28 April 2018   Leave a comment

Military tensions continue to rise around the island of Taiwan.  China has been conducting military exercises around the island in order to send a message to the Taiwan authorities that any move toward independence will spark a crisis.  According to Global Times:

“Chinese aircraft including H-6K bombers and fighter jets flew around Taiwan recently after passing over the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait, according to the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] Air Force. Wu Qian, Chinese defense ministry spokesman, warned if Taiwan independence forces continue to wantonly take rash actions, the PLA will take further steps.

“The live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Straits and the flights around Taiwan conducted by the PLA to specifically target Taiwan independence forces in recent days have shocked the island. Still some separatists attempted to embolden themselves by hyping their US support.”

The US has stepped up its activities as well.  It is sending out B-52 bombers to maintain a continuous presence in the South China Sea.  According to the US Air Force:

“The B-52Hs conducted training and then transited to the vicinity of Okinawa to conduct training with USAF F-15C Strike Eagles, before returning to Guam……Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) missions are intended to maintain the readiness of US forces. The US Pacific Command’s CBP missions, which have been routinely employed since March 2004, are in accordance with international law.”

President Trump’s nominee for Commander of the Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on 17 April 2018.  His view of Chinese military capabilities in the Pacific was sober:

“The outcome of war is never certain, and I have increasing concerns about the future. China has undergone a rapid military modernization over the last three decades and is approaching parity in a number of critical areas; there is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China….China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania. The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

These rising tensions so far have not been linked by either side to either the North Korean issue or the trade issue.  But such compartmentalization could easily erode if Taiwan forces the issue.

 

 

Last July, India and China squared off over a piece of disputed territory called Doklam near the borders of Bhutan, India, and China.  But Indian Prime Minister Modi met with Chinese President Xi yesterday and they apparently worked out an arrangement that diffused the tension.  The Times of India described the meeting:

“Though the Doklam stand-off took place in Bhutanese territory disputed by China, it was an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in violation of the understanding reached between India and China. India pointed out that the existing ‘tri-junction boundary points’ between India and China and any third party will be ‘finalised’ in consultation with the countries concerned”.

Xinhua also emphasized the cooperative outcome of the meeting, referring to statements by President Xi:

“He said, in developing relations between major countries, China upholds strategic autonomy as well as non-conflict and non-confrontation, and insists on building a new-type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, which are in line with the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence jointly advocated by China and India in the 1950s.

“Xi stressed that in the next stage, China and India should jointly plan for all-round cooperation, carry out closer strategic communication, and timely conduct consultation on major issues of common concern, so as to take a firm hold of the general direction of bilateral relations and ensure the effective operation of their dialogue mechanism.”

Relations between India and China have been tense over the last few years, as India has become more apprehensive by China’s growing strength and ambitions in the Belt and Road Initiative.  This summit meeting was an important one for both countries, but the dynamics of Great Power rivalry will undoubtedly resurface again.

 

The US is mounting a drive to encourage its allies to impose sanctions on Iran for its missile program.  The Iranian missile program is not covered by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Iran insists that its program is necessary for its defense.  The new US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is in Saudi Arabia making a pitch for additional sanctions, but Saudi Arabia does not trade at all with Iran so it is unclear what measures it could take.  The new sanctions campaign suggests that the US does not believe that its allies will stand with it in a bid to renegotiate the JCPOA.

Posted April 28, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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