East Asian Summary: August 8-11, 2021

“China has…articulated the potential consequences to Lithuania” but the latter has “persisted” in agreeing to allow Taiwan to open a Taiwan Representative Office rather than a “Taipei” Representative Office, writes China Military. The Baltic country will “realize in time the potential serious consequences” of its decision (although those consequences were not spelled out there). Lithuania is violating the One China Principle, it said in another article, solely to show the country’s loyalty to the US.

The People’s Daily warned Taiwan that seeking independence and colluding with “external forces” is “futile and doomed to fail”. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has “exaggerated the so-called mainland military threat to Taiwan”, and The China Daily warned Lithuania and Taiwan that China has “the resolve and capability” to ‘reunify’ China.

A piece in The Japan Times, however, said a growing number of voices in Japan and the US were calling for “‘strategic clarity’ regarding Taiwan”, and that Taiwan itself “should formally call itself Taiwan”. The G7 should then recognize the republic and the United Nations General Assembly should adopt annual resolutions declaring Taiwan’s qualifications to be a member state in the face of China exercising its veto. Under the current status quo, China is not integrating into the world order, it is not getting weaker, and it is not becoming less aggressive, so the best way to challenge its adventurism is to recognize Taiwan now.

A piece in The Taipei Times echoed this call, saying it was time to jettison “the ‘one China’ lie” and for Taiwan to call itself Taiwan.

Another piece in The Taipei Times went somewhat further, arguing that it was time for the US to advance a One Taiwan principle and that the One China principle was a way of papering over the contradiction of the Chinese Communist Party trying to hold together a failed Manchu-created empire. Moreover, the existence of an independent Mongolia is evidence that China can be pressured to relinquish claims to lands that were once part of that empire. The piece also mentioned, however, Chinese threats to go nuclear over Taiwan, including in the form of the “Japanese exception theory” (presumably the idea that China would be willing to make an exception to its no first-strike policy).

The nuclear question came up in Chinese publications, as well. In response to the US’s massive Large Scale Exercise 2021 (LSE21) currently under way, The China Daily said that “Considering that Russia and China both have nuclear capabilities, the risk of running into a head-on military conflict with one of them, even on a limited scale, could have disastrous consequences”.

Another article in China Military managed to link the nuclear question with some other themes popular in Chinese publications recently: America’s moral and material weaknesses. White elites in the US are willing to sacrifice Asian lives to check China’s rise and further enrich the military-industrial complex. Washington has already strong-armed Japan to challenge the One China principle. American elites are also willing to sacrifice forward-deployed US troops to enrage domestic opinion, but they underestimate Chinese determination, and they are mistaken in thinking that their nuclear advantage will prove decisive in a war over Taiwan.

In The Taipei Times, a former American representative to Taiwan says the US knows its credibility is at stake in Taiwan.

Turning to ASEAN, China Military says American historical relations with Southeast Asia is “replete with blood and deaths”: “[a] warmongering nation which focuses solely on geopolitical calculation…can never genuinely advance ‘shared prosperity, security, and values’ for the region”. The People’s Daily echoes this: the US is using ASEAN in its confrontation with China and bringing geopolitics back to Southeast Asia. The “China threat” is a US fantasy concocted to conceal US weakness, says China Military.

Nikkei Asia says that the Code of Conduct (COC) being negotiated between China and ASEAN for the South China Sea must be transparent. Reportedly, China wants the COC to be exempted from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (under which China lost its case to the Philippines in 2016) and to bar countries from outside of the region from conducting military exercises. ASEAN, the US, Europe, and Japan must be united in urging China to comply with the law.

The China Daily describes the 2016 UNCLOS decision as being “null and void” and “illicit and partial”. Beijing is “seeking to nurture a regional community with a shared future”; China and countries in the region can resolve disputes without US military vessels and aircraft “provoking territorial disputes”. “The best that can be hoped for…is they [China and the US] keep a lid on their animosity” in the South China Sea, but “danger…lies in the real possibility Washington’s frequent stirring up of trouble in the South China Sea may finally get out of hand”.

Despite these dangers, The People’s Daily says China thinks the UN Security Council is not the right place to discuss the South China Sea, either. The US “has become the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea”, and “[W]e are determined and able to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea”.

Meanwhile, some in South Korea are beginning to worry that the peninsula is being pulled into a wider Indo-Pacific conflict. A statement in North Korea’s DPRKToday issued by Kim Yo-jong said that the scaled-down US-South Korea military exercises now underway are a preparation for a nuclear strike on North Korea, that US forces must leave Korea altogether, and that North Korea will respond by expanding its nuclear deterrent.

Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, said that “Pushing for a South Korea-US joint military exercise is not constructive”, a comment described by a writer in the Korea JoongAng Daily as “brazen intervention”. The writer went on to argue that China has never apologized for killing countless Koreans during its intervention in the 1950s, that China’s activities in the South China Sea endanger South Korea’s maritime interests, and that China is “directly involved in…developing…nuclear weapons and missiles in North Korea”.

A piece in The Hankyoreh said, however, that strategic ambiguity towards China was still in South Korea’s interest and that hostility towards China would impede peace on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Another piece in The Hankyoreh argued that North Korean statements on the joint military exercises can be read as “North Korea’s attempt to work with China to drive a wedge in the South Korea-US alliance as Beijing seeks to weaken Washington’s efforts to contain it. We can expect to see more and more of this kind of coordinated behavior between North Korea and China as tensions rise in US-China relations”. This development was in line with the take over of China’s foreign policy by a small circle around Xi Jinping who issued orders to “wolf warrior” diplomats. South Korea, the piece said, needs a strategy to keep the peninsula out of the China-US confrontation, and the next president should be chosen on this basis.

Writers in the Korea JoongAng Daily and The Korea Herald argue that Kim Yo-jong and the regime in North Korea feel emboldened by South Korean President Moon’s eagerness for an inter-Korean summit before his term expires in May at almost any price. A writer in the former publication says that after having confirmed Moon’s “submissive attitude” and “docile compliance” in pushing South Korea’s defense apparatus to tone down the joint exercises, Kim Yo-jong has thrown cold water on resuming talks and deepened tensions on the peninsula.

Domestically, Moon and his Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) have continued to come under fire for advancing a media disinformation law just before a general election and for alleged connections between Moon and four “labor rights activists” arrested for spying for North Korea.

Finally, Chinese media over the last week have been fairly quiet about India but it still has something to say about Central Asia. Russia and China are conducting military exercises just south of Mongolia due to the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The exercises are designed to counter ‘terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism’.

A piece in China Military accuses the US of seeking to encourage a civil war in Afghanistan in order to justify placing military bases in Central Asia but the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will prevent this from happening.

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