China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 21, 2015

Editor’s Note: The Caucus Brief will return on Monday, June 1st.

China Warns U.S. Surveillance Plane. 
“The Chinese navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane on Wednesday swooped over islands that Beijing is using to extend its zone of influence. The series of man-made islands and the massive Chinese military build-up on them have alarmed the Pentagon, which is carrying out the surveillance flights in order to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China's territorial claims. The militarized islands have also alarmed America's regional allies. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night that the confrontation indicates there is "absolutely" a risk of the U.S. and China going to war sometime in the future. A CNN team was given exclusive access to join in the surveillance flights over the contested waters, which the Pentagon allowed for the first time in order to raise awareness about the challenge posed by the islands and the growing U.S. response. CNN was aboard the P8-A Poseidon, America's most advanced surveillance and submarine-hunting aircraft, and quickly learned that the Chinese are themselves displeased by the U.S. pushback. "This is the Chinese navy ... This is the Chinese navy ... Please go away ... to avoid misunderstanding," a voice in English crackled through the radio of the aircraft in which CNN was present.  This is the first time the Pentagon has declassified video of China's building activity and audio of Chinese challenges of a U.S. aircraft. The aircraft flew at 15,000 feet in the air at its lowest point, but the U.S. is considering flying such surveillance missions even closer over the islands, as well as sailing U.S. warships within miles of them, as part of the new, more robust U.S. military posture in the area. Soon after the Chinese communication was heard, its source appeared on the horizon seemingly out of nowhere: an island made by China some 600 miles from its coastline. The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival -- often messy -- territorial claims over an area that includes fertile fishing grounds and potentially rich reserves of undersea natural resources. China is increasingly showing that even far from its mainland, it sees itself as having jurisdiction over the body of water.  Wednesday's mission was specifically aimed at monitoring Chinese activities on three islands that months ago were reefs barely peaking above the waves. Now they are massive construction projects that the U.S. fears will soon be fully functioning military installations.”

U.S. Says South China Sea Reclamations Stoke Instability. 
“China's land reclamation around reefs in the disputed South China Sea is undermining freedom and stability, and risks provoking tension that could even lead to conflict, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a conference in Jakarta. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another. "As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust and undermining investor confidence," Blinken said on Wednesday. "Its behavior threatens to set a new precedent whereby larger countries are free to intimidate smaller ones, and that provokes tensions, instability and can even lead to conflict." The United States and China clashed over the dispute on Saturday, when visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to take action to reduce tension. China said its determination to protect its interests was "as hard as a rock". Asked about Blinken's remarks, China's Foreign Ministry demanded on Thursday that the United States abide by the principle of not taking sides on the South China Sea, and said his comments damaged trust in the region. "The U.S. assumptions are groundless," ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing. Blinken said the previous day that competing claims had to be handled "diplomatically". "We don't take sides but we strongly oppose actions that aim to advance a claim by force or coercion," he said. "We will continue to encourage all claimants to resolve their differences in accordance with international norms." The territorial dispute is seen by many as one of Asia's most dangerous hot spots, posing risks that it could result in conflict as countries stake their claims.”

U.S. Charges Six Chinese Citizens With Economic Espionage. 
“Six Chinese citizens, including three professors who trained together at the University of Southern California, stole sensitive wireless technology from U.S. companies and spirited it back to China, the Justice Department charged. The six individuals allegedly swiped trade secrets from U.S. companies Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions Inc. relating to how to filter out unwanted signals in wireless devices, according to an indictment unsealed late Monday. They then set up a joint venture with China’s state-controlled Tianjin University to produce and sell equipment using the technology, according to the indictment, and won contracts from both businesses and “military entities.” The U.S. companies supply components for Apple’s iPhone, among other devices. Authorities said the case demonstrates persistent efforts to steal American technology developed in places like Silicon Valley, where Avago’s U.S. operations are based. “Sensitive technology developed by U.S. companies in Silicon Valley and throughout California continues to be vulnerable to coordinated and complex efforts sponsored by foreign governments to steal that technology,” San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, whose office is prosecuting the case, said Tuesday. One defendant, Tianjin University Prof. Zhang Hao, was arrested when he landed at Los Angeles International Airport Saturday after traveling from China, the Justice Department said. He is in custody and his lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The other five defendants are believed to be in China and the U.S. is unlikely to be able to arrest them unless they travel to a country willing to detain and turn them over to U.S. authorities. A spokeswoman for Tianjin University said the school only learned of the allegations Wednesday morning and is investigating. The charges come amid a heightened Justice Department focus on suspected economic espionage, especially by the Chinese. In May of last year, the department brought charges against five Chinese military employees who allegedly hacked into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets. In March of last year, the U.S. won convictions of two engineers who allegedly stole secrets to manufacturing a white pigment from DuPont Co. and sold them to a Chinese firm.”

China Air Force Holds Drill in Western Pacific. 
“China's air force on Thursday conducted a drill in the western Pacific Ocean after passing through a strait near Japan, the country's defense ministry said, as its military adopts a more assertive posture in the region. China's ties with Japan have been strained by a longstanding territorial dispute over a string of islets in the East China Sea, known in China as the Diaoyu and in Japan as the Senkaku. The two countries have also clashed over what China sees as Japan's refusal to take responsibility for its wartime past. Aircraft of the People's Liberation Army did the exercises after flying over the Miyako Strait, a body of water between Japan's islands of Miyako and Okinawa, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The day-long exercises aimed to improve the air force's combat capability far out at sea, the ministry said. "The annual exercises are planned according to a routine schedule, and in line with relevant international laws and practices, not directed at any specific country," air force spokesman Shen Jinke said in the statement.  In Tokyo, Japan's defense ministry said it scrambled fighter jets against two Chinese H-6 bombers that flew over those waters, but there was no entry into Japan's airspace. Japan scrambles jets more than 900 times a year. China's air force has increasingly conducted drills far from its coast, state media have said. Its navy has often used the Miyako Strait, a key strategic route for the military, as a pathway from eastern China to the Pacific Ocean.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 20, 2015

U.S. Admiral Calls on China to Explain South China Sea Land Reclamation. “The U.S. Navy’s second-most senior commander called on China to explain its land-reclamation works in the South China Sea and offered to support Southeast Asian countries if they choose to adopt a unified stance against Beijing. The comments, in an interview Tuesday with Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, add to recent pressure on China to address criticism about its construction of artificial islands in disputed waters. The U.S. is considering flying aircraft or sailing Navy vessels close to the islands, a move that could raise the stakes in the South China Sea and one over which Beijing has expressed strong concern. “I think it’s now time for China to talk about what the reclamation of land means,” Adm. Howard said in the interview. “From my perspective, no one is saying they are putting a resort out there, so someone needs to explain what they are putting out there,” she said. According to U.S. estimates, China has expanded artificial reefs in the Spratly Islands chain to as much as 2,000 acres of land, up from 500 acres last year. The expanded landmass could be large enough to accommodate military aircraft, which could extend Chinese influence in waters where several nations have competing claims. China’s long-standing position is that it has sovereignty over the area where the construction is taking place. China’s foreign and defense ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Adm. Howard’s remarks late Tuesday. Any move by the U.S. to conduct patrols in waters claimed by China risks an escalation of military involvement in the region. The U.S. claims it doesn’t take sides in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but that it is has an interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the area. Speaking at the International Maritime Defence Exhibition in Singapore, Adm. Howard said the U.S. Navy would be capable of freedom-of-navigation patrols, but declined to say whether any U.S. ships had already sailed within 12 nautical miles of China’s land reclamation works, the point at which China claims territorial waters. She said the U.S. would stand with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if its 10 member countries decided to work together to counter China. “If the Asean nations want to get together and do something to demonstrate their united purpose we’ll be supportive of that,” she said. China’s claims in the South China Sea overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally—and several of them have been bolstering defense ties with the U.S. in recent years in response to what they see as Beijing’s stepped-up efforts to assert its claims.”

Diplomacy Alone Won’t Stop the Chinese From Asserting Sovereignty Over the South China Sea.
“Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited Beijing for the purpose, among other things, of persuading the Chinese to submit their claims in the South China Sea to negotiation with the other ASEAN states. To no one’s surprise, the mission was a failure; the Chinese flatly refused to budge from their position, and had the additional satisfaction of humbling the American Secretary of State in the process. I have written before about the massive military buildup in which China is engaged, and the purpose behind it. China wants hegemonic status in their near seas, and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party believe they can get what they want through coercive tactics. Why should they negotiate? China has been reclaiming seven reefs and atolls in and around the Spratly Islands. In effect, it is building islands in the ocean – creating a “Great Wall of sand”, according to Admiral Harry Harris, commander of America’s Pacific fleet – to assert its territorial claims in the region, which include virtually the entire South China Sea. About 5 trillion dollars worth of trade ships through that sea every year. The reclaimed reefs have strategic as well as political value, as potential bases for China’s growing Navy and Air Force. Recently the Chinese admitted that they may use the islands for military purposes, and they have been photographed building what appears to be an air strip on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Consistent with their strategy, China is aggressively asserting the rights of a sovereign. They are warning other nations not to sail or fly, except with their permission, within twelve nautical miles of the reclaimed islands. They have no right under international law to extend their sovereignty in this way, but the Chinese leaders do not, at a fundamental level, believe in an international order where nations relate to each other according to neutral norms. As one Japanese scholar told me, the Chinese view the world vertically rather than horizontally; they believe that the big dogs should get most of the benefits, and they are rapidly becoming the biggest dogs in their part of the world. China already has a large and growing inventory of missiles, surface warships, submarines, and modern aircraft. In addition, according to the Pentagon, China will by 2023 acquire upwards of 40,000 stealthy Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). UAVs have heretofore been used primarily for reconnaissance, and no doubt much of the new Chinese inventory will be used for that purpose; the Peoples Liberation Army needs to see our ships before they can shoot at them. But three versions of the new UAVs will also have precision-strike capability. Since the UAVs will be stealthy, they will be hard to locate and shoot down, and even if they weren’t, it would be extremely difficult for our forces to neutralize an attack en masse. Of course the United States still has tremendous firepower in its aircraft carrier task forces.”

China Buys Into Multiple Warheads.
“After exercising restraint in its nuclear weapons program for decades, China has made the poor choice of upgrading its arsenal in a way that raises concerns about its intentions, introduces new uncertainty in Asia and could add more fuel to a regional arms race. The unsettling development is China’s decision to equip its most powerful missile — the DF-5 for Dong Feng or East Wind, which can reach the United States — with multiple warheads instead of just one. The information was reported publicly for the first time earlier this month in the annual Pentagon report on China’s military and security programs. The United States pioneered this technology, called multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, or MIRV, when it was in competition with the Soviet Union. MIRV made it possible to load each missile with as many as 10 warheads, each of which could be aimed at a different target. That made the missiles more lethal. But it also made a country with those missiles more vulnerable because an enemy would want to hit them before they could get off the ground. Because they put a premium on striking first, MIRVs were seen as inherently destabilizing and were limited in the SALT II treaty, the second major strategic arms limitation treaty signed in 1979. Last year, decades after the Cold War, the United States finished downloading its land-based Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles so that they each now carry only one nuclear warhead. The missiles on American submarines still carry multiple warheads, as do the land-based missiles and submarines of Russia. France and Britain also have MIRV systems. China’s move along this path does not represent a big increase in its nuclear capability. It is among the five recognized nuclear powers and a signatory to major arms control agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It has an estimated 250 warheads in total, with about three warheads on each of about 20 DF-5 missiles. All of this is a fraction of what the United States and Russia possess in their arsenals. Nevertheless, the decision to outfit its missiles with multiple warheads is of concern for several reasons. Although the technology to miniaturize weapons and put several atop a missile has been in China’s hands for decades, a series of leaders chose not to go forward and compete in the kind of arms race that for decades sapped American and Soviet resources. Instead, China espoused a doctrine of maintaining a minimal nuclear force that would only be used to retaliate against a nuclear attack, not initiate one. And while China’s arsenal has been growing slowly, putting MIRVs on missiles is a way to expand more quickly and it sows doubt about the commitment to a minimal deterrent.”

Taiwan and Strategic Security.
“When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it also simultaneously attacked the Philippines, triggering World War II in the Pacific. It was the opening salvo in the Japanese Empire’s campaign to invade and subjugate Southeast Asia in pursuit of its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The bombers were launched from the island of Taiwan, which was then under Japanese military rule. It was the jumping-off point for the attacks on both the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Throughout the war, Taiwan served as the staging area and major supply base that sustained Japan’s armies in Southeast Asia and as the control point for all shipping through the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. State Department at the time stated that strategically no location in the Far East, with the exception of Singapore, occupied such a controlling position. Taiwan’s geography tells the story. Situated at the edge of the South China Sea’s shipping lanes, Taiwan is positioned 100 miles east of China. To the south it is 200 miles from the Philippines, 700 miles from China’s Hainan Island, and 900 miles from Vietnam and the Spratly Islands. It is linked to the north with the Ryukyu Islands, and lies 700 miles from Japan’s home islands. Historically, Taiwan’s pivotal location off the China coast and between Northeast and Southeast Asia has served a variety of strategic purposes for regional powers, both offensive and defensive. In the contemporary era, Taiwan remains geographically at the intersection of most of East Asia’s danger points. (Even a conflict on the Korean Peninsula could be impacted by operations that might be launched from Taiwan.) Drawing on historical experience, the question is whether Taiwan would be as valuable a strategic asset to a potential aggressor in Asia today as it was for Japan in the 1940s. The only powers that presently threaten the peace and stability of the region are the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Northeast Asia and its patron and protector, the People’s Republic of China, which has active ongoing disputes in both Northeast and Southeast Asia. Taiwan, which Beijing claims as an integral part of Chinese territory, would enhance China’s strategic position in both areas. Controlling Taiwan would facilitate China’s operations in the South China Sea and enable it to assert its territorial and maritime claims even more aggressively against the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. Suddenly, China’s sweeping “nine-dash line” would become even more real and more easily enforceable by Beijing. Most of those 1600 ballistic missiles now targeting Taiwan and the U.S. Navy could instead be moved to Taiwan itself and re-targeted against the ships and territories of other Southeast Asian states as well as the shipping lanes used by world commerce. China would be in an enhanced advantageous position to make the South China Sea the “Chinese lake” it claims as a historical right.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 19, 2015

China’s Not Backing Down in the South China Sea. “Washington has no intention of sitting back and letting Beijing have all the fun in the contested South China Sea. For the most part, Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Beijing this weekend offered him and his Chinese counterparts an opportunity to boast about everything going well between their governments: a two-way trade relationship worth just over $555 billion, bilateral investments in excess of $120 billion, as well as ongoing cooperation on everything from fighting Ebola to containing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But it would’ve been impossible for them to ignore the recent U.S. proposal, first reported in mid-May by the Wall Street Journal, to challenge Beijing’s claim of blanket sovereignty in the South China Sea. On May 12, the U.S. Department of Defense unveiled a new plan to counter China’s recent, extraordinary efforts to construct new islands in the South China Sea that, China hopes, will strengthen its contested territorial claims. The Pentagon plan, which has not yet been implemented, would have U.S. military surveillance planes flying over contested places in the South China Sea like the Spratly and Paracel Islands, and naval vessels patrolling within 12 miles of the coral reefs of the Spratlys. In meetings this week, with members of a reporting fellowship sponsored by the East-West Center, military and diplomatic officials in Beijing insisted to Foreign Policy that their efforts to turn uninhabitable pieces of land into functioning landing strips and search and rescue stations is about fulfilling China’s international obligations to secure peace and stability in the South China Sea. They believe, unambiguously, that these waters are theirs. “Just like the hens laying eggs, the cows produce milk, it’s there — it’s our own territory that we need to defend,” said Cpt. Tian Shichen, staff officer of the information office at the Chinese Ministry of Defense. “For China, it’s just like an uninvited stranger coming into your house, trying to read the pin number of your safe, everyday. This is how the Chinese feel. And it’s not that China is the only country that holds this kind of position,” said Sr. Col. Zhou Bo, director of the Center for International Security Cooperation in China’s Ministry of National Defense.”

Vietnam Opposes Chinese Fishing Ban in Disputed Sea.
“Vietnam said it resolutely opposes a temporary Chinese ban on fishing in the Gulf of Tonkin, the latest in a series of sovereignty disputes in and around the South China Sea. China's ban came as the neighbors seek to patch up ties since a row in May last year when China deployed a $1-billion oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. That led to confrontation at sea and violent anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam. China's May 16-Aug. 1 fishing ban violated international law and Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdictional rights, Vietnam's foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. China introduced the annual ban in 1999 "to promote the sustainable development of the fishing industry in the South China Sea and protect the fundamental interests of fishermen", according to its state news agency Xinhua. Authorities have threatened violators with fines, license revocations, confiscations and possible criminal charges. China and Vietnam have overlapping claims to large parts of the South China Sea and various islands and reefs. Tension rose in 2012 and 2014 after China detained several Vietnamese fishermen in disputed waters. Both sides accused the other of intimidation and ramming vessels. China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday the rules were meant to protect marine resources. "This is China's international responsibility and obligation," ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. A Vietnamese industry representative said China's ban was part of an effort to take over Vietnam's exclusive maritime zone in the Gulf of Tonkin, despite fishing and delimitation agreements signed in 2000. "They know it's illegal, violating Vietnamese and international laws but still do it, mostly to turn someone else's thing into theirs or into a disputed thing," said Nguyen Viet Thang, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Fisheries. Thang said the association was encouraging fishermen to keep sailing while calling for more government protection for them. On Sunday, China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan told his Vietnamese counterpart, Phung Quang Thanh, both countries had "the wisdom and capability to achieve success in tackling maritime issues", the China Daily newspaper reported. China claims more than 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea and has recently stepped up efforts to build up islands on reefs in the disputed area.”

Beijing Says Philippines, U.S. ‘Exaggerate China Threat’ in Sea Dispute.
“China's Foreign Ministry accused the Philippines on Friday of working together with the United States to "exaggerate the China threat" over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. Beijing stepped up its criticism of Manila a day before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit China, where he is expected to raise Washington's commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea. Security concerns have deepened internationally about Beijing's maritime ambitions in the South China Sea. Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized air strip on Fiery Cross Reef and possibly a second on another reef. The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has called for urgent action to be taken. China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the Philippines of "ignoring the common interests of countries in the region and continuing to take provocative measures that complicate and expand the dispute". Asked about the U.S. support for the Philippines in the dispute, Hua said: "Some people in the Philippines are jumping very high and are echoing some people in some countries to actively exaggerate the China threat, manufacturing tensions in the region." "This theatrical double act has grabbed many eyeballs, but as everyone can see, the current situation in the South China Sea is stable," she said at a daily news briefing. Hua reiterated China's stance that it is "determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests". "We will respond firmly to any acts of provocation against China," she said. On Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry said that Beijing was "extremely concerned" about a possible plan by the Pentagon to send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. China has always rejected U.S. involvement in the dispute and has dismissed Washington's proposal for a freeze on provocative acts in the area. It has reiterated that the only way to address the issue is through bilateral talks. Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.”

How China’s Censors Influence Hollywood.
Age of Ultron, the new Avengers movie, kicked off the summer blockbuster season in China last week and already has taken in more than $150 million. Fast and Furious 7 has finished up its run, pulling in more than $388 million — more than it made in the U.S. — and becoming China's all-time box-office champ. Those huge box-office numbers underscore just how essential the Chinese market has become to Hollywood's bottom line. Because money is power, that also means the Communist Party has increasing influence over how some Hollywood movies are made and how they portray China. China's government chooses which movies can be shown in what is now the world's second-biggest cinema market, so many filmmakers have to think more carefully about how to attract Chinese audiences and not offend the country's censors, according to scholars and theater owners. Unlike the United States, China doesn't have a movie-rating system. So the government relies on censors at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China — SAPPRFT — to block content it deems offensive for general audiences. What officials find offensive can extend beyond sex, violence and foul language to politics, culture and portrayals of China. Consider Mission: Impossible III, which was partially shot in Shanghai. The film's establishing shot of Shanghai shows Tom Cruise walking past the winking lights of the modern cityscape and then past underwear hanging from a clothesline. The movie was released in 2006. Even now, many people in Shanghai don't own dryers and hang their clothes out on the balcony to dry. "The censors felt that it did not portray Shanghai in a positive light, so that scene was removed from the movie," says T.J. Green, CEO of Apex Entertainment, which owns and builds movie theaters in China. "The censorship always goes back to the Communist Party. They're in charge and they're always looking at how China is portrayed," he says. "They didn't want to see something that portrayed it ... [as] a developing country." Nor do they like to see Chinese portrayed as incapable of defending themselves. In the latest 007 movie, Skyfall, an assassin walks into a skyscraper in Shanghai's showcase financial district and shoots a security guard. Censors ordered that scene cut, too.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 15, 2015

U.S., China Set for High-Stakes Rivalry in Skies Above South China Sea. “When the U.S. navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well. The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the U.S. navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website. While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area - a move experts and some U.S. military officials see as increasingly likely. "It's not inevitable but if we are betting paychecks I'll bet that they will eventually declare one, I just don't know when," said a senior U.S. commander familiar with the situation in Asia. ADIZs are not governed by formal treaties or laws but are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception. China sparked condemnation from the United States and Japan when it imposed an ADIZ in the East China Sea, above uninhabited islands disputed with Tokyo, in late 2013. Chinese military facilities now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, including a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway and airborne early warning radars, could be operational by the year-end, said the U.S. commander, who declined to be identified. Recent satellite images also show reclamation work on Subi Reef creating landmasses that, if joined together, could make space for a similar sized airstrip. Growing concern in Washington that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands is likely to be on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Chinese leaders in Beijing this weekend for previously scheduled talks.”

Modi Calls on China to Rethink Stances That Strain Ties to India.
“India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, told China’s leaders on Friday that it was up to them to rethink policies that he said had hindered cooperation between the two Asian giants. Mr. Modi made the comments to reporters in Beijing after meeting with Premier Li Keqiang and unveiling 24 agreements that both men said would help improve relations. But Mr. Modi added a proviso: that the Chinese government should consider India’s grievances. “We covered all issues, including those that trouble smooth development of our relations,” Mr. Modi said of his talks with Mr. Li and, on Thursday, with China’s pre-eminent leader, President Xi Jinping. The sources of contention between the two countries have included long-running border disputes, a heavy trade imbalance in China’s favor and India’s wariness toward China’s partnership with Pakistan, India’s rival. “I stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realizing full potential of our partnership,” Mr. Modi said in a room at the Great Hall of the People, the cavernous home of China’s national legislature, in remarks broadcast live by Indian television stations. He said, “I suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations.” He added, “I found the Chinese leadership responsive.” Mr. Modi’s caveat departed from the mild, oblique language that most Asian leaders stick to in public after meeting with leaders in Beijing, and it offered a glimpse of the difficult balance sought by Mr. Modi. He has courted Chinese business and investment to shore up India’s economy, and stressed that he wants to deepen ties. Indian officials said there had been progress on several nagging issues, including confidence-building protocols at the disputed border between the two countries, and a high-level task force aimed at expanding trade. But Mr. Modi has also promoted himself as a vigorous defender of Indian security interests and international standing. “For him to say we hope the Chinese will reconsider their approach — it’s very politely put, and he added that he saw sensitivity to India’s concerns,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Wire, an online Indian news site. “But that’s quite a strong way to put it.” For now, both governments appear committed to containing their disagreements and building stronger economic ties. China’s ambassador to New Delhi, Le Yucheng, had said that the deals signed during Mr. Modi’s visit to China could be worth $10 billion. Mr. Li, the Chinese premier, did not wade deeply into any controversies in his comments to reporters, and he praised Mr. Modi’s efforts to reinvigorate the Indian economy and to improve relations with China.”

Why the Chinese Navy is in the Mediterranean.
“On Thursday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) frigates Linyi and Weifang left the Black Sea along with a Russian Navy guided missile corvette to begin the first ever round of Chinese and Russian naval exercises in the Mediterranean. The exercise — Joint Sea 2015 — is mostly a sign of a growing security relationship between Moscow and Beijing, and an attempt to signal the two powers’ ascendance on the global stage. Besides, it also follows after nearly two years of increased Russian naval activity not only in the Mediterranean, but also the Baltic Sea, the High North, and the Black Sea. However, China also has its own reasons for operating in the Mediterranean, and the current exercise is far from the first time the Chinese military has operated there. For China, the broader Mediterranean region is of real interest in terms of both energy security and trade. The Mediterranean constitutes the western end of the “New Silk Road,” the Chinese project to link China with markets and producers across Central Asia and into Europe and the Middle East. In order to provide the Silk Road with a western maritime outlet, Chinese companies have poured considerable resources into modernizing and expanding Mediterranean ports, including the Port of Piraeus outside of Athens, Greece. The broader Mediterranean region, and extending down to the Gulf, is also an important source for China’s supply of energy, which is absolutely crucial to fuelling China’s industries and modernization. China’s energy interests in the region may expand further, as the eastern Mediterranean emerges as a new source of oil and gas. It is far from unusual that commercial and energy interests are usually followed by a military presence, at least on a rotating basis. And the crumbling order in the Middle East and North Africa also has implications for China. Beijing abstained from the U.N. vote to authorize military action against the Gadhafi regime in Libya, and is now dismayed by the continuing instability in that country and the broader region. Furthermore, the PLAN conducted a major noncombatant evacuation, albeit with the substantial help of leased commercial ships, of Chinese nationals working in Libya shortly before the coalition and NATO airstrikes began against Libyan targets.”

Challenges for the PLAN in the Western Pacific: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance. “
The Project 2049 Institute is pleased to announce the publication of our latest Futuregram, "Challenges for the PLAN in the Western Pacific: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance". In this study, Tetsuo Kotani, Senior Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), considers the challenges the PLA Navy faces in the open ocean and the implications of those challenges for the U.S.-Japan alliance. He writes: "To access the western Pacific for counter-intervention operations, the PLAN needs to address two fundamental challenges-the lack of ASW and fleet air defense. Otherwise, Japan is in a position to control six out of the nine Chinese maritime routes to the open ocean. In peacetime, China has every right to enjoy freedom of navigation outside Japanese territorial seas and innocent passage in Japanese territorial seas. However, in the event of an escalation of military tensions, Japan needs to possess the capability to deny China's access to the open ocean and skies to maintain maritime and air superiority." By analyzing the challenges faced by the PLAN and the Chinese efforts to address those challenges, the author argues that the United States and Japan need to expand Japan's submarine fleet, cooperate with Australia, respond to China's precision air strike capabilities, and deploy ground troops to remote islands that have long commercial airstrips.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 14, 2015

Kerry to Take Tough Approach in China Over South China Sea. “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will leave China "in absolutely no doubt" about Washington's commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and flight in the South ChinaSea when he visits Beijing this weekend, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday. Setting the scene for what could be contentious encounters with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, the official said Kerry would warn that China's land reclamation work in contested waters could have negative consequences for regional stability - and for relations with the United States. On Tuesday, a U.S. official said the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. China's Foreign Ministry responded by saying that Beijing was "extremely concerned" and demanded clarification. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear told a Senate hearing the United States had right of passage in areas claimed by China. "We are actively assessing the military implications of land reclamation and are committed to taking effective and appropriate action," he said, but gave no details. Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the United States, responded by warning Washington not to interfere in the South China Sea dispute and rebuked it for "double standards" in its criticism of Beijing, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday. "Just who is creating tensions in the South China Sea?" Cui was quoted as saying. "In the past few years, the United States has intervened in such a high-profile way. Is that to stabilize the situation or to further mess it up? The facts are out there."

How the South China Sea Could Help Beijing Level the Nuclear Playing Field.
“The dispute over the South China Sea is about fish, oil, gas, freedom of navigation and, to a very large extent, assertions of national pride. But there could be another element as well, one that makes the sea especially crucial to China and has nothing to do with the rival claimants. Here on Hainan Island, on the northern edge of the sea, China bases its nuclear submarines, including the four equipped to launch ballistic missiles. China's problem is that it is hemmed in. Its coastline consists of the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea -- which means its only access to the Pacific and beyond is through relatively narrow straits bordered by Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia. Brad Glosserman, of the Honolulu office of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggests that one reason China is promoting its claim to most of the land features in the South China Sea against its most vocal rivals -- Vietnam and the Philippines -- is a desire to push the U.S. Navy out of the area. Even before this week's news about the American proposal to sharply step up naval patrols around the artificial islands China is constructing in the sea, American vessels and planes have been regularly tracking the subs, something that China is not at all happy about. China is "most concerned" about U.S. intelligence gathering in the South China Sea, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies here, told a group of foreign journalists Wednesday. The journalists were on a tour sponsored by the East-West Center of Hawaii. If Beijing could effectively keep the reconnaissance at bay by establishing its sovereignty over most of the sea at the expense of its neighbors, Glosserman says, that would clear the way for the subs to ease out into the Pacific without being so obvious about it. For the record, Chinese defense and foreign affairs officials say China has no intention of restricting navigation or overflights, as long as they are conducted "in accordance with international law." But Zhou Bo, a senior colonel at the defense ministry's foreign affairs office, said Tuesday that that would still leave China and the United States at loggerheads because they interpret international law on the matter quite differently.”

India and China Aim to Shelve Territorial Rifts Amid Economic Courtship.
“The days before Narendra Modi left for China, his first visit as India’s prime minister, brought pinprick reminders of the geopolitical rifts dividing the two countries, even while they court each other for an economic charge. A Chinese tabloid ran a commentary scorning Mr. Modi for visiting Arunachal Pradesh, a border state to which China also lays claim, prompting a news media uproar in India. In New Delhi, a top official noted that the government had lodged two formal complaints about China’s plan to build a highway through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a border area also claimed by India. The verbal sniping has brought a reminder of the thicket of territorial and historical tensions dividing Mr. Modi and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping. Indian and Chinese officials have promoted Mr. Modi’s three-day visit as essentially a business trip filled out with displays of good will and ancient cultural kinship. On Thursday, Mr. Modi arrived in Xi’an, a city in northwest China, welcomed by a traditional lion dance. But the visit presents Mr. Modi with a particularly nettlesome test of his priorities. He has promised economic reinvigoration at home and firmer assertion of India’s security interests. But those goals can be especially difficult to juggle while dealing with the country’s biggest and most powerful neighbor, which under Mr. Xi has also taken a tougher line on territorial disputes. Eight months ago, Mr. Modi’s first meeting as prime minister with Mr. Xi was overshadowed by a border confrontation. “There are two Modis on China,” Tanvi Madan, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, and director of its India Project, said in a telephone interview. “There is the business-minded leader who wants to do business with China, almost like the C.E.O. in him. And there is Modi, the chief security officer.” In China, Mr. Modi will “downplay the strains about things like the border incidents,” Ms. Madan said. “But I think he will also find subtle ways of also making clear that India is not going to be a pushover.” Increased trade and investment between the two Asian giants could profit both. China is grappling with a slowdown in growth and would like greater access to Indian markets to make up for faltering demand at home and in other export markets. India could use Chinese investment to build power plants, railways and other infrastructure, and to breathe life into its manufacturing sector.”

Senators Say China Diverted U.S. Nuclear Technology to Submarines in Violation of 1985 Accord.
“China has illegally diverted U.S. civilian nuclear technology to its nuclear submarine program in violation of a 1985 cooperation agreement, according to Senate testimony Tuesday. Additionally, China appears to be violating an international Nuclear Suppliers Group commitment by exporting additional nuclear reactors, some with U.S. technology, to Pakistan, according to Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Chinese nuclear violations were revealed during a hearing on the 1985 U.S.-China nuclear cooperation agreement that is set to expire at the end of the year. The Obama administration is seeking a new agreement, known as a 123 agreement, after the section of the Atomic Energy Act regulating nuclear technology sharing. The 1985 agreement was held up for 13 years over concerns China was proliferating nuclear technology to rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. It was finally approved during the administration of President Bill Clinton. The delay was the result of Congress imposing a certification provision requiring the president to allow nuclear transfers only after he certified China was not engaged in nuclear proliferation activities. Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said several members of the committee are concerned about Chinese violations of the current agreement. “We have a country like China that is not honoring the spirit of the law,” Corker said. “They’re not honoring previous agreements with the nuclear group. We know they’re going to take this information and use it for military purposes. We know that, even though the agreement says they won’t do it.” Corker questioned two Obama administration officials about whether nuclear cooperation would be suspended if Chinese violations are confirmed. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) revealed that the possible Chinese nuclear diversion involved reactor cooling pumps produced by the Curtiss-Wright Corp., an American company that makes the pumps for U.S. nuclear-powered submarines. “They also produce a scaled-up version of this pump for the AP1000 reactors Westinghouse is selling to China,” Menendez said. “Could China reverse engineer the pumps that they are receiving from Westinghouse for their own nuclear submarine program? Is Chinese military seeking to divert these civilian nuclear technologies to its naval reactor program? Do you have any information on that?”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 13, 2015

U.S. Military Proposes Challenge to China Sea Claims. “The U.S. military is considering using aircraft and Navy ships to directly contest Chinese territorial claims to a chain of rapidly expanding artificial islands, U.S. officials said, in a move that would raise the stakes in a regional showdown over who controls disputed waters in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has asked his staff to look at options that include flying Navy surveillance aircraft over the islands and sending U.S. naval ships to within 12 nautical miles of reefs that have been built up and claimed by the Chinese in an area known as the Spratly Islands. Such moves, if approved by the White House, would be designed to send a message to Beijing that the U.S. won’t accede to Chinese territorial claims to the man-made islands in what the U.S. considers to be international waters and airspace. The Pentagon’s calculation may be that the military planning, and any possible deployments, would increase pressure on the Chinese to make concessions over the artificial islands. But Beijing also could double down, expanding construction in defiance of the U.S. and potentially taking steps to further Chinese claims in the area. The U.S. has said it doesn’t recognize the man-made islands as sovereign Chinese territory. Nonetheless, military officials said, the Navy has so far not sent military aircraft or ships within 12 nautical miles of the reclaimed reefs to avoid escalating tensions. If the U.S. challenges China’s claims using ships or naval vessels and Beijing stands its ground, the result could escalate tensions in the region, with increasing pressure on both sides to flex military muscle in the disputed waters. According to U.S. estimates, China has expanded the artificial islands in the Spratly chain to as much as 2,000 acres of land, up from 500 acres last year. Last month, satellite imagery from defense intelligence provider IHS Jane’s showed China has begun building an airstrip on one of the islands, which appears to be large enough to accommodate fighter jets and surveillance aircraft. The U.S. has used its military to challenge other Chinese claims Washington considers unfounded. In November 2013, the U.S. flew a pair of B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea to contest an air identification zone that Beijing had declared in the area.”

China Lashes Out Over U.S. Plan on South China Sea.
“Beijing strongly condemned on Wednesday a proposed U.S. military plan to send aircraft and Navy ships near disputed South China Sea islands to contest Chinese territorial claims over the area. “We are severely concerned about relevant remarks made by the American side. We believe the American side needs to make clarification on that,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. The unusually strong comments came after U.S. officials said Defense Secretary Ash Carter had asked his staff to look at options to counter China’s increasingly assertive claims over disputed islets in the South China Sea. Those options, officials said, include flying Navy surveillance aircraft over islands and sending U.S. Navy ships within 12 nautical miles of reefs that have been built up in recent months around the Spratly Islands. “We always uphold the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” Ms. Hua said. “But the freedom of navigation definitely does not mean the military vessel or aircraft of a foreign country can willfully enter the territorial waters or airspace of another country. The Chinese side firmly upholds national sovereignty and security.” Ms. Hua said Beijing urged “relevant countries to refrain from taking risky and provocative action.” The proposed U.S. military maneuvers and China’s swift response have raised the stakes in an already tense regional showdown over who controls the disputed waters. Six governments–China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines—claim the South China Sea waters, islands, reefs and atolls in whole or in part. The Philippines, the country in the region that has taken the most confrontational stance against China, quickly welcomed news of the U.S. plan. Other Southeast Asian nations generally held their tongue. Privately, many diplomats and leaders in the region say they worry about the potentially destabilizing impact of a confrontation between Washington and Beijing. Manila has mounted a legal challenge of China’s claims at the United Nations, much to Beijing’s annoyance, and the country’s foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, said Tuesday in Washington that the Philippines is seeking more help from the U.S. in pegging back China’s land-reclamation efforts in disputed waters.”

As Obama Plays China Card on Trade, Chinese Pursue Their Own Deals.
“President Obama has toured Nike’s headquarters and busy American ports in recent weeks to try to convince Democrats that rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal that he envisions as a crucial part of a legacy of national economic revival, will undercut American power. “If we don’t write the rules for trade around the world, guess what?” Mr. Obama warned at the headquarters of the sporting goods giant, whose wares he uses when he works out. “China will.” Xi Jinping, the Chinese president and head of the Communist Party, is making a parallel pitch — but rooted in a very different strategy for gaining global influence. Mr. Xi has essentially shrugged off the question of whether his nation, the world’s second-largest economy, will join the pact. Instead, he has picked off American allies like Britain, Germany and South Korea to join, against the administration’s wishes, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a project started by China in part to keep its own state-owned firms busy building roads, dams and power plants around Asia. China is at the same time setting up other trade pacts around the region so it can use its cash and enormous market leverage to strike deals more advantageous to its interests. Mr. Xi was in Kazakhstan this month plugging his “One Belt, One Road” initiative of construction from Europe to Central Asia to the seas around China. It is a subtle form of competition, but one that many in the Obama administration see as the most important geopolitical power struggle in the world today. “It’s not a black-and-white contest between us and China, even though the president has presented it that way to sell it to Democrats,” said Michael J. Green, a Georgetown University professor who charts the progress of the contest. “The Pacific Partnership puts pressure on the Chinese to up their game. We are somewhere between direct competition over who will make the rules and a competitive liberalization that will eventually create some common rules around the world.” America’s strategy since the 1990s, when Bill Clinton wooed Republican votes to get China into the World Trade Organization, has been a straightforward one: Entice China into institutions that operate according to Western standards of trade rules, labor practices and the protection of intellectual property, gradually changing the way a rising power rises. Mr. Clinton made that case in visits to Beijing, arguing that if China opened its doors to trade, new ideas and the Internet would inevitably pressure its leaders toward democracy and freer expression. It was a view that, in retrospect, overestimated American influence and underestimated the degree to which the Chinese believed they could amend the global order to suit their own economic interests. So while Mr. Obama plays the China card to sell the accord in the United States, the Chinese are pursuing their own course.”

China Warns Taiwan Opposition Leader Over Independence Calls While in U.S.
“China warned the leader of Taiwan's main pro-independence opposition party on Wednesday against engaging in activities promoting the island's independence while she is in the United States later this month. The remarks by China's Taiwan Affairs Office came two weeks before Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a presidential contender in January elections, meets government officials, academics and overseas Taiwanese in the United States. The United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is the democratic island's biggest ally and provider of weapons. Previous trips by senior Taiwanese politicians to the United States have angered Beijing and damaged Sino-U.S. relations. "We firmly oppose any person engaging in any form of 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities in the international arena," Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing told a regular news briefing in response to a question about Tsai's 12-day trip. Fan said the peaceful development of cross-strait relations depends on opposing Taiwan independence and on the "1992 consensus", referring to Beijing's cherished "one China" principle that includes Taiwan as part of China. Tsai has said she favors "maintaining the status quo" when asked about her China policy. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province, to be put under Beijing's control by force if necessary. Beijing last month warned the DPP to heed the lessons of the last time it was in power and not push for independence. The DPP's Chen Shui-bian infuriated Beijing and strained Taiwan's relationship with the United States during his time as president from 2000 to 2008. China accused him of trying to push for independence and weaken the island's Chinese cultural heritage.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 12, 2015

The Sleeper Issue of 2016 is China. “As the long march to the presidential nomination begins, most of the likely Republican contenders are talking tough on foreign policy and criticizing the Obama administration for its evident failings in handling Russia, Iran, Syria, and the Islamic State and other Islamist extremists. These threats are undeniably pressing but, in the long run, all of them pale in comparison to the strategic challenge posed by China. Yet China and Asia more generally have thus far been almost entirely absent from political discourse over the future of American foreign policy. Over the next months this is likely to change on the campaign trail. The challenge from China has been growing since the end of 2012, which marked both the reelection of an American president and the announcement of a new leadership team in Beijing. Since his elevation to the positions of president and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping has proven himself to be a forceful, ambitious and effective figure. Moving quickly to consolidate his personal authority, Xi has also taken steps to secure and extend the CCP’s monopoly on political power. The anti-corruption campaign that he launched immediately on assuming office now targets thousands of mid-to-high-level officials in the military, state and Party bureaucracies. In addition to eliminating opponents and potential rivals it is clearly intended to bolster the regime’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese people. Even as he goes after official corruption, Xi has overseen a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, Internet freedom and the operations of non-governmental organizations that seek to promote the development of civil society. According to the Orwellian-sounding “Document 9” (“Communique on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere”) issued in April 2013, these groups are rooted in a dangerous Western “socio-political theory,” which holds that “in the social sphere, individual rights are paramount and ought to be immune to obstruction by the state.” Such notions, together with the concepts of “Western constitutional democracy” and “universal values,” threaten to weaken “the theoretical foundations of the Party’s leadership” and must be vigorously opposed. Like his predecessors, Xi hopes to push through measures aimed at sustaining economic growth and, with it, popular support. But in the political realm he is no reformer.”

Kerry, China Leaders to Meet in Beijing, May 16-17.
“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet senior Chinese leaders in Beijing this weekend at a time of heightened concerns in Asia and Washington over China's pursuit of maritime claims and shared worries about North Korea, the State Department said. Kerry will be the most senior U.S. official to visit China since many U.S. allies rushed to embrace a new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which some see as a challenge to U.S. leadership of the global financial system. Kerry will spend Saturday and Sunday in the Chinese capital and will discuss the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue scheduled to be held in Washington in late June as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping's expected visit to the U.S. capital in September. Kerry will also visit Seoul on May 17-18 for talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, including preparations for her planned visit to the United States in June. South Korea's foreign ministry said on Tuesday it expected to have discussions with Kerry on North Korea and its missile tests. Pyongyang said on Saturday it had successfully test-fired a missile from a submarine, which, if true, would mark a significant development for isolated North Korea's military capability. On his way home, Kerry will stop in Seattle on May 19 to deliver a speech on trade, including a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, to which neither China nor South Korea is party, that Washington hopes to see concluded this year. The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is a discussion forum that highlights the countries' economic interdependence as well as their strategic rivalry. The State Department said it would be headed by Kerry, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang. A senior U.S. Treasury official said last month the U.S. emphasis would be on governance standards for the AIIB, exchange-rate policy, climate change and Chinese regulation of information and communications technology. The United States has publicly welcomed the AIIB, but has announced no plans to join and stressed the need for it to ensure high standards. On exchange rates, it has repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency to give it an unfair competitive advantage. China suspended bank technology rules in April that Washington and others had complained amounted to unfair regulatory pressure on foreign firms, but Washington has said further discussion is needed on the issue.”

Pentagon Reports on China’s Satellite Killers.  
“From space weapons to armed drones, Chinese technology is accelerating into worrying new arenas, warns the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. But that doesn’t mean China is overtaking the US, a leading space expert cautioned, and a panicked over-reaction could drive bad policy. “Perhaps the most worrying part of the report from a US perspective is the section talking about Chinese counterspace capabilities,” said Brian Weeden, the Secure World Foundation‘s technical advisor. “The tough question is what to do, [and] some of the potential options could make the situation worse instead of better.” The report discusses three apparent tests of Chinese anti-satellite systems (ASAT), not just the well-known two. Everyone knows about China’s 2007 test when it destroyed its own defunct satellite, scattering debris that continues to orbit the planet and threaten space assets of every country. A fair number of people know that in 2014, China conducted what the Pentagon called a “successful” test of the same system, albeit without actually destroying a target, to everyone’s relief. But very few people know that in May 2013, China launched something else: a mysterious object that nearly reached geosynchronous orbit, the ultra-high altitude where crucial communications satellites hang out. Based on its trajectory, the system couldn’t have been intended to launch satellites or traditional research missions. Instead, the Pentagon report says and Weeden’s own analysis confirms, it could have been an anti-satellite system able to reach altitudes three times higher than the weapon tested in 2007 and 2014. China certainly has space hawks in high places. In 2009, PLA Air Force chief Xu Qiliang said “competition between military forces” in space is “a historical inevitability.” Qiliang had to retract his statements after then-president Hu Jintao “swiftly contradicted him,” the Pentagon report notes. But far from being punished, Qiliang became the first air force officer promoted to a vice-chairmanship on the Central Military Committee, a body helmed by Xi Jinping himself that serves as a combination of the National Security Council and Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

China Slams ‘Futile’ Philippine Occupation of Disputed Island.
“China rebuked the Philippines on Tuesday for taking journalists to a disputed island in the South China Sea, dismissing its occupation as "futile and illegal" in the latest war of words between the two sides. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. The Philippines took foreign and local journalists this week to Thitu Island, the biggest island occupied by Manila in the region. China's Foreign Ministry said the Philippines was endangering international law. "China has made clear on many occasions that it opposes the Philippines' futile and illegal occupation," said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. "The reality of the situation has again proven the Philippines to be a rule-violator and a troublemaker." China has so far not permitted journalists to visit the islands it controls in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. China last month put forward a detailed defense of its reclamation in the Spratlys, saying the new islands would provide civilian services including weather forecasting and search and rescue facilities that would benefit other countries. China's reclamation of about seven reefs in the Spratlys has rendered islands controlled by the Philippines vulnerable, Philippine military officials and security experts said on Tuesday. The Philippine military's top priority was to build a naval base on the country's western coastline, opposite the Spratlys, although the plans have been delayed by funding bottlenecks, the Philippine armed forces chief told Reuters.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 11, 2015

China Advances Threaten Erosion of U.S. Edge, Pentagon Says. “China’s rapid military modernization “has the potential to reduce core U.S. military technological advantages,” the Pentagon said in its annual report on that nation’s military strategy. One example cited in the report is China’s “extraordinarily rapid” development of its conventionally armed missile capabilities. China has been fielding a variant of its DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile with a maneuverable warhead that has the capability to attack aircraft carriers in the western Pacific, the report said. China is “investing in capabilities designed to defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party —- including U.S. -- intervention during a crisis or conflict,” according to the report, which was released on Friday in Washington. These capabilities include anti-satellite weapons, offensive cyber-operations and electronic-warfare capabilities meant to deny adversaries the advantages of modern warfare, according to the report. Although China seeks to “avoid direct confrontation with the United States in order to focus on domestic development and smooth China’s rise,” its leaders in 2014 demonstrated “a willingness to tolerate a higher level of regional tension,” the report said. This included territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The report includes a “special topics” section highlighting China’s land reclamation at five of its outposts in the Spratly Islands, the South China Sea archipelago claimed by both China and its neighbors. It has expanded from 500 acres reclaimed as of December to more than 2,000 acres today, according to a defense official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. “The ultimate purpose of the expansion projects remains unclear, and the Chinese government has stated these projects are mainly for improving the living conditions of those stationed on islands,” according to the report. Outside analysts think China “is attempting to change the facts on the ground” against Japan “by improving its defense infrastructure in the South China Sea,” the Defense Department report said.”

Clear Strengths, Fuzzy Weaknesses In China’s Massive Military Build-Up.
“The U.S. Defense Department’s new assessment of China’s fighting ability paints a picture of a force in the midst of a broad-based modernization at a pace that other militaries would envy. It has increased its ability to exert leverage in the East and South China seas, where it is in territorial disputes with its neighbors. Significantly, it has also added to its ability to project its power further afield, adding to the global reach of the People’s Liberation Army. But military effectiveness is about more than hardware. The report cites a number of areas where the PLA’s human resources and organizational effectiveness are lacking, though Beijing is taking steps to rectify those. The report’s own limitations in this area underscore the difficulty in judging how effective Chinese forces can be. In the immediate area around China, the report released on Friday says, “PLA ground, air, naval, and missile forces are increasingly able to project power to assert regional dominance during peacetime and contest U.S. military superiority during a regional conflict.” China’s advancements and a defense budget 10 times greater have eroded Taiwan’s ability to defend itself. It has used incremental, salami-slicing tactics to assert effective control over contested areas and features in places like the South China Sea. Rapid South China Sea island reclamation adds to Beijing’s ability to establish forces there. To an already impressive array of short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, China has added more antiship ballistic missile capabilities allowing to engage vessels within 900 nautical miles of the Chinese coastline. It has improved communications systems for its intercontinental ballistic missile units and has launched more surveillance satellites that will improve targeting. Improving launch capabilities will allow even greater satellite payloads. To counter the space capabilities of potential adversaries, it is deploying “jamming equipment against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems” on sea and air platforms, the report said. China’s navy is also making strides, with the report saying it now possesses the largest number of vessels in Asia. Their quality had improved dramatically. For example, the Luyang-III-class (Type 052D) destroyer, which first entered service in 2014, has a vertical launch system capable of firing antiship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and antisubmarine missiles. The Type 055 guided-missile cruiser slated to begin construction in 2015 will have similar armaments. Their improved capabilities mean Chinese naval task forces will increasingly be able to take a protective umbrella with them to distant seas far removed from China’s land-based air defense systems. China is adding to its fleet of civil-maritime vessels, which play a key role in its territorial disputes in nearby waters. By the end of 2015, a decade-long construction effort will have yielded a net increase of 25% more ships. Many older platforms are being replaced by new and improved ones, with many more having helicopter embarking capability than previously. In the air, China’s military is less capable but still improving. The Pentagon anticipates the maiden flight of the fifth J-20 low-observable fighter prototype in 2015, while the J-31 fighter may be offered for export. China “is the only country in the world other than the United States to have two concurrent stealth fighter programs,” it says. It concludes that the Chinese air force “is rapidly closing the gap with western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities.”

China Preparing for Drone Warfare.
“China’s military plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup, the Pentagon’s annual report on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disclosed Friday. China currently operates several armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks. “The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations,” the report said. China’s ability to use drones is increasing and the report said China “plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.” Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons. “The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV,” the report said. The drone buildup is part of what the Pentagon identified as a decades-long military buildup that last year produced new multi-warhead missiles and a large number of submarines and ships. Additionally, the Pentagon for the first time confirmed China’s development of an ultra-high speed maneuvering strike vehicle as part of its growing strategic nuclear arsenal. “China is working on a range of technologies to attempt to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV), [multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles], decoys, chaff, jamming, and thermal shielding,” the report, made public Friday, states. “The United States and China acknowledge that the Chinese tested a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2014,” the report noted. It was the first time the Pentagon confirmed the existence of what is known as the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle, a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly 10 times the speed of sound. The Wu-14, designed to deliver nuclear weapons through U.S. missile defenses, was first disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon, which reported on three tests conducted in 2014.”

Congressmen Deny U.S. Involvement in Hong Kong Protests, Met With Silence By C.Y. Leung.
“A group of U.S. congressmen visiting Hong Kong struck a neutral tone on political reform in the Chinese territory, but said they were met with silence from the city’s chief executive when they denied U.S. involvement in last fall’s Occupy Central protests. Republican Matt Salmon of Arizona said he told Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in a meeting Friday that when Mr. Leung comments on foreign interference in Hong Kong, he “must be speaking of other countries, because our country has not been involved in that at all, I can guarantee you that.” During last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong, which ran from September to December, Mr. Leung—toeing a line oft-used by Beijing—repeatedly said he had evidence proving foreign influence was behind the protests and would expose it at an appropriate time. But Mr. Leung met Mr. Salmon’s remark with silence, Democratic Representative Alan Lowenthal, of California, said. A spokesperson for Mr. Leung’s office declined to comment on the “closed-door” meeting and referred instead to a statement issued Friday, which noted that the parties had “exchanged views on Hong Kong’s constitutional development.” The U.S. representatives’ visit comes after Beijing blocked a group of U.K. politicians from traveling to Hong Kong during the Occupy protests in November last year. The group of politicians were part of the U.K. parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the British delegation’s planned trip was an interference in Chinese domestic affairs and said Beijing had the right to block the trip because foreign affairs fall under the central government’s authority, and not the Hong Kong government’s. Mr. Salmon, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said that this week’s visit—part of an Asia itinerary that also included Vietnam—was arranged by the U.S. State Department and the Hong Kong government. The congressmen said they weren't in Hong Kong to offer policy prescriptions—which Mr. Salmon said would be “arrogant”—but to meet with both opposition and pro-establishment politicians to learn about Hong Kong’s political situation. The delegation’s neutral tone suggests Hong Kong politics is not a contentious issue in U.S.-China relations. Instead, Mr. Salmon expressed concerns about tensions in the South China Sea and the progress of regional free-trade pacts.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | May 01, 2015

China Says U.S. Welcome to Use Civilian Facilities in South China Sea. “The United States and other countries will be welcome to use civilian facilities China is building in the South China Sea for search and rescue and weather forecasting "when conditions are right", China's navy chief has told a senior U.S. officer. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in the disputed Spratly Islands and may be planning another. Those moves, along with other reclamations, have caused alarm around the region and in Washington too, with the issue dominating a summit of Southeast Asian leaders this week, to China's displeasure. In a teleconference with the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, China's navy chief Wu Shengli said China's building work in the South China Sea would not affect freedom of navigation or overflight. "Instead, it will improve the ability in these seas of public services like weather forecasting and maritime search and rescue, fulfilling international obligations to maintain the security of international seas," Wu said, according to a Chinese Defence Ministry statement released late on Thursday. "(We) welcome international organizations, the United States and relevant countries to use these facilities in the future when conditions are right, to have cooperation on humanitarian search and rescue and disaster relief," Wu added.”

China Puts Conciliatory Slant on Land Reclamation.
“China’s navy chief said artificial islands China has built in disputed parts of the South China Sea might in the future be used for joint rescue and disaster-relief operations, in unusually conciliatory remarks that follow stepped-up criticism in the U.S. and Asia over Beijing’s land-reclamation work. Adm. Wu Shengli, also told his U.S. counterpart, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, in a video conference that the facilities wouldn’t affect freedom of navigation or overflight in the area, according to a report posted on the Chinese Defense Ministry website on Friday morning. China claims almost all of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes—and its reclamation work has raised fresh concerns in the U.S. and Asia that it is trying to use military force to assert those claims, which are disputed by several neighbors, including the Philippines, a U.S. ally. U.S. military commanders have expressed concern that Beijing will use the facilities to establish an air-defense identification zone, similar to one it declared in 2013 over the East China Sea. Senior congressional figures have called for a slowdown in the expansion of military ties with Beijing. Even the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, usually wary of antagonizing Beijing, issued a statement after a summit this week that didn’t mention China specifically, but said reclamation work had “eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea”. China was “gravely concerned” by that statement, Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a regular news briefing Tuesday. He repeated China’s long-standing position that it has sovereignty over the area where the construction is taking place. China has stepped up its own public efforts to defend its reclamation work in the last month, stating publicly for the first time that it will use the islands for military as well as civilian purposes, and providing details of reclamation work it says other claimant nations are doing in the area.”

Weaponized: The ‘China Card’ Makes Its Return to U.S. Politics.
“China has been “weaponized” in U.S. domestic politics.  This is evident in the current debate over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  For even though China is not a prospective member of the TPP, an incipient trade agreement among twelve Asia-Pacific nations, this has not stopped proponents and opponents of the deal alike from playing the “China card” when discussing the deal.  Not only has this tendency to weaponize China reduced the quality of debate over an important matter of public policy, but it also contributes to a growing risk that the U.S. is sleepwalking into greater confrontation with China—whether or not such confrontation is in the overall national interest. Although the exact details of the TPP are yet to be finalized and made public, the emerging agreement’s broad purpose is to reduce barriers to free trade between twelve Asia-Pacific economies: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.  Others may join the pact if it becomes operative.  Alongside the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and Europe—the TPP has formed a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s international economic policy.  Indeed, despite governing during a time of unprecedented global economic crisis, Obama’s relatively robust defense of an open economic order stands out as a major (even if under-celebrated) foreign policy achievement. The TPP has proven controversial in domestic politics, however.  In part, opposition to the agreement is based upon the usual protectionist arguments: that open economies can be bad for U.S. workers and businesses; that free trade induces a “race to the bottom” in terms of employment and environmental regulations; and that the neo-liberal model of globalization promotes unacceptable levels of inequality even as it boosts aggregate national wealth.  There is also specific opposition to the reported inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in the TPP, provisions that would force national governments to bow to the rulings of international arbitral tribunals and thus are characterized as undermining U.S. “sovereignty.”

Eyeing Exports, China Steps Up Research Into Military Drones.
“China is stepping up research into military drones as its arms industry looks to increase export volumes, hoping to gain traction with cheaper technology and a willingness to sell to countries Western states are reluctant to. While its technology lags the United States and Israel, the biggest vendors of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), China is attracting a growing list of foreign buyers including Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt. China has previously had limited success exporting manned military aircraft but is hoping to do better with UAVs given they are cheaper and easier to manufacture. "Research and development on drones in our country has now entered a phase of high-speed progress," said Xu Guangyu, a retired major general in the People's Liberation Army. "We have some distance to catch up with developed countries — that's certain — but the export market is growing." Market researcher Forecast International pegged the value of production for military drones worldwide at $942 million last year. It will grow to $2.3 billion by 2023, the firm said. China's biggest drone maker, Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic), is predicted by Forecast to become the world's largest maker of military drones by 2023. Its Wing Loong drone sells for just $1 million according to Chinese media reports. The U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper, to which it has sometimes been compared, is priced at around $30 million. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates China became the second country in the world to openly export armed drones when it delivered five of them to Nigeria in 2014. Nigeria, which had vainly sought UAV from the U.S., has used them against the militant group Boko Haram. The U.S. has only exported armed drones to Britain and says it considers a series of factors when agreeing to foreign sales including human rights and the regional power balance.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 30, 2015

Beijing’s Disaster Politics. “Governments around the world are rushing humanitarian supplies to Nepal after Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 4,400 people and left tens of thousands homeless. With one prominent exception: Taiwan. That’s not because the Taiwanese are stingy. The island’s leaders offered help, but Kathmandu refused. Nepalese officials cited the distance, absence of direct flights and lack of diplomatic ties. Those aren’t convincing explanations. Taiwan flew C-130s full of aid to quake-ravaged Haiti in 2010 and was the second-largest donor (behind the U.S.) to Japan’s Red Cross after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The likelier reason for Nepal’s refusal is that China claims Taiwan is part of its territory and tries to keep the island isolated internationally. Beijing blocks Taiwan from joining humanitarian bodies such as the World Health Organization and this month rejected Taiwan’s bid to participate in the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Nepal has a record of bending to the political will of Beijing, now its largest source of foreign investment. In recent years Kathmandu has helped China staunch the flow of Tibetans fleeing across the border. In violation of international promises, Nepal sends refugees back to China. Because Tibetans are forced into hiding, many who died in the earthquake may never be identified. This isn’t the first time Beijing has politicized disaster relief. In 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines—China’s undersized rival for territory in the South China Sea—Beijing initially mustered only $100,000 in aid. It quickly faced international ridicule and coughed up $1.6 million, but that was still less than the $2.7 million donated by furniture giant Ikea. The U.S. sent an aircraft carrier, several thousand troops and $20 million. This week China has sent civilian and military rescue teams to Nepal, along with $3 million in aid, which is all to the good. But a Beijing government that plays diplomatic bully even amid natural disaster explains why so many of China’s neighbors don’t trust its motives.” 

China, Russia to Hold First Joint Mediterranean Naval Drills in May.
“China will hold joint naval drills with Russia in mid-May in the Mediterranean Sea, the first time the two countries will hold military exercises together in that part of the world, the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Thursday. China and Russia have held naval drills in Pacific waters since 2012. The May maneuvers come as the United States ramps up military cooperation with its allies in Asia in response to China's increasingly assertive pursuit of maritime territorial claims. A total of nine ships from the two countries will participate, including vessels China now has on anti-piracy patrols in waters off Somalia, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a monthly news briefing. "The aim is to deepen both countries' friendly and practical cooperation, and increase our navies' ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats," Geng said. "What needs saying is that these exercises are not aimed at any third party and have nothing to do with the regional situation." Geng gave no specific date for the drills, which will be focused on navigation safety, at-sea replenishment, escort missions and live fire exercises. Since Western powers imposed economic sanctions on Russia last year over the violence in Ukraine, Moscow has accelerated attempts to build ties with Asia, Africa and South America, as well as warming relations with its former Soviet-era allies. China and Russia are both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and have close diplomatic, economic and military ties, with China traditionally relying on Russia for its most advanced equipment.” 

Once Concerned, China is Quiet About Trans-Pacific Trade Deal.
“As Congress debates the direction of economic policy in the Pacific, the main country worried about an American-led trade deal has gone nearly silent: China. Two years ago, the prospect of the deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, evoked fears in China of commercial encirclement, particularly as the initiative followed the Obama administration’s strategic turn to Asia. Meeting with President Obama in California in 2013, President Xi Jinping of China made a point of asking that the United States keep him informed on the negotiations, even though Beijing did not want to join the nascent trade agreement. The tempo of negotiations has accelerated considerably since then, with people involved saying that an agreement is close. Michael Froman, the United States trade representative, flew to Japan last week for talks. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrived in the United States on Sunday, is scheduled to discuss the pact in Washington and address a joint meeting of Congress. And Congress is deciding whether to give the president fast-track authority for such trade agreements, which would put a deal to a vote without allowing amendments. As the deal has come to the forefront again, the Chinese government has changed its view. Some of China’s leading trade policy intellectuals now say that they have few concerns about the agreement. They also say that the pact could even help China, by making it easier for Beijing to pursue its own regional agreements without facing criticism that it should instead pursue ambitious global free trade pacts that would require significantly opening its markets to Western competition. “We don’t think T.P.P. is a challenge to China — we will watch and study,” said He Weiwen, a former Commerce Ministry official who is now the co-director of the China-United States-European Union Study Center in Beijing. “We are more or less neutral because we have our own agenda, pushing forward Asean plus six and the Silk Road,” he said, referring to two of China’s own regional initiatives. He added that China would make sure its regional pacts complied with global free trade rules on such deals.” 

China Says Army Helps to Investigate Murders Near North Korea Border.
“China's Defence Ministry on Thursday said its forces were helping with an investigation of three murders near the sensitive border with North Korea, although it declined to confirm reports the suspects were North Korean army deserters. A 55-year-old man, his 26-year-old daughter and another 67-year-old man were murdered on Saturday in the small Chinese border town of Helong, the government said in a statement. South Korean broadcaster KBS said three North Korean soldiers who had fled the military committed the murders, but the Chinese government has yet to confirm a direct link. The Public Security Ministry was investigating, with help from the army, Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a regular monthly news briefing. "The army's border forces will closely coordinate with the local authorities, and maintain the security and stability of the border with North Korea," he added, without elaborating. Last year, a North Korean murdered a Chinese family of three, Chinese media said in January. China is isolated North Korea's biggest trade partner and only significant ally, but a series of nuclear tests by Pyongyang have deeply angered Beijing. The 521-km- (324-mile-) long Tumen River that divides China and North Korea is a popular breakout route used by defectors fleeing the secretive state.” 

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