United States is aloud for taking position in China’s multiple geo-political stand off, particularly with the Philippines and Japan arisen from escalated claims over disputed territories. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to Japan, as a precursor to an expected series of United States projection of force.
Hagel, in Tokyo, moves to reassure Japan on security ties
BY PHIL STEWART
TOKYO Sat Apr 5, 2014 3:35am EDT
1 OF 3. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to U.S. and Japan military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo April 5, 2014. Hagel moved on Saturday to reassure Japan of America’s commitment to its security, as Russia’s annexation of Crimea raises eyebrows in a region facing its own territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.
CREDIT: REUTERS/TORU HANAI
(Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel moved on Saturday to reassure Japan of America’s commitment to its security, as Russia’s annexation of Crimea raises eyebrows in a region facing its own territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.
The United States and its allies have made clear they have no military plans to defend Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, instead moving to isolate Russia diplomatically and impose limited sanctions.
Critics say such moves are too weak to return Crimea to Ukrainian control and do little to deter further aggression.
Hagel defended the U.S. strategy to punish Russia and told reporters ahead of two days of talks with Japanese leaders that it was natural that “allies are going to look at each other to be assured”, given the crisis in Ukraine.
“It’s a pretty predictable, I think, reaction not just of nations of this area, of this region, but all over the world. It has to concern nations,” he said.
But Hagel rejected any suggestion of weakness as he renewed U.S. commitments to Japan, which is locked in a dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.
Washington takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China, but recognizes that Japan administers them and says they fall under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which obligates America to come to Japan’s defense.
Addressing U.S. and Japanese forces at Yokota Air Base, Hagel said one of the goals of his trip to the region was to assure allies of America’s commitment to “our treaty obligations.”
“We’re serious about that,” he said.
Daniel Russel, President Barack Obama’s diplomatic point man for East Asia, said on Thursday the prospect of economic retaliation should discourage Beijing from using force to pursue territorial claims in Asia, in the way Russia has in Crimea.
He stressed that China also should not doubt the U.S. commitment to defend its Asian allies.
It is unclear if U.S. reassurances can on their own allay worries in Japan that Washington might one day be unable or unwilling to militarily defend the country, despite Obama’s strategic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region.
Obama is expected to visit Japan later this month.
BEEFING UP THE ARMED FORCES
Such fears have added momentum to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to beef up Japan’s forces while loosening constitutional limits on military actions overseas.
His government this week unveiled an overhaul of a decades-old ban on weapons exports.
In an interview published before his arrival, Hagel said he welcomed the possibility of Japan giving its military a greater role by allowing it to come to the aid of allies under attack.
“We welcome Japan’s efforts to play a more proactive role in the alliance, including by re-examining the interpretation of its constitution relating to the right of collective self-defense,” Hagel said in a written response to the Nikkei, Japan’s main financial newspaper.
Hagel, who travels next to China after his weekend visit to Japan, just wrapped up three days of talks with Southeast Asian defense ministers in Hawaii, where he warned of growing U.S. concern about territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
China claims about 90 percent of the sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
“We have differences (with China). And the only way to deal with differences is (to be) straight up honest, talk about it and deal with it,” Hagel told U.S. and Japanese forces.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea came up in discussions at the Hawaii talks, one senior U.S. defense official acknowledged. But the official played down the extent of discussions, saying there “wasn’t a lot of hand wringing.”
Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which it signed together with Britain, United States and Russia. It provided guarantees of Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for a commitment, since fulfilled, to give up the country’s nuclear weapons.
(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie)
US armed forces readiness in the Pacific, particularly in Japan and South Korea is at a high level. Recently, United States military did a full blown ‘Foal Eagle’ exercise with South Korea as part of projection of force.
Officials representing United States, South Korea and Japan is expected to meet over North Korea’s imminent nuclear threat.
U.S., Japan, South Korea to discuss North Korea nuclear weapons program
WASHINGTON Thu Apr 3, 2014 4:48pm EDT
(Reuters) – The United States, Japan and South Korea will meet next week to seek ways to persuade North Korea to give up its atomic weapons program, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, just days after Pyongyang warned of a “new form” of nuclear test.
The talks next Monday in Washington will follow on from a trilateral summit involving the United States and its two main Asian allies hosted by President Barack Obama in The Hague on March 25.
The discussions precede a visit to Asia by Obama from April 22, which will include stops in both Japan and South Korea, where the North Korea issue will be high on the agenda.
North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles as the talks in The Hague got underway [ID:nL4N0MN0T1] and on Sunday, after members of the U.N. Security Council criticized that move, Pyongyang said it would not rule out conducting “a new form of nuclear test.”
The Washington meeting will be hosted by the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies.
South Korea will be represented by its Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Hwang Joon-kook and Japan by its Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Junichi Ihara, it said.
“These discussions reflect the close cooperation among our three countries and our continued focus on pursuing the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, the State Department said in a statement.
Last month’s talks in The Hague saw the first face-to-face meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The North Korean missile launch underscored the need for Washington’s two key Asian allies to repair their strained ties.
The United States wants to strengthen the allies’ combined response to concerns such as North Korea’s banned nuclear weapons program and China’s growing assertiveness in disputed Asian waters.
FRICTION BETWEEN ALLIES
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo are clouded by the legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula and Seoul’s concerns that Abe wants to rewrite Japan’s wartime past with a less apologetic tone.
Park, Abe and Obama emphasized the need to work together on containing the North Korean nuclear threat.
On Monday, North Korea fired more than 100 artillery rounds into South Korean waters as part of a drill, prompting the South to fire back, officials in Seoul said, but the exercise appeared to be more saber-rattling from Pyongyang rather than the start of a military standoff.
North Korea had flagged its intentions to conduct the exercise in response to U.N. condemnation of last week’s missile launches by Pyongyang and against what it says are threatening military drills in South Korea by U.S. forces.
In its warning about a new nuclear test, North Korea said military drills to counter the United States would involve “more diversified nuclear deterrence” to hit medium- and long-range targets “with a variety of striking power”.
North Korea has forged ahead with its nuclear development after declaring so-called six-party talks with world powers aimed at ending its atomic weapons program dead in 2008.
It threatened nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States last year after the United Nations tightened sanctions against it for conducting a third nuclear detonation since 2006.
Russia and China both expressed concern on Monday about North Korea’s threat that it could carry out more nuclear tests.
Most analysts do not believe North Korea has the capability to deliver a nuclear strike on the mainland United States.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Andrew Hay)
This is an indirect ‘warning’ to China, for being North Korean most strategic and tactically most important partner and comrade in arms.
Centre for Foreign Relations article:
The China-North Korea Relationship
Authors: Jayshree Bajoria, and Beina Xu, Online Writer/Editor
Updated: February 18, 2014
China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and fuel. The country has helped sustain what is now Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and an influx of refugees across their shared eight hundred-mile border. But after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February 2013, analysts say that China’s patience with its ally may be wearing thin. This latest nuclear test, following one in 2006 and another in May 2009, has complicated North Korea’s relationship with Beijing, which has played a central role in the Six Party Talks, the multilateral framework aimed at denuclearizing North Korea. The December 2013 public shaming and execution of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and close adviser, triggered renewed concern from Beijing, which had built a solid relationship with Jang.
These newly surfaced tensions have complicated foreign policy decisions within the ranks of Beijing’s new leadership, ushered in at the beginning of 2013, as high-level discussions between China and North Korea have stalled since December 2012. CFR’s Scott Snyder and See-won Byun of the Asia Foundation say that the incident has “dampened China’s hopes for regional engagement that were raised by a series of bilateral consultations in Beijing among U.S., PRC, and DPRK special envoys in February.” While Beijing continues to have more leverage over Pyongyang than any other nation, experts say the tests could worsen relations, and many have urged China’s new leadership to consider taking a tougher stance with its neighbor.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in Pyongyang. (Photo: KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)
China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War (1950-1953), when its troops flooded the Korean peninsula to aid its northern ally. Since the war, China has lent political and economic backing to North Korea’s leaders: Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), Kim Jong-il (1941-2011), and Kim Jong-un (1983-).
In recent years, China has been one of the authoritarian regime’s few allies. But this long-standing relationship became strained when Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006 and China agreed to UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. By signing off on this resolution—as well as earlier UN sanctions that followed the DPRK’s July 2006 missile tests—Beijing signaled a shift in tone from diplomacy to punishment. After Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in May 2009, China also agreed to stricter sanctions. In February 2013, Beijing summoned the North Korean ambassador to its foreign ministry to protest Pyongyang’s third nuclear test, and issued a call for a calm reaction to the denuclearization talks. However, it stopped short of the harsh criticism it unleashed in 2006, when it described the North’s first nuclear test as “brazen.” China also criticized a February 2014 UN report that detailed human rights atrocities in North Korea and served notice to Kim Jong-un that he could be liable in court for crimes against humanity. Beijing’s immediate and staunch defense raised questions as to whether it will use its United Nations Security Council veto power to block international interference on the matter.
Despite their long alliance, analysts say Beijing does not control Pyongyang. “In general, Americans tend to overestimate the influence China has over North Korea,” says Daniel Pinkston, a Northeast Asia expert at the International Crisis Group. In March 2010, China refused to take a stance against North Korea, despite conclusive evidence that showed Pyongyang sank a South Korean naval vessel. But in meetings with then leader Kim Jong-il following the incident, then Chinese president Hu Jintao asked the North Korean leader to refrain from future provocations, says John S. Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Hu also reportedly insisted on long overdue market reforms, notes Aidan Foster-Carter, a Korea expert at Leeds University.
At the same time, China has too much at stake in North Korea to halt or withdraw its support entirely. “The idea that the Chinese would turn their backs on the North Koreans is clearly wrong,” says CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal. Beijing only agreed to UN Resolution 1718 after revisions removed requirements for tough economic sanctions beyond those targeting luxury goods, and China’s trade with North Korea has steadily increased in recent years. Bilateral trade between China and North Korea reached nearly $6 billion in 2011, according to official Chinese data. Park writes that much of China’s economic interactions with North Korea are not actually prohibited by the current UN sanctions regime; Beijing characterizes them as economic development and humanitarian activities. China’s enforcement of the UN sanctions is also unclear, says a January 2010 report (PDF) from the U.S. Congressional Research Service, which notes that Chinese exports of banned luxury goods averaged around $11 million per month in 2009.
Pyongyang is economically dependent on China, which provides most of its food and energy supplies. Nicholas Eberstadt, a consultant at the World Bank, says that since the early 1990s, China has served as North Korea’s chief food supplier and has accounted for nearly 90 percent of its energy imports. By some estimates, China provides 80 percent of North Korea’s consumer goods and 45 percent of its food. North Korea’s economic dependence on China continues to grow, as indicated by the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. Snyder notes that in 2008, Chinese imports amounted to $2.03 billion, while exports to China including coal and iron ore totaled $750 million. Some experts see the $1.25 billion trade deficit as an indirect Chinese subsidy, given that North Korea cannot finance its trade deficit through borrowing.
China also provides aid directly to Pyongyang. “It is widely believed that Chinese food aid is channeled to the military,” (PDF) reported the Congressional Research Service in January 2010. That allows the World Food Program’s food aid to be targeted at the general population “without risk that the military-first policy or regime stability would be undermined by foreign aid policies of other countries.”
China’s support for Pyongyang ensures a friendly nation on its northeastern border, and provides a buffer zone between China and democratic South Korea, which is home to around 29,000 U.S. troops and marines. This allows China to reduce its military deployment in its northeast and “focus more directly on the issue of Taiwanese independence,” writes Shen Dingli of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai in China Security (PDF). North Korea’s allegiance is important to Beijing as a bulwark against U.S. military dominance of the region as well as against the rise of Japan’s military.
China also gains economically from its association with North Korea; growing numbers of Chinese firms are investing in North Korea and gaining concessions like preferable trading terms and port operations. Chinese companies have made major investments aimed at developing mineral resources in North Korea’s northern region. According to a January 2010 Congressional Research Service report, these investments are “part of a Chinese strategy (PDF)” of stabilizing the border region it shares with North Korea, lessening the pressure on North Koreans to migrate to China, and raising the general standard of living in North Korea. USIP’s Park writes these economic development plans also further China’s national interests in developing its own chronically poor northeastern provinces by securing mineral and energy resources across the border.
“For the Chinese, stability and the avoidance of war are the top priorities,” says Daniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. “From that point of view, the North Koreans are a huge problem for them, because Pyongyang could trigger a war on its own.” The specter of hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees flooding into China is a huge worry for Beijing. “The Chinese are most concerned about the collapse of North Korea leading to chaos on the border,” CFR’s Segal says. If North Korea does provoke a war with the United States, China and South Korea would bear the brunt of any military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Yet both those countries have been hesitant about pushing Pyongyang too hard, for fear of making Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse. The flow of refugees into China is already a problem: China has promised Pyongyang that it will repatriate North Koreans escaping across the border, but invites condemnation from human rights groups when sending them back to the DPRK. Jing-dong Yuan of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California says Beijing began its construction of a barbed wire fence along this border in 2006 for that reason.
Experts say China has also been ambivalent on the question of its commitment to intervene for the defense of North Korea in case of military conflict. The 1961 Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance says China is obliged to defend North Korea against unprovoked aggression. But Jaewoo Choo, assistant professor of Chinese foreign policy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, writes in Asian Survey that “China conceives itself to have the right to make an authoritative interpretation of the “principle for intervention” in the treaty. As a result of changes in regional security in a post-Cold War world, he writes, “China now places more value on national interest, over alliances blinded by ideology.” But, he argues, Chinese ambiguity deters others from taking military action against Pyongyang.
Beijing has been successful in bringing North Korean officials to the negotiating table at the Six Party Talks many times. “It’s clear that the Chinese have enormous leverage over North Korea in many respects,” says Sneider of Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. “But can China actually try to exercise that influence without destabilizing the regime? Probably not.” Pinkston says that for all of North Korea’s growing economic ties with China, “at the end of the day, China has little influence over the military decisions.”
Also, China does not wish to use its leverage except for purposes consistent with its policy objectives and strategic interests, say experts. Choo writes, “After all, it is not about securing influence over North Korean affairs but is about peaceful management of the relationship with the intent to preserve the status quo of the peninsula.”
Analysts say that with the removal of Jang Song-thaek, who had been an important liaison to Beijing, China may further tilt toward prioritizing stability over denuclearization in the near term. However, his absence may also deprive China of strategic alternatives to cooperate with the United States and South Korea given the “skyrocketing reputational costs” of continued support for the North Korean leadership, Snyder writes.
The United States has pushed North Korea to verifiably and irreversibly give up its nuclear weapons program in return for aid, diplomatic benefits, and eventually normal diplomatic relations with Washington. Experts say Washington and Beijing have very different views on the issue. “Washington believes in using pressure to influence North Korea to change its behavior, while Chinese diplomats and scholars have a much more negative view of sanctions and pressure tactics,” Pinkston says. “They tend to see public measures as humiliating and counterproductive.”
However, China and the United do share common interests, including containing North Korea’s nuclear program and preventing South Korea and Japan from going nuclear, say some experts. A regional partnership involving the United States and the countries of Northeast Asia, including China “remains the best vehicle … for building stable relationships on and around the Korean peninsula,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Sheila A. Smith. But this dynamic has been challenged with the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia–a policy that strengthens U.S. political, economic, and military participation in Asia through bilateral dialogues with China as well as a range of hedging measures designed to manage China’s rise. This tension “provides a backdrop to consider prospects for Sino-U.S. cooperation on policies toward North Korea, and highlights Chinese wariness and strategic mistrust of US policy intentions,” writes Snyder.
“Everyone who deals with North Korea recognizes [it] as a very unstable actor,” Sneider says. However, some experts say North Korea is acting assertively both in its relationship with China and on the larger world stage. “The North Koreans are developing a much more realist approach to their foreign policy,” Pinkston says. “They’re saying imbalances of power are dangerous and the United States has too much power–so by increasing their own power they’re helping to balance out world stability. It’s neorealism straight out of an international relations textbook.”
And even though China may be angry with North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship, analysts say it will avoid moves that could cause a sudden collapse of the regime. But Asian military affairs expert Andrew Scobell writes, “No action by China should be ruled out where North Korea is concerned.” According to Scobell, Beijing might stop propping up Pyongyang and allow North Korea to fail if it believed a unified Korea under Seoul would be more favorably disposed toward Beijing. A January 2008 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace says China has its own contingency plans (PDF) to dispatch troops to North Korea in case of instability. According to the report, the Chinese army could be sent into North Korea on missions to keep order if unrest triggers broader violence, including attacks on nuclear facilities in the North or South.
China has long been regarded as North Korea’s best friend, but that sense of fraternity appears to be souring, the New York Times writes in this in-depth article.
VICE’s founder took a press trip to North Korea and produced this guide to the country.
Victor Cha talks with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman about North Korea’s nuclear needs in this interview.
This CFR Backgrounder examines the power handover of China’s Communist Party and its governing challenges.
Esther Pan and Carin Zissis contributed to this Backgrounder.
This multiple diplomatic stand off involving China with common borders such as Japan and the Philippines which is progressively escalating into a military tension is indeed worrying.
United States is building up its indirect provocations as a reciprocity of China’s increasingly aggressive military maneuvres in the past 12 months, particularly the Jingganshan amphibious task force at James Shoal (March 2013), Changbanshian amphibious task force in North South China Sea (Jan 2013) and China’s coast guards presence near Senkaku Islands and Scarborough Shoal.
This pressing issue about China is expected to be high on President Barack H. Obama’s agenda during his official visit to South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines end of the month.
The Diplomat story:
Obama’s Asia Trip Itinerary Released
In late April President Obama will travel to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
By Zachary Keck
February 13, 2014
The White House released the itinerary late Wednesday afternoon for President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia.
A statement published on the White House’s website said that President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines during his Asia trip in late April. Specific dates for the trip were not given.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice first announced that President Obama would be traveling to Asia in April during a speech she gave at Georgetown University on U.S. Asia policy last November. The administration had not previously announced which countries the trips would include, although local media outlets in places like South Korea had been reporting on discussions in their countries to have President Obama visit.
The upcoming trip is itself a make-up trip for the one that President Obama canceled in October because of the government shutdown in Washington, DC. That trip was supposed to take him to the Philippines and Malaysia for bilateral visits, as well as to Indonesia and Brunei for regional conferences. The visits to the Philippines and Malaysia therefore come as no surprise.
Obama’s decision to visit America’s two closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, is inconsistent with the October trip, which would have focused exclusively on Southeast Asia. The change in the itinerary is likely due to the escalating tensions in the region since China announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in November of last year. America has also been pushing Japan and South Korea to mend ties, a theme Obama will likely take up during his trip.
The new itinerary also suggests that a final text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not imminent. The nations participating in the TPP negotiations had hoped to have a final text ready for Obama and his counterparts to sign during the October trip. The deadline for a final text agreement had been set for the end of 2013, although it was long clear that this was likely to be missed. The White House’s statement on Wednesday announcing the trip said that the TPP would be one part of the agenda during Obama’s stop in Japan.
In general, the Asia trip fits in well with Obama’s other trips and leadership summits this spring, which are mostly with strong and longstanding allies throughout the globe. This week, for instance, President Obama hosted French President Hollande for a state dinner at the White House. On Friday he will host the leader from Jordan, a strong U.S. ally in the Middle East, at a summit in California. At the beginning of March, Obama will welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Shortly thereafter Obama will leave for his second trip to Saudi Arabia as president.
Last year, in particular, the administration was routinely criticized for managing U.S. alliances poorly. So far this is shaping up as the “spring of redemption,” or at least that is the White House’s hope.
The saga which is centred on China’s crude greed to control the access of hypo-carbon deposits across the seas in East Asia and the second most important maritime passageway is getting more chronic and complicated.