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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.

South Asia Summary: August 6-10, 2021

Let’s begin with a look at how Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Act East Policy–which seeks to integrate India, especially Northeast India, and ASEAN–is faring.

A columnist in Bangladesh’s The Independent reports on West Bengali chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s national ambitions. After having defeated the BJP in her home state, Banerjee wants to seize on the alleged Pegasus spying scandal and present an opposition “front against the BJP in each state” come the Lok Sabha (national parliamentary) elections in 2024.

Khela [hobe] will happen in all states until BJP is removed from the country”, The Independent says, but a writer on News18 questions the implication of Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Bengali election slogan (which could be translated as “game on”). He says West Bengal no longer leads India, that West Bengal is falling behind its neighboring states, and that the slogan is a call to political violence, a sentiment largely echoed in Firstpost.

Meanwhile, Northeast India is trying to sort out the aftermath of the deadly border battle between the states of Assam (led by BJP hardliner and chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma) and (the predominantly Christian) Mizoram, which Sarma just suggested may be related to beef-smuggling in Mizoram. Muhammad Mahmood in Bangladesh’s Financial Express connects this battle with the larger question of US-India-China relations. Neither the US nor India are the democratic champions they purport to be, and neither has the financial wherewithal to go to war with China. The US is caught up in anti-China “hysteria” while India is flummoxed by the fate of Afghanistan.

Sanjoy Hazarika argues in The Indian Express that the “visionary” Act East Policy cannot be based on infrastructure alone but also on peace and trust.

OpIndia reports on a claim by Abhijit Iyer Mitra that “there will be an irreversible decline leading to the ‘end of Hinduism’” within a century’s time. Hindu India was damaged by the 1947 Partition and has been further damaged by a secular constitution that allows only minority communities (notably, Christians and Muslims) to run their own schools and religions institutions. Moreover, while Hinduism, like similar pre-Abrahamic religions in ancient Europe and the Middle East, seeks to find common ground with other religions, Abrahamic religions seek “exclusive ground” ideologically and territorially.

A piece in ThePrint suggests carving up the massive, BJP-led state of Uttar Pradesh both to rejuvenate the economy and break the grip of Hindutva ideology in the Indian heartland.

Staying with the theme of Hindutva, The Quint has a piece about Maharashtra’s Shiv Sena and its relationship with Congress, suggesting that Shiv Sena is somewhat more opportunistic, less ideologically committed to Hindutva, and more grounded in Marathi culture than is often acknowledged.

Multiple pieces discuss the recent agreement between China and India to disengage at Gogra in the Himalayas and agree that although this is an encouraging small step, it is elsewhere in Ladakh that the real test comes. “Beijing has appeared unwilling to discuss the strategically significant Depsang Plains, where the Chinese side has been blocking Indian patrols”, says The Hindu. The current buffer zones cannot become permanent, it goes on.

Tara Kartha in ThePrint warns that Beijing may be abandoning its doctrine of minimal deterrence in order to join the rest of the world in a nuclear arm’s race and position itself more aggressively with respect to Taiwan. Although expansion in China’s nuclear arsenal is unlikely to directly threaten India, which is already well within range of Chinese missiles, it points to a global sea change in the nuclear threat which could impact India over the long run. Russia, however, might distance itself from China because of this.

Speaking of Russia, a piece in The Indian Express points to a possible Indo-Arctic alliance that could complement both Vladimir Putin’s continental Greater Eurasian Partnership and India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, each viewed as mechanisms for checking Chinese expansion.

With India’s ally in Kabul under pressure and Pakistan gaining the diplomatic advantage in Afghanistan and Central Asia, India is turning to the Persian Gulf for a way back into the region. “Integration of the Gulf into India’s regional security calculus [is]…now likely to be a permanent feature”, says C Raja Mohan in The Indian Express. Aditi Badhuri argues in The Quint that Iran’s and India’s shared interests in avoiding an extremist Sunni regime in Afghanistan are bringing them closer together despite their increasingly close relationships with China and the US (as well as other Iranian enemies in the Middle East), respectively. This relationship is critical to India, because Iran is India’s sole route into Central Asia.

Pakistan’s The Express Tribune blames India for a deadly attack in Quetta claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). “If India doesn’t back down, we need to push harder to get the world to punish them.” The Nation says it must fight back “diplomatically” and that the country is only second to Afghanistan in being a victim of terror.

Some Pakistani writers see great opportunities for their country to expand into Central Asia with the rise of the Taliban. One writer for The Express Tribune sees the combination of a Taliban takeover and an expansion of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) opening up all of Central Asia. Moreover, the US will likely get bogged down in India’s “babu way of work” (i.e., bureaucratic lethargy). Another writer for the same publication sees the New Quad of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the US as a peaceful counter to the confrontational Indo-Pacific Quad as it makes possible the realization of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Vision of Central Asia. With Chinese investment in the form of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC opening up Afghanistan, this will lure US investment into the region and make Pakistan less dependent on China. China, the US, and Russia will be able to cooperate in Central Asia. India need not be threatened by this project, if it abandons zero-sum thinking, even as the same project “bolsters Pakistan’s strategic leverage over India” and “swings the pendulum in Pakistan’s favor”.

Not everybody is so upbeat about Pakistan’s prospects, however. A writer at the Pakistan Observer worries about Pakistan being encircled, as it gets blamed for the rise of the Taliban and the Indo-Pacific Quad puts pressure on the region to turn on China. He worries that the Taliban could close the circle by normalizing ties with India.

A number of these pessimistic takes on events in Afghanistan stress Pakistan’s helplessness in the rise of the Taliban. The Dawn writes that Pakistan has limited leverage over the Taliban, and that 7000 non-local Islamist fighters are based in Afghanistan. Kamran Yousaf in The Express Tribune says that Pakistani requests to the Taliban to rein in Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) met with a “lukewarm response”. Muhammad Amir Rana, also writing in Dawn, says that the Taliban is already transforming the ideological topography of the region. The TTP, for example, has declared it no longer aims to absorb Pakistan into a caliphate but rather to seek independence for Pakistan’s tribal territories. Non-tribal TTP fighters might join IS or al Qaeda in response. The Nation says that Pakistan should not cave into demands by the Taliban to open the border at the vital Spin Boldak crossing. At Bangladesh’s Daily Asian, Matiar Chowdhury doesn’t think the Taliban will be able to hold back the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from targeting Xinjiang or CPEC installations, despite the Taliban’s assurance of “non-interference” in Chinese affairs.

Lots of Pakistani observers heaped scorn on the US, saying it both made a mess of the region, weakened itself, and strengthened China in its misadventure in Afghanistan. The US “used Pakistan…like toilet paper” said one writer at The Express Tribune and it cost the US $2.66 trillion for the privilege.

Finally, we turn to Nepal. Prime Minister Deuba has released the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of his new government around which his coalition will rally. The Himalayan Times said the CMP resolves to ‘talk about resolving’ the Kalipani Dispute (where Nepal claims a slice of territory long held by India), strengthen border posts, investigate the previous, Oli-led government’s procurement of COVID-related equipment, amend the Constitution in unspecified ways, and publish a report about the crackdown on Madhesi protests five years ago. These last two measures appear to be in deference to the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), which frequently champions particular Madhesi causes, but there was no mention made of further devolution, another JSP demand. As PM Deuba is still unable to expand his cabinet, The Himalayan Times express skepticism that the government will have an easy go of it.

Southeast Asia Summary: August 5-9, 2021

The meaning of “ASEAN centrality” seems to be on the minds of much of Southeast Asia as the economic union tries to grapple with the crisis in Myanmar and the growing dispute in the South China Sea.

A piece in The Jakarta Post questions ASEAN’s capacity to deal with Myanmar. Because Southeast Asia is such a critical region, ASEAN should be based on integration rather than cooperation, it says. Cooperation is fit for a common market but not political goals. Since a consensual approach is unlikely to make any real headway in Myanmar, despite Indonesia’s best efforts, ASEAN should scale down its ambitions and aim for “a public health truce” to build “humanitarian corridors” in order to avoid a “humanitarian crisis”. India and Japan have “cynically” outsourced their Myanmar policy to ASEAN. Thus, the crisis in Myanmar can only be solved by the US and China; Indonesia should not remain bound within an ASEAN framework on the Myanmar question.

In The Irrawaddy, a representative of the democratic National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), however, insists that any humanitarian aid from ASEAN and other outside organizations be channeled through “the emerging federal democratic union” and not the junta, despite how desperate conditions in the country are.

Yet another writer in The Irrawaddy claims that the US, China, and the rest of the world have outsourced their Myanmar policy to ASEAN which is bent on appeasement of the junta. ASEAN has prioritized post-COVID economic rejuvenation and great power competition, and the US is eager to massage ASEAN’s ego to gain the latter’s assistance in checking China. In short, nobody is interested in resolving the Myanmar crisis.

But Nareerat Wiriyapong writes in The Bangkok Post that it is not too late for the West to use leverage to press ASEAN on Myanmar.

With high-ranking members of the Biden administration streaming in and out of Southeast Asia, many in the region are pondering US intentions in the region, urging ASEAN neutrality in the midst of US-China competition, and questioning US commitment and capabilities. Writers in Thailand and Indonesia have noted that many of these US visitors are focusing their attention on Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines while their respective countries are being relatively ignored.

The Jakarta Post claims that President Jokowi’s shift of a combat group to the Natuna Sea “to intercept foreign vessels, especially Chinese ones” was “a strategic shift” and a signal to the incoming Biden administration that Jakarta was willing to chart a different course after having edged Indonesia closer to China under Joko’s reign. In response to this calculated risk, the US has spurned Jokowi. Biden’s policy in Asia is “disorganized” and “incoherent”, and he has treated Indonesia ‘abysmally’; his only reference to Indonesia being that it might have to move its capital because Jakarta is physically sinking. Indonesia has been snubbed by the US, and Jakarta will have to wait and see what the US wants.

A Thai guest columnist in The Irrawaddy worries that Garuda Shield, a joint US-Indonesia military exercise, might displace the Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand as US attention shifts to the South China Sea and Thailand is seen as shifting towards China. The writer noted the attention America is paying to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines and warns that ASEAN members who openly join the Quad could destabilized ASEAN. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he also noted, spoke of “the central role of ASEAN” rather than “ASEAN centrality”.

Perhaps Vietnam best encapsulates ASEAN’s South China Sea conundrum. VietnamPlus claims that ASEAN and the EU have the same position on the “East Sea” (what Vietnam calls the South China Sea), namely that the waterway should not be ‘militarized’. Vietnam News reports that the spokesperson for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Vietnam will not be drawn into a global power competition and that the country is working to strengthen ties with both China and the US. The Vietnam Times says that ASEAN cooperates with the EU, the US, the UK, and Russia, but that “Japan is considered the most reliable and comprehensive partner of ASEAN in many fields”. China is not even mentioned. In another Vietnam Times article, it says that China is violating Vietnamese sovereignty by performing drills on the Paracel Islands (what the Chinese call Xisha), and Vietnam forms a united front with ASEAN, the US, and Japan on the South China Sea.

The Bangkok Post published a piece questioning America’s ability to pay for a war over Taiwan, which lies at the easternmost edge of the South China Sea.

The Manila Times says that ASEAN must avoid getting tangled up in US-China competition and that ASEAN needs ‘cohesion’ and “solidarity”. And, The Straits Times says, “The US should know that while most of Asia welcomes its presence, this is predicated on it being a benign player and not one that stokes fights, particularly against a close neighbour like China.”

With national elections only nine months away in the Philippines, accusations about which potential contenders are American or Chinese stooges are flying, but must of the rhetorical energy is spent on domestic jockeying.

Charlie V. Manalo, in The Manila Standard, argues that Bongbong Marcos’s declaration that he is willing to run has had a domino effect on coalition-building and coalition-crumbling. Marcos, son of the late dictator, lost by a hair in the previous vice-presidential race to Leni Robredo, who is herself trying to piece together an anti-Duterte coalition for 2022, and is believed to enjoy grassroots support in parts of the country, enough perhaps to aim for the presidency.

Robredo, one of the leaders of the anti-Duterte 1Sambayan coalition, has come under criticism for communicating with Senator Ping Lacson, a presidential candidate who claims to be neither pro- nor anti-Duterte but who chose Senate President Vic Sotto III as his running mate, a person deemed a Duterte stooge by some. A writer in The Inquirer says that her meeting with Lacson underlined 1Sambayan’s failure to forge an anti-Duterte coalition. A piece in The Manila Standard writes the grouping off, as well.

Joel Ruiz Butayan in The Inquirer takes Robredo critics like Senator Trillanes IV to task for reaching out to Lacson et al. Most Filipinos are not interested in the drug war and China, so there is no room for political ‘purism’.

Rigoberto Tiglao in The Manila Times says that Philippine democracy is not threatened by any ‘skillful authoritarianism’ on President Duterte’s part but perhaps by the lack of a strong opposition. 1Sambayan are “ridiculous” anti-China “stooges” of the US; Robredo has lost credibility; Lacson cannot handle money; Pacquiao is busy boxing; Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is too inexperienced in politics and playing leading roles in films. For good measure, he goes on to note that authoritarian states handled the COVID crisis much better than democratic ones. Another piece in the same paper insists that it is virtually impossible that China was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak and that “credible accounts…have zeroed in on Fort Detrick” in the US.

A similar diatribe in The Manila Standard–but apparently more in Marcos’s camp than Duterte’s–argues that Marcos only lost the vice-presidency to Robredo because of a coalition of Yellow (i.e., liberal/left) hypocrites made up of an arrogant oligarchy, a sacrilegious Catholic Church, communists disguised as militant nationalists, and American money. Lacson is not pro-Duterte but an American stooge, and his running mate is a toilet comedian. 1Sambayan is an anti-China party.

With the Malaysian parliament reconvening in September for a vote of confidence, attention in the country is also largely consumed by jockeying between and within the various coalitions. The leading candidates for the position appear to be Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, former prime minister Najib Razak (UMNO loyalist), Ismail Sabri (UMNO defector), and the incumbent Muhyiddin Yassin.

Beneath the struggle for the prime-ministership is the struggle for leadership of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party which, by announcing its withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, triggered the upcoming vote of no-confidence. After Ahmad Zahid, ostensibly the head of UMNO, announced the party was pulling out of the coalition, a number of UMNO members, including Ismail Sabri, stayed in Muhyiddin’s cabinet. Joceline Tan for The Star notes how dangerous this was for Sabri, especially after PM Muhyiddin seemed to embarrass the king, especially since UMNO grassroots supporters tend to be strongly royalist. Nevertheless, Ahmad Zamid, the man perhaps most responsible for threatening Muhyiddin’s rule, now finds himself in trouble as a party leadership vote has suddenly become imminent after a government oversight body ruled that the leadership contest could not be delayed due to COVID (a decision regarded as suspicious by a politician writing in Malaysiakini).

Tony Pua, a leading light in the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), has suggested, according to more than one story in Malaysiakini, that the outcome of the current battle within UMNO and the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, could be that UMNO simply assumes command of the PN, and that it will then be able to pardon alleged kleptocrats like Najib Razak. Thus, he is said to argue, it might in fact be better to keep PN in power until the next general election. But, one of those Malaysiakini pieces counters, if the PN is indeed “killing” citizens due to inept handling of the COVID crisis, as the opposition claims, it is hard for the opposition to tell Malaysians to “tolerate” the regime until it is ready to compete.

It has to be noted that not much mention was made of Anwar Ibrahim and perhaps even less of Mahathir Mohamad, as the ball appears to be in Muhyiddin’s court, for all of the difficulty he might otherwise be in.

Finally, in Thailand, as in Malaysia and the Philippines, COVID is shaking the political status quo up. Protests have reignited. A piece in Khaosod says that protesters are motivated by the perceived mismanagement of the COVID crisis by the government while others are motivated by the idea of ‘monarchical reform’ and that the more radical, republican elements of the latter group could both exacerbate the COVID crisis and turn off potential allies.

 

East Asia Summary: August 4-8, 2021

ASEAN’s role in the Indo-Pacific is on the minds of writers in Japan, China, and North Korea. While the DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praises ASEAN’s aspiration to non-interference, The Japan Times argues that ASEAN’s principle of non-interference is failing to achieve results in Myanmar, and thus, the world should be putting greater pressure on both Myanmar and ASEAN.

China, meanwhile, sees threats from US engagement with ASEAN. According to The People’s Daily, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, “urged maintaining the centrality of ASEAN to jointly counter geopolitical confrontation. He also urged preventing certain major powers outside the region from promoting new regional strategies….[I]nterference by countries outside the region constituted the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea.” The Global Times argued that ASEAN constitutes the frontline of the US-China rivalry and that US involvement in meetings with ASEAN about the Mekong were made “with an obvious intention to target China.” Nevertheless, ASEAN countries are unlikely to be seduced by US rhetoric about values and the centrality of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific without tangible contributions by the US in economic development and the procurement of vaccines.

China also expressed its opposition to recently announced US weapons sales to Taiwan. Biden should “think twice”, said China Military, as selling weapons to Taiwan “may…accelerate the process of reunification”. The People’s Daily argued that selling weapons to Taiwan is just American politicians greasing the wheels of the industrial military complex. The Global Times kicked the rhetoric up another notch by insisting that were the People’s Liberation Army to attack Taiwan, it would “definitely carry out saturation attacks” which “will instantly destroy morale of the entire [Taiwanese] armed forces”. Japan would meet the same fate if it attempted to interfere; the “PLA will…vent Chinese people’s anger since the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895”. Japan would do better to focus on doing business with China.

The People’s Daily complained that China was a victim of “origin-tracing terrorism”, which China Military suggested WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom was in danger of becoming an accomplice to under pressure by the US administration, despite the Chinese government’s forthrightness from the very beginning of the outbreak and evidence of the coronavirus having been later found in samples predating the outbreak in Wuhan. The People’s Daily suggested that Fort Detrick could be the ultimate source of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to complaining of American interference in Taiwan and ASEAN, China expressed disapproval of joint military exercises with South Korea and US hegemony more generally. China Military detected a broader desire for peace and “non-alliance” among the great powers of Asia (Russia, India, and China), as evidenced in Russian joint military exercises with India and China, respectively. Although Russia and China have no intention of challenging US naval supremacy globally, in response to the US’s Large Scale Exercise 2021 (LSE 2021), China would conduct its own naval exercises in the South China Sea. While the US squanders money and resources to no effect, as it did in its failed response to the COVID crisis, China will expand its military-industrial capacity and build up its nuclear deterrent to force the US into a war of attrition it cannot win.

The Global Times also offered a program to isolate the US. China could separate the US from its Western allies, most notably Germany and France, by emphasizing the inexorable rise of “globalization” above and beyond the West’s “de facto alliance based on ideology and values”. China can also create space between the US and its European allies by emphasizing “cultural diversity” and “harmony without uniformity”. By constantly expanding economic cooperation with Western Europe, Russia, and developing countries, the US would be isolated.

An editorial in The Taipei Times argued that former prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott was correct in arguing that the anti-China alliance hinged on a successful defense of Taiwan. Drawing on analogies from the Chinese Warring States period, Lionel Te-Chen Chiou argued that the Indo-Pacific alliance would have to succeed in containing China where the Vertical Alliance failed to stop Qin nearly 2500 years ago.

The Olympic Games in Tokyo have also brought the question of Taiwanese identity to the fore in recent days. A piece in The Taipei Times asks why NHK’s announcers dare to refer to the Chinese Taipei team as “Taiwan” when neither private or public media organizations in Taiwan do. Since Taiwan is still officially ruled by the “Republic of China” (ROC), it has been difficult to prosecute former ROC general Kao Ankuo for treason after he called on Taiwanese soldiers to surrender in the event of a Chinese invasion on his YouTube channel.

The Taipei Times has also called on the Taiwanese government to level with the Taiwanese people about the risk of a Chinese invasion in as soon as six years. Now is the time to get ready, it argues, but there are “no votes in defense”. Nevertheless, it is time for Taiwan to build “a serious volunteer civilian defense force”.

Meanwhile, South Koreans are asking themselves what North Korea will want for reopening communication lines after a year’s pause. In The Korea Joong Ang Daily, Nam Jeong Ho points out that in four out of the last five such occasions, North Korea has demanded concessions for the privilege of restored communications. Nam speculates that President Moon will be eager to comply with such requests and that South Korea should at least be able to get cross-border family reunions if the government is going to cancel upcoming US-ROK military exercises and give the North food aid. Another editorial in The Korea Joong Ang Daily bemoans how eager the South Korean government has been to signal its willingness to acquiesce to Kim Yo-jong’s demands and that the Moon government should not jeopardize national security just for the sake of “talking”.

North Korea, for its part, has expressed dissatisfaction with Japanese plans for an allegedly offensive deployment of airpower (F-35s deployed south and east of the Korean peninsula, as well as aircraft carriers). Such ‘provocative’ actions will threaten the regional situation and betray Japan’s desire to reinvade the Korean peninsula.

On a more domestic note, The Japan Times is anticipating the outcome of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race. Currently led by Prime Minister Suga, the party is due to vote for the next party president at the end of September, but internal elections could be delayed until after national lower house elections in later October. Although Suga remains the presumed favorite, no LDP faction leaders have publicly expressed their backing of his candidacy.

And in South Korea, Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi (the large province that surrounds Seoul) and contender for the ruling Democrat Party of Korea’s (DPK) presidential nomination, has been making waves. Writers from The Korea Times and The Korea Joong Ang Daily have complained of Lee’s announcement that the Gyeonggi provincial government would provide COVID relief to all citizens rather than the poorest 88% as set by President Moon at the national level. The Korea Herald also notes that Lee wants to increase the amount of compensation that media companies would have to pay for publishing “false and manipulative information” under the ruling DPK’s controversial proposed “media arbitration bill” beyond the five times already stipulated in the bill.