frigates with 100 crew members – 50 fewer than they were originally designed for.

“We always have to punch above our weight,” he said.

Source: SCMP

29/05/2019

Scholar points to Beijing’s ‘maritime militia’ in the South China Sea after lasers force Australian navy helicopter to land

  • Academic on-board the HMAS Canberra says pilots were struck by lasers on a voyage from Vietnam to Singapore, during which they were being tailed by a Chinese warship
US Navy personnel point at a computer screen showing Chinese activity on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. An Australian scholar said Chinese ships pointed lasers at them during a flight over the disputed sea. Photo: Reuters
US Navy personnel point at a computer screen showing Chinese activity on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. An Australian scholar said
Chinese ships pointed lasers at them during a flight over the disputed sea. Photo: Reuters
Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit by lasers and forced to land during exercises in

the South China Sea

, according to one witness on-board the aircraft.

Scholar Euan Graham, who said he was on the Royal 
Australian Navy

flagship HMAS Canberra during a voyage from Vietnam to Singapore, said the lasers had been pointed from passing fishing vessels while the Canberra was being

trailed by a Chinese warship

.

“Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia? It’s hard to say for sure, but similar incidents have occurred in the western Pacific,” he wrote on the website The Strategist run by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Canberra.

His account of the incident appeared on Tuesday.

The Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where China is said to be increasing its military presence. Photo: Reuters
The Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where China is said to be increasing its military presence. Photo: Reuters
China maintains a robust maritime militia in the South China Sea, composed of fishing vessels equipped to carry out missions just short of combat. China claims the strategic waterway virtually in its entirety and is sensitive to all foreign naval action in the area, especially by

the US and allies

such as Australia.

Similar incidents involving lasers and the Chinese military have been reported as far away as Djibouti, where the US and China have bases. Last year, the US complained to China after lasers were directed at aircraft in the Horn of Africa nation, causing minor injuries to two American pilots.

China denied that its forces targeted the US military aircraft.

Graham said that while bridge-to-bridge communications with the Chinese during the voyage were courteous, the Chinese requested the Australian warships notify them in advance of any corrections to their course.

That was something the Australian navy was “not about to concede while exercising its high-seas freedoms”, Graham wrote.

In South China Sea, Asean has a choice: ‘Asian values’ or rule of law?

He wrote that the constant presence of Chinese vessels shadowing foreign ships appeared to indicate that the Chinese fleet had grown large enough to allow it to have vessels lying in wait for just such orders.

He said their trailing actions also appeared to show that China’s over-the-horizon surveillance capability was also maturing, supported by technology based at points such as Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly island group where China has built military installations and an airstrip atop coral reefs.

Five other governments have claims in the South China Sea that overlap with China’s, and the US and its allies insist on the right to sail and fly anywhere in the area is permitted under international law, despite China’s differing interpretation of such guidelines.

Graham, who is executive director of La Trobe Asia at La Trobe University in Australia, was one of several academics invited to observe Australia’s engagement exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.

Source: SCMP

29/05/2019

Li Huanwu, grandson of Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew, marries boyfriend Heng Yirui – and Chinese social media users cheer them on

  • “I believe my father would have been thrilled to know this,” Li’s dad Lee Hsien Yang said
  • Sex between men remains illegal in Singapore but the city state’s first PM had been known to express a different opinion from the government in his later years
Li Huanwu (R) with his boyfriend Heng Yirui. Photo: Facebook
Li Huanwu (R) with his boyfriend Heng Yirui. Photo: Facebook
A grandson of Singapore’s late founding father 
Lee Kuan Yew

revealed on Friday he had married his boyfriend in South Africa, prompting a flurry of mostly positive reactions in his country, where male homosexuality is banned, and around the region.

Li Huanwu, the second son of Lee Hsien Yang, was seen with his partner Heng Yirui in an Instagram post the latter shared online on Friday with a caption that read: “Today I marry my soulmate. Looking forward to a lifetime of moments like this with [Huanwu].”
The picture showed both in matching white shirts and khaki trousers at a game reserve in Cape Town.
“I’ll echo my comment I made to Pink Dot – today would have been unimaginable to us growing up. We are overjoyed to share this occasion in the glowing company of friends and family,” Li told the South China Morning Post.
The happy couple with their families. Photo: Facebook
The happy couple with their families. Photo: Facebook

Li’s father, Lee Hsien Yang, is himself the second and youngest son of the elder Lee, who died in March 2015.

Asked about his son’s nuptials, Lee told the Post : “I believe my father would have been thrilled to know this.”

Sex between men remains illegal in Singapore

under Section 377A of the Penal Code but Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister for 31 years until 1990, had been known to express a different opinion from the government in his later years.

Li’s wedding was held in South Africa, where same-sex marriages were legalised in 2006. It also came amid celebrations lauding

Taiwan’s recent legalisation of gay marriages

last week – the first of its kind in Asia.

On Friday, independent news sites in 
Singapore

, including Mothership.sg and The Independent, were quick to pick up on the announcement while mainstream media outlets steered clear of reporting it.

Mothership’s Facebook post by Saturday had attracted 1,700 likes and 400 comments, mostly positive and congratulating the pair. One user, Donna Lim, commented: “Congrats! Love has no boundaries.”
In mainland China, multiple posts of Li’s wedding surfaced on social media app WeChat, which have garnered hundreds of likes and comments as of Saturday afternoon.
A few reacted with disdain but many of the Chinese commentators also congratulated the couple, with some hoping that Li would front the fight for gay rights in Singapore.
Why some members of Singapore’s LGBT community prefer life in the shadows

“…Homosexuality is illegal in Singapore, and now, Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson is taking the lead,” said a netizen with the username Tired and Humorous.

Another netizen added: “Gay love is still love, homophobia is a disease.”

Comments on the WeChat posts also noted how the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (

LGBT

) community in Singapore were subject to a law that criminalises sex between gay men.

“It turns out that Singapore is so traditional, it can lead to a conviction,” said one user named Facecover.
The Drum Tower, another user, added: “Singapore’s anti-same sex law was set by the British colony, but now the UK has legalised same-sex marriage.”
Li Huanwu had gone public about his partner more than a year before the wedding. In 2018, he and Heng appeared in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campaign titled Out in Singapore. Both had also attended 
Pink Dot

, an annual celebration to support the LGBT community in Singapore that year.

‘Worse than the Kardashians’: family feud turns ugly as siblings target PM’s wife
Li Huanwu’s father, Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling are estranged from their eldest brother and current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong because of a dispute over their father’s wishes to have their 
childhood home in Oxley Road demolished

. Huanwu’s elder brother Shengwu, a Harvard University economist, is also

facing contempt of court charges

in Singapore.

In his book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going published in 2011, the elder Lee, who retired from government that same year, said that homosexuality was “not a lifestyle”.
Li Huanwu (R) and Heng Yirui. Photo: Facebook
Li Huanwu (R) and Heng Yirui. Photo: Facebook

“You can read the books you want, all the articles. You know that there’s a genetic difference,” Lee said.

“They are born that way and that’s that. So if two men or two women are that way, just leave them alone.”

Earlier, in a book The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew, published in 2007, Lee was quoted as saying: “If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual – because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes – you can’t help it. So why should we criminalise it?”

Source: SCMP

29/05/2019

Short of war, US can’t help but lose to China’s rise in Asia, says think tank Lowy Institute

  • Lowy Institute’s 2019 Asia Power Index puts Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo for diplomatic influence
  • Trump’s assault on trade has done little to stop Washington’s decline in regional influence, compared to Beijing, say experts
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
The 
United States

may be a dominant military force in Asia for now but short of going to war, it will be unable to stop its economic and diplomatic clout from declining relative to China’s power.

That’s the view of Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, which on Tuesday evening released its 2019 index on the distribution of power in Asia.

However, the institute also said China faced its own obstacles in the region, and that its ambitions would be constrained by a lack of trust from its neighbours.

The index scored China 75.9 out of 100, just behind the US, on 84.5. The gap was less than America’s 10 point lead last year, when the index was released for the first time.
“Current US foreign policy may be accelerating this trend,” said the institute, which contended that “under most scenarios, short of war, the United States is unlikely to halt the narrowing power differential between itself and China”.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
Since July, US President

Donald Trump

has slapped tariffs on Chinese imports to reduce his country’s

trade deficit with China

. He most recently hiked a 10 per cent levy on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent and has also threatened to impose tariffs on other trading partners such as the European Union and Japan.

Herve Lemahieu, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Asian Power and Diplomacy programme, said: “The Trump administration’s focus on trade wars and balancing trade flows one country at a time has done little to reverse the relative decline of the United States, and carries significant collateral risk for third countries, including key allies of the United States.”

The index rates a nation’s power – which it defines as the ability to direct or influence choices of both state and non-state actors – using eight criteria. These include a country’s defence networks, economic relationships, future resources and military capability.

It ranked Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo in terms of diplomatic influence in Asia, due in part to “contradictions” between its recent economic agenda and its traditional role of offering consensus-based leadership.

The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Toshihiro Nakayama, a fellow at the Wilson Centre in Washington, said the US had become its own enemy in terms of influence.

“I don’t see the US being overwhelmed by China in terms of sheer power,” said Nakayama. “It’s whether America is willing to maintain its internationalist outlook.”

But John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the Trump administration’s willingness to challenge the status quo on issues like trade could ultimately boost US standing in Asia.

“The current administration is disruptive but has earned respect for taking on difficult challenges which are of high regional concern but were largely ignored by the Obama administration – 

North Korea’s

illegal weapons and China’s predatory economic policies to name two,” said Lee.

“One’s diplomatic standing is not just about being ‘liked’ or ‘uncontroversial’ but being seen as a constructive presence.”
CHINA’S RISE
China’s move up the index overall – from 74.5 last year to 75.9 this year – was partly due to it overtaking the US on the criteria of “economic resources”, which encompasses GDP size, international leverage and technology.
China’s economy grew by more than the size of Australia’s GDP in 2018, the report noted, arguing that its growing base of upper-middle class consumers would blunt the impact of US efforts to restrict Chinese tech firms in Western markets.
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

“In midstream products such as smartphones and with regard to developing country markets, Chinese tech companies can still be competitive and profitable due to their economies of scale and price competitiveness,” said Jingdong Yuan, an associate professor at the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

“However, to become a true superpower in the tech sector and dominate the global market remains a steep climb for China, and the Trump administration is making it all the more difficult.”

The future competitiveness of Beijing’s military, currently a distant second to Washington’s, will depend on long-term political will, according to the report, which noted that China already spends over 50 per cent more on defence than the 10 

Asean

economies,

India

and

Japan

combined.

TRUST ISSUE
However, 
distrust of China

stands in the way of its primacy in Asia, according to the index, which noted Beijing’s unresolved territorial and historical disputes with 11 neighbouring countries and “growing degrees of opposition” to its signature

Belt and Road Initiative

.

Beijing is locked in disputes in the

South China Sea

with a raft of countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, and has been forced to renegotiate infrastructure projects in

Malaysia

and Myanmar due to concerns over feasibility and cost.

If Trump kills off Huawei, do Asia’s 5G dreams die?
Xin Qiang, a professor at the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Beijing still needed to persuade its neighbours it could be a “constructive, instead of a detrimental, force for the region”.
“There are still many challenges for [China to increase its] power and influence in the Asia-Pacific,” Xin said.
Wu Xinbo, also at Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said Beijing was having mixed success in terms of winning regional friends and allies.
“For China, the key challenge is how to manage the maritime disputes with its neighbours,” said Wu. “I don’t think there is growing opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative from the region, actually more and more countries are jumping aboard. It is the US that is intensifying its opposition to the project as Washington worries it may promote China’s geopolitical influence.”
Yuan said the rivalry between the

US and China

would persist and shape the global order into the distant future.

“They can still and do wish to cooperate where both find it mutually beneficial, but I think the more important task for now and for some time to come, is to manage their disputes in ways that do not escalate to a dangerous level,” Yuan said. “These differences probably cannot be resolved given their divergent interests, perspectives, etc, but they can and should be managed, simply because their issues are not confined to the bilateral [relationship] but have enormous regional and global implications.”
Elsewhere in Asia, the report spotlighted Japan, ranked third in the index, as the leader of the liberal order in Asia, and fourth-placed India as an “underachiever relative to both its size and potential”.
China’s wrong, the US can kill off Huawei. But here’s why it won’t
Lee said the index supported a growing perception that Tokyo had emerged as a “political and strategic leader among democracies in Asia” under

Shinzo Abe

.

“This is important because Prime Minister Abe wants Japan to emerge as a constructive strategic player in the Indo-Pacific and high diplomatic standing is important to that end,” Lee said.

Russia

, South Korea, Australia,

Singapore

, Malaysia and Thailand rounded out the top-10 most powerful countries, in that order. Among the pack, Russia, Malaysia and Thailand stood out as nations that improved their standing from the previous year.

Taiwan

, ranked 14th, was the only place to record an overall decline in score, reflecting its waning diplomatic influence

after losing three of its few remaining diplomatic allies

during the past year.

Source: SCMP
29/05/2019

Shangri-La Dialogue: ‘win for China’, as hopes for Japan-South Korea talks fade

  • The Asian security forum in Singapore had been seen as an ideal venue for a breakthrough in the growing diplomatic spat – but Tokyo has got cold feet
  • That will ease the pressure on Beijing in the South China Sea, analysts say
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes that

Japan

and

South Korea

could use the Shangri-La Dialogue in

Singapore

to address their growing diplomatic spat are receding.

The three-day Asian security forum, which begins on Friday, had been seen as an ideal neutral venue for the two countries’ defence ministers to hold formal talks on issues including Tokyo’s claim that in January a 
South Korean warship locked its fire control radar

onto a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.

The issue is one of the biggest deviling the bilateral relationship, alongside Japan’s perception that Seoul has backtracked on a promise to draw a line under Japan’s use of 
Korean sex slaves

– euphemistically known as “comfort women” – in military-run brothels during World War Two.

However, Tokyo appears to have concluded that formal talks on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue would be premature. The Yomiuri newspaper has reported that a formal meeting will no longer take place and that Takeshi Iwaya and Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean opposite number, will now be restricted to a brief, stand-up exchange of their positions.
Despite the report, South Korean officials were guarded when asked whether the meeting had been shelved. “A detailed plan [on the bilateral talks] has yet to be fixed. Consultations are still underway between authorities of the two countries,” said the South Korean defence ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo on Tuesday.
Analysts suggested Japan had run out of patience with South Korea and that the biggest winner in the stand off between two US allies would be China.
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo

“My sense is that Japan sees South Korea as not engaging in negotiations on a number of issues and not adhering in good faith to agreements that it has already signed,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

Tokyo has been incensed that the administration of

President Moon Jae-in

has gone back on a 2015 agreement that was meant to draw a final line under the “comfort women” issue. Its anger deepened when Seoul said it would not intervene in a South Korean Supreme Court ruling, which ordered Japanese companies to pay up to 120 million won (US$100,000) to each of a dozen

Koreans forced into labour during Japan’s colonial rule

of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

Like its stance on “comfort women”, Japan believed a line had been drawn under the issue, this time in a 1965 pact that normalised relations between the two countries. Seoul argues that the 1965 treaty, which it signed after receiving US$800 million in grants and soft loans from Tokyo as compensation, does not cover individual victims of colonial-era atrocities.
As rift between Japan, South Korea deepens, how hard can Seoul afford to push?

“Japan is not ready to get into any more agreements because it fears that Seoul will not follow through or that they will become politicised in the future,” Nagy said.

“Tokyo wants binding, long-lasting agreements rather than having to renegotiate something each time a new Korean government comes in,” he said.

“The biggest winner in this stand-off between the US’ two most important allies in the region is, of course, China,” he added. “They must be delighted to see this playing out because it means the US is not able to exert nearly as much pressure in areas such as the 

South China Sea

.”

A long-standing strategic aim in US foreign policy circles has been to form a trilateral alliance with South Korea and Japan to present a united front against common security concerns, including China’s growing influence. However, the seeming inability of the two countries to get along has long thwarted this ambition.
“If Japan, South Korea and the US could find a way to cooperate, imagine the influence they could exert over the South China Sea or over 
North Korea

,” Nagy said. “If Japan and Korea could find a way to put their differences aside and with their security capacity, it would be a powerful deterrent to Beijing and Pyongyang.”

South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP
South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP

Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Waseda University, agreed that the schism between Seoul and Tokyo would be of serious concern to Washington, but he believed that US pressure had already been brought to bear on the two neighbours.

“By avoiding talks in Singapore, Japan is doing its best to avoid public problems between the two sides and I believe that talks are already taking place between the two governments on these issues,” he said.

US wants Japan and South Korea to tag team China. But history is in the way

“The US will have told Tokyo and Seoul that it does not want to see more disagreements and that it is very important that they cooperate and calm things down a bit,” he said.

“I am sure that Washington knows exactly what happened when the Korean warship locked onto the Japanese aircraft in January, but they’re not publicly taking sides and instead they’re telling both governments to put the dispute behind them and to move on,” he added.

Other analysts were more pessimistic.

“The dynamics in domestic politics in both countries are currently overwhelming any diplomatic motives to improve bilateral ties,” said Bong Young-sik, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
“For President Moon Jae-in, Japan-bashing is a useful political card to appeal to his supporters while for

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

, giving the impression that South Korea is going too far in pressing Japan is also beneficial for his own political gains.”

Professor Ha Jong-moon at Hansin University said there were “no solutions in sight” to resolve the differences over forced labour and wartime sex slavery, but said there would be a chance to “smooth ruffled feathers” at the G20 summit in Osaka, which takes place at the end of June.
The last time the defence ministers of the two countries met was in October last year, when they held talks on the sidelines of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
Source: SCMP
Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India