Sunday, September 19, 2010

=UPDATED= State Department on China/Taiwan/Japan tensions

AFP reports on the mess in East Asian islands.... The US urges calm....

The United States wants to "make sure that as we have forces that are operating in the vicinity of one another, we all respect the rules of the road that are out there."

Tensions have flared between Asia's two largest economies since a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese coastguard vessels collided on September 7 near a disputed island chain between Taiwan and Japan's Okinawa island.

China has summoned Japan's ambassador five times, demanded the release of the boat's captain and scrapped talks on joint exploration of a gas field near the disputed islands.

I am still amazed at China's mishandling of Japan. A charm offensive would have accomplished so much more....AFP goes on:

Flournoy was optimistic about building defense ties with China.

"Recently we have received signals from the Chinese that they are interested in resuming our (military-to-military) relationship and we are actively engaged now in laying out how to do that," she said.

China in January snapped defense exchanges with the United States and threatened to punish US companies after the Obama administration approved a 6.4 billion-dollar weapons package for Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing.

The Chinese are just playing a game. They want to be able to claim to their own domestic audience "Look, we tried to play nice with these guys, but they keep selling arms to Taiwan!" while preventing arms sales from the US by holding out the possibility of "improved relations". This is an old game with China -- leveraging the US desire for a "relationship" to obtain concrete results (in this case, no arms sales), since the US is always willing to make concessions to achieve a "relationship" with China. Hopefully the Administration is aware of this game and will continue to move forward with Taiwan arms sales and other positive Taiwan-related moves. Can we have some high ranking officials stop by for a visit? Seems like its been years.

But the best part of the AFP piece is here:
The United States does not recognize Taiwan -- where China's defeated nationalists fled in 1949 after losing the mainland's civil war -- but is bound by congressional action to ensure that the island can defend itself.
W00t!! W00t!! None of that "split in 1949" bullshit. Progress!

UPDATE: As I was reading this uplifting story about Taiwanese golf sensation Yani Tseng, who, when offered a US$25 million sponsorship from a PRC businessman, refused because she'd have to change her citizenship, this story related to the one above, from SCMP, crossed my desk:

Tung tells US to go easy on Yellow Sea
Tung Chee-hwa recently warned the most powerful US military official in the region against future missions by US aircraft carriers in the Yellow Sea.

His words, at a dinner in Hong Kong, are further proof of the behind-the-scenes influence the city's former chief executive has on Sino-US relations.
The article has extensive information on Tung a little further down:
Tung appears in his element as he works an increasingly important back channel between Beijing and Washington.

He struggled to communicate with the people of Hong Kong during his troubled tenure as the special administrative region's first chief executive, but in small groups and one to one he is considered engaging, discreet and wise and shows a broad grasp of world affairs.

"Ordinary Hongkongers may find it surprising, but the Americans find in him someone that can speak their language ... he's the world-wise old tycoon and someone who has a finely tuned understanding of not just the way the US works, but also its freedoms, strengths and its power," said one retired diplomat with long experience of dealing with Tung.

"Of course, everyone understands he is talking from Beijing's perspective. But he is a lot easier to engage than some hard-bitten Communist Party bruiser.

"When Tung expresses worries and fears for the relationship, he is sincere ... he wants the countries closer."

In Beijing what Tung says is apparently valued, too, since he offers a unique perspective.

Like his father Tung Hao-yung, founder of Orient Overseas Container Line, who forged ties with US presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Tung maintains both Republican and Democrat connections and expansive business relationships.

Elaine Chao, labour secretary in George W. Bush's cabinet, is considered a close family friend.

Both US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Bush have quietly visited Tung in Hong Kong this year.

He lived in the US during the 1960s, where he worked for General Electric, and his children were born there. He maintains homes on the east and west coasts.
The warnings on the Yellow Sea were made at an informal dinner party where Tung hosted prominent Hong Kongers and Admiral Willard of the US Navy....

"Tung was his usual emollient and courtly self ... but he made clear that he thought US aircraft carriers in the Yellow Sea was too close for Beijing's comfort," one person familiar with the talks said.

While Tung's discretion is such that he never attempts to send a direct message from the senior Beijing leadership, another said he did most of the talking and appeared "fully briefed" on Beijing's position concerning mounting tensions in both the South China and Yellow seas.

Beijing's protests about US military exercises off its coasts have become increasingly strident in recent months - despite Washington repeatedly insisting it has obligations to military allies, such as Japan and South Korea and that its ships have the right to manoeuvre in international waters.

As a former shipping tycoon, Tung has a deep knowledge of nautical issues, from legal rights of innocent passage to trade routes, and also has an understanding of traditional US naval activities in East Asia, according to a range of people familiar with his views.
Of Willard it said:
While Willard's precise response to Tung's warnings is not known, in Tokyo he repeatedly defended US activities in the Yellow Sea - and suggested there would be more to come.

"We routinely operate on both sides of the Korean Peninsula and have for 60 years, [aircraft carrier] the USS George Washington has operated there as recently as last October and the US and [South Korean) military will continue to operate on both sides of the Korean Peninsula as circumstances dictate," he said.

Recent exercises were directed at North Korea, not China, the admiral reiterated.

Pentagon officials have repeatedly stated that when China or other countries seek to deny the rights of free navigation in international waters, the US must respond with increased patrols to assert and maintain those freedoms.
And the final note: Tung is one of the sponsors of the Sanya Initiative, which brings together PRC brass and US leaders to get the latter to kow-tow to the needs of the former. During the dinner party Tung informed Willard that the US had no need to fear China.

The game goes on, alternately tormenting the US with fiery rhetoric and then explaining that all will be well if the US just does what Beijing wants. Classic.

In case you missed that in the rush of information, Beijing says that US carriers shouldn't sail in the Yellow Sea -- which is international waters. Because then Beijing might be provoked into using its anti-carrier ballistic missile on them.

As a wise old Taiwan had remarked in a private email, this shows how unwise it was for the US to not send the carrier into the Yellow Sea in the exercises earlier this year, because it might "provoke" China. As usual, this kind of deference to "provoking" has only lead to China becoming more hardline insistent in its claims. Give'em an inch....

Paul Lin had a nifty observation in his piece in the TT today:
In February, for example, the Chinese vessel New Star sank off Vladivostok after being fired at by the Russian navy. Some of the crew were rescued, but seven went missing and the captain of the vessel was prosecuted. Despite the seriousness of this incident, Chinese diplomats were instructed only to relay a stern message. The Russian authorities took little notice, saying that the actions of its navy were perfectly legal.

Clearly, the storm Beijing has whipped up over Japan’s arrest of the captain is politically motivated, kicking sand in the face of Japan just to flex its own muscles.
Yea, verily. The Pentagon is moving drones to Guam so it can observe China better. It will need them.....
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Anonymous said...

Yes, credit to AFP for favouring reality over a tired old trope.

Dear hacks, if you must sum up Taiwan's state of statelessness in less than half a sentence including the word "split", then the very bottom line is: "Taiwan and China, which split in 1895..."

And if you've space to elaborate, try:

"Taiwan, which hasn't come under Beijing's rule since being ceded to Japan by treaty in 1895, inadvertently ended up as a semi-permanent refuge for the ROC, the losing side in China's post-WWII civil war. To this day both the ROC and China claim sovereignty over Taiwan, while the island's inhabitants, by a large majority, favour national self-determination."

Anonymous said...

The PRC is a papertiger who only knows how to bully Taiwan but trembles when facing Japan.

"The United States does not recognize Taiwan."

This clearly illustrates that Uncle Sam's principles are based on business rather than freedom and democracy and is the master of the PRC.


Formosa Coweater said...

That is a definite improvement in depicting reality, which is a step in the right direction.

Of course, Don's more detailed description is even better.

Anonymous said...

Have you been chasing that poor bird?
How did it taste?

Anonymous said...


This article makes me just throw up. I worked in DC and watched our appointed officials just crawl all over themselves.... thinking they will make that ever so GREAT break thru with the communists in China... ha, what are they drinking... It was so embarrassing these officials get fooled by the communists. Oh well, they will never learn.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know exactly how many toothbrushes the US has sold to Chinese. It seems they are doing all the selling... and the Americans want to buy EVERYTHING the Chinese have to sell or say.

Vader said...

Did they even "split"? As far as I recall, Taiwan wasn't founded by China nor was it even ruled by a legitimate government from China until the ROC took over it...

And the last time time I checked the ROC is not the PRC so they can't lay claim what ROC has and to make it their own.

Tim Maddog said...

Michael, you counted unhatched chickens:
- - -
W00t!! W00t!! None of that "split in 1949" bullshit. Progress!
- - -

Uh, AFP still used the "mainland-island" dichotomy, so while their words may be different this time around, the sentiment is pretty much the same. Ben Goren has a whole collection of better and more accurate formulations on Letters from Taiwan.

Here is another phrase which could be improved upon:
- - -
The United States does not recognize Taiwan
- - -

In the context of an AFP piece, I tend to interpret it as an attempt to belittle Taiwan's sovereignty by obfuscating the fact that Taiwan has never been part of the PRC. While the US doesn't officially recognize Taiwan's independence or have "official" relations with the country, it does have a "Taiwan Relations Act."

I won't hold my breath waiting for them to do it, but here's one of my own formulations which they are entirely free to use:
- - -
Taiwan, an island nation whose population is larger than that of Australia, has been ruled independently of the PRC ever since that country's founding.
- - -

Tim Maddog