China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 23, 2014

China Says Wants Closer Military Ties With Iran. China wants to have closer military ties with Iran, the Chinese defense minister told the visiting head of the Iranian navy on Thursday, state media reported, reaffirming diplomatic links despite controversy over Iran's nuclear plans. Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari that the two armed forces have seen "good cooperation on mutual visits, personnel training and other fields in recent years,” China's official Xinhua news agency reported. "Exchanges between the two navies have been fruitful and their warships have paid successful visits to each other," it cited Chang as saying. "Chang ... stressed China is willing to work with Iran to further pragmatic cooperation and strengthen military-to-military ties." Xinhua cited Sayyari as saying Iran attached great importance to its ties with China and was "ready to enhance bilateral exchanges to push forward cooperation between the two armed forces, especially in naval cooperation.” For the first time ever, two Chinese warships docked at Iran's Bandar Abbas port to take part in a joint naval exercises in the Gulf, Iranian state media reported on Sept. 20. Naval cooperation between Iran and China is aimed at reinforcing Iran's military capability in the Gulf, analysts say, as well as displaying China's plan to exert greater influence and presence beyond East Asia.

China's new Senkakus tactic? Fleets of fishermen. Something funny is going on in the waters around the Senkaku Islands, and it's making Japan nervous. There has been a precipitous decline in the presence of Chinese government surveillance vessels around the group of islets in the East China sea, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China. At the same time, the number of Chinese fishing vessels operating in the area has surged, a development some see Beijing's new approach in pursuing its territorial claims. During the 10th Tokyo-Beijing Forum, held Sept. 28-29 in the Japanese capital, a Chinese military official surprised participants by proposing a long list of steps to prevent a security crisis. His 25 proposals included the establishment of hotlines between the navies and air forces of the two countries and joint efforts to establish common rules concerning maritime operations. He called for "serious working-level discussions" over these proposals. There are also signs of a thaw in the frosty bilateral relations. Beijing has informed Tokyo of its intention to reopen suspended talks to build an emergency maritime communications system.

The myth of China's strategic shrewdness. Imagine if just a few days before China's leader Xi Jinping made his first official visit to Japan, the Chinese navy entered the Japanese territory around Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Should it happen, tensions would boil over, making it hard for the visit to proceed as planned. An incident similar to this hypothetical situation actually happened recently. According to local reports, days before Xi's visit to India, scheduled to begin on Sept. 17, without any warning, Chinese troops crossed into Indian-controlled territory in the disputed Ladakh region. The border in this area is yet to be demarcated, even decades after the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. Over 1,000 Chinese soldiers entered the territory this September. It was still happening after Xi's arrival in India, and meant that as the leader called for friendship and cooperation with India's people, Chinese soldiers remained in India-controlled soil. Some observers believe that Xi allowed the troops to cross the line of control, aiming to keep India in check. But the prevailing view is that the Chinese military acted without Xi's knowledge. Many officials, including those at Japanese and U.S. national security authorities, share the latter view. The purpose of Xi's Indian visit was to express Sino-Indian friendship and lessen the influence of Japan and the U.S. on India. However, the India-China border incursion has seriously damaged any such aims, it also caused embarrassment for the Chinese president. A similar border incident occurred in the spring of 2013, roughly a month before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited India.

Hong Kong protest leader: New strategies needed to pressure government. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement will need to muster more political power to force the government to listen to its demands, said Alex Chow, one of the student leaders of the demonstrations, as the sit-ins stretched on Wednesday. “We will need to further justify our actions and rethink the strategy of [just] calling on more people to occupy the streets,” said Chow, leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “If occupying the streets [alone] could force the government to back down, they already would have.” Chow said protest organizers are now “thinking out how to regroup [and get] that many protesters back to the streets,” while at the same time figuring out “how to bring the campaign from street to the community, and mobilize more power from Hong Kong people to force the government to change.”

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 22, 2014

China Ties to North Korean Ally Decline. Report says Beijing views U.S. as main regional threat. Once described as “closer than lips and teeth,” Chinese relations with fraternal communist ally North Korea declined to the lowest level in decades this year, according to a draft congressional report. “Sino-North Korean relations are at their lowest point in decades,” says the late draft of the annual U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report. “This is driven largely by China’s frustration over North Korea’s destabilizing behaviors since late 2012, including a nuclear test and a high volume of missile tests.” Still, the report said Beijing regards the United States as its main threat in Northeast Asia, the report said and concludes that the regime of Kim Jong Un “has the potential to be one of the most dangerous flashpoints in U.S.-China relations.” According to the commission report, based on hearings and interviews with government and private experts, North Korea is resentful of its dependence on China and views China as “high-handed and condescending.” The North Korean government also believes China has abandoned Marxism-Leninism and was corrupted politically and morally by capitalism.

China suspected of cyberattack on Apple. The Chinese government could be behind a hack on Apple’s cloud storage service, just as the company launches its newest phone in China. Over the weekend, many users in the country inadvertently began giving passwords and sensitive data to hackers that may be working for the Chinese government, security analysts said. Analysts at GreatFire, a website that monitors blocked websites in China, reported that “Chinese authorities are now staging a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on Apple’s iCloud,” referring to a type of cyberattack in which a hacker jumps in between a person and the website they are visiting, relaying messages back and forth but also picking up their data. Responding to the attacks on Tuesday, Apple acknowledged the intrusions and unveiled a new guide for people to verify that they are securely connected to the iCloud storage service.

It's Time to Wake Up: Chinese Hacking Is Eroding U.S. Military Superiority. Countering Chinese cyber espionage must be a top priority. Earlier this month, the latest cyber-attack against J.P. Morgan garnered national headlines. And most Americans are aware of – if not affected by – last year’s Target and this year’s Home Depot data breaches. Yet many Americans know much less about the regular and sophisticated theft of many of the U.S. military’s cutting-edge weapons systems. The cybercrime has reached the point where the FBI has warned American companies about a group of sophisticated Chinese government-backed hackers that has been working for years to steal economic and national security secrets from the U.S. government and private contractors. The notice comes after the Justice Department indicted five People’s Liberation Army officials in May for commercial espionage. Systematic Chinese cyber espionage has resulted in significant damage to U.S. national security. However, Congress seems to be doing little to help. Part of it can surely be chalked up to what has been called “data breach fatigue.” Presumably the same mindset has infected the nation’s capital. But the Pentagon cares about these breaches, and Congress should start paying serious attention. Last year, the Washington Post reported on a classified Defense Department report that revealed Chinese hackers have compromised the designs of more than two dozen U.S. military weapons systems. The list of impacted programs reads like a catalogue of weapons critical to current U.S. military dominance, including the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the Patriot missile system, the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile-defense program, the V-22 Osprey, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and the Littoral Combat Ship. The Washington Free Beacon reports that other data stolen by the Chinese include the P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.

Taiwan Calls For Calm Over Territorial Disputes. Taiwan serves as a “pivot point” from a geostrategic perspective and a cornerstone for Asia-Pacific regional stability, Taiwan’s Navy chief warned last week. Adm. Chen Yeong-kang spoke during the 2014 International Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) Conference sponsored by the Taiwan Navy on Oct. 15. Moreover, the Taiwan Strait is the “maritime gullet” between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, he said. Any “abrupt armed incident or mass military conflict” in the SLOC is possible and would “endanger transport safety.” Taiwan is attempting to contribute to regional stability by broadening new areas of cooperation, such as the “East China Sea Peace Initiative” put forth by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in August 2012. Conference attendees expressed concern the U.S. might ignore Taiwan’s strategic position and Ma’s initiatives, even as regional powers make opposing chess moves in the South China Sea and East China Sea over rocks, reefs and islets. Bickering between China and Japan over territorial rights of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has been increasing in recent years. Taiwan also claims the islands, but has urged for a peaceful resolution to territorial disagreements.

Shanghai Shipyard To Build Second Chinese Designed Aircraft Carrier. China will soon start building its second locally designed aircraft carrier in Shanghai, according to a Canadian report. Kanwa Asian Defence, an English-language monthly defence review produced in Toronto, said Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard was preparing to start work on the carrier. When completed, the carrier and another under construction in Dalian will give the PLA Navy two fully functioning, battle-ready aircraft carriers. The recently completed Liaoning, the refitted former Soviet carrier Varyag, is classed as a training platform, not a full combat vessel, by the navy, since it went into service in September 2012. Counter to many expectations, the new carrier about to be built at the Jiangnan Shipyard will use conventional, not nuclear power. The report was also carried in the Chinese-language sister publication, Kanwa Defence Review. Military experts said China would not attempt a nuclear-powered carrier until a range of issues were resolved, such as the reliability of nuclear-powered engines, crew training and establishing a reliable home port for carrier maintenance. According to the report, Chinese shipbuilding industry sources said the design for the second carrier had not been completed.

Panel: China Expanding Submarine Capabilities. China is constantly improving underwater operations and investments in platforms, sensors, and even oceanographic research, said Thomas Mahnken of Johns Hopkins School of Advance and International Studies during a Monday panel at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. Mahnken says that interest in underwater operations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans should be viewed “as part of an ongoing competition” that involves not only the United States and China but other nations in the region that are looking at power projection and sea denial. Nations have a growing dependence on underwater infrastructure – cables for communications of all sorts, and for mineral and fuel extraction, prompting interested in the military undersea. Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation added that in its recently revised military strategic guidance China recognizes its “maritime regions are blue soil” and China is as unlikely “to give up as Tibet or Hong Kong.” China is not standing still in its broad-based military modernization – developing stealth technologies; new armor; ballistic missiles; submarines; fast-attack craft; surface combatants; and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), he said. “China’s submarines [numbering 50 to 60 vessels and now operating for the first time in the Indian Ocean] will not fight alone,” Chen said. Those investments are part of China’s “new historic mission” to defend areas it considers important to its economic center of gravity and the shifting of its manufacturing centers from the nation’s mountainous interior to its coast, Cheng said. He noted that the Chinese word for deterrence can also mean coercion.

On TV, Hong Kong Openly Debates Democracy. After weeks of protests that have shaken this financial hub of 7.2 million people, residents thought they had seen it all. Then, on Tuesday night, something even more extraordinary happened, on live television: a polite debate between earnest students wearing black “Freedom Now” T-shirts and top Hong Kong leaders over the future of democracy. Five student leaders, hair disheveled, took on the officials, who were old enough to be their parents, in the frank discourse. They spoke Cantonese, the prevailing local Chinese dialect, with simultaneous translations into English and sign language. The students wanted officials to commit to greater liberties in future elections. “What is the next step?” Alex Chow, 24, the secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, asked Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Carrie Lam, 57. Officials in the two-hour debate made no promises and said they were there to listen. Still, the exchange suggested a softening in the crisis that has convulsed Hong Kong for nearly a month and a possible exit ramp from it. It was a remarkably civil and scholarly discussion, all the more so given the generational divide between the sides. Each cited articles of Hong Kong’s Constitution, chapter and verse, to back its points. Even more remarkable was that it was happening in Hong Kong, the former British colony only a few miles from mainland China, where such a freewheeling public political discussion had not been heard in at least a quarter-century, since students occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That protest provoked a bloody crackdown that has reverberated through China ever since.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 20, 2014

US, China pledge to “manage” differences. Ahead of President Obama’s visit to China next month, the U.S. and China pledged to “manage” their differences and cooperate on critical issues facing the world. Secretary of State John Kerry said the two countries are “working hard” together on Ebola, terrorism, and many more issues on Saturday as he started a second day of talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi in Boston. “There are many issues that China and the United States are cooperating on, even as we have some differences that we try to manage effectively,” Kerry said, according to a release by the State Department. “But right now, particularly on Ebola, on Afghanistan, on the Democratic Republic of North – of Korea, the North Korea nuclear situation, on Iran particularly, and on ISIL and counterterrorism, and on climate change. There are many areas where we are working hard,” he added. Yang added that he expects the meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be a “successful” one. “We need to work together to build up even more cooperation between China and the United States,” Yang said. Kerry said the two nations are also working together on efforts to rein in nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, climate change and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Recently, Washington and Beijing have clashed over territorial disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and alleged Chinese cyber spying.

China says it's hard to resume cyber security talks with U.S. Resuming cyber security cooperation between China and the United States would be difficult because of "mistaken U.S. practices", China's top diplomat told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Cyber security is an irritant to bilateral ties. On Wednesday the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said hackers it believed were backed by the Chinese government had launched more attacks on U.S. companies, a charge China rejected as unfounded. In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking American firms, prompting China to shut down a bilateral working group on cyber security.

China Growth Seen Slowing Sharply Over Decade. China’s growth will slow sharply during the coming decade to 3.9% as its productivity nose dives and the country’s leaders fail to push through tough measures to remake the economy, according to a report expected to come out Monday. Such an outcome could batter an already fragile global recovery. But the report by the business-research group the Conference Board also finds that multinational companies in China would benefit. Lean times would give foreign firms more local talent to choose from. Foreign companies and investors could also expect “more hospitable” treatment from Communist Party and government officials and a wider selection of Chinese firms they could acquire, according to the report, which was shared with The Wall Street Journal. Foreign companies should realize that China is in “a long, slow fall in economic growth,” the report said. “The competitive game has changed from one of investment-driven expansion to one of fighting for market share.” Officials representing China’s State Council, or cabinet, referred questions to its National Bureau of Statistics, which didn’t respond. Senior officials of the Communist Party are gathering in Beijing for a major policy meeting that opens Monday and is expected to discuss the slowdown.

China is again slowly turning in on itself. Deng Xiaoping is back… but only on television. This year — the 110th anniversary of his birth — Beijing is sparing no expense to commemorate the former leader who launched China's modern reform era in the late 1970s, bringing decades of blazing economic growth and steady resurgence as a world power. Unsurprisingly, Deng's mantle is being deployed for political ends. A new 48-episode documentary on his life airing on state networks draws a thinly veiled analogy between Deng and Xi Jinping, China's current top leader. The suggestion is clear. Xi is a new Deng. And when top Communist Party leaders assemble at their annual conference this week, China will witness a revival of the spirit of reform. But China's reform era is over. A different — and more unstable — one is dawning. Ideologically, Deng decisively broke with Maoist isolationism in the late 1970s. China opened up. Students flowed out; outside influences flowed in. When other party leaders criticized such policies for allowing dangerous foreign influences to circulate, Deng famously responded, “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” Now, China is again slowly turning in on itself. New party slogans stress “traditional” culture and values. The language of Confucianism is increasingly being invoked to legitimize a new dynasty of red emperors. Windows are being shut. State researchers are being warned against foreign collaboration. Archives previously open to Western scholars are being closed off. And Beijing is reaching for a fly swatter — or a hammer — to deal with influences it perceives as threats. Liberal public interest lawyers are being subjected to a chilling crackdown; Christian churches in Zhejiang province to a selective demolition campaign; Hong Kong pro-democracy media to increasing intimidation.

The U.S. Needs a New Foreign Policy (Part IV). In our three previous installments we discussed how President Obama's six year experiment in retrenching American power has failed. It has created more global disorder, magnified threats to American security, and has shifted America's strategic posture in damaging ways that diminish our ability to shape the international environment. We also took stock of America's resources across the full spectrum of national power, and identified areas needing bolstering as well as areas of strength. In this essay we look forward and offer principles for action that can reverse the decline of American power and influence in the world. The principles below are not just a checklist of discrete items. Rather, they reinforce each other, because a successful strategy requires the integration of each principle with the others. In some cases below we also suggest specific policy initiatives to implement these principles. We should also note that while the Constitution makes national security policy primarily the domain of the Executive Branch, Congress and the private sector also have essential roles to play. The responsibility of restoring American strength falls on all of us.

For Japan, Small Gesture Holds Great Importance. The Japanese government has no shortage of issues to worry about — strengthening a faltering economic recovery and trying to persuade a skeptical public to accept a return to nuclear power. But even with all that, the country’s leaders are devoting their energy to a seemingly small gesture: a hoped-for handshake. The gesture has outsized importance because of the two men who would be joining hands: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Xi Jinping of China, the tough-minded leaders of Asia’s two biggest economies who have circled each other warily for almost two years. The Japanese hope the greeting, and a possible short meeting to follow, would be the start of repairing relations that have taken a pummeling over disputed islands as well as disagreements over the handling of Japan’s wartime history.

Gunfire Exchanged Across Korean Boundary. South and North Korean troops exchanged gunfire across their tense border on Sunday, even as the South reaffirmed its desire to hold high-level talks with the North. Ten North Korean soldiers approached the military demarcation line near Paju, north of Seoul, several times on Sunday, prompting South Korean border guards to broadcast warnings for them not to come any farther south, said a South Korean military spokesman, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity. The last time the North Korean troops approached the line, around 5:40 p.m. on Sunday, South Korean troops fired warning shots, and that prompted a brief exchange of fire between guard posts on the two sides, the spokesman said. No casualties were reported.

Vietnam Plans Hotline to China to Manage Tensions.​ Vietnam said that it and China have agreed to set up an emergency hotline between their defense ministries to help resolve disputes, as the neighbors struggle to manage increasingly tense disputes over the South China Sea. “It’s necessary for the two countries, particularly the two armies, to continue cooperation, maintain a healthy and stable relation and resolve disputes,’’ Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said at a meeting Friday with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao , a Vietnamese Defense Ministry statement said Saturday. Chinese state media didn’t mention the hotline, but was positive in tone about Mr. Thanh’s three-day visit. In a meeting Saturday, Gen. Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of the Communist Party’s military commission, called for “positive energy” between the militaries, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 17, 2014

America Must Face Up to the China Challenge. Regular readers of the National Interest enjoy a rich flow of essays debating the consequences of China’s return as a great power and how U.S. policy makers should respond to the challenge China’s rise will create for U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. But elsewhere in Washington’s corridors of power and across the country, the subject of China’s rise, its implications for U.S. and regional security, and how U.S. foreign policy should adjust to this development is commonly treated like the proverbial elephant in the room, clearly present, but not clearly discussed. U.S. policy makers and the American public must face up to the fact that China’s return as a great power is inevitably creating a contest that will likely evolve into the most consequential and taxing security challenge the United States will face in the decades ahead. It will be the most consequential because the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region is of paramount importance to America’s economy, its standard of living, its future prosperity and its own role as a global power. It will be the most taxing, because China will have at its disposal far more resources than the Soviet Union ever dreamed of having. The Cold War security competition demanded much of the United States; the China challenge will demand as least as much, if not more. The China challenge is the elephant in most rooms in Washington perhaps because the magnitude of the challenge is so unsettling to policy makers and planners. Nevertheless, U.S. policy makers and America’s political system will inevitably have to face up to the China challenge. Indeed, there are four harsh realities with which America must soon come to terms.

China building 10,000-tonne coastguard cutters. China is building two large coastguard ships with displacements estimated to be 10,000 tonnes, Chinese military news websites reported on 13 October. The ships are under construction at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai and will be by far the largest coastguard vessels to enter Chinese service. The largest vessels currently in service are search-and-rescue vessels that displace around 4,000 tonnes, although plans are under way for a 5,000-tonne class. The ships will be operated by the China Coast Guard (CCG), which was formed in March 2013 by amalgamating a number of maritime agencies. CCG ships are usually unarmed, but recent new additions to the fleet have been equipped with very large water cannon that appear to be able to cause serious damage to other vessels.

China, Vietnam Pledge To 'Address And Control' Maritime Disputes.  China and Vietnam have agreed to "address and control" maritime disputes, state media said on Friday, as differences over the potentially energy-rich South China Sea have roiled relations between the two countries and other neighbors. Ties between the Communist countries sank to a three-decade low this year after China deployed a $1 billion-oil rig to the disputed waters which straddle key shipping lanes. Vietnam claims the portion of the sea as its exclusive economic zone, and the rig's deployment sparked a wave of violent protests in Vietnam. The two countries should "properly address and control maritime differences" to create favorable conditions for bilateral cooperation, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan. "Thanks to efforts from both sides, China-Vietnam relations have ridden out the recent rough patch and gradually recovered," the official Xinhua news agency cited Li as saying. Xinhua said Dung agreed and endorsed boosting "cooperation in infrastructure, finance and maritime exploration.” The comments were a reiteration of earlier pledges by leaders from the two countries.

China’s Naval Chief Visited Disputed Islands In The South China Sea, Taiwan Says. In the latest turn in the continuing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s top intelligence official has said that the Chinese naval chief surveyed islands in the strategic waterway where China has been carrying out land reclamation work despite protests from other countries in the region, Hong Kong and Taiwanese news media reported on Thursday. Speaking at a meeting in Taipei on Wednesday of the Foreign and Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan, Lee Hsiang-chou, the director general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, said that Adm. Wu Shengli, the commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, conducted a survey of five islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago last month. Calling the trip “unprecedented,” Mr. Lee said that Admiral Wu had made the weeklong trip on a military ship in order to inspect the land reclamation work that China has been conducting on the islands in recent months, according to Takungpao, a Hong Kong newspaper. Takungpao, as well as the Taiwan-based United Daily News, also reported Mr. Lee as saying that President Xi Jinping of China had personally approved the reclamation work, which alarmed Southeast Asian nations that also claim sovereignty over the Spratly Island group when it was revealed earlier this year. Using a dredging vessel, China has been slowly turning several reefs into islands. Other claimants fear that Beijing wants to build military facilities on these land features, including an air base, in order to strengthen its claims.

Hong Kong Protesters Vow to Hold Ground. Pro-democracy protesters braced for further police action on Friday and vowed to stand firm against any new attempts to remove their encampments after officers partially cleared one of the city’s protest sites earlier in the day. Authorities have been trying for days to dislodge the protesters from busy city streets, but risk deepening the standoff against the students, even as government officials attempt to open negotiations with protest leaders. The police clearance of the protest site in the city’s Mong Kok district on Friday morning “raises strong doubts about the government’s sincerity to engage in dialogue,” Occupy Central with Love and Peace, one of the city’s main protest groups, said Friday evening. Earlier in the day, protesters voluntarily left the Mong Kok encampment after hundreds of officers descended on the site and ordered the crowds to pack up and leave. Clearing that site was expected to be difficult because more radical activists had gathered there, and there had been scuffles in the area earlier between protesters, opponents and police. But the initial police success was tempered a few hours later when protesters started to rebuild their camp, closing one lane of traffic. Tents re-emerged and trolleys of water and food were carted in as police lined the block and watched. By Friday evening, local media reported that crowds in Mong Kok were once again growing. Hong Kong police spokesman Steve Hui said on Friday afternoon that Mong Kok remained a high-risk zone and urged that the occupiers there leave immediately.

Leaders of China and Japan Are Likely to Meet, Briefly, for First Time. The leaders of Japan and China are likely to meet for the first time next month on the sidelines of a regional summit in Beijing, shaking hands in a carefully negotiated display of good will that Japanese officials say they hope will lower tensions between the two estranged Asian powers. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations, said the hoped-for meeting between Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, had been months in the making and involved behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts by both nations. While they have not received final word from the Chinese side, they said they were now optimistic that the two leaders would meet briefly — perhaps for about 15 minutes — during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, or APEC, a summit of regional leaders that Mr. Xi will host. In another sign of rapprochment, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported on Friday that Mr. Abe had shaken hands with China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, at a dinner for Asian and European leaders in Milan. The officials said that while the meeting between the two leaders would most likely be too short to delve into issues of substance, they hoped it would be rich in symbolism. They said they hoped a meeting would open the way for a broader thaw in relations between China and Japan, Asia’s two largest economies, which have been in a deep freeze since the Japanese government purchased disputed islands two years ago.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 16, 2014

CNO Greenert: U.S. Navy Needs To Engage More With China. The key to a peaceful maritime future between China and the U.S. will be rooted in additional engagement between the countries’ navies. U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said at the CSIS and U.S. Naval Institute’s Maritime Security Dialogue on Tuesday. “We all recognize the Chinese Navy is big and growing. It’s capable and they will continue to be more capable but they need to be a responsible neighbor in the Western Pacific as they expand – as they are – operating in the Indian Ocean,” Greenert said. “I think it’s an opportunity that if don’t handle it well, it could be an increasing challenge. Some would say a threat. But first of all we need to recognize its an opportunity.” So far this year, Greenert has met with his People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) counterpart Adm. Wu Shengli five times – more than any other Navy chief, Greenert said. “I think he recognizes that a growing navy is also one that has to be responsible. We have to learn to coexist in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and everywhere,” Greenert said. “He believes that miscalculation is one of our threats and our fear is that we get kicked off into something we don’t want to.” In April, China, the U.S. and several other Western Pacific nations signed the Conduct for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) – an at-sea etiquette guide when naval ships meet in the region. “We both agree that we have to enable those 40 years command officers with the right processes,” Greenert said. CUES was implemented after an incident when U.S. guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG-63) had a near collision with a Chinese amphibious ship in December. Greenert also said that China and the U.S. plan to conduct more exchanges in the future, starting with a group of PLAN sailors traveling to Newport, R.I. later this year. “It’s really about engagement,” Greenert said. “We’ve to engage if we want to shape. I don’t see any way around it.”

FBI Warns About Chinese Hacker Group; Beijing Denies Spying. The FBI on Wednesday issued a private warning to industry that a group of highly skilled Chinese government hackers was in the midst of a long-running campaign to steal valuable data from U.S. companies and government agencies. “These state-sponsored hackers are exceedingly stealthy and agile by comparison with the People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398 ... whose activity was publicly disclosed and attributed by security researchers in February 2013,” said the FBI in its alert, which referred to a Chinese military hacker unit exposed in a widely publicized report by the security firm Mandiant. Indeed, U.S. officials say privately, the activities of this group are just as significant – if not more so – than those of Unit 61398. The U.S. government has publicly called on the Chinese government to halt its widespread cybertheft of corporate secrets, but Beijing has denied such activities. When the Justice Department in May announced the indictments of five PLA officials on charges of commercial cyberespionage, the government responded by pulling out of talks to resolve differences between the two nations over cyberspace issues. The FBI’s alert, obtained by The Washington Post, coincided with the release of a preliminary report on the same hackers by a coalition of security firms, which have dubbed the group Axiom. “The Axiom threat group is a well-resourced and sophisticated cyber espionage group that has been operating unfettered for at least four years, and most likely more,” said the report, issued by Novetta Solutions, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm that heads the coalition.

Taiwan Considers Permanent Armed Ships For Disputed South China Sea Island. Taiwan is considering stationing armed vessels permanently on a disputed South China Sea island, officials said, a move bound to renew friction in a region claimed almost wholly by China, with Vietnam already dismissing such a plan as "illegal.” The potentially energy-rich Spratly islands are one of the main flashpoints in the South China Sea, with claims also from Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, and are closely watched by the United States after China placed a giant oil rig in nearby waters also claimed by Vietnam. Itu Aba, also known as Tai Ping, is the only island in the Spratlys large enough to accommodate a port - currently under construction. Taiwan had previously said the port, expected to be completed in late 2015, would allow 3,000-tonne naval frigates and coastguard cutters to dock there. Officials at Taiwan's Coast Guard, which administers Itu Aba, and Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, which stations troops there, said the port could become the permanent home of armed vessels. "We are discussing this possibility," said Chen Yeong-kang, chief of Taiwan's navy, acknowledging that "it is a very sensitive issue.” Shih Yi-che, head of communications at Taiwan's Coast Guard, said: "The purpose of this action would be to promulgate the Republic of China's sovereignty and power in defending our territory around Tai Ping Island." Rivals China and Taiwan share claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, a legacy of the Chinese civil war when the Communists split from the Nationalists and took control of the Chinese mainland in 1949. The Nationalists settled on Taiwan, and as the "Republic of China,” still claim to be the legitimate rulers of greater China.

Hagel Devises New Mission for Army: Coastal Defense Force. After two days of US Army top leadership extolling the virtues of putting US boots on the ground across Asia-Pacific to train and advise allies, both old and new, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday suggested a new Army mission at the annual AUSA convention: a coastal defense force. In a speech to a military and industry audience that mostly shied away from program specifics, the secretary suggested the Army should try and “broaden its role by leveraging its current suite of long-range precision-guided missiles, rockets, artillery and air defense systems.” Hagel said these capabilities “would provide multiple benefits, such as hardening the defenses of US installations; enabling greater mobility of Navy Aegis destroyers and other joint force assets; and helping ensure the free flow of commerce.” He also insisted that “this concept is worthy of consideration going forward” and that “such a mission is not as foreign to the Army as it might seem — after the War of 1812, the Army was tasked with America’s coastal defense for over 100 years.” Transitioning back to the service’s comfort zone, the secretary bemoaned the budget cuts that have landed on the federal government, saying that due to reductions to the Pentagon’s top line budget Army readiness levels have fallen “short of what I believe is sufficient to defend our nation and our allies with minimum risk.” Despite this dim view of readiness, 12 out of 37 brigade combat teams are still trained to the “highest levels of readiness,” he said, a marked increase from last year’s event when Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno claimed that only one brigade was at the highest level of readiness.

Beating Of Democracy Advocate In Hong Kong Fuels Public Outcry. The videotaped beating of a Hong Kong democracy advocate, apparently by the police, opened a new political fault line in the city on Wednesday, adding to volatile tensions between protesters who have occupied major roads for weeks and the beleaguered government. The video of the advocate, Ken Tsang, being kicked and beaten in a predawn melee, along with pictures of his bruised body, became an emotion-laden focus for critics of the government after a night of mayhem near the city’s heart. They gave a face to accusations that pro-democracy demonstrators have been targeted by an overzealous police force. A video filmed by TVB, a usually pro-government television station, showed a bearded man in a black T-shirt being led away by officers in civilian clothes and black police vests, his hands behind him. The video then jumps to a scene in which a man lying on the ground is kicked and hit many times by several figures who appear to be police officers. TVB said the beating had lasted about four minutes. Outside the North Point Police Station on Wednesday night, Mr. Tsang said he had been “brutally” assaulted by the police during the protest and again at the police station. He said that, because he might pursue legal action, he would not make further comments or answer questions.

Hong Kong leader ready to talk with protesters. Hong Kong's leader is ready to participate in talks with pro-democracy protesters, the city's embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Thursday. The announcement is a potential breakthrough in a bitter standoff between the semiautonmous territory's Beijing-backed authorities and student-led groups who have been taking part in protests that have rocked the city for nearly three weeks. "As long as students or other sectors in Hong Kong are prepared to focus on this issue, yes we are ready, we are prepared to start the dialogue," Leung told reporters in Hong Kong. "This is why over the past few days … we expressed the wish to students that we'd like to start the dialogue to discuss universal suffrage as soon as we can, and hopefully within the following week," he said.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 15, 2014

Why Is The U.S. Navy Practicing For War With China? The U.S. prefers to talk about engaging with China, but it is clear its navy is now also practicing for a potential conflict. You don't get invited out on a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier all that often, and after writing this I might not get invited back for a while. On the flight deck of the USS George Washington the noise is like nothing I've ever experienced. A few feet from where I am standing, 11 F/A-18 Super Hornets are lining up to be launched. The first one is hooked on to the catapult; there is a massive crescendo as its engines roar to full re-heat. Then in a cloud of white steam the 15-tonne jet is thrown down the deck and off the end of the ship like a toy. Seconds later the deck crew, in their multi-coloured smocks, are calmly lining up the next one. Watching the U.S. Navy close up like this it is hard not to be slightly awed. No other navy in the world has quite the same toys, or shows them off with the same easy charm. But as I stand on the deck recording a link on how "the U.S. is practicing for war with China" I can see my host from the Navy public affairs office wincing. You get used to hearing the PR rhetoric: The U.S. Navy "is not practicing for war with any specific country.” But the U.S. Navy has not assembled two whole carrier battle groups and 200 aircraft off the coast of Guam for a jolly either. This is about practicing what the Pentagon now calls "Air Sea Battle.” It is a concept first put forward in 2009, and it is specifically designed to counter the rising threat from China. For the last 10 years China's most important, and oft repeated, political slogan has been "peaceful rise.” It is designed to reassure Beijing's neighbors its growing military might is no threat. But since President Xi Jinping came to power last year there has been a distinct change. China is now asserting claims well beyond its own coastline. Its ships are aggressively patrolling the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, long controlled by Japan. It is spending billions building new islands in the South China Sea. But from Tokyo to Taipei, Manila to Hanoi, there are governments that are very happy to see America's great carrier battle groups sailing these waters.

Violent Clashes Between Police And Demonstrators Erupt In Hong Kong. In the most intense confrontation since the early days of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, hundreds of police officers used pepper spray in the early hours of Wednesday to scatter hundreds of demonstrators who had barricaded a harbor-front road overnight. The conflict appeared to last less than half an hour, and the two sides settled into an uneasy standoff nearing dawn. But the crackdown, which the police said had included the arrests of 45 protesters, further escalated tensions in this Asian financial center as the authorities showed growing impatience with demonstrations that have choked traffic for more than two weeks. The swift police action to reopen the road near the offices of Hong Kong’s leader came hours after the Chinese government appeared to ramp up the pressure on Hong Kong’s authorities to act. In comments carried by the China News Service, an official news agency, the Chinese government made its highest-level denunciation yet of the protesters, accusing them of pursuing a conspiracy to challenge Beijing’s power over the city.

As Kim Jong Un Returns, North Korea Becomes Slightly More Open. Just like that, Kim Jong Un was back. For weeks on end, the portly North Korean leader’s sudden disappearance from public view was the source of wild theories ranging from broken ankles because of excessive cheese consumption to being ousted in a military coup. Even by the standards of North Korea’s bizarre personality cult, the global attention to Kim’s whereabouts was notable. Then, with no explanation, the third-generation leader of the world’s only communist dynasty reappeared, smiling while giving his trademark “field guidance” at an apartment complex and an energy institute. All that was different was a cane, evidence for one of the least exciting theories: that he simply had something wrong with his leg. And with that, it was back to business as usual. His return will be a blow to comedy show hosts, tabloid headline writers and armchair Kiminologists. But the whole incident does reveal something about the North Korean regime: The current leader is relatively more open than his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, “Eternal President” Kim Il Sung. Neither ever publicly acknowledged so much as having a wife, let alone any other human frailties. The first Kim was always carefully photographed to avoid showing the huge goiter on his neck, while the second suffered a series of maladies – including an apparent stroke in 2008 – that were never mentioned in the North Korean press. But in Tuesday’s reports, there was the youngest Kim, thought to be 31 or 32, propped up on a cane at the apartment complex, holding the cane as he rode around on an electric cart, leaning on it as he sat on a couch.

Navy, Marines, Coast Guard to release revised maritime strategy. For the first time in seven years, the Navy and its sister services soon will release an updated version of their global maritime strategy, the service’s top officer said Tuesday. The revisions are now being reviewed by the commandants of the Coast Guard and Marine Corps. The service chiefs of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps have to sign off before the new strategy is released. “We’re getting pretty close to that,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told audience members at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Greenert said an update was needed because of changes in the strategic environment as well as new policy guidance, including the 2012 national defense strategy and the 2014 quadrennial defense review. Since the last version of "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" was released in 2007, China’s naval capabilities have surged and disruptive technologies such as cyberattacks have opened up new avenues of warfare. The Navy and the rest of the U.S. military also began an effort to execute a pivot to Asia while still dealing with crises in the Middle East and Europe.

China-Indonesia sign remote-sensing MoU. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Indonesian Maritime Security Coordinating Board (IMSCB) have signed an agreement supporting the latter's efforts to enhance offshore security. The CNSA said in a statement on 10 October that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) - signed on 6 October - features the transmission of CNSA remote sensing data to IMSCB ground stations covering the vast Indonesian archipelago. The data is intended to improve IMSCB early-warning capabilities and support maritime law enforcement and disaster relief response. The MoU follows the signing in 2012 of a China-Indonesia maritime collaboration agreement and the establishment of a bilateral maritime co-operation committee.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 10, 2014

U.S. Taiwan Policy Threatens a Face-Off With China. The re-emergence of cross-Strait tensions would threaten stability in East Asia in a fundamental way. Taiwan celebrates its National Day on Friday commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising, which eventually brought down the Qing Dynasty and led in 1912 to the creation of the Republic of China—today more commonly known as Taiwan. Taiwan’s remarkable economic progress was followed by the evolution to what is now a thriving democracy, the first in a Chinese society. It is one of the great success stories of the past 50 years. However, Taiwan’s future, and American interests, are imperiled by a lack of U.S. support to counter Taiwanese fears of economic marginalization or to balance the pressure of China’s military buildup and its refusal to renounce the use of force to bring Taiwan under China’s control. If the U.S. doesn’t change course, the next 18 months could witness a significant increase in U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan. China has dealt with Taiwan’s democracy with more wisdom than it has shown in Hong Kong, but that should not be taken for granted. The U.S. has a stake in China’s continuing to emphasize carrots rather than sticks in its relations with Taiwan, as well as in encouraging moderation in Taiwan. Next month, Taiwan goes to the polls for countrywide municipal elections that will set the tone for its January 2016 presidential election. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) is in a precarious position given the deep unpopularity of President Ma Ying-jeou’s government—a result of economic underperformance and food-related scandals that have brought government competence into question. The prime challenger is the Democratic Progressive Party, which is committed in the long term to Taiwan’s de jure independence from China—a position that is anathema in Beijing. The DPP is well positioned to win many major municipal seats, including the crown jewel of Taipei City. Such an outcome would propel the DPP into the lead for the presidential race. Since 2008 China has concluded multiple cultural and economic deals, including airline agreements resulting in more than 500 weekly flights (compared with almost none in 2008) and a liberalization of tourist visits from China, which took the number of mainland visitors to Taiwan to 2.8 million last year. China pursues a dual strategy of economic carrots, such as improved market access, along with military sticks. The latter include quantitative and qualitative improvements to M-9 and M-11 ballistic missiles based across the Taiwan strait as well as deployment of type 071 amphibious boats. The Chinese navy is also growing in overall strength across the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese Fishing Captain Killed in Clash With South Korean Coast Guard. A Chinese fishing boat captain died on Friday after being shot during a clash with the South Korean Coast Guard, which sought to impound the Chinese ship that it said was illegally fishing in South Korean waters. The Chinese captain’s 80-ton boat was fishing in waters about 90 miles west of Wangdeung-do, an island off western South Korea, when a coast guard ship tried to seize it, South Korean Coast Guard officials said. Soon, four more Chinese fishing boats surrounded the South Korean ship and a violent scuffle erupted, the officials said. A South Korean officer fired pistol shots as a warning, and the 45-year-old Chinese captain was apparently hit by one of the bullets, said a coast guard official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there had not been an official government announcement. The Chinese captain was moved by helicopter to a hospital in Mokpo, a city in the southwestern tip of South Korea, where he was pronounced dead. The hospital later released an X-ray photo that showed a bullet in his stomach. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the shots were fired while the Chinese fishermen used homemade weapons to resist the South Korean officers who boarded their ship. The fishermen yanked the helmet off an officer and tried to strangle him, the report said, citing South Korean Coast Guard officials.

Lawmakers urge Obama to speak up for Hong Kong protesters. A bipartisan group of nearly two dozen lawmakers urged President Obama Thursday to publicly support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Obama should "speak out personally" to support the protesters and his administration should "take demonstrable, meaningful steps to help ensure that Beijing maintains its commitments to the people of Hong Kong,” the 21 lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president. The group, spearheaded by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said they "strongly support the Hong Kong people's aspiration for universal suffrage and full democracy." "Hong Kong’s economic prosperity and position as Asia's 'world city' is rooted in fundamental rights, including freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, and the press," the letter said. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) are among the lawmakers who signed the letter. A week of mass protests in support of democratic reforms in Hong Kong gained international attention and sparked worries that authorities in China would respond with a violent crack down. Beijing has restricted democratic reforms in Hong Kong and is requiring that only candidates vetted by the Communist Party can run for chief executive. Lawmakers accused Beijing of "backsliding on its commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration," under which China promised to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms. The lawmakers said the president has authority to suspend some trade ties and government contacts if China does not honor its promises. The White House has urged Hong Kong authorities to "exercise restraint,” but the lawmakers said the U.S. should offer more support for the protesters.

China Deploys A Mechanized ‘Peace Mission’. At 7,000 troops, the Peace Mission 2014 military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was not large militarily. But its geopolitical importance was considerable: It was the biggest exercise to date for a budding anti-democratic alliance that includes two nuclear powers and could soon gain three more. Annual “Peace Mission” military exercises usually have highlighted increasing SCO counter-terrorism cooperation. But Peace Mission 2014 in late August allowed host China to display two decades of investment in joint-force mechanized warfare more appropriate for invasion. This was likely encouraged by the exercise scenario of “a separatist organization, supported by an international terrorist organization, plotting terrorist incidents and hatching a coup plot to divide the country,” according to China’s Xinhua newspaper. Peace Mission 2014 included 5,000 troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), 900 from Russia, 500 from Kyrgyzstan, 300 from Kazakhstan and 200 from Tajikistan. Russia brought the largest force: 13 T-72 tanks, 40 BMP-2 armored personnel carriers (APC), four Su-25 attack aircraft, eight Mi-8 helicopters and two Il-76 transports. Kazakhstan sent Su-27 fighters and a small airborne troop unit to jump with a PLA airborne group. But it was China that “won” the power display, first by using its premier army unit, the 38th Group Army (GA) of the Beijing Military Region, and by hosting Peace Mission 2014 at one of its most modern mechanized training and simulation bases in Zhurihe, Inner Mongolia. China contributed 50 aircraft and 440 other ground force weapons in the exercise and set up two digital joint command centers and a separate intelligence information-sharing center.

No show: North Korea's leader Kim misses Party birthday. The wait continues — and the speculation mounts — after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un failed to show up Friday for a key political anniversary in Pyongyang. Kim has not been seen in public since Sept. 3, sparking rumors of a serious illness or even a coup in the highly secretive state whose nuclear ambitions rattle the region. In Seoul, a South Korean official played down the significance of Kim's absence. "It seems that Kim Jong Un's rule is in normal operation," Lim Byeong-cheol, spokesman for the south's unification ministry, told a press briefing Friday, reported the Yonhap news agency. He cited the North's dispatch of a top-level party-military delegation to the south last week, during which a senior figure conveyed Kim's greetings to South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Hi absence comes as North and South Korea traded fire Friday after the North shot at a South Korean propaganda balloon, according to an Associated Press report. Although prolonged absences by North Korean leaders are not uncommon, this marks the longest such disappearance since Kim became Supreme Leader following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in 2011. The most recent television footage showed Kim, thought to be 30 or 31, limping heavily. State media, in a rare comment on the ruling dynasty's personal matters, later said Kim was suffering from unspecified "discomfort." Gout seems a contender, given Kim's reported love of rich foods and alcohol, but the Reuters news agency, quoting an unnamed source Friday, said Kim had hurt his leg, required 100 days to recover, and remained in full control. Kim was injured when he joined generals he had ordered to perform physical drills, the source said. North Korea's state-run television is usually dominated by propaganda footage of Kim providing "on-the-spot guidance" to people at farms, factories, schools and seemingly in every other aspect of North Korean life.

PACAF Commander: Despite Intercepts, Most East China Sea Encounters Safe. China's declaration last year of an air-defense identification zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea has increased tensions with Japan, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Pacific said Thursday. There have been unsafe midair encounters, like a Chinese jet that came within 30 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane in August, Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle told reporters. But interactions between Chinese, Japanese and U.S. aircraft in the area have been very safe to a large extent, he said. "The good news is that both nations, and the U.S. included, have been very good about staying separate and not getting into a case where we are too close or we risk miscalculation," Carlisle told a group of reporters at the headquarters of Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii. The U.S. is talking to China about the unsafe intercepts, he said. The unsafe encounters have generally been isolated to one place and limited to one Chinese unit, he said. Carlisle said he believes Chinese leaders know this situation and they are addressing the matter. "They have made statements that they want to be safe, they know the cost of miscalculation and the tragedy that could happen," he said. China declared the zone last November, saying all aircraft entering the area must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing. It said it would "identify, monitor, control and react" to any air threats or unidentified flying objects coming from the sea. The zone includes a chain of islands — known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China — that are controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing. Carlisle said the zone has put Chinese planes and Japanese planes in close proximity more frequently as each flies inside what they consider to be their own air defense-identification zones.
Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 09, 2014

Gauging China’s Role In A North Korean Surprise. How significant was China’s role in the surprise visit of an exceptionally senior North Korean delegation to the South Korean capital, Seoul, last weekend? What did the appearance of Hwang Pyong-so, considered to be the top-ranking figure in the country after Kim Jong-un, achieve? Was the visit just a PR gambit to show support for the North Korean sports team at the closing of the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea’s third-largest city, on Saturday? Or did it portend more serious negotiations? Those were the unexpected questions being asked at a long-scheduled conference on North Asia held in Seoul early this week, hosted by the South Korean media group JoongAng Ilbo and the British think tank Chatham House. The main speaker, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, now a man-about-the-globe who gives talks on China and Asia, put his view plainly: ”Our good friends in Beijing have been very active on this.” Mr. Rudd, a Mandarin speaker who once hosted President Xi Jinping in Australia (Mr. Xi was vice president at the time) and is considered well informed about China, did not offer specifics. But he suggested the reasoning: “The Chinese leadership desires a good relationship with South Korea. They know that South Korea’s bottom line for future improvement in that relationship lies in what our Chinese friends can do to induce a more cooperative attitude on the part of those in the North.” Kim Heungkyu, a professor of political science at Ajou University in South Korea, held that Beijing almost surely played no direct role in the visit but that the cool attitude Mr. Xi has shown toward North Korea – a marked change from the business-as-usual relationship that prevailed under his predecessor, Hu Jintao – laid the groundwork. Mr. Kim said China had faithfully abided by the United Nations sanctions that were imposed on North Korea after its third nuclear test last year. Indeed, he said, China has gone further in squeezing the regime by tightening the flow of cash that Chinese traders have traditionally taken into North Korea for business deals.

In Kim Jong-un’s Absence, Rumors About Him Swirl in North Korea. In most countries, footage showing the leader with a limp might have generated some curiosity. But in tightly controlled North Korea, those images — coupled with the disappearance of the country’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, from public view for five weeks — have generated endless debate among foreign officials and analysts always on the lookout for upheaval in one of the world’s most dangerous police states. The disappearance is especially notable because Mr. Kim, like his father and grandfather before him, has used public appearances accompanied by fawning subjects as a key tool of the propaganda machine that has long held the state together.For now, American and South Korean officials say that while they think the young leader might be ailing, there is no sign that there has been a coup. After three generations of Kims, any shift away from dynastic rule would probably involve unusual movements of the country’s million-plus military or its people, and none have been detected by the South. And the fact that North Korea sent three officials widely seen as the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the country’s hierarchy to attend the recent closing ceremony of the Asian Games in South Korea, and that during their visit they agreed to resume official dialogue with Seoul, suggests that Mr. Kim remains in control, according to officials and analysts in South Korea. In Washington, officials have waved off coup rumors as the wishful thinking of people who have spent years looking for signs of regime collapse and been serially disappointed.

U.S., Japan Offer Interim Report on Expanded Defense Pact. The U.S. and Japan will expand cooperation in several areas including missile defense, surveillance and maritime security under new bilateral-defense guidelines to be adopted as early as this year. The two allies are currently reviewing the guidelines for the first time since 1997, with the aim of giving Japan a greater role in maintaining peace in East Asia—where China’s military expansion and North Korea’s growing weapons program are keeping tensions high. On Wednesday, they released an interim report on the revision, though few new details were provided. The revision follows the decision of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July to allow an expansion of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces activities. The revised guidelines will reflect this change in Japan and “strengthen the alliance and enhance deterrence,” the two governments said in the report. For Washington, the revision will adjust bilateral cooperation to reflect its policy to “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region,” the report said. “The updated guidelines will equip the U.S.-Japan security alliance to respond to the modern threat environment,” a U.S. State Department official said. The guidelines will also detail how the two nations would work together in case of an armed attack against a country that is in a close relationship with Japan. Such cooperation became possible as a result of Japan’s latest move to reinterpret its constitution that limits the role of its military to self-defense. However, Wednesday’s report provided few new examples for how the domestic change in Japan affects the security alliance between Tokyo and Washington. Getting in the way of any substantial changes is the Japanese government’s decision to delay the passage of necessary but politically sensitive domestic defense-related laws during the current parliamentary session. The Abe administration cited the revision of the guidelines as one of the reasons to rush its controversial decision to allow the SDF troops to engage in “collective self-defense”—coming to the rescue of allies even when Japan itself isn’t under attack. Mr. Abe has regularly pointed to the need for Japan to step up its military role to maintain an effective and stable alliance with the U.S., its most important ally. But opposition parties are critical of his hawkish stance, saying the change could pull Japan into war in other parts of the world.

Maritime Piracy On The Rise In Southeast Asia. Maritime piracy continues to be a major threat to global supply chains, though the pirates have moved to different oceans. The number of pirate attacks has declined sharply in waters off Somalia as countermeasures taken by Japan, China, South Korea and other countries have paid off. But piracy is becoming increasingly rampant in waters around Southeast Asia, where surveillance activities against them are lax. The region's countries will have to cooperate and take effective measures if this new wave of piracy is to be defeated. In a coordinated effort, the naval forces of Japan, China, India and South Korea are protecting merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden. The four Asian countries' naval escort ships lead merchant vessels while watching for suspicious vessels. Shipping companies pay nothing for these escorts. But pirates appear to have found more bountiful seas. The number of piracy incidents in waters surrounding Indonesia surged 31% in 2013, to 106. These are now the world's most pirate-infested waters. Piracy also takes pace in waters off India, Bangladesh and Singapore. In late August, a Thai-registered tanker carrying oil products was attacked by a group of six armed pirates near Tioman Island, off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The pirates boarded the oil tanker from the stern, locked the crew in the engine room and transferred the oil products to two other tankers 10 nautical miles (about 18.5km) away. The pirates also destroyed the Thai-registered ship's nautical instruments and telecommunications equipment as well as robbed the crew members of their personal effects. They fled the following morning. Pirates operating in Southeast Asia are suspected to be selling their booty on the black market. "The number of hijacking cases, especially those targeting lubricant oil and fuel oil, are increasing," said Toshihiro Tanaka, head of the Japanese Shipowners' Association's maritime division.

China angered after FBI head says Chinese hacking costs billions.  China accused the United States on Thursday of faking facts, after the head of the FBI said that Chinese hacking likely cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year. Charges over hacking and internet spying have increased tension between the two countries. In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies, prompting China to suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China has denied wrongdoing. Speaking on CBS' 60 Minutes program on Sunday, FBI Director James Comey said Chinese hackers were targeting big U.S. companies, and that some of them probably did not even know they had been hacked. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about Comey's remarks at a daily news briefing, said China banned hacking and "firmly strikes" against such criminal activity. "We express strong dissatisfaction with the United States' unjustified fabrication of facts in an attempt to smear China's name and demand that the U.S.-side cease this type of action," Hong said. "We also demand that the U.S. side cease its large-scale systematic internet attacks on other countries. The United States tries to divert attention by crying wolf. This won't succeed." Many in China view the United States as being hypocritical following revelations about its own extensive spying by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

A Teachable Moment in Hong Kong. In spite of the lackluster international response to the protests in Hong Kong, there is still a lesson to be salvaged. “Japan strongly hopes that Hong Kong’s free and open system will be kept under the principle of ‘one nation, two systems.’ ” Thus read Tokyo’s only official comment on China’s largest pro-democracy demonstrations in a quarter century. Washington’s response was hardly more encouraging, noting only that it supported a “genuine choice” of candidates for the city’s controversial 2017 chief executive elections. As the student protests there enter a new and more uncertain phase, the reaction of other countries to Hong Kong’s yearning for freedom has been disappointingly muted. As some in the U.S. government might say, this has been a “teachable moment,” and the lesson—a sobering one—is that no serious opprobrium will likely be forthcoming. This will only embolden President Xi Jinping to crack down on any future calls for liberalization from inside his country. So far, of course, there has been no bloodshed at the Hong Kong protests, no deployment of Chinese tanks to crush innocent demonstrators. This is no Tiananmen Square. Yet it is worth remembering the world’s response to the massacre in 1989: much handwringing and criticism, with a return to business as usual just a few months later. The only slap on Beijing’s wrist was an arms embargo by America and some European nations, which did nothing to stop China from soon becoming the world’s second-largest military power. Back then, China was far less important an economic player than it is today, but the fear of destabilizing future trade relations was enough to stop democratic nations from offering more than token criticism. Today, with China now the world’s second-largest economy, those same nations have all but fallen silent. To many observers, this makes eminent sense: Countries are adopting a realpolitik stance of disinterest in “internal” affairs. Yet there is a difference between recognizing the limits of a foreign response and being acquiescent to China’s illicit behavior.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 08, 2014

U.S., Japan Eye Closer Security Ties In Japan Defense Pact Update. Japan and the United States agreed on Wednesday to map out how they will work together if Tokyo needs to use force to help protect a friendly country under attack, as they update defense cooperation guidelines for the first time in nearly two decades. The development follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's historic step away from Japan's post-war pacifism in July, when the Japanese government reinterpreted pacifist Article 9 of the constitution to end a ban that has kept its military from fighting abroad. The interim report on the update, which is intended to give general direction of the revision, is attracting close attention from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan's aggression before and during World War Two. Tokyo and Washington also said they would build a seamless security framework to better defend Japan and extend the areas of cooperation to space and cyberspace. "The two governments will take measures to prevent the deterioration of Japan's security in all phases, seamlessly, from peacetime to contingencies," the interim report said. The United States is obliged to defend Japan under their bilateral security treaty. The first guideline update in 17 years comes as Japan faces tough security challenges from an island spat with China and North Korea's missile and nuclear projects, and as the United States tries to shift its diplomatic and security focus to Asia. When defense and foreign ministers from the U.S. and Japan, the world's largest- and third-largest economies, met in Tokyo last October, they agreed to update the defense cooperation guidelines by the end of 2014 to respond to the changing security environment in the region and beyond.

Japan-China Hotline Indispensable To Avert Accidental Military Clashes. Efforts must be stepped up to establish a hotline between Japan and China to prevent accidental clashes. Tokyo and Beijing will resume negotiations before the end of this year to establish a maritime liaison mechanism between the two countries’ defense authorities. The agreement to resume talks came during the bilateral working official-level talks held in late September to discuss maritime issues. The mechanism is aimed at preventing accidental clashes between naval vessels and aircraft of the two countries in and over the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The mechanism will consist mainly of regular conferences between the defense authorities of the two countries, establishment of a hotline between their senior defense officials and direct radio communications between naval vessels and aircraft. The Japanese and Chinese defense authorities reached a broad agreement in June 2012 on the establishment of the mechanism incorporating these plans. China, however, unilaterally discontinued talks in protest against Japan’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September that year. A Chinese Navy vessel locked fire-control radar onto a ship of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the East China Sea in January 2013. In May and June this year, Chinese fighter jets ventured abnormally closed to Self-Defense Forces planes. If a multilayered liaison system is in place, it will help prevent an incident, whether accidental or not, from escalating into a military clash. The system will benefit both countries in light of crisis management.

Taipei Sets Sights On Home-Grown Submarine Plan. Taiwan is seeking support from Washington to build its own submarines after failing to get the military hardware from either the United States or other countries. But analysts warn the move could irritate Beijing and affect warming cross-strait relations. At the U.S.-Taiwan Defence Industry Conference in the United States on Monday, Chiu Kuo-cheng, the island's deputy defence minister, called on Washington to supply Taiwan with the technology and weapons it needed to defend itself, especially diesel-electric submarines and advanced fighter jets. "[But] in addition to acquiring submarines from abroad, Taiwan is aggressively developing defensive weapons on its own and is preparing to build its own submarines," the Taipei-based Central News Agency reported Chiu as saying. Chiu, who led a delegation to the conference, said the mainland's aggressive military build-up in the air and at sea was a serious threat to Taiwan. Sales of submarines are a highly sensitive issue and Washington has not followed through with a 2001 deal to sell eight diesel-electric submarines over fears it could hurt mainland-U.S. relations. The U.S. has said it will help Taiwan build submarines in other countries, but so far none have expressed interest in building the warships, despite the potentially lucrative contracts. Wang Jyh-perng, a navy captain and associate research fellow at the Association for Managing Defence and Strategies, told the Central News Agency that Taiwan could best hope to realise its submarine ambitions by first building smaller vessels.

China-Iran Joint Maritime Exercises Could Threaten Progress in Ongoing P5+1 Negotiations. Any military support given to the Iranian government enhances its ability to protect its investments, deter oversight of its activities and, in turn, degrade the current sanctions regime imposed on the country. This calculation is as clear to those in Beijing as it is to the rest of the P5+1, which suggests that the Chinese government may be acting on ambitions not shared by fellow negotiators. Traditionally, the Chinese government has had few reservations about providing arms to Tehran and its recent actions continue this trend. Beijing’s tacit support of the sale of weapons materials from private Chinese businessmen to Iran, and recent joint military exercises appear to represent a significant step by Beijing in support of Iranian military capacity. A Chinese People’s Liberty Army Navy (PLA-N) guided missile destroyer and a guided missile frigate of the 17th Chinese naval escort taskforce departed from the Bandar Abbas Port in southern Iran on September 24 after five days of joint maritime exercises with Iranian military counterparts. The “friendly visit,” as it has been dubbed by PLA-N officials was, in fact, an unprecedented step in China–Iran military cooperation. The stated goal of the visit was to improve cooperation and understanding, but specifically focused on “enhancing maritime exchange of information and intelligence, relief and rescue operations, operational capabilities and power sharing between the two countries navies,” according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency. As military relations between the two regional powers continue to improve, the United States and others working to keep Iran at the negotiating table must consider the possibility that these types of exercises could represent a substantial escalation in Beijing’s willingness to risk undercutting sanctions in order to further secure economic ties with Tehran. If sanctions on Iran were to be ramped up, as added pressure for the ongoing P5+1 negotiations, the Chinese government stands to potentially lose, among various other trade benefits, a significant share of its current crude imports. Iran supplies around 10 percent of China’s total oil imports and this figure is increasing daily. This considerable dependence on Iranian energy exports has come about as a result of temporary exemptions carved out of the sanctions regime for the Chinese government, but leaves both countries vulnerable to a reassertion of trade restrictions. Increasingly unwilling to accept this cost of business, Beijing may be seeking new ways to protect its interests, including through military means. Enhanced joint maritime capacity combined with basing capabilities and increased technology transfers that could result from continued military to military cooperation would further insulate China’s economic interests in the region from sanctions by raising the cost of outside intervention. At the same time, this would serve to strengthen a lifeline for Iran and deflate the negotiating posture of the P5+1.

China last again in global aid transparency index. China took last place in an aid transparency index listing 68 donors released on Wednesday, which said the majority of the world's donors were not sharing enough information about their activities. The Asian country took last place for the second year in a row in the index compiled by Publish What You Fund, followed by Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania and Malta, all of which were in the bottom 10 last year. The United Nations Development Programme topped the index, followed by 2012's top performer, the UK Department for International Development, and the U.S. Millenium Challenge Corporation, which held the number one position last year. The index assessed transparency among 68 aid-giving organizations worldwide, from countries including the United States and Germany, to organizations such as the World Bank and the Gates Foundation. Rachel Rank, director of Publish What You Fund, said progress had stalled on a promise to publish aid information to an internationally agreed common standard by the end of 2015. "The ranking shows that no matter how many international promises are made, and no matter how many speeches there are around openness, a startling amount of organizations are still not publishing what they fund," Rank said in a statement accompanying the release of the Aid Transparency Index. Her report said that while a leading group of organizations were making continuous improvements to the information they published on current aid activities, more than half had made no significant progress over the past year.

Japan, Russia leaders to meet on APEC sidelines in November. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Russian President Vladmir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November, the two leaders decided on Tuesday, a Japanese government official said. The decision comes as Abe tries to walk a fine line between joining the West in sanctions over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict and forging closer economic and energy ties after five summits with Putin last year. During a 10-minute phone conversation the two leaders also discussed Japan-Russia ties and Abe urged Russia to fulfil its role in stabilizing the situation in Ukraine, Noriaki Ikeda, of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Reuters. "During the phone call the two sides agreed to make arrangements for a summit on the sidelines of APEC," Ikeda said. In a coordinated move with Western nations, Japan has imposed sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March and its involvement in a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies sending troops and arms to the area. However, Tokyo's measures against Russia have been lighter than those of the United States or the European Union, and Abe has continued to try to court Moscow despite ties already being strained by a long-running territorial dispute. Tokyo has also repeated it would maintain its policy of dialogue with Moscow and seek a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine conflict.

Two Koreas Exchange Fire at Sea Border. South and North Korean navy patrol boats exchanged fire at a disputed western sea border on Tuesday, three days after the two rival nations raised hopes for a thaw in their long-tense relations by agreeing to resume high-level dialogue this year. No vessel from either side was hit in the exchange of heavy machine guns, said the South Korean military’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff. But the brief skirmish served as a reminder of how fragile the peace on the divided Korean Peninsula remained. The episode was set off when a North Korean patrol boat breached the disputed sea border and sailed half a nautical mile into waters controlled by South Korea, military officials said. Kim Kwan-jin, left, the top national security adviser for President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, met Hwang Pyong-so, second from right, the top political officer of the North Korean military, and other top officials from the North in Incheon on Saturday. It was the highest-level talks in years, fueling hopes of a breakthrough in the nations’ troubled ties. A South Korean navy ship first broadcast a warning to the intruder to return to the North and fired five warning shots. The North Korean vessel responded, firing an unknown number of warning shots in return. Then, the South Korean ship unleashed a barrage of 94 machine-gun rounds, a Defense Ministry official said, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity. The encounter, in the Yellow Sea about 75 miles west of Seoul, ended in about 10 minutes as the North Korean ship retreated, he added. Armed standoffs along the western sea border, commonly known as the Northern Limit Line, or N.L.L, are not unusual.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 03, 2014

US State Department Opens Door to Maritime Defense Weapon Sales To Vietnam. The United States will allow the sale of lethal equipment and weaponry to Vietnam for maritime defense purposes, the US State Department announced Thursday. The executive decision, which ends an overall ban on lethal weapon sales to that country and which has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War, begins immediately. It also comes at a time of growing tensions in the South China Sea, including a situation over the summer where China set up an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. The definition of what maritime security assets are is nebulous and will be decided on a case-by-case basis, as are all potential sales of military equipment. That will ensure the US maintains control and prevents Vietnamese military forces from gaining assets that could be used to quell internal dissent. It also leaves wiggle room for Vietnam to procure aviation assets, State Department officials said. The country is likely to have an interest in helicopters or planes that can be used for maritime surveillance, opening up the possibility of Vietnam pursuing a range of platforms, from prop planes like the A-29 Super Tucano to Boeing’s large P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft. However, immediate sales are not expected. A State Department official, speaking on background to reporters, said Vietnam does not have any equipment on order at this moment. Officials told reporters the decision is the result of increased cooperation between the US and Vietnam, including Vietnam’s improvements in the human rights arena. That includes the release of 11 political prisoners over the last year and improved religious freedoms within the country. However, they acknowledged that China’s growing aggression in the region also played a part in putting the focus on maritime assets.

Protest Camp in Hong Kong Comes Under Assault. Protesters occupying one of Hong Kong’s most crowded areas came under assault on Friday from men seeking to break apart their pro-democracy sit-in, tearing down their tents and surrounding demonstrators who said their attackers were pro-government gangs. A week after the pro-democracy protests started at a student rally, the movement was increasingly strained both by external blows and by internal discord and exhaustion. Some feared it was close to unraveling, and the two student groups and pro-democracy movement supporting the “Occupy” protests issued a warning that it could call off proposed negotiations with the government. “If the government does not immediately prevent the organized attacks on supporters of the Occupy movement, the students will call off dialogue on political reform with the government,” they said in a statement. Even before skies over Hong Kong darkened in the afternoon and released downpours, some of the protesters’ sit-ins on major roads shrank as the city returned to work after a two-day holiday. In the Mong Kok neighborhood, a hive of shops, apartment blocks and hotels that is one of the world’s mostly densely populated places, bitter skirmishing broke out between occupying protesters and men who tried to clear them and their makeshift shelters away.

North Korea Ready to Start Nuclear Talks. A senior North Korean envoy said Thursday that his country was ready to resume six-party talks on its nuclear program, but must maintain its readiness in the face of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In an interview, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, So Se-pyong, also said that his country was not planning a nuclear test and that reports that its leader, Kim Jong-un, was ill were “fabricated rumors.” The negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program have stalled, but in Geneva, Mr. So said, “We are ready,” adding, “I think China and Russia and the D.P.R.K. are ready,” referring to his country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He continued: “But America, they don’t like that kind of talks right now. Because America does not like that, so that’s why the countries like South Korea, Japan also are not ready for those talks.” North Korea promised to abandon its nuclear program in 2005, but it appeared to renege on the agreement when it tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. In light of American and South Korean military exercises, Mr. So said, “We have to be alert; also, we have to be prepared to make countermeasures.” Asked whether North Korea was preparing a nuclear test or to fire a missile, he replied, “No, no.”

Showdown: The Trans-Pacific Partnership vs. Japan's Farm Lobby. Last week, ministerial negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between Japan and the United States ended abruptly after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on key sticking points, including the removal of tariffs on sensitive Japanese farm products. The failure of the talks disappointed both sides, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long upheld TPP as a fundamental component of his structural reform agenda. Few, however, were surprised. Japan after all, has always had trouble cracking open its farm sector thanks to opposition from its powerful farm lobby. While it is tempting to assume that this is yet another case of Japanese leaders succumbing to the demands of vested interests, it is important to note that more is going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Japan’s farm lobby is still a potent force in Japanese politics, but its influence is decreasing, and in ways that should bode well for agricultural liberalization. Until recently, Japanese agricultural politics were dominated by a web of interconnected institutions. At the center of that web was the partnership between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA). The latter delivered votes and campaign workers to conservative politicians in return for a protected agricultural market. JA also nurtured a close relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), functioning as the ministry’s semi-official arm in the implementation of farm-related policies, including the infamous rice acreage reduction (gentan) program. All the while, JA exercised a near monopoly over the provision of agricultural inputs to farmers and even controlled their access to financial services through its powerful banking and insurance arms. Although by no means omnipotent, this agricultural regime was notoriously unresponsive to demands for policy reform.

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