16 August 2019   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has announced its intention to sell $8 billion of weaponry, including F16 fighter jets, to Taiwan. The sale has to be approved by Congress, but China has make it clear that it strongly opposes the sale. The South China Morning Post reports:

“Beijing quickly registered its strong displeasure to the proposed contract involving the 66 Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper aircraft, which follows a US$2 billion agreement for 108 Abrams tanks and support equipment approved in July.

“’China urges the US to fully recognise the highly sensitive and harmful nature of the relevant issue, abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, refrain from selling F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan and stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing.

“’Otherwise, the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions, and the US will have to bear all the consequences,’ she said, without being specific.”

The issue joins the trade war, the unrest in Hong Kong, and the Iranian sanctions as ones that nettle the US-China relationship. It is hard to imagine that the weaponry sale will make the relationship any better.

Reuters is reporting that China is evading the US sanctions against Iran by disabling the transponders on ships that carry crude oil. It is a complicated process which includes off-loading the oil on the high seas, but it apparently is workable (it is also the process by which North Korea evades the sanctions). The process is described by Reuters:

“While in the Indian Ocean heading toward the Strait of Malacca, the very large crude carrier (VLCC) Pacific Bravo went dark on June 5, shutting off the transponder that signals its position and direction to other ships, ship-tracking data showed.

“A U.S. government official had warned ports in Asia not to allow the ship to dock, saying it was carrying Iranian crude in violation of U.S. economic sanctions. A VLCC typically transports about 2 million barrels of oil, worth about $120 million at current prices.

“On July 18, the transponder of the VLCC Latin Venture was activated offshore Port Dickson, Malaysia, in the Strait of Malacca, about 1,500 km (940 miles) from where the Pacific Bravo had last been signaling its position.

“But both the Latin Venture and the Pacific Bravo transmitted the same unique identification number, IMO9206035, issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to data from information provider Refinitiv and VesselsValue, a company that tracks ships and vessel transactions.

“Since IMO numbers remain with a ship for life, this indicated the Latin Venture and the Pacific Bravo were the same vessel and suggested the owner was trying to evade Iranian oil sanctions.”

China is violating international maritime law but it is difficult to see how the US can respond. US sanctions on Iran do not have the force of international law and seizing an oil tanker would be an act of war. We shall see how the US decides to react.

Posted August 16, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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