China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 08, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 03, 2014

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

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

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

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

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 02, 2014

Near Flight Collision Prompts China-U.S. To Start Talks.  China and the U.S. have agreed to talks on avoiding perilous encounters between their military aircraft, more than a month after a Chinese fighter came within 20 feet of a Navy plane flying at more than 400 miles an hour. The move to defuse tensions comes after the Pentagon labeled as “unsafe and unprofessional” the Chinese intercept of a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft near Hainan Island -- one of several recent close calls. The talks, to start this month, will occur as China prepares to host President Barack Obama and 18 other heads of state in November for an Asian-Pacific summit. “We are trying to prevent -- both sides are trying to prevent -- accidents, miscalculations, quick escalations of problems,” said Robert Work, deputy secretary of defense, describing a growing web of military ties. “We’re looking for a China that accepts that the United States is a Pacific power.” The surveillance flight showdown raises a central question about China’s rise: Will the world’s second-largest economy be content to play by the current rules of the global system or will it seek to rewrite them? The core of the dispute is what activities are permitted within a country’s 200-mile (322-kilometer) offshore exclusive economic zone, where coastal states enjoy sovereign rights over marine resources. The U.S. says international law permits such flights, which have been a standard practice for decades. China objects, claiming such freedom is reserved for civilian aircraft. Work, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on Sept. 30, said both China and Russia are seeking to change aspects of the international system that has emerged since World War II.

China Conducts Flight Test of New Mobile ICBM. China’s military has conducted the first flight test of a new variant of one of its road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles in a sign that Beijing is increasing its strategic strike capability against the United States. The test of a new DF-31B missile was conducted Sept. 25 from a missile test range in central China. A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to provide details of the test. “We continue to monitor China’s military modernization, including its missile tests,” Cynthia O. Smith, the spokeswoman, told the Washington Free Beacon. No details of the missile test could be learned, but the test was believed to have been carried out from China’s Wuzhai test facility. Nongovernment military analysts said the new missile likely is an increased-range or improved performance weapon, and possibly a multi-warhead version of the ICBM. A Chinese military enthusiast website has identified the DF-31B as a mobile missile variant designed specifically for travel on rugged terrain or other difficult road conditions. Mobile missiles are considered a greater strategic threat because tracking their location and targeting them in a conflict is very difficult. The missiles can be hidden in garages or caves to avoid detection by satellites and other sensors. China has made clear in its state-run media that its nuclear forces are being developed for use against the United States. The Global Times reported Oct. 28 that a submarine-launched missile attack on the United States would kill between 5 million and 12 million Americans.

What's at Stake in Hong Kong? Its people want democracy as a defense against Beijing's values. The size of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong this week surprised even their organizers. Some 10,000 people were expected to take part, but protesters from all ages and incomes have emerged by the hundreds of thousands. And their numbers continue to swell. Why? For 30 years Hong Kong residents have asked for a say in their system of government. And for just as long China has told them to focus on business and be patient. The desire for self-government is natural when a society becomes as affluent as Hong Kong. But talk to the protesters and another theme emerges: saving the qualities that make their city unique. They want democracy as a bulwark against the influx of mainland authoritarian values. The experience of Hong Kong under Chinese rule shows that the subsidiary institutions of a free society—rule of law, civil liberties, an independent civil society, free markets—can't survive long in the face of authoritarian assault. The British colonial government bequeathed the software of freedom to the city. After the handover in 1997, some of us hoped that China would emulate Hong Kong. Instead China is slowly bringing Hong Kong down to its level.

India reacts cautiously to PLAN submarine visit to Sri Lanka. India has reacted cautiously to the docking of a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) submarine in Sri Lanka from 7-14 September. The Type 039 (Song)-class boat, on long-range deployment to escort PLAN warships conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, docked at the Colombo International Container Terminal, which China funded and helped to build. "We continuously monitor them [the PLAN], see their deployments, and what challenges they pose for us," Indian Navy (IN) Chief of Staff Admiral Robindra Dhowan told reporters in New Delhi on 25 September. "Our warships, submarines, and aircraft are always ready to face any challenge," he added at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the Directorate of Naval Design.

How the U.S. and India Can Move From Rhetoric to Reality. In Washington, communiques that purport to cover everything usually, in reality, address nothing. This is the sense conveyed by the “vision statement“ issued in the wake of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the White House. It describes the U.S.-India relationship as a “joint endeavor for prosperity and peace,” the aims of which include promoting nuclear disarmament, mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty, and collaborating “in every aspect–ranging from particles of creation to outer space.” This ambitious but abstract communique evades any mention–much less resolution–of the differences that exist between the United States and India on a range of issues. This is undoubtedly intentional because other communiques, including one issued by the two powers on Tuesday, read like laundry lists of thorny bilateral issues, a reflection perhaps of the extent to which U.S.-India ties have drifted from their high point following the signing of a bilateral civil nuclear accord in 2008. The brief “vision statement” appears meant as a reaffirmation, with the election of a new, determined Indian prime minister, that the bilateral relationship is strategic, not merely transactional. This, however, is a false choice. Certainly, the thorny issues dividing the U.S. and India will be resolved more easily if the relationship is seen as more than the sum of its transactional parts. Yet the reverse also holds true: The partnership cannot be held out as strategic, much less “a model for the rest of the world,” unless it proves productive and yields compromises on issues important to both sides. On foreign policy, efforts at cooperation should emphasize Asia, where U.S. and Indian interests and strategies are generally aligned on China, Afghanistan, and strengthening regional alliances. The U.S. would also like to see India lead more on regional security.

Deputy PM Minh: ‘No Two Countries Have Worked Harder’ To Repair Relations Than U.S. And Vietnam. Throughout his address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Pham Binh Minh stressed, “vibrant growth in all area” — trade, people-to-people exchanges and security that allows his nation and the region to grow economically and peacefully Vietname and the U.S. only established diplomatic relations in 1995. “People could not believe how fast our relationship developed,” he said. It is relationship that began in an unusual way following a long war — the search for Americans missing in action years after the fighting ended. What followed was Vietnam’s removal of its troops from Cambodia and the closing of the so-called re-education camps where thousands of supporters of the fallen Saigon government were confined. But one sticking point in the new relationship has been the executive branch’s embargo on the sale of lethal arms to Vietnam. The ban was imposed primarily on human rights grounds. Minh called the continuation of the ban, “abnormal” in an address to the Asia Society in New York last week, reported Voice of America. That ban maybe softening. Last week, Reuters reported the U.S. was considering selling Vietnam unarmed Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. In a panel discussion following Wednesday’s address, Scot Marciel, a principal deputy assistant secretary of state, said recent agreements have sent humanitarian assistance to Vietnam but the military-to-military contacts “have gone a little bit more slowly” and lethal arms sales are banned by executive policy.

Why Russia's President Is 'Putin the Great' in China. Like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin Is Seen as a Strong Leader Who Isn't Afraid to Confront the West. In the recommended-reading section of Beijing's Wangfujing bookstore, staff members have no doubt which foreign leader customers are most interested in: President Vladimir Putin, or "Putin the Great" as some Chinese call him. Books on Mr. Putin have been flying off shelves since the crisis in Ukraine began, far outselling those on other world leaders, sales staff say. One book, "Putin Biography: He is Born for Russia," made the list of top 10 nonfiction best sellers at the Beijing News newspaper in September. China's fascination with Mr. Putin is more than literary, marking a shift in the post-Cold War order and in Chinese politics. After decades of mutual suspicion—and one short border conflict—Beijing and Moscow are drawing closer as they simultaneously challenge the U.S.-led security architecture that has prevailed since the Soviet collapse, diplomats and analysts say. The former rivals for leadership of the Communist world also increasingly share a brand of anti-Western nationalism that could color President Xi Jinping's view of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Beijing accuses Western governments of stirring unrest there, much as Mr. Putin blamed the West for the pro-democracy protests in Kiev that began late last year. Russia has begun portraying the Hong Kong protests, too, as U.S.-inspired. Russian state-controlled television channels this week claimed that Hong Kong protest leaders had received American training. The Pew Research Center says China is one of the few countries where popular support for Russia has risen since Moscow's confrontation with the West over Ukraine—rising to 66% in July from 47% a year earlier. A poll by In Touch Today, an online news service run by China's Tencent Holdings Ltd., put Mr. Putin's approval rating at 92% after Russia annexed Crimea in March. "Putin's personality is impressive—as a man, as a leader. Chinese people find that attractive. He defends Russia's interests," says Zhao Huasheng, an expert on China-Russia relations at Shanghai's Fudan University. "Russia and China can learn a lot from each other."

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | October 01, 2014

Top DoD Official: US Will 'Respond' if Japan-China Dispute Escalates. The US will respond with military force if allies in the Pacific region are threatened, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said on Tuesday in response to questions about Japan’s dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands. Japan and China both claim ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, located east of China and south of Japan. US officials have been on Japan’s side, stating that Article 5 of the US-Japan Defense treaty created in 1951 lists the territory under Japan’s control. During his talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, Work discussed defense strategies toward the Asia-Pacific region. “While the Senkakus are under Japanese control, Article 5 applies, and we would respond if there was an attempt to take the Senkakus,” Work said. He later added, “We would definitely respond militarily to certainly any engagements against our allies.” The Pentagon official called Japan the “cornerstone of our alliances in Asia.” In 1997, Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Pentagon crafted defense guidelines on how the countries would cooperate in times of conflict. Japanese and US officials announced last year that they would revise the guidelines to close any “gaps” in collaboration. US forces have recently poured into Japan as the country attempts to expand its defense posture. Work said that by 2020, the Navy and the Air Force will have stationed 60 percent of its forces in the Asia-Pacific region, a total of 100,000 troops, and that the department will continue to expand its reach regardless of the defense budget.

A renewed U.S.-India partnership for the 21st century. By Narendra Modi and Barack Obama
.  As nations committed to democracy, liberty, diversity and enterprise, India and the United States are bound by common values and mutual interests. We have each shaped the positive trajectory of human history, and through our joint efforts, our natural and unique partnership can help shape international security and peace for years to come. Ties between the United States and India are rooted in the shared desire of our citizens for justice and equality. When Swami Vivekananda presented Hinduism as a world religion, he did so at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. When Martin Luther King Jr. sought to end discrimination and prejudice against African Americans, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent teachings. Gandhiji himself drew upon the writings of Henry David Thoreau. As nations, we’ve partnered over the decades to deliver progress to our people. The people of India remember the strong foundations of our cooperation. The food production increases of the Green Revolution and the Indian Institutes of Technology are among the many products of our collaboration. Today our partnership is robust, reliable and enduring, and it is expanding. Our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before — not just at the federal level but also at the state and local levels, between our two militaries, private sectors and civil society. Indeed, so much has happened that, in 2000, then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could declare that we are natural allies.

The Pivot to India. Why the U.S.-Indian partnership is at the heart of America's future in Asia. By John McCain. The May election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has transformational potential. Indians are hungry for bold change, and they gave a once-in-a-generation mandate to a leader eager to deliver it. This change is already extending to India's foreign policy, including the strategic partnership between our countries. How to take full advantage of this unique moment will be the key question when Modi meets with President Barack Obama this week in Washington. I met Modi in July, and my impression is that he sees a strategic partnership with the United States as integral to his goal of economically and geopolitically revitalizing India -- and that India's revitalization can, in turn, help reinvigorate our partnership. Modi and I agreed that this goal is much needed, because recently, our partnership has not lived up to its potential. Too often, our relationship has felt like a laundry list of initiatives that amounts to no more than the sum of its parts. Too often, we have been overly driven by domestic politics and overly focused on extracting concessions from one another, rather than investing in one another's success and defining priorities that can bring clarity and common purpose to our actions. Our strategic relationship has unfortunately devolved into a transactional one. My sense is that Modi wants India to do its part to change this -- and that he wants India and the United States to think bigger and do bigger things together once again. I fully agree. And to realize these ambitions, India and the United States first need to recall why we embarked on a strategic partnership in the first place. It was not for run-of-the-mill reasons. We affirmed that India and the United States, two democratic great powers, can and should lead the 21st century in sustaining a liberal, rules-based international order, supported by a favorable balance of power.

China, Russia & the Great Game in Central Asia. One of the main criticisms against Washington's attempt to sanction and otherwise punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggressive actions in Ukraine is that this is driving Russia and China closer together in an anti-American axis. Such concerns are unfounded, first because the two are already close strategic partners, but more importantly, because neither really trusts the other ... nor should they. The truth is, when Russia and China get in bed together, they both sleep with one eye open! This is not to say that Sino-Russian cooperation has not been significant. Last year Russia's Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation signed a $400 billion contract to jointly build a gas pipeline. They further agreed to do their transactions in their own currencies, rather than the US dollar. Later that month, in a joint statement at the 4thSummit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building measures in Asia (CICA) - a reinvigorated Asia-Pacific security group in which the United States and Japan are only observers - the two leaders pledged to cement their strategic partnership. Both countries have regularly vetoed or significantly watered down US-sponsored UN resolutions regarding Syria and North Korea. Moreover, China has been noticeably quiet regarding Russia's intervention in Ukraine. And while Beijing is particularly sensitive to questions of sovereignty and territorial integrity - "non-interference" being one of its most sacred principles - and despite close defense ties with Ukraine, thus far, Beijing has refrained from publicly criticizing Moscow. Fears of a Russia-China condominium are exaggerated, however. Beneath the surface, a creeping competition will erode the foundation of the partnership. The two countries may be enjoying a honeymoon but this is a marriage of convenience. No other place will provide more fertile ground for their geopolitical competition than their shared periphery, Central Asia, a.k.a Russia's "near abroad."

Why China won't condemn Russia over Crimea. A revealing shift in China's official attitudes to foreign policy lies in Beijing's lack of criticism over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Its silence has been conspicuous in light of China's longstanding pronouncements on the inviolability of state sovereignty and the dangers of what it calls "splitist" movements that undermine a country's territorial integrity. To be clear, Beijing has not endorsed Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and, in general, has called for restraint and negotiations among the parties. When China's foreign ministry spokesman was asked if the government would recognize Crimea as part of Russia after its residents voted to secede from Ukraine, he stated: "China always respects all countries' sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The Crimean issue should be resolved politically under a framework of law and order. All parties should exercise restraint and refrain from raising the tension." This noncommittal response was, in some respects, unsurprising. One doubts that Beijing wants to set a precedent of recognizing a mechanism by which parts of a country vote to stay "in" or "out" -- lest it be applied within China itself. Yet while the Chinese government has not supported Russia's behavior, neither has it condemned it. In mid-March, when it came time to vote on a United Nations Security Council draft resolution judging the Crimean referendum as illegal, the Chinese abstained. They did so again later that month, when the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling upon states "not to recognize the changes in status" of the Crimea region.

Is China Sending a Stealth Fighter to Sea? A full-scale model of China’s J-31 stealth fighter prototype has appeared on the flight deck of the Chinese navy’s aircraft carrier mock-up, fueling speculation that the radar-evading jet could become part of China’s carrier air wing. If so, China would enter the race alongside the United States to be the first to deploy a stealth jet on a flattop. The U.S. Navy is struggling to develop the F-35C stealth fighter to fly from the American fleet’s 10 large carriers starting no earlier than late 2018. A photographer has spotted a model of the J-31 fighter on the mock-up carrier’s deck. Chinese engineers could be testing the plane to see whether it can safely maneuver on Liaoning’s 1,000-foot-long flight deck. Liaoning lacks catapults and instead launches planes by way of a bow ramp.

In Hong Kong, an Opportunity for Beijing to Get It Right. With the protests in Hong Kong, Beijing faces a moment of truth. As does Washington. The burgeoning pro-democracy protests on the streets of Hong Kong present a unique do-over opportunity for Beijing and a much-needed wake-up call for Washington. If it acts wisely and generously in Hong Kong, China’s Communist Party has within its grasp the possibility to undo in part a tragic and historic mistake, a chance dictatorships don’t often get. It can expunge part of the shame of June 4, 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army turned its tanks and guns on the Chinese people at Tiananmen Square and cities across China. That was the day Deng Xiaoping, China’s Paramount Leader and the architect of sweeping economic reforms, lost his nerve, decided that the people he freed to “get rich” could not be trusted with parallel political freedom, and gave the fatal order. The mere possibility that the Communist Party might one day have to share power with a competitive political force within China panicked Deng and his colleagues and they brutally cast the hopes of the population onto the trash heap of history. In Hong Kong, Beijing has the opportunity to get it right at last. Four decades earlier in Taiwan, the CCP’s sister dictatorship, the Kuomintang, had similarly acted to crush a popular uprising. February 28, 1947, turned out to be the low point in the KMT’s harsh reign, and after Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek passed from the scene, his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, put Taiwan on a path to democratic governance. The once authoritarian political party redeemed itself and ushered in a system under which it could be, and was, voted out of power in favor of its political opposition, and just as peacefully returned to power.

Momentum for the Trans-Pacific Partnership needs to be revived. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed free-trade agreement that will knit the United States and 11 nations of South America, North America and Asia more closely together, while providing a geopolitical counterweight to a rising China. The pact would be especially valuable because Japan is willing to join, which would require a long-overdue opening and restructuring of its protected but lackluster economy. Indeed, without Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, the TPP loses much of its strategic significance. So it was disappointing to learn that a Sept. 24 meeting between American and Japanese trade negotiators in Washington broke up after only an hour over the same old issue, Japanese resistance to U.S. farm exports, that has plagued the two nations’ dealings for decades. The Japanese departed without touching a sandwich buffet that had been laid out in anticipation of an extended working session, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is only the latest troubling development for the centerpiece of what was once meant to be President Obama’s foreign policy “pivot” to Asia. As 2014 began, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was promising to join the U.S.-led free-trade agreement as a spur to his own structural economic reforms. A bipartisan, bicameral group of senior U.S. lawmakers had agreed on a plan for “fast track” legislative authority to expedite a congressional vote on the TPP, once the 12 would-be members hammered out a final deal. Bucking resistance from trade skeptics in his own party, Mr. Obama had offered a friendly reference to that proposal in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | September 30, 2014

Modi’s Visit A Chance For Obama To Improve Relationship, Enlist India In His Asia Policy. President Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House on Monday for their first face-to-face meeting as the administration seeks to revive the stagnant relationship between the nations and enlist Asia’s largest democracy in its broader regional strategy. Modi was received by the president at a lavish working dinner on Monday night even though the prime minister was on a religious fast, and their agenda includes discussions Tuesday on economic investment, regional security and climate change. But the specter of what many think will be left unspoken — human rights and civil society issues — hangs over the visit. The administration’s renewed interest in India — Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have visited since Modi’s landslide victory in May — comes as Obama seeks to reinvigorate his Asia policy ahead of a trip to the region in November. Rekindling the relationship with India is part of a U.S. effort to hedge against the broadening economic and military clout of China, whose President Xi Jinping recently met with Modi in New Delhi. In remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday, Modi asserted that India, the world’s second-most-populous country, will challenge China for primacy this century.

For China, Limited Tools To Quell Unrest In Hong Kong. China’s Communist Party has ample experience extinguishing unrest. For years it has used a deft mix of censorship, arrests, armed force and, increasingly, money to repress or soften calls for political change. But as he faces swelling street demonstrations in Hong Kong pressing for more democracy in the territory, the toolbox of President Xi Jinping of China appears remarkably empty of instruments that could lead to palatable long-term solutions for all involved. Hong Kong is already a mature, prosperous enclave that has grown relatively immune to the blandishments of mutual prosperity that helped keep it stable during 16 years of Chinese rule. And because it is a former British colony with its own laws and traditions of liberty, a severe crackdown on mostly peaceful protests would almost certainly backfire, especially under the glare of international attention. “On the mainland, as long as you can control the streets with enough soldiers and guns, you can kill a protest, because everywhere else is already controlled: the press, the Internet, the schools, every neighborhood and every community,” said Xiao Shu, a mainland writer who is a visiting scholar at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. “In Hong Kong, the streets are not the only battlefield, like on the mainland.” After demonstrators defied a police crackdown on Monday and took over vast areas of the business districts of the city, the protests have become an epic standoff that Mr. Xi has few obvious ways of defusing.

China launches latest of military, 'experimental' satellites. China launched a Long March-4B rocket carrying the Yaogan-21 remote sensing satellite and an experimental satellite, Tiantuo-2, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre on 8 September. Tiantuo-2, which was designed and built by the National University of Defence Technology (NUDT), "will be used for scientific experiments, natural resource survey, estimation of crop yields, and disaster relief," according to Xinhua news agency. This is the function China ascribes to most of its remote sensing satellites, but analysts believe that the Yaogan constellation is used for ocean surveillance. The launch was the latest in a series by China. On 9 August a Long March-4C rocket launched the Yaogan-20 mission into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. While Xinhua reported the payload to be a satellite with the same purposes as the Yaogan-21, other sources indicate that the payload comprised three satellites, which were deployed in such a way that would make them suitable for operating as an ocean surveillance system.

The President's Trade Deals Are Wildly Popular. So Why Don't They Pass? These are daunting times for those pursuing megaregional trade deals. Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) lie at the heart of both commercial and foreign policy, each has encountered troubling obstacles this week. The TTIP is teetering. The European Union's top trade official said yesterday that the TTIP is in danger of never concluding. The agreement was initially supposed to wrap up around now, as we are within a month of a changeover in EU leadership. There is no chance of that, and European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, who will step down with the change, warned that if no deal is reached in 2015 it could fall prey to the U.S. presidential election. He blamed a lack of political leadership in the United States and Europe. The TPP had an equally rough week. According to reports in Inside U.S. Trade (paywall-protected), the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, issued a similar, but earlier, deadline for its conclusion. "We have promised to conclude about three years in a row, so I think this is our last chance to fulfill our promise. ... And if you don't fulfill your promise this year, you'll be running into the American presidential elections in two years' time. And I think that's further delays of an indefinite nature." This fit uncomfortably with a recent report that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had no plans for legislation to provide President Obama with greater trade negotiating powers -- called trade promotion authority (TPA), it would fast track negotiations by preventing Congress from amending any deal -- in the lame duck session after the elections. Then, to make matters worse, a ministerial meeting between the United States and Japan this week reportedly failed to break the negotiating stalemate between the two on TPP issues.

U.S. and Philippines Hold Joint Military Exercises. Joint military exercises between the United States Navy and its Philippine counterpart kicked off on Monday in Palawan, the island closest to contested areas of the South China Sea. The war games, involving thousands of sailors and marines, will go on for 11 days at the former United States naval base at Subic Bay, which is now a commercial port, as well as in other areas in the northern and western part of the country. Such exercises between the United States and its former colony have been taking place since 1954 but are now being conducted amid a tense dispute over islets and rocky outcroppings in the South China Sea claimed by both the Philippines and China. The Philippines has filed a case with a United Nations arbitration panel seeking to stop China from occupying the areas in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea, and the Philippine government has released aerial photos purportedly showing Chinese reclamation of land to build islands and runways in the disputed areas. In April, the United States and the Philippines signed an agreement to expand military cooperation that would involve stationing American military ships, planes and troops in the country on a rotating basis. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement would allow the Philippine armed forces, among the weakest in Southeast Asia, to bolster their maritime security in coordination with the advanced capabilities of the United States military.

The Five Weapons Vietnam Needs Most to Take on a Rising China. Military and political disputes with China are nothing new to Vietnam. China and Vietnam have a shared border and shared history that go back thousands of years. And relations haven’t always gone the smaller country’s way. Vietnam has been a vassal state and colony of China four times in the last two thousand years, starting in the 1st Century B.C. Yet Vietnam has been remarkably successful at preserving its national identity from political, economic, and cultural domination, in large part due to its willingness to take up arms against its bigger, stronger neighbor. Vietnam has been watching the rise of China and preparing accordingly. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data, Vietnam’s defense spending has risen from $796 million dollars in 1994 to $7.8 billion dollars in 2013, a nearly tenfold increase that has paced China’s own defense buildup. China’s newfound political and military strength has emboldened it to reassert dormant claims in the South China Sea that have antagonized its neighbors, including Vietnam. Here are five weapons systems that could go a long way toward Vietnam’s security.
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