Posts Tagged ‘China’

Germany’s Angela Merkel Stresses Dialogue on Trade, Tech and Human Rights in China

May 24, 2018
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 24, 2018.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 24, 2018.
WU HONG—AP
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

May 24, 2018
2:08 AM EDT

(BEIJING) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday stressed the importance of dialogue with China during a visit to Beijing that comes amid shared concerns over trade with the United States and Washington’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal.

Merkel held morning discussions with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who said China-Germany relations were “developing steadily at a high-level,” but that “the current economic and political situations in the world are complex.”

Merkel affirmed their past success in finding answers to issues between them and emphasized the need for regular discussions on issues from human rights to science and technology.

“And then our conversations can center on really where are there still problems, what are the solutions, what are the opportunities. Then we can play our part in a global, multilateral system,” Merkel said.

Merkel was to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the afternoon. On Friday, she travels to the technology powerhouse of Shenzhen in southern China.

In her remarks to Li, Merkel also mentioned that, “Of course China’s relationship with the European Union is important to me, and how Germany contributes to that.”

That could be seen as a reference to concerns among German officials and the business community that China’s close relations with the E.U.’s eastern members were undercutting the bloc’s rules on bidding and transparency. Merkel gave no details before reporters were ushered from the meeting room at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of the Chinese capital.

Merkel’s visit as the head of a delegation of government and business leaders is her first since she formed her new government. It follows visits to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump and to Sochi, Russia, for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over recent weeks.

Despite tensions with the U.S., German officials have been keen to stress their continued commitment to trans-Atlantic ties and dismiss suggestions that Germany is seeking alternative alliances, even as they find common ground with Russia and China on the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

Germany and China were among the five nations that negotiated the Iran deal and have called for it to continue despite the U.S. pullout.

Ahead of the trip, the chancellor said her talks with Chinese leaders will address issues such as the rule of law, the economy and trade disputes.

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Merkel to bring up in her meetings the house arrest of Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and call for her release.

The trip follows high-level talks in Washington between American and Chinese officials that have somewhat lessened tensions between the two countries and buoyed stock markets.

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China Has Harsh Words for U.S. After China Kicked Out of U.S. Military Exercise

May 24, 2018

The Pentagon’s withdrawal of the invitation was ‘an initial response’ to what it called China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea

South China Morning Post
Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 6:15am

China’s top diplomat denounced a rebuke by the US military while in Washington, the latest test of a bilateral relationship already damaged by recriminations on the economic front.

The US military said it had disinvited China from a multinational military exercise to be held this summer in the Pacific as “an initial response” to what it called “China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea”.

News of the withdrawn invitation, which broke shortly before China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, prompted Wang to accuse the US of having a “negative mindset”.

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During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea. Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with China’s Wang Yi.

“China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region,” Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a spokesman at the US Defence Department, said in a statement explaining the withdrawal of China’s invitation to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval drills.

“China’s behaviour is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the Rim of the Pacific exercises.”

The US’s move comes just days after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force disclosed that its highly advanced H-6K strategic bomber landed for the first time on an island reef in the South China Sea, which the US Defence Department immediately denounced.

The inclusion of China in the Pacific naval drills was “designed to help with misunderstandings and to build upon cooperation, which was supposed to help deal with the most contentious issues”, said Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University and the Jeane Kirkpatrick Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The logic behind these military exchanges has weakened,” Mastro said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

“The US position was that through engagement, China would come to understand that they were better off when the US is in charge,” she said. “I thought that was naive from the very beginning, but now I think many areas of the US government are coming to that conclusion.”

In its statement, the Pentagon said the US had “strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands (Nansha in Mandarin) region of the South China Sea”.

“China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island (Yongxing in Mandarin) has also raised tensions,” the statement said.

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Speaking in a joint press conference with Pompeo, Wang said: “We find the Pentagon’s decision today of dis-invitation a very non-constructive move. It is also a decision that’s taken lightly. It’s unhelpful to the mutual understanding between China and the US.”

Pompeo said in the briefing that he had raised the US “concern” about China’s activities in the South China Sea with Wang, and that he would leave decisions about international military exercises up to the Defence Department.

Hong Kong-based military observer Song Zhongping said that China’s landing of the H-6K bomber on Woody Island was aimed at strengthening China’s military presence in the region after US B-52 bombers flew there during a so-called routine training mission in April, flights described by Beijing as a “provocative move”.

The US has called on China to remove the military systems immediately and reverse course on the militarisation of disputed South China Sea features, the Pentagon said.

China is “using techniques and tools below the threshold of armed conflict as a way to coerce the behaviour of other countries and ultimately be able to establish its claims [in the South China Sea], whether or not they are consistent with international law”, Evan Medeiros, the managing director of Asia at the Eurasia Group, said this week in a panel discussion organised by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

“That has generated a lot of reaction on the part of America and East Asia and it’s intensified the security dilemma,” said Medeiros, who served as special assistant to former president Barack Obama and as an Obama-era senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

“While I’ve often thought the US-China security relationship was best characterised as a low-intensity security dilemma, I think it’s inevitable that it’s moving into a period of high-intensity security dilemma and that’s only going to increase in the next five to 10 years,” he said.

The PLA Navy had been invited in May 2017 to take part in this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercises. The world’s largest international naval exercise, it is held biennially in the summer months of even-numbered years in the waters around the Hawaiian islands and southern California.

Twenty-six nations originally were to participate in the drill, which usually lasts a couple of weeks. China has taken part twice. In 2016, its navy dispatched five ships and 1,200 personnel to the exercises.

Earlier this month, the White House had said it was prepared to take measures against the militarisation of the South China Sea, after Beijing reportedly installed new missiles on outposts in the Spratlys, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

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In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

“We’re well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. “We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.”

US network CNBC had reported that the Chinese military had installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on the islands, citing sources close to US intelligence.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying would neither confirm nor deny the deployment.

“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defence facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” she said. “Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry.”

The US Navy itself frequently sends warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the area.

“China has to realise that they’ve benefited from the free navigation of the sea, and the US Navy has been the guarantor of that,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. “We will continue to do our operations. ”

Washington and Beijing are already engaged in high-level dialogues to resolve disputes over a record trade deficit China has with the US, restrictions that foreign companies in the country face in terms of market access, and forced transfers of technology to Chinese companies.

A second round of negotiations between the two countries’ top economic advisers last week helped stave off an all-out, bilateral trade war.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers are pushing legislation that would tighten scrutiny over Chinese acquisitions of US companies, citing concerns that such activity is undermining America’s national security.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2147482/us-disinvites-china-pacific-rim-military-exercise

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Above: China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier

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The Philippines says it “owns” Mischief Reef, but there is not one known Filipinos living there. China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines
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Australia’s central bank chief warns over China debt risk

May 24, 2018

Australia’s central bank chief has warned China’s mounting debt poses a grave economic threat, with broadening trade ties between the two countries exposing more industries to the risk.

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Total debt has ballooned in China from 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the late 1990s to about 260 percent, with authorities seeking to boost credit and stimulate the economy since exports slowed during the global financial crisis.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, accounting for close to a third of its exports and about one fifth of imports, and Reserve Bank of Australia chief Philip Lowe is worried.

“Among the largest economic risks that Australia faces is something going wrong in China,” he said during a speech in Sydney on Wednesday evening.

“And perhaps the single biggest risk to the Chinese economy at the moment lies in the financial sector and the big run-up in debt there over the past decade.”

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FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ahead of G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. REUTERS/Wang Zhao/Pool/File PhotoREUTERS

Lowe stressed that economic ties with China run much deeper today than simply resource exports, with tourism, education and agricultural shipments accounting for an increasing share of trade as Australia’s mining boom recedes.

“In many individual categories, we now export more to China than any single other destination,” he said.

“So what happens in China is now directly relevant to a broad spectrum of Australian industries.”

Australia welcomed some 1.4 million Chinese visitors last year, up from about 400,000 a decade earlier.

Close to 200,000 Chinese students currently study in universities Down Under, making up one third of the country’s education exports.

Although Chinese money accounts for just three percent of foreign investment in Australia, Lowe noted it was becoming increasingly diversified as mining tails off.

Wine and dairy exports to China’s burgeoning middle class are on the rise, as are vitamins and pharmaceuticals.

“What happens in China is important to Australia, and to the broader global community,” Lowe said.

With ties between the two countries tense since Canberra launched an inquiry into espionage laws and foreign government interference last year, Lowe appealed for calm.

“We will, of course, have differences from time to time, but we will surely be better placed to deal with these if we understand one another well,” he said.

“Building strong connections across business, finance, politics, academia and the community more generally is important to deepening this understanding.”

AFP

FILE PHOTO at the top: Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (not in picture) in Beijing, China, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jason LeeREUTERS

US: We have strong evidence China deployed missiles, bombers in Spratlys near the Philippines

May 24, 2018

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Above: Philippine Coast Guard on Patrol.

Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – May 24, 2018 – 11:07am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing strong evidence that Beijing has deployed weapons and jammers in the Spratly Islands, Washington called out Chinese President Xi Jinping for violating his promise not to militarize the South China Sea.

The Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac), a multinational naval exercise that the US hosts every year.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said in a statement.

China’s landing of bomber aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands has also raised tension, the Pentagon noted.

Logan pointed out that China’s behavior in the South China Sea was inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RimPac Exercise, which the US military considers the largest international maritime exercise.

The Pentagon said that the decision to disinvite China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from the maritime exercise was an “initial response” to China’s militarization of the disputed waterway.

“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Logan said.

Beijing has insisted that the construction of artificial islands were meant for non-military functions but the installment of weapons on the islands is for military use, the Pentagon said.

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meanwhile, said that the decision was “unhelpful to mutual understanding” between the two countries and urged the US to change its “negative mindset.”

In a joint news conference with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington, Wang described the deployments as necessary defense of China’s sovereign territory. He compared China’s defense facilities to US military presence in Hawaii and Guam.

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During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea

Washington’s decision to disinvite Beijing from RimPac comes a week before the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense summit which will be held in Singapore.

Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at Rand Corporation, said that disinviting China shortly before the defense summit was “pretty cold” and “embarrassing” for Beijing.

“[US Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis now has real momentum going into [Shangri-La Dialogue] as most participants agree with US position,” Grossman said in Twitter.

China had insisted that the deployment of an H-6K bomber on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracels, were a normal training of Chinese military.

“The South China Sea Islands are China’s territory. The relevant military activities are the normal training of the Chinese military and there is no need for other parties to over-interpret that,” Chinese Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing Monday.

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In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File
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China Disinvited from Participating in 2018 RIMPAC Exercise

The People’s Republic of China Chinese Navy multi-role frigate Hengshui (572) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) transit in formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 28, 2016. US Navy photo.

The U.S. military has disinvited China from participating in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, a Defense Department spokesman announced.

Citing actions in the South China Sea that run counter to international norms and a pursuit of free and open seas, Department of Defense spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would not be participating in the exercise despite its participation in submarine safety and other non-warfighting components of the exercise in previous years.

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Logan said.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions,” he continued.
“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

U.S. 3rd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland told USNI News that China had been scheduled to be part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 175, led by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750) and joined by ships from several nations’ navies, as well as in CTF 171, led by U.S. naval expeditionary dive and salvage forces. PLAN would have brought four ships total, including its hospital ship Peace Ark, as well as a salvage diving team.

China participated in the 2016 exercise despite tensions at the time. Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in April 2016, “Our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that’s our basic approach. So even as we stand strong and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies – and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we don’t have decades of experience with, like the Philippines; they’re all coming to us, in part because they’re concerned about China – but we’re still taking the approach of, everybody ought to work together here. So if the Chinese want to participate, I think it’s the right place for us to be. Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said, the Asian miracle possible.”

In 2012 China was invited to participate in the 2014 exercise – where the PLAN sent four invited ships and one uninvited spy ship – and soon afterwards the U.S. invited China to rejoin them again in 2016. Despite South China Sea tensions and other friction between the two countries, naval leaders have long spoke of the importance of rehearsing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills together, communicating at sea to avoid collisions, and practicing safe ship handling and rescue drills in case of an emergency.

Russia, however, was not allowed to participate in 2016 due to its annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Still, the Russian Navy sent a destroyer to follow USS America (LHA-6) and a spy ship to monitor the exercise.

 

The following is the complete statement by Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan: 

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise.”

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions.”

“While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection, and other non-military functions the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use.”

“We have called on China to remove the military systems immediately and to reverse course on the militarization of disputed South China Sea features.”

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

https://news.usni.org/2018/05/23/china-disinvited-participating-2018-rimpac-exercise

Trump urges a new ‘structure’ for U.S.-China trade deal

May 24, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled a new direction in U.S.-China trade talks and said any deal would need “a different structure,” fueling uncertainty over current negotiations.

In an early Wednesday morning post on Twitter, Trump said the current track appeared “too hard to get done” and cited difficulties such as verification, but he gave no other details about what he or his administration was looking for amid ongoing negotiations.

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FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Representatives for the White House did not respond to a request for more information about the president’s statement.

“Our trade deal with China is moving along nicely, but in the end we will probably have to use a different structure in that this will be too hard to get done and to verify results after completion,” Trump wrote in his post.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Our Trade Deal with China is moving along nicely, but in the end we will probably have to use a different structure in that this will be too hard to get done and to verify results after completion.

U.S. stocks slipped after his comments, but ended Wednesday up after release of the minutes of the last Federal Reserve meeting, which indicated a gradual approach to interest rates hikes. [nL2N1SU26Q]

On Thursday, the Trump comments on China trade talks and the launch of a U.S. national security probe into U.S. auto imports dented shares of Asian automakers. [nL5N1SV0CC]

Trump’s statement comes amid the negotiations between the world’s two largest economies after potential tariffs on both sides raised fears of a trade war, even as some tensions have eased over signs of some possible progress.

Both sides claimed victory on Monday and pledged to continue talking after last week’s round in Washington produced pledges that China would import more American energy and agricultural commodities so as to trim the $335 billion annual U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China, although there were no specifics. [nL3N1SS1VH]

“China unswervingly defends its core interests, and did not make any promise on cutting its trade surplus with the U.S. by a specific figure,” Gao Feng, spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, said on Thursday.

But both sides are willing to strengthen cooperation in agricultural, energy, medical, high-tech products as well as the financial sector, Gao told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was expected to visit China next week to help finalize an agreement. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that Ross aimed to negotiate “a framework” that could then turn into “binding agreements … between companies.”

“China welcomes the U.S. in sending senior trade delegations to China soon, and hopes China and the U.S. can work together to actively implement the measures specified in the joint statement according to the understanding both sides achieved recently in D.C.,” Gao said.

Trump on Tuesday, however, told reporters he was not pleased with recent talks, calling them “a start”.

China hopes both sides will move to push bilateral trade cooperation to achieve “positive” and “realistic” goals, the Chinese commerce ministry spokesman said.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags are set up for a meeting during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at China’s Ministry of Transport in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jason LeeFILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags are set up for a meeting during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at China’s Ministry of Transport in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Any firm deal is likely to take a long time, according to most observers, and U.S. officials have threatened to return to tariffs, which prompted the current standoff, if needed.

Trump threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods.

Trade talks have also been clouded by separate negotiations over the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, which counts China as its sole major ally.

Trump is seeking to win a major deal with Pyongyang to denuclearize and is eyeing a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. On Tuesday, however, Trump raised doubts the meeting would take place as planned, and suggested Kim’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping had influenced Kim to harden his stance. [nL2N1ST0WQ]

Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yawen Chen in Beijing; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Borsuk

Reuters

The race to own Antarctica

May 24, 2018

Competition for natural resources, research and tourism is putting pressure on the cold war-era treaty that guarantees order on the continent

© FT montage / AFP | View of China’s military base in the King George island, in Antarctica.

Leslie Hook in London and Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires

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Antarctica is a continent with no government. The closest thing it has is a drab, 10-person office, with a small sign on its wooden door in Buenos Aires that reads “Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty”. This is the group whose job it is to keep things running smoothly among the 53 nations that together govern Antarctica.

If that sounds like a quixotic system for a continent twice the size of Australia that contains vast untapped natural resources, it is. But the idealism underpinning it is very clear.

“One of the amazing things is that Antarctica is the only continent where people work together for peace and science,” says Jane Francis, head of the British Antarctic Survey, who last week attended the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative meeting that brings all of the nations together. “You wouldn’t believe that 53 nations after two weeks can agree . . . It can be done in this world.”

However, not everyone does agree. And at last week’s meeting in the Argentine capital some of those divisions were on show. There is a growing number of issues that the Antarctic Treaty System, which has kept order on the continent for almost six decades, is struggling to deal with. From climate change to fishing, new geopolitical tests are facing Antarctica that are increasingly difficult for a consensus-based group to address.

“One of the things the treaty system needs is almost like a new kind of vision,” says Klaus Dodds, a professor of geopolitics at London’s Royal Holloway University, and an expert on Antarctic governance. “One where parties are explicit about what they are trying to do.”

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China’s base, King George Island, Fildes Bay, Antarctica

The Buenos Aires meeting was typical: it produced a series of agreements that represented relatively low-hanging fruit, such as new rules for drone use, and guidelines for heritage sites (like the hut built by Ernest Shackleton and his team more than 100 years ago).

But the thorniest issues — for example, what happens when countries violate the treaty rules — are almost never addressed. Scientists and diplomats are growing concerned that the existing system will be unable to respond to the new pressures. At stake is the last pristine continent, one that contains the world’s largest store of freshwater, huge potential reserves of oil and gas and the key to understanding how quickly climate change will impact the world through rising sea levels.

“What we are seeing at the moment . . . is almost like a lethargy among the treaty parties to take the necessary steps,” says Daniela Liggett, professor of geography at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. The last major binding protocol in the treaty system came into force 20 years ago, she adds. Any new protocol must be approved by consensus, so even one dissenting country effectively has veto power.

The greatest areas of tension are those that touch on the growing economic and strategic interests in Antarctica, such as tourism and fishing (mining is banned). Signatories to the treaty, which dates back to 1959, agree to set aside their territorial claims, and use the continent only for peaceful purposes.

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However the growing number of signatories has made the system unwieldy: In 1980 there were just 13 countries that had “consultative” status to make the key decisions on treaty matters — today that number has risen to 29, a diverse group ranging from Finland to Peru, India and Belgium. Meanwhile the number of permanent scientific research stations on the island, a proxy for activity, has grown to more than 75. China has been a particularly enthusiastic builder of new research stations since it joined the treaty in 1983, and the environmental approvals for its latest, a fifth base, have caused division among the treaty members.

“Resources have always been the big trigger,” says Prof Dodds. “Once you get more explicit about resource exploitation, then you raise the troubling issue of who owns Antarctica. That’s the issue that haunts the Antarctic Treaty, and the Treaty System more generally.”

Those anxieties are growing in tandem with Antarctica’s importance. The continent is covered in an ice sheet up to a mile thick and represents a window into how the planet is changing. Temperatures in some parts of Antarctica are rising much faster than the global average, and the pace of glacial melting there will help determine how quickly global sea levels rise in future.

The Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, is becoming a significant fishing ground, as resources in other seas are depleted. And it plays a crucial role in absorbing heat and carbon from the atmosphere, in ways that are not yet fully understood.

“Things have changed profoundly,” says Damon Stanwell-Smith, a marine biologist who first visited Antarctica more than 25 years ago. “It is visible in a human lifetime — the change in coastal waters, ice, retreat of glaciers, and then the related wildlife movement. Nowhere else has it been so obvious.”

A critical factor is the addition of many more visitors. Mr Stanwell-Smith heads the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (Iaato), the closest thing the region has to a tourist police.

The race to understand Antarctica

Last month the association reported that the number of visitors to the region rose to more than 51,000 last season an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year. That number is expected to keep growing. Some 20 new polar expedition vessels are under construction, adding to the 33 already registered with Iaato, to serve the growing interest, says Mr Stanwell-Smith.

For most tourists — who pay between $10,000 and $100,000 for a trip — visiting Antarctica involves stepping off the boat at just a handful of highly regulated landing sites. But there are loopholes in the system, such as private yachts that flout permitting rules, as well as a growing number of tours that involve activities such as kayaking or skiing.

“It’s becoming a bit of an adventure playground, and the trouble is the unregulated tourism,” says Prof Francis, at the British Antarctic Survey. “It has become much easier for people just to sail their yachts to Antarctica, to fly their private aircraft to Antarctica.”

The fastest-growing source of new visitors last year was China, which was second only to the US in the ranking of total tourists. At the same time Beijing is investing heavily in polar missions to Antarctica, part of its plan to become a “polar great power” — moves that have not always been welcome. One idea that has been met with concern is China’s proposal for a special “code of conduct” that would apply for a large area around its Kunlun Station research base, which has been seen as an attempt by China to limit activities near its base.

The construction of China’s fifth research base has also been controversial because preliminary building activities were started before the environmental impact assessment was complete, in violation of protocol. The lack of punishment for these — and similar infractions by other countries — is one of the weaknesses of the treaty system.

China spends more on its Antarctic research programme than any other country, according to Anne-Marie Brady, professor of political science at the University of Canterbury and editor of The Polar Journal. China’s interest is not limited to the potential natural resources available, but also the continent’s strategic importance — having a ground station near the South Pole can increase the accuracy of global satellite navigation systems.

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The US, Russia and China all have critical infrastructure in Antarctica to aid their global positioning systems. “That makes Antarctica very, very interesting right now,” says Prof Brady. She adds that the Antarctic Treaty System may be poorly equipped to respond to a growing “clash of values” in the region.

“There is a lot that is unresolved [in the treaty] and may not be fit for purpose for our current global strategic environment,” she says. “If the Antarctic Treaty is going to be sustainable, there has to be more high-level attention paid by government on how to adjust to the changing environment and how to protect Antarctica.”

The Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration declined a request for an interview.

China and other countries are positioning themselves for a day when the current confines of the Antarctic Treaty System may no longer apply. While it does not technically expire, the provisions on the treaty that ban mining could change after 2048 — the year in which the environment protocol is expected to come up for review.

As the number of signatories has expanded it means there will be far more voices involved in any potential review. “What role do these countries [not among the 12 original signatories of the 1959 treaty] intend on playing? For sure, they have one eye focused on the resources that might be available in the future,” says Máximo Gowland, Argentina’s director for Antarctic foreign policy.

He points out that both water and mineral resources could become an issue. “You don’t know how quickly the situation might evolve,” he says, mentioning the severe water shortages in Cape Town, where the idea of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to South Africa, to ease the crisis, was discussed.

Already the treaty system is struggling to protect resources in the Southern Ocean, where fishing for krill is on the rise. Opposition from China and Russia has repeatedly delayed the creation of new marine protected areas, a topic that will be discussed again at the next meeting in October.

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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station

Another unresolved issue is bio-prospecting — taking biological samples from Antarctica to study in a lab. Because the species that exist in Antarctica are adapted to extreme cold conditions, they could contain compounds with valuable commercial or pharmaceutical applications. Yet the question of who owns the intellectual property from these samples is impossible to solve, because of the many and varied sovereign claims on the continent.

While there is no indication that anyone is about to take the step of quitting the Treaty System, there is equally little hope that it will be able to reform itself. A risk is that it simply becomes less relevant as it fails to address the challenges facing the continent, says Prof Liggett.

Evan Bloom, the top polar diplomat in the US, which sends the largest number of scientists and tourists to Antarctica each year, says Washington supports the treaty system despite its limitations. “It has worked quite well in terms of setting aside those political differences, and allowing science to occur,” he says.

How much longer that continues to be the case will rely on a fragile treaty that is about to face its greatest tests.

‘Limited friction’: Tradition of co-operation endures on the continent 

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 at the height of the cold war, was focused on denuclearising the continent and avoiding military conflict, and the 12 original signatories all agreed to set aside any territorial claims there for the duration of the treaty. Subsequent agreements addressed issues like fishing rights and extraction of resources (which is banned), creating a group of deals called the Antarctic Treaty System.

“There are these aspects of the Antarctic Treaty that were unquestionably pioneering,” says Prof Dodds, who describes the treaty as an experiment in human governance.

Eight years after it was signed, it was used as a loose model for the Outer Space Treaty, and is still seen as a template for how to govern areas that fall outside of traditional national boundaries. Today diplomats wonder if it could be a model for the Arctic region, where climate change has opened up new shipping routes and created new sources of tension.

Evan Bloom, the head of the US Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, says that many of the geopolitical tensions in the rest of the world are filtered out in Antarctica. Everyone who endures the South Pole’s harsh climate has to rely on their neighbours to survive.

“Those frictions are relatively limited in part because the tradition of co-operation in Antarctica flows from the way that the science programmes relate to each other,” he says. “If you are running a science camp or a research station in a remote place, you have a real incentive to work with other nearby stations, regardless of their nationality.”

Mr Bloom says occasionally his colleagues at the US state department will ask him whether similar models could be applied in other parts of the world. “Middle East peace negotiators come and say, this Antarctic Treaty System has worked out really well, is there something we can apply,” he says with a laugh.

https://www.ft.com/content/2fab8e58-59b4-11e8-b8b2-d6ceb45fa9d0

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Russia to deliver 10 Su-35 fighter jets to China this year

May 24, 2018

Russia’s state conglomerate Rostec will supply China with 10 Su-35 fighter jets this year, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing Rostec.

The corporation said China would buy 24 fighter jets in total in a deal worth around $2.5 billion, according to Interfax. It had already supplied China with 14 Su-35 fighter jets in 2016 and 2017, the agency said.

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Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Nick Macfie

Reuters

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No talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles — Iran lists tough conditions for Europe to save nuclear deal — Must condemn US

May 24, 2018

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given tough terms to Britain, France and Germany if they want to save the 2015 nuclear deal. Pledging not to seek new talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles is one of them.

    
Iran Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (Mehr News)

Iranian leader Khamenei on Wednesday published conditions the three European signatories of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — Germany, Britain and France — must accept to guarantee Iran stays in the agreement.
The move came as the three countries scramble to salvage the accord in the wake of the US’s withdrawal.

What the three European countries must accept:

  • They will pledge to avoid opening negotiations over Iran’s ballistic missile program or actions in the Middle East.
  • European banks should “safeguard trade” with Tehran.
  • They should continue buying Iranian oil and should, if necessary, also buy Iranian oil the US decides not to buy.
  • They should “stand up against US sanctions” on Iran.
  • They should condemn US for reportedly breaking a United Nations resolution that supports the nuclear deal.

Read more: US plan for Iran means economic strife, break with EU

‘We don’t trust them’

Khamenei said, “We do not want to start a fight with these three countries [France, Germany and Britain] but we don’t trust them either.” He also warned that Iran would continue its enrichment of uranium if the terms are not met.

Scramble for Iran: All three European countries have sharply criticized US President Donald Trump’s May 12 decision to withdraw Washington from the deal and have vowed to discuss how to save it with Iran and the other signatories — China and Russia.

Read more: Could America’s hardline policies towards Iran be a dilemma for Arab countries?

Sticking points: Khamenei’s terms put the three European powers in a bind. They have tried to reassure Washington that it would be possible to renegotiate the current deal to curtail Iran’s ballistic missile program and its aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s vision: On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded all signatories negotiate a fresh treaty that would encompass not only Iran’s nuclear program, but its defense and foreign policies as well. He warned Iran would face “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not agree to make changes.

Read more: US strategy on Iran entails regime change

amp, dj/rc (Reuters, dpa)

http://www.dw.com/en/iran-lists-tough-conditions-for-europe-to-save-nuclear-deal/a-43904326

Germany’s Merkel says China and Germany standing by Iran nuclear deal

May 24, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday China and Germany are standing by the existing nuclear deal with Iran after the United States left the 2015 accord earlier this month.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Merkel made the comment during a joint news briefing with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People during a two-day visit to China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Thomas Peter and Tom Daly; Writing by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Paul Tait

Reuters

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Does the Philippines have limited options on the South China Sea issue?

May 23, 2018
Does the Philippines have limited options on the South China Sea issue?
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Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – May 23, 2018 – 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte keeps on insisting that taking a stronger stance on against China’s militarization in the South China Sea would mean going to war.

Justifying his administration’s soft stance on the maritime dispute, Duterte said that he would have taken a stronger and more “violent” position on the matter but that would “probably be a great loss to the nation and probably end up losing a war.”

As opposed to the president’s pronouncements, the Philippines’ options are not limited to waging a war to resolve the dispute.

DIPLOMATIC PROTEST. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario urge the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China's bombers in the South China Sea. File photos by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

DIPLOMATIC PROTEST. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario urge the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China’s bombers in the South China Sea. File photos by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

READ: Duterte explains soft stance on West Philippine Sea dispute: We can’t win

The Philippines actually has legal, diplomatic and security policy options following the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal on the South China Sea, according to an April 2017 report titled “South China Sea Lawfare: Post-Arbitration Policy Options and Future Prospects.”

Legal policy options

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said that the use of armed force in settling the disputes is out of the question.

Following the issuance of the arbitral ruling, the Philippines has legal policy options related to the entrenchment of legal positions on entitlements, rights and delimitation, re-engagement with China on legal positions and engagement with other claimants and the ASEAN on the same basis.

“Therefore, its only policy framework for addressing and eventually resolving the South China Sea disputes must be based on the peaceful modes of dispute settlement enumerated in the Charter of the United Nations and Part XV of UNCLOS,” Batongbacal said in his article in the report.

Batongbacal also opened the possibility of China changing its position on the arbitral ruling under the circumstances of “a transactional exchange of legal rights for economic benefits or an accommodation coerced through unilateral actions.”

Re-engaging with China on the basis of legal positions would give the Philippines two tracks — re-engaging and improving bilateral ties and the possibility of another round of unilateral actions and escalating the sea row.

“These options present the best suitable means for the Philippines to protect and preserve its exclusive rights and interests in its EEZ and continental shelf, while at the same time, leaving the doors open to possible joint cooperation related to shared interests in the remaining disputed areas comprised of 12-nautical mile territorial sea enclaves around all the high-tide elevations in the Spratly Islands area,” Batongbacal said.

Engaging with other claimant states such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei would result to a clear and common position derived from the arbitral decision, despite China’s refusal to acknowledge the landmark ruling.

As such, the award could be a basis for a unified regional position on maritime rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea among Southeast Asian countries, Batongbacal said.

“In summary, the Award has provided the Philippines with very strong legal leverage that can be used in its bilateral relations and discussions with China and in multilateral relations with other parties both within and beyond the region,” the maritime law expert said.

So far, the Philippines has started a bilateral consultation mechanism with China on the South China Sea while negotiations on a legally binding code of conduct are ongoing with the ASEAN.

RELATED: Expert: Malaysia, Vietnam also potential partners in sea exploration

Diplomatic policy options

The Duterte administration departed from the Aquino administration’s confrontational strategy when it opted to set aside the arbitral ruling and chose to directly engage with China instead.

Policy analyst Richard Heydarian suggested that the primary diplomatic option would be to engage with China rather than confront it.

“Instead of leading to further confrontation between the (Philippines) and (China), the conclusion of the arbitral proceedings has actually enhanced their resolve to bridge their differences through diplomacy, leading to a decline in tensions in the South China Sea,” Heydarian said in the “South China Sea Lawfare” report.

He suggested that a joint fisheries agreement in the Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing continues to control, would be a “game-changing” compromise.

Given that the Duterte administration prefers avoiding conflict, a mutually satisfactory agreement would move closer to the renormalization of ties between the two countries, according to Heydarian.

“Much of this has to do with the Duterte administration’s pragmatic foreign policy outlook and the realization that translating de jure victory into de facto gains requires careful and deliberate diplomacy,” he said.

US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), meanwhile, suggests that a mediation from ASEAN or a neutral party such as Singapore, would be possible in case of conflict in the area.

“Parties could also call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to negotiate a cease-fire, although China’s permanent seat on the Council could limit the effectiveness of this option,” the think tank said.

RELATED: Vietnam asks China to withdraw missiles from South China Sea

Security policy options

Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said that the South China Sea dispute is not only a legal issue but also a security issue which requires security responses.

“Aware of the aforementioned security implications and the current security situation in the post-arbitration South China Sea, the Philippine government is now pursuing several key policy options, including rethinking its security alliance with the US, strengthening its strategic partnerships with Japan and Australia, promoting strategic cooperation with ASEAN members, and engaging China constructively in functional areas and on non-traditional security issues,” Banlaoi said.

While the arbitral award gave the Philippines legal victory, the ruling also had security implications such as the protection of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, securing the country’s gas and oil exploration projects in Reed Bank and ensuring the safety of Filipino troops in the Kalayaan Island Group.

Think tank CFR also suggested that military-to-military communication would reduce the escalation of conflict over the South China Sea.

“Communication mechanisms like military hotlines to manage maritime emergencies, similar to the ones set up by China and Japan, China and Vietnam, and China and ASEAN, could be established among all claimants,” the CFR said.

In case conflict involving the Philippines would arise, the United States would be obligated to consider military action under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The think tank, however, noted that Washington’s defense commitment to Tokyo is stronger than its commitment to Manila.

“Under its treaty obligations, the United States would have to defend Japan in the case of an armed attack; the US-Philippine treaty holds both nations accountable for mutual support in the event of an ‘armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties,'” the CFR said.

The US has been openly calling out China’s expansive reclamation activities and has conducted freedom of navigation operations in the contested waterway to display its military might.

PHILIPPINE SOVEREIGNTY, SOUTH CHINA SEA, WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/05/23/1817927/does-philippines-have-limited-options-south-china-sea-issue#6skPGD1KlKKWZ3qA.99

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Above: China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier

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The Philippines says it “owns” Mischief Reef, but there is not one known Filipinos living there. China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines
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