Posts tagged ‘Obama’

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

People’s Daily: “Little NATO” drawing nearer as Japan and South Korea initial Intelligence Sharing

South Korean parliamentary opposition leader Woo Sang-ho of the main oppositional Minjoo Party said on Monday that they would impeach or dismiss the defense minister if the government went ahead with plans to sign a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

Chinese Communist Party organ People’s Daily wrote on Wednesday or Thursday that if signed, this would be the first military cooperation agreement between the two countries after World War 2, and criticized the tw0 governments’ moves indirectly, by quoting a military expert.

→Link

On November 14, South Korea’s and Japan’s initialled a “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. If officially signed, this would be the first military cooperation agreement after the second world war. Military expert Zhang Junshe said in an interview with People’s Daily online that if the agreement in question was signed, the two countries would bypass America and exchange intelligence directly. This was significant good news for Japan and America, but for South Korea, this was like drinking Zhen poison to quench its thirst, or to allow the wolf into the house. The agreement could damage peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and negatively affect peace and stability in the entire North-East Asian region.

14日,韩国和日本政府草签了《军事情报保护协定》。如该协定正式签署,这将是两国自第二次世界大战结束后签署的首份军事合作协定。军事专家张军社在接受人民网采访时表示,若该协定正式签署,日韩两国将绕过美国直接共享情报,这对日美两国是重大利好消息,但对韩国而言则如同饮鸩止渴、引狼入室。该协定可能破坏朝鲜半岛的和平稳定,对整个东北亚地区的和平稳定也会带来不利影响。

According to a report by South Korea’s “JoongAng Ilbo” on November 15, South Korea hopes to use Japan’s reonnaissance satellites, radar, and other advanced equipment to gather intelligence, while Japan could make use of intelligence gathered by traditional Korean manpower.

据韩国《中央日报》15日报道,韩国希望利用日本的侦察卫星和雷达等尖端装备获取情报;而对日本来说,则可利用韩国传统人工收集的情报。

Currently, there are separate “Military Intelligence Protection Agreements” between South Korea and the US and Japan and the US respectively, but the exchange of military intelligence between South Korea and Japan needs to go through America as a “connecting airport”, with no “direct flight”.

目前,韩美、日美之间分别缔结有《军事情报保护协定》,不过韩日两国交换军事情报需要通过美国这个“中转站”,双方之间并无“直航”。

Zhang Junshe pointed out that Japan had advanced military technology at its disposal and could rely on advanced reconaissance satellites, radar, and other first-class equipment to gather information concerning North Korea’s nuclear tests, missile launches etc., while South Korea, owing to its geographical advantage, could gather first-hand intelligence gathered by agents and spies. If Japan and South Korea signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, the two sides could bypass America and exchange intelligence directly.

张军社指出,日本具有先进的军事科技,可凭借其先进的侦察卫星和雷达等尖端装备获得朝鲜核试验和导弹发射等情报信息,而韩国凭借地理优势,可获得更多由特工、间谍人员等获得的第一手人工情报。日本和韩国一旦签署《军事情报保护协定》,双方将可以绕过美国直接交换军事情报。

Some media reports point out that military cooperation between South Korea and Japan was a sensitive issue, because of the history of Japanese colonial rule over South Korea from 1910 to 1945 on the one hand, and also because of territorial disputes between the two sides. With historical and territorial issues unresolved, the South Korean government has always faced continuous resistance. On June 29, 2012, the South Korean government even brought a signing to an “emergency halt”, right on the scheduled day of signing.

有媒体报道指出,军事合作在韩日两国合作中属敏感范畴,一方面缘于日本1910年至1945年在朝鲜半岛推行殖民统治的历史,另一方面缘于双方现在的领土争议。在历史和领土问题均未解决的情况下,韩国政府推动签署军事情报方面协定一直面临重重阻力。2012年6月29日,韩国政府甚至在原定协定签署日当天“紧急叫停”。

This time, South Korea and Japan have signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” at tremendous speed, and South Korea said that it had only taken about a dozen days to conduct and intitial the agreement. Reportedly, the two sides will also work hard to sign the agreement by the end of November, after completing domestic procedures.

此次日韩两国“火速”草签《军事情报保护协定》,从韩方宣布重启有关协定谈判到协定草签仅用了十几天。据称,双方还将力争在完成国内手续后,于11月底前正式签署协定。

How could a agreement that had been stalled for years be settled in a dozen days? The background factors are providing food for thought.

一个多年无法的协定如今为何在短短十几天便得以尘埃落定?背后缘由耐人寻味。

According to Zhang Junshe, Japan has, after the end of World War 2, never profoundly reflected on the crimes it committed to the countries of North-East Asia. While America and Japan had made efforts all along to facilitate the signing of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, the opposing domestic voices in South Korea had always been very strong. The South Korean masses fear Japanese militarism’s rise from the ashes, so as to trample over the Korean peninsula once again. There are various reasons for Japan and South Korea to rush the initialling of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. From South Korea’s perspective, with president Park Geun-hye’s “Choigate” scandal almost inescapable for the government, the country is facing a serious domestic crisis. By signing military cooperation with Japan, domestic sight can be shifted and passed on to the crisis, thus easing the pressure on Park Geun-hye’s government because of “Choigate”. Also, as South Korea’s agreement to the American deoployment of the “THAAD” anti-missile system had led to a deepening of contradictions with China, Russia, and other neighboring countries, South Korea’s choice to deepen previous cooperation with Japan can also, to a certain degree, ease pressure from neighboring countries. In addition, America is very positive about facilitating the Japanese-South Korean signing of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. America has always hoped to strengthen military cooperation between its two Asia-Pacific allies, but for historical reasons, Japan and South Korea have, for a long time, given an appearance of unity while being divided in fact. If Japan and South Korea officially sign the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” at last, this undoubtedly spells an important result for America’s “Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific”, conducive to pulling Japan and South Korea together for the formation of a “small NATO” concept.

据张军社介绍,二战结束以来,日本从未对其在二战期间对东北亚各国所犯下的罪行作出深刻反省。虽然美、日方面一直在努力促成日韩签订《军事情报保护协定》,而韩国国内的反对声音一直十分强烈。韩国民众唯恐日本军国主义死灰复燃,再次践踏朝鲜半岛。此次日韩“火速”草签《军事情报保护协定》,原因是多方面的。从韩国方面看,目前朴槿惠政府深陷“闺蜜门”事件难以自拔,韩国内部面临着严重的政治危机。韩国此时与日本签署军事合作,可以转移国内视线,转嫁危机,减轻“闺蜜门”事件给朴槿惠政府带来的压力。此外,由于韩国同意美国在韩部署“萨德”反导系统,导致韩国与中国、俄罗斯等邻国矛盾加深,所以韩国选择加强与日本之前的合作,某种程度上也能减轻周边国家对其造成的压力。另外,美国对促成日韩签署《军事情报保护协定》非常积极。美国一直希望它的两个亚太盟友加强军事合作,但日韩两国因为历史问题长期貌合神离。若日韩最终正式签署《军事情报保护协定》,无疑是美国“亚太再平衡”战略的重要成果,有利于实现美国拉日韩两国构建东北亚“小北约”的构想。

Ma Yao, special researcher with the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai International Studies University, told media that for a long time, the main obstacle for building trilateral US-Japanese-South Korean military cooperation had been in South Korea, and the progress in South-Korean-Japanese military cooperation meant that the obstacle for trilateral military cooperation was reduced and might never return. This was a “watershed” in South-Korean-Japanese cooperation in the military field.

上海外国语大学国际关系与公共事务学院特约研究员马尧在接受媒体采访时表示,长期以来,美国构建美日韩三边军事合作的主要障碍在韩国,而韩日军事合作方面的进展意味着三边军事合作的障碍或将不复存在,这是“韩日在军事领域合作的分水岭”。

For Japan and America, it would clearly be significant good news if Japan and South Korea signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”.

日韩若签署《军事情报保护协定》,对日本和美国而言,显然都是重大利好消息。

Zhang Junshe pointed out that under the guise of the North Korea crisis, Japan could take advantage of the situation and get involved in the affairs of the Korean peninsula, broaden its right to discourse, thus increasing its influence in Northeast Asian affairs. For America, closer military cooperation between Japan and South Korea is conducive to advancing its control of the two allied countries further, to serve its “Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific” strategy, to achieve its goal of controlling North East Asia, and to advance and achieve the protection of its regional hegemony.

张军社指出,日本未来可以以朝鲜危机为幌子,趁机介入朝鲜半岛事务,扩大其在朝鲜半岛事务中的话语权,进而提升其在东北亚局势中的影响力。对美国而言,日韩两国更紧密的军事合作有利于其进一步控制这两个盟国,为其“亚太再平衡”战略服务,实现其控制东亚的目标,进而实现维护其地区霸权的目的。

The next paragraph translation is a stub (or whatever). It apparently refers to undoing the limits put on Japan’s military power after WW2, and the Shinzo Abe government’s goal to “normalize” Japan’s military policies.

You can contribute to a translation.

In March 2016, Japan’s new military legislation was officially implemented, allowing Japan to go from ordinary times to “有事”时, from its own ground to freely using force abroad.

2016年3月,日本新安保法正式实施,使日本获得了从平时到“有事”时、从本土到周边再到全球自由对外使用武力的权限,从而使日本绕过和平宪法束缚,初步实现长期追求的“军事正常化”目标。

If Japan and South Korea sign the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, this will open a channel for Japan to get involved in matters of the Korean peninsula. For South Korea, this undoubtedly means  drinking Zhen poison as a thirst quencher and allowing the wolf into the house, turning South Korea into the biggest victim. Zhang Junshe says that South Korea’s government, in order to shift the pressure from “Choigate” and to respond to America’s call, to resist China’s and Russia’s resistance against the “THAAD” deployment in South Korea, and to involve Japan, presents itself, on the surface, as retaliation against North Korea, it actually helps America to form a military alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region, and provides the conditions for Japan to step into the Korean peninsula.

若日韩签订《军事情报保护协定》,“则为日本介入朝鲜半岛事务打开了一个通道,这对韩国而言无异于饮鸩止渴、引狼入室,韩国将成为最大的受害者。”张军社如是说,韩国政府为了转移“闺蜜门”事件的压力,同时响应美国的号召,抵抗中国和俄罗斯对“萨德”入韩的反对,将日本拉拢过来,表面看是为了对付朝鲜,实际上是在帮助美国在亚太构建军事同盟体系,为日本插足朝鲜半岛提供条件。

Zhang Junshe also said that the main goal of the Japanese-South Korean “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” was to strengthen shared intelligence about North Korea, and that this kind of military alliance directed against third countries was an expression of cold-war mentality that would cause fierce reactions from North Korea. It could damage peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and negatively affect peace and stability in the entire North East Asian region. As North Korea’s closest neighbor, China could therefore also face more security threats.

张军社还说,日韩《军事情报保护协定》主要目的就是要加强有关朝鲜情报的共享,这种针对第三国的军事同盟是冷战思维的表现,必然引起朝鲜方面的激烈反应,可能破坏朝鲜半岛的和平稳定,对整个东北亚地区的和平稳定也会带来不利影响。中国作为朝鲜半岛的近邻,也可能因此面临更多安全威胁。

South Korean Arriang News TV reported on Friday that the agreement could become effective without parliamentary approval in South Korea (where the government lost its majority in April this year). However, 59 percent of the public disapproved of the agreement.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duterte’s China Visit: We need your Help, Son of a Whore

Guanchazhe quotes “German media” (read: Deutsche Welle‘s (DW) Mandarin website) as reporting that Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, wants to gain distance from America and become close to China (疏美亲中). The second part quotes extensively from the DW article (with credits), but leaves out the more pointed remarks (“this president”, “closely observing”).

Deutsche Welle, on Wednesday:

Philippines president Duterte said on Wednesday (October 19) that it was time to say Good-bye to America. He told Filipinos living in Beijing that an alliance with America that had lasted for many years had brought the Philippines extremely little profit.

菲律宾总统杜特尔特周三(10月19日)在北京表示,是时候和美国说再见了。他对生活在北京的菲律宾团体说,菲律宾从多年的美菲同盟中获利甚少。

Discussing American criticism of how he had drug dealers executed extrajudicially, Duterte said, “I’m really angry. If you do that, you are insulting the people of a country.” He said that just as he didn’t want American interference, he didn’t want American military exercises. The reason for you to stay in our country is for your own interest, therefore, it’s time to say good-bye, friend,” he ostensibly shouted into Washington D.C.’s direction.

在谈到美国批评他法外处决毒贩时,杜特尔特说,”我真的很生气。如果你们这样做,你们是在侮辱一个国家的人民”。他表示,再也不要美国的干预,再也不要美国的演习。”你们留在我的国家是为了你们的自身利益,所以是时候说再见了,朋友”,他似乎在向华盛顿喊话。

“I won’t go to America again, I would only be insulted there,” said Duterte, as he once again denounced US president Obama as “raised by a whore”.

“我不会再去美国,在那里我只会受侮辱”,说完杜特尔特又再次骂美国总统奥巴马是”婊子养的”。

This Philippines president also said he had enough of foreign-policies arranged by the West and said that “in the past, they made us stay distant from China, but that wasn’t our own wish, and I will open a new road.”

这位菲律宾总统还表示,他受够了菲律宾受西方摆布的外交政策,并说,”以前让我们远离中国,并非是我们自己的意愿,我会开始新路线”。

Since the beginning of his presidency in June, Philippine foreign policy has taken a big turn, contrasting with previous president Aquino III policies, distancing the Philippines from Washington, the old ally, and expressing goodwill to China.

自从杜特尔特今年6月底上台以来,菲律宾的外交政策相比前任阿基诺三世时期发生了大转弯,开始疏远多年来的盟友华盛顿,向北京示好。

Duterte, who is currently in China, has praised the country. According to AFP, he said on Wednesday that China was “good”, and hasn’t invaded any place in our country for generations”; thus hinting at America’s colonial history in the Philippines. “During the Cold War, China was described as the bad guy. At that time, our schoolbooks were full of Western propaganda.”

目前身处中国的杜特尔特对中国大加赞赏。据法新社报道,他在周三说中国”不错”,”世世代代以来,从没有侵略过我们国家的任何地方”,影射美国对菲律宾的殖民历史。 “在冷战时期,中国被描述成坏人。那些年里,我们的教科书中都是西方制造的政治宣传”。

China is closely observing Manila’s expressions of goodwill, of course. Foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Wednesday’s regular press conference that China “expressed admiration” for Dutertes strikes against drug criminality”, and said that “China supports Dutertes leadership in the construction of his country by the Philippine people, their efforts for economic development, and we are willing to actively participate in economic and social construction. China is willing to cooperate with the Philippines in trade, production capacity, infrastructure building and in other fields.”

对于马尼拉的示好,中国方面自然看在眼里。中国外交部发言人华春莹在周三的例行记者会上表示,中方对杜特尔特打击毒品犯罪”表示赞赏”,同时称,”中方支持杜特尔特总统领导菲人民建设国家、发展经济的努力,愿积极参与菲经济社会建设,同菲方在包括经贸、产能、基础设施建设等领域开展合作。”

There are doubts within the Philippines however, regarding Dutertes position towards China. Richard Heydarian, political scientist of De La Salle University in Manila, told AP that the Philippines’ mainstream media felt that “it can’t be right to be show that much respect for a country that invaded Philippine territory.”

不过,杜特尔特的对华立场在菲律宾国内受到了一些质疑。马尼拉德拉萨大学的政治学教授海德林(Richard Heydarian)对美联社说,菲律宾的主流媒体认为,”对于这个侵占菲律宾领土的国家如此恭敬,这让人感觉不对”。

The initiator of the Hague arbitration case concerning the South China Sea, former foreign minister Albert del Rosario, said that the Philippine’s foreign policy shouldn’t be contemptuous of America as a long-standing ally, or replace it with another country (China).

南海海牙仲裁案的发起者、前菲律宾外长罗萨里奥(Albert del Rosario)也表示,菲律宾的外交政策不应该唾弃长期的盟友美国而取悦另外一个国家(中国)。

That, however, doesn’t appear to be on Duterte’s mind. In a CCTV interview, he said that he wanted to extend a fraternal and friendly hand, ask for Chinese help, and, looking right into the camera, “frankly said, we need your help.”

然而这些,似乎并不在杜特尔特的考虑之中。在接受央视采访时,杜特尔特称,自己要伸出兄弟友谊之手,向中国寻求帮助,他直面镜头说:”坦率地说,我们需要你们的帮助。”

The DW article comes across as slightly sardonic. Guanchazhe, obviously, ignores that. It does, however, quote “foreign media” as reporting doubts from within the Philippines. Guanchazhe also seeks and finds an answer to such voices of doubts, delivered by foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, on the same press conference as quoted further up.

Some reporters at the foreign ministry’s regular press conference on October 19 asked: Western media follow Duterte’s China visit closely, but there are voices among them who “pour cold water” on the enthusiasm. How does the foreign ministry comment on this?

Foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the Chinese and Philippine people were all very happy and full of hope concerning Duterte’s visit, but in fact, there were also people with anxious, disappointed or complex feelings. The return of Sino-Philippines relations to the tracks of a more healthy and stable development was, however, good news, both for China and the Philippines, and for regional peace and stability. I believe that provided that they hope for peaceful and stable development of the Asia-Pacific region, people will welcome this.

10月19日外交部例行记者会上,有记者问到,西方媒体非常关注杜特尔特访华一事,但其中有“泼冷水”的声音,中方对此有何评论?

外交部发言人华春莹就此回应,对于杜特尔特此访,中菲两国人民都很高兴并抱有期待,但的确也有人焦虑、失落,五味杂陈。中菲关系重回健康稳定发展的正确轨道,无论对于中菲两国,还是地区和平稳定,都是利好消息。我想,只要是真正希望亚太地区和平稳定发展繁荣的人,对此都会持欢迎态度。

Guanchazhe quotes Mainila Commercial Times as reporting that China Railway Group Ltd was going to invest three billion USD in Philippines infrastructures in the future.

The Guanchazhe article’s effect on the readership, if uncensored, is handsome. The “overjoyed” button was clicked 321 times by 07:15 UTC, 41 clicks went to the button “timely”, and only five clicks hit the “absurd” or “sad” button.

We can sign a contract with Old Du, for step-by-step investment, thus ensuring Chinese interests, but also the stability of Old Du’s political power, how about that,

我们可以和老杜签个合同,投资分段进行,既保证中国利益,又保证老杜政权的稳定,怎么样?

suggests The Little Venerable, and Clear Spring from a Rock serenely declares:

If you say good-bye to America or not doesn’t matter. what matters is an independent and self-determined foreign policy, without being used by others.

与美国再不再见的不太要紧,关键是要独立自主的外交政策,别被人利用了

According to Radio Japan‘s Mandarin service, Duterte meets Chinese party and state chairman Xi Jinping on Thursday.

Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, suggested two days ago that

a clear-cut courtroom win against China, coming just after Mr Duterte took up office, has created opportunities for a new approach. China cannot take that legal victory away. And meanwhile in the nearly four years since the Philippines began its legal case, it has suffered economically as Beijing has frozen Manila out of the benefits of Chinese wealth. China has actively discouraged tourists, investors and importers from looking to the Philippines. With the legal card in his back pocket, Mr Duterte wants that economic chill to end. He sees no reason why the Philippines shouldn’t, just like most other countries in the region, have its cake and eat it – enjoy the economic benefits of China’s growth at the same time as sheltering under the US security umbrella.

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Related

Inherent Territory, May 13, 2012

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Updates/Related

Indonesia detains Taiwan vessel, RTI, Oct 20, 2016

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Neighborhood: No Vietnamese Communist Party without the Chinese Communist Party?

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Vietnam from May 22 to 25. In news coverage, TTP and the complete lifting of an arms embargo that had been in place since 1984, topped the American-Vietnamese agenda.

On May 23, Xinhua‘s English-language website quoted a Russian official, Anatoly Punchuk, as saying that the lifting of a decades-old U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam wouldn’t affect Russia’s weapons sales to Vietnam.

Also on May 23, Xinhua quoted foreign-ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (华春莹) as saying that China was glad to see Vietnam develop normal cooperative relations with all other countries, including the United States. China hoped the lifting of the arms embargo was a product of the Cold War and should not continue to exist.

In more detail, Hua said that

As a neighbor to Vietnam, we are glad to see Vietnam develop normal relations with all countries, including the United States, and we hope that this will benefit regional peace, stability, and development.

作为越南的邻国,我们乐见越南同包括美国在内的所有国家发展正常关系,希望这有利于地区和平、稳定与发展。

Another question concerning Vietnamese-U.S. relations followed up on the topic:

Q: Vietnam is a close neighbor to China. Why has Vietnam, in recent years, kept calling for a lifting of the U.S. arms embargo? What kind of influence will America’s decision have on U.S.-Vietnamese relations?

问:越南是中国近邻,为什么越南在过去几年一直呼吁美方解除武器禁运?美方的这个决定会对美越关系有何影响?

A: I understand that you are touching on the considerations behind this issue. But you should ask Vietnam this question, not me. I said a moment ago that we are glad to see America and Vietnam develop normal relations, and hoe that this will benefit regional peace and stability.

答:我理解你提这个问题背后的考虑。这个问题你应该去问越方,而不是来问我。我刚说了,我们乐见美越发展正常关系,希望这有利于地区和平稳定。

In October last year, Hua had answered questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership project, or TPP. Beijing believed that development levels among Asian-Pacific economic entities weren’t entirely the same, Hua said, and that on the basis of special needs, all agreements should help to advance all sides involved. And asked if the American-led TPP could have an effect on China’s promotion of RCEP, she said that

The particular diversity and pluralism of the Asia-Pacific region’s economic development are obvious, and all sides’ bilateral and mutilateral free-trade arrangements are also lively. As long as this is conducive to the Asia-Pacific regional economy’s prosperity and development, we maintain a positive and open attitude. China will continue to work together with countries in the region, based on the spirit of mutual trust, tolerance, cooperation and win-win, and will continiously promote all kinds of free-trade arrangements in the region. At the same time, we hope that both TTP and RCEP will be mutually complementary, mutually promotional, and beneficial for the strengthening of a multilateral trade system that will make a long-term contribution to the prosperity and development of the Asia-Pacific region’s economy.

亚太地区经济发展多样性、多元化的特点十分突出,各种多边、双边自由贸易安排也很活跃。只要是有利于促进亚太地区经济繁荣发展,有利于促进亚太经济一体化 的区域贸易安排,我们都持积极和开放态度。中方将继续与地区国家一道,本着互信、包容、合作、共赢的精神,推动区域内的各种自由贸易安排不断向前发展。同 时,我们也希望无论是TPP也好,RCEP也好,都能够相互补充,相互促进,有利于加强多边贸易体制,为亚太地区经济长期繁荣、发展做出贡献。

In an interview with Guanchazhe (Observer), a privately funded paper and website in Shanghai, Pan Jin’e (潘金娥), a researcher, discussed the future of Vietnam-U.S. relations.

Pan is a vice director at the Marxism Research Institute’s International Communist Movement department. The Marxism Research Institute is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, CASS. Her doctoral thesis, around 2012, was titled Research on Vietnam’s socialist transition period’s economic and political innovation (越南社会主义过渡时期的经济与政治革新研究).

Zhonghua Net (中华网, china.com) republished the Guanchazhe interview on May 25. It was first published by Guanchazhe, apparently one day earlier.

The first question of the Guanchazhe reporter (or reporters) contained the allegation that TPP was “anti-China” (排华的) by motivation. Pan did not comment on the allegation but said that Vietnam was the only country that America had invited on its own initiative. This had made Vietnam very proud of itself. In harder terms, TPP was seen by Vietnam as an opportunity to move its economy forward, to alter the model of economic growth, and to change the structure of the national economy. It was also seen as a way to reduce an excessive dependence on the Chinese economy.

However, bilateral Sino-Vietnamese trade amounted to more than 90 billion USD according to Chinese statistics, or over 80 billion USD according to Vietnamese statistics. Vietnam’s bilateral trade with America was only at over 40 billion USD. China was a neighbor that wouldn’t go away.

In an apparent reference to the No-New-China-without-the-Communist-Party propaganda song, Pan said that Vietnam’s Communist Party relied heavily on the Chinese Communist Party, and asked if the Vietnamese Communist Party would still exist without the CCP. No matter how important other Vietnamese considerations were, the only problem that currently existed between the two countries was territorial maritime sovereignty issues.

On the other hand, Hanoi’s political order was continiously challenged by Washington’s “so-called human-rights” issues (所谓的人权问题).

Asked about how far Vietnamese-American cooperation could go, Pan said that while it had been said that Washington had refused Hanoi a comprehensive strategic partnership and kept to a smaller-scale comprehensive partnership only, it was in fact the differences in America’s and Vietnam’s political order that had led to the omission of “strategic”:

… they [Vietnam] are aware that America continiously attacks their political system,even with human-rights issues. During his visit, Obama has, this time, also clearly stated that both sides needed to respect each others’ political systems. That’s to say, America currently respects the socialist road taken by Vietnam. But this doesn’t mean that America would abandon [the concept of] peaceful evolution towards Vietnam. This is something the Vietnamese Communist Party is well aware of.

… 它也知道美国一直是攻击它的政治制度 乃至人权问题的。这一次奥巴马来访时,在发言中也明确指出要彼此尊重政治制度。也就是说,美国尊重目前越南走的社会主义道路。但是并不意味着美国放弃对越 南的和平演变,这一点越南共产党也是心知肚明的。

Concerning the complete lifting of the U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam, Pan said that this was something Voietnam had long waited for. She also touched on the U.S. economic embargo on Vietnam (in force from the 1970s to 1995).

Asked if Russian arms supplies – currently at least eighty per cent of what Vietnam imported – would undergo changes, Pan said that Hanoi was most interested in advanced military technology, not in buying old gear. Imports from Russia would continue, and only a small share of imports would come from the U.S., particularly radar and communications technology, so as to fit into military cooperation with America, Japan, or Australia. However, she didn’t expect that this could lead to a Vietnamese force that would be a match to China’s.

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Related

Even worse than TPP, eff.org, June 4, 2015
Competing or complementary, Brookings, Febr 14, 2014

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

A carefully thought-out and written → article there. Quoting single lines or paragraphs wouldn’t provide an accurate account of James Fallows‘ reflections on U.S. President Barack Obama‘s planned Hiroshima visit.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

America, Japan: a more equal Relationship?

US President Barack Obama gave NHK an exclusive interview ahead of his arrival in Japan, reports NHK, emphasizing that Obama would be the first sitting US President to visit the atomic-bombed city.

A full account of the interview doesn’t seem to be available online yet. NHK provides a video with excerpts from the interview.

News like this doesn’t make much sense without context. US-Japan relations, frequently dubbed one of the closest alliances worldwide, were contentious in 2009, according to the New York Times. At the time, Japan had just seen its first transition of power from one political party to another, and the Hatoyama government – in short – called for a more equal relationship with the United States, with a number of possible ramifications.

The departure from the usual Liberal-Democrats rule in Japan was only an interlude. And a nation’s foreign policies are usually bi-partisan, or meta-partisan – in Japan, too.

From the Middle East to Ukraine, questions are being asked about the U.S. ability and willingness to maintain peace. If it cannot or will not, who will fill the void?,

the Nikkei Asian Review asked in May 2015.

Japan sees its future more within Asia, the NYT quoted Eswar S. Prasad back then. That, however, doesn’t necessarily benefit Sino-Japanese relations, as suggested by the NYT six years earlier. Rather, Japan appears to be warming to Russia.

Japan and Russia have especially found ample opportunity to conduct a coordinated response to the most recent security crisis in North Korea. Japan and Russia have also sought to increase their economic and financial ties, which are particularly important for the development of the Russian Far East,

Anthony Rinna of the Sino-NK research group noted in March this year. The Russian pivot to the East – possibly with a lot of help from Tokyo – was hampered by two obstacles however, Rinna cautioned: the long-standing dispute over the Kuril Islands, and Japan’s alignment with the West over the Ukraine crisis.

And while

the containment of China remains the primary purpose of the Japan-U.S. defense apparatus, U.S. strategic containment of Russia also continues to be an important factor in the Japan-U.S. alliance, which comprises one key flank of the American strategic posture in Asia,

Rinna added.

But being part of an alliance doesn’t mean that Japan would forgo foreign policies of its own. When Obama (reportedly) tried to talk Japanese prime minister Abe out of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, his appeal was unsuccessful.

It’s not only Japan who needs to take existing alliances into consideration. The same is true for Russia – but less so than Japan. Russian obligations toward China can’t be compared to Japan’s obligations toward America. That may not be a general opinion in China, but observers who watch the developments probably wouldn’t be caught by surprise if Russia and Japan were to sign a peace treaty in the not too distant future.

In December 2013, Cui Heng (崔珩) of the East China Normal University’s Russia Research Center in Shanghai, published an opinion on the China Internet Information Center (中国网) website. Titled “Russia won’t keep away from Japan because of Russia-Chinese relations”, Cui’s article pointed out that Russia’s preparedness to be considerate of China was limited, even though Sino-Russian relations were “at their best in history”.

Abe’s generation in particular had, because of their country’s economic successes, developed a sense of national greatness, and were seeking normalization for Japanese statehood. The economic revival after Abe’s taking office [there was a revival indeed, three years ago] had added to this conscience among Japanese politicians, Cui wrote. Ending the official state of war with Russia would be part of normalization. Even if hardly relevant in military terms, the status quo weighed heavily in terms of in terms of symbolism.

By coming to formally peaceful terms with Russia, Japan could also shed its status as a defeated country, Cui argued, and then addressed a factor that made Russia’s perception of Japan different from both China’s, and America’s:

Russia isn’t only prepared to develop beneficial relations with Japan for geopolitical reasons. In Russian historical memory, there isn’t much hate against Japan. During the age of the great empires, Japanese-Russian relations in the Far East were of a competitive nature. Many Russians still talk about the 1905 defeat, but the Far East wasn’t considered a place that would hit Russian nerve as hard as the crushing defeat in the Crimean war. Back then, Japan wasn’t perceived as a threat for Russia, and from another perspective, if there had been anti-Japanese feelings, there wouldn’t have been a revolution. According to perception back then, the [1905] defeat was a result of the Russian government’s incompetence, not [brought about by] a strong adversary. The outstanding achievements of the Soviet Red Army in 1945 led to a great [positive] Russian attitude, but still without considering Japan a great enemy.

By visiting Hiroshima, Obama appears to make a concession to Tokyo’s desire for “normalization”. Of course, few decisions are made for only one reason – they are part of a network, or hierarchy, of objectives. One objective was stated by Obama himself – that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons.

There is no great likelihood that Japan would shift away from the alliance with Washington. Japan’s distrust of China probably outweighs even America’s. That’s a stabilizing factor in US-Japanese relations.

But Tokyo is certainly trying to put its relations with America on a more equal footing – not just formally, but by creating diplomatic and economic facts that will help to further this aim.

Russia’s Far East is nothing to disregard, in terms of its economic potential. Japan can do business with Ukraine, and with Russia, and is likely to cooperate with both.

____________

Related

Shared Concern, Nov 11, 2015
Greater Contributions, April 25, 2014

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Korean Peninsula: Deploy THAAD if you have to, but provide China with an Explanation

The prospect of a North Korean nuclear arsenal can’t be promising in Beijing’s view – but appears to be preferrable to a scenario where the regime in Pyongyang would collapse and give way to South Korea’s political system, with US military close on its heels.

Given that, it is no great surprise that China doesn’t agree to sanctions that could endanger the very survival of the North Korean regime. And given that, the sanctions Beijing agreed to anyway, in negotiations with Washington’s mission to the UN that were concluded on Thursday, look as if they were unusually biting after all, even if stopping short of causing Pyongyang fatal or near-fatal calamities. After all, the sanctions’ effect depends not only on what the Security Council agrees to, but also on how far North Korea’s trading partners, including China, are prepared to go in implementing them.

What made Beijing agree to the resolution draft that should be voted on shortly? Not least fear of a regional arms race.

A Foreign Ministry official confirmed that China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin requested a meeting with South Korea’s Ambassador to Beijing Kim Jang-soo,

KBS World Radio, South Korea’s foreign broadcasting service, reported on Febuary 9.

The official told Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that China conveyed its stance on the launch of the THAAD negotiations during that meeting. Asked about what stance China had expressed, the official said it is not appropriate to reveal content from consultations held via diplomatic channels,

the KBS report continued.

The confirmation came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Liu urgently summoned the South Korean ambassador and protested the launch of South Korea-U.S. negotiations on deploying the U.S. THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula.

In her speech to parliament, South Korean president Park Geun-hye also conjured THAAD:

The Government is making sure our military readiness posture is solid and is also making thorough preparations for nonmilitary provocations including cyber- attacks and acts of terrorism in public places.

To maintain robust deterrence against the North, the Government is enhancing the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability and engaging in consultations with the United States to improve our alliance’s missile defense posture. The start of formal consultations to deploy the THAAD system to US Forces Korea, as announced on February 7, is also part of these efforts.

Eleven days earlier, Park had been on the phone, talking to Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping. The conversation didn’t appear to bear fruit, and certainly not the way Park had hoped for. China was “still unprepared” to “think about this in larger strategic terms”, Yonhap newsagency quoted Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack was also quoted as pointing out

how much effort Park has put in to strengthen relations with China and build personal ties with Xi, including her attendance at a massive Chinese military parade in September that was shunned by Western leaders.

“President Park’s expectation, I think legitimate expectation, was that she wanted a different answer from China. She’s made a lot of commitment to China,” the expert said, noting that Park risked domestic and international criticism to attend the September parade.

“She expected something in return, and so far, she has not received that,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Seoul’s plans for tough sanctions against Pyongyang had been frustrated. But there was a pressure point on Beijing. While Seoul had reportedly long been reluctant – or ambiguous – about the idea of deploying THAAD as part of American military defense, the South Korean leadership quickly warmed up to it during the past six or seven weeks.

And Beijing – not terribly successfully, it seems – tried to find an effective line in its communications with South Korea. In a meeting with Kim Jong-in, leader of South Korea’s largest opposition party, Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong (邱国洪) – quoted by Chosun Ilbo as in turn quoted by Huanqiu Shibao

[…] emphasized that Sino-South Korean relations could thus be negatively affected, as mentioned at the beginning of this [Huanqiu, that is] article. The [Chosun Ilbo] report says that Qiu Guohong had expressed the Chinese position in three points. Firstly, the South Korean government says it would limit the radar reach and lower the performance of ‘THAAD’, but the Chinese government cannot possibly believe that. As a friend, China can believe South Korea’s promises, but the problem is that America has all powers in the deployment, the upgrades, and adjustments made to ‘THAAD’. In the end, China and Russia would become target objects, too.” Secondly, this [THAAD] issue would destroy the regional strategic balance, cause an arms race, and fire up nervousness and disquiet.” Ambassador Qiu reminded the South Korean side of the question of how South Korea’s seucrity should, under such circumstances, be guaranteed? His last point was that “the South-Korean-American consultations concerning ‘THAAD’ had, to some extent, dispersed the international community’s unanimous reaction concerning sanctions against North Korea. Without this issue, maybe there would be a new, passed, UN resolution already.”

[…..] 强调,中韩关系可能因此受到负面影响,这就出现了本文开头的一席话。报道称,邱国洪就中方立场大致说明了3点:首先,“韩国政府虽然声称会缩短预警雷达的探测距离,降低‘萨德’性能,但中国政府无法相信。作为好朋友,中国可以相信韩国的承诺,但问题是美国拥有部署、升级、调整‘萨德’的所有权利,最终中国和俄罗斯也会成为瞄准对象”;其次,该问题会“打破地区的战略均衡,引发地区军备竞赛,助长紧张和不安”。邱大使提醒韩方,如果出现这样的局面,韩国的安全是否能得到保障?最后一点是,“韩美协商‘萨德’问题相当于分散了国际社会对朝鲜制裁的一致应对。如果没有该问题,新的联合国决议案可能已经获得通过”。

The South Korean government wasn’t amused and summoned Qiu to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to discuss his comments during his talks with the country’s opposition leader. This was no dramatic response to a questionable Chinese move, but an unusually strong reaction by South Korean standards, in its relations with Beijing. And there is no indication that Seoul will drop the idea of THAAD deployment again, after what appears to have been a successful game of hardball with Beijing, forced upon the clestial kingdom by three unruly barbarians: America, South Korea, and – not least – the North Korean “ally”.

On Thursday, the day when Beijing’s and Washington’s missions to the UN agreed to the resolution draft on sanctions against North Korea, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apparently struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the decision was ultimately up to South Korea, and China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries. However, China’s legitimate security concerns also needed to be taken into account, Reuters quoted Wang as saying – an explanation must be provided to China.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Korean Peninsula: no Pain, no Denuclearization

North Korea’s “Historical Moment”

On February 7, North Korea launched a missile. Pyongyang referred ot it as a satellite launch, and that’s how they had registered it with the International Maritime Office in London, a few days earlier.

But the world appeared to be in disbelief. One month earlier, on January 6, North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, and given that space rockets’ and ballistic missiles’ technological platforms are quite similar to each other, it is believed that Pyongyang chose the space option (a three-stufen rocket) rather than a (two-stufen) missile so as to circumvent UN Security Council restrictions on its missile program.

Beijing, too, expressed disbelief and “regretted” the satellite launch which, as the foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized, had been based on ballistic-missile technology.

Pyongyang’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb was met with skepticism in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and at least semi-officially – via the world of Chinese science, as usual – Beijing expressed doubt, too.

He wouldn’t rule out that North Korea mastered a bit of hydrogen-bomb technology already, PLA Academy of Military Science researcher Du Wenlong told CCTV, but the available data “didn’t support a ‘hydrogen-bomb test’”.

There were no such doubts about North Korean television’s wonderweapon: “Heaven and earth are shaking because of the historical moment”, announced Ri Chun-hee, a veteran presenter, re-emerged from retirement for the festive occasion.

South Korea’s Reaction

And South Korea’s leadership was steaming with anger. If it was up to the South’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-he, the North Korean leadership would be entering a world of pain:

“I believe it is time for the international community to show zero tolerance to North Korea’s uncontrolled provocations”, he told the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Thursday, and: “it is time now to inflict unbearable pain on Pyongyang, to make them take the right strategic decision, as Iran has done.”

South Korea sees itself affected by Pyongyang’s nuclear test more immediately as other neighbors or opponents taking part in the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula’s denuclearization. Different from the world outside the peninsula, reunification of the two Koreas is on the agenda, even if outside the South Korean government, considerable doubts are expressed concerning the use and feasibility of such unification.

There was a special relationship between South Korea and Germany, because of the painful experience of division, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said during a visit to Berlin, in March 2014.

Her demand that “meticulous preparations” should be made for making Korean unity happen was probably meant seriously then, and still is. Basically, the situation on the Korean peninsula isn’t that different after the North’s fourth nuclear test, anyway: America and China can agree to a common denominator concerning sanctions against Pyongyang, but no sanctions that would call the continuation of the North Korean regime into question.

Besides, flashes of official Korean anger – northern or southern – might be considered a ritual. As German sinologist Oskar Weggel observed decades ago, student protests in [South] Korean cities always took the same shape and followed the same script, while life continued as normal just next to where young people were battling it out with the police. 1)

But for some South Korean companies, life may be anything but normal now. An industrial park jointly run in Kaesong, by North and South Korea, has ceased operation last week. On Thursday, Pyongyang deported all the South Korean employees to the South, after South Korea had stopped production. The South Koreans’ apparent attempt to take their assets and stock across the border to the South reportedly didn’t succeed: according to Radio Japn news on Friday, the North Korean committee for reunification announced that South Korean assets in Kaesong would be frozen, and also on Friday, China Radio International’s Mandarin service reported that the South Koreans had only been allowed to take personal belongings with them. The industrial park had been sealed off as a military zone – chances are that this halt will last longer than a previous one in 2013.

Valued more than 500 million USD in 2015, inter-Korean production in Kaesong may be considered less than decisive, in macro-economic terms. However, according to South Korean broadcaster KBS’ German service, South Korean opposition criticized the production halt in Kaesong as the governing party’s “strategy” for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. Also according to KBS, Seoul feels compelled to take relief measures for companies invested in Kaesong. All companies residing in the industrial park are granted a moratorium on loan repayments, and companies who took loans from an inter-Korean cooperation fund may also suspend interest payment.

Chinese-North Korean Relations

China had “total control” of North Korea, Donald Trump claimed in a CNN interview – there would be nothing to eat in North Korea without China. If you go by statistics, Trump appears to have a point.

From 2009 to 2011, North Korean exports (imports) to (from) China rose from 348 mn (1.47 bn) USD to 2.5 bn (3.7 bn) USD. In total, North Korea’s exports (imports) reached a value of 3.7 bn (4.3 bn) USD.2) Even after a contraction of North Koran-Chinese trade in 2014 and 2015 to 2.3 bn (2.6 bn) USD by 2015, there’s hardly a way to reject the notion of North Korean dependence on China.

North Korea also depends on China in military terms. An American-led attack on Pyongyang – be it to occupy the North, be it for the sake of “regime change”, is hardly conceivable – directly or indirectly, Beijing’s nuclear umbrella protects the regime.

All the same, it is wrong to believe that Beijing wielded substantial influence over Pyongyang’s behavior. Neither economic nor military support from Beijing has been able to satisfy Pyongyang. Given Chinese reform and opening up “to the West”, or to international markets, since 1978, China’s leaders are considered weaklings by North Korean peers, despite some private-economy tries of their own. To consider oneself an economic or military dwarf, but a giant of ideological purity vis-à-vis China has some tradition in Korea.

That China has joined several initiatives – resolutions and sanctions – against North Korea hasn’t been a confidence-building measure for the neighbor and ally either.

That Pyongyang, under these circumstances, keeps striving for nuclear arms, come what may, is only logical – at least by the regime’s own interest –, and not negotiable, unless the regime falls. There are no conceivable guarantees – be it from Beijing, be it from Washington – that could make the North Korean political class abandon their nuclear goal.

American-Chinese Relations

No matter if there ever was or wasn’t a Western “guarantee” to the former USSR not to expand NATO eastward: a precondition for any feasible arrangement of that kind – in east or west – would be a situation where all parties involved would see themselves in a position to enter a non-aligned status, or to maintain one. There is no way that this could currently be done in East Asia. Even as there is no structure comparable to NATO in East Asia – and South-East Asia, for that matter -, none of China’s neighbors will discard the option to play America and China off against one another, thus increasing its own leeway – neither North Korea as China’s current “ally”, nor any other state within the former Chinese imperial state’s range of influence. And neither America nor China – strategic rivals of one another – would abandon the option to establish or to maintain alliances in Asia, based on partnership or on hegemony.

If the North Korean regime collapsed, there would be no guarantees for China that a North Korean power vacuum wouldn’t be filled by South Korea and the United States. And if China invaded Korea’s north preemptively, it wouldn’t only violate its own attitude of non-interference, but it would risk war, or at least a crash in its economic relations with America and many other countries. Not least, a Chinese invasion would harden an antagonism against China that already exists among former tributary states.

From China’s perspective, there is therefore no convincing alternative to the incumbent North Korean regime. The status quo costs less than any conceivable alternative scenario.

America knows that, too, and a newly lected president Trump would get real very quickly, or America would lose a great deal of influence in the region.

Frustrations

Last week’s developments will be most frustrating for the South Korean government, particularly for president Park. Her public-support rate will hardly depend on national reunification drawing closer, but it will depend on a reasonably relaxed co-existence with the North, including at least a few fields of cooperation, as has been the case in the Kaesong Industrial Park. The South Korean opposition’s accusations against the government to have stopped production carelessly or intentionally, it’s exactly because levelling such accusations can damage the government’s reputation with the electorate.

A phone call between Park and Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping didn’t provide Park with good news either, let alone progress in her efforts to influence the North through international channels. China was still “not prepared” to change its …. Toward North Korea, an editorialist for South Korea’s Yonhap newsagency stated cautiously, adding a quote from Jonathan Pollack who had emphasized how Park had made efforts for good relations with Beijing, even by attending the Chinese military parade in September, commemorating the end of World War 2.

Pyongyang is hardly at risk to suffer from unbearable pains, as demanded by South Korea’s foreign minister in Munich.

But Beijing, too, can’t be happy with the situation. It offends face-conscious Chinese people to be fooled, on the world stage, by a gang – that’s how many Chinese view North Korea’s “elites”. The effects of North Korea’s behavior also strengthen the hand of the US in the region. Just as Pyongyang helps itself to a Chinese military umbrella without much cost (if any), most other neighbors afford themselves, to varying degrees, an American umbrella. Even Japan and South Korea, facing North Korean nuclear armament, might work to defuse mutual antagonism, as feared by Chinese military professor Zhang Zhaozhong, in 2010. Preparedness to improve Japanese-South Korean relations appears to be on the increase.

Besides the – aggressive indeed – role played by China in the South China sea, North Korea’s attitude remains another strong anchor point for America’s military and political presence in the Far East.

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Notes

1) Oskar Weggel: “Die Asiaten”, Munich 1989, 1994, 1997 p. 148
2) FAO/WFP Group and Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Rome, Nov 28, 2013, p. 7

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