Aug 092017
Hard-pedaling Soft Power, China Helps Launch $13B Belt and Road Rail Project in Malaysia

KUANTAN, MALAYSIA China and Malaysia broke ground on Wednesday on a $13 billion rail project linking peninsular Malaysia’s east and west, the largest such project in the country and a major part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure push. The planned 688-km (430-mile) East Coast Rail Link will connect the South China Sea, large parts of which are claimed by China, at the Thai border in the east with the strategic shipping routes of the Straits of Malacca in the west. It is among the most prominent projects in China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting the world’s second-largest economy by land corridors to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia and maritime routes opening up trade with the Middle East and Europe. “The ECRL is indeed yet another ‘game changer’ and a ‘mindset changer’ for Malaysia as it will significantly cut travel time to and from the east coast of the peninsula,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the ceremony halfway along the route in Kuantan, which faces the South China Sea. For China, the project is another expansion of its soft power in Malaysia, which also lays claim to some disputed South China Sea islands, and is critical for China’s geopolitical and strategic interests. “The China government has attached great importance to the China-Malaysia relations and has always considered Malaysia a dear neighbor and trustworthy partner who is committed to seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and common development in the country,” [Read More…]

Jun 202017
US Urges China to Change Calculus on N. Korea Ahead of Security Talks

STATE DEPARTMENT � The United States is urging China to play a more prominent role in combating global terrorism and help change the calculus on North Korea, ahead of high-level security talks with Beijing. The first round of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue kicks off in Washington Wednesday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will host a Chinese delegation led by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department. Senior U.S. officials say China has taken a fairly limited profile in counterterrorism efforts. It is not a member of the 68-nation global coalition countering the Islamic State militant group We would like to see them step up and take more responsibility, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Susan Thornton told VOA on Monday. Thornton said China has a lot of interest in Iraq, and the U.S. thinks it should be doing more to contribute to the efforts of the international coalition to defeat IS. Killings concern China Earlier this month, two Chinese citizens were killed by Islamic State militants after being kidnapped in southwestern Pakistan. In November 2015, IS said it killed Chinese national Fan Jinghui. Both cases triggered grave concern from Beijing. We have seen them [Chinese officials] become more interested over time, added Thornton, noting the talks are an early feeler on getting China more involved. On Tuesday, Chinese officials said both countries have been victims of terrorism. Cooperation is in [Read More…]

Jun 192017
US Urges Bigger Chinese Role to Combat Global Terrorism

WASHINGTON � The United States wants China to become more involved in supporting the global fight against terrorism and efforts to defeat Islamic State, including in Iraq, a senior U.S. official said on Monday ahead of high-level security talks with Beijing. Susan Thornton, the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said that China has taken only a limited role in counter-terrorism efforts, although it appeared to be becoming more interested. “We would like to see them step up and take more responsibility,” Thornton told reporters as Washington and China’s diplomatic and defense chiefs prepared for a meeting in the U.S. capital on Wednesday. “They have a lot of interests, for example in Iraq, and we think they should be doing to more to contribute to the efforts of the international coalition to defeat ISIS [Islamic State],” she said. Thornton said Beijing, which is not a member of the 68-member coalition, was increasingly affected by terrorism, as was seen by the recent killing of two Chinese nationals in Pakistan. Beijing has sent out “early feelers” about getting more involved, Thornton said. “We’d like to have a good discussion with them about what more we think they can do, certainly in the way of providing resources to governments that are battling against terrorism and trying to help with capacity-building for governments and security forces in various places,” she added. Wednesday’s talks will involve U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as well as China’s top [Read More…]

Dec 222016
Don’t behave like a spoilt child, Chinese media tells India

NEW DELHI: China’s official media on Thursday warned India to stop behaving like a “spoilt kid” and learn lessons from how China handled Donald Trump after the US president-elect challenged ‘One-China’ policy. “Sometimes, India behaves like a spoilt kid, carried away by the lofty crown of being ‘the biggest democracy in the world.’ India has the potential to be a great nation, but the country’s vision is shortsighted,” an article in the state-run Global Times said. NDTV quoted the article as saying India “should draw some lessons from the recent interactions between Beijing and Trump over Taiwan.” “After putting out feelers to test China’s determination to protect its essential interests, Trump has met China’s restrained but pertinent countermeasures, and must have understood that China’s bottom line – sovereign integrity and national unity — is untouchable,” the paper said. While the article did not elaborate on counter measures, China besides protesting to Mr Trump over his phone call to the Taiwanese President and his comments questioning One-China policy, also seized an “unmanned underwater vehicle” in the disputed South China Sea, the first such incident in the area, NDTV said. The drone was returned subsequently after protests from US and Mr Trump, an incident seen as an attempt by China to flex its muscles ahead of the President-elect taking over office next month. The drone operated by a US survey vessel in the South China Sea was seized by a Chinese navy ship. “Even the US would have to think twice before [Read More…]

Jul 122016

THE HAGUE: An international tribunal on Tuesday ruled against China in a bitter row over territorial claims to the South China Sea that is likely to ratchet up regional tensions. “The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration said in a statement. All eyes were watching for reaction from the Asian political and military powerhouse, which had fired off a barrage of criticism even before the decision by the PCA in The Hague was announced. South China Sea: facts on a decades-long dispute China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours. Manila had lodged the suit against Beijing in 2013, saying that after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues. Beijing waged a months-long campaign to discredit the panel, which it says has no jurisdiction in the multinational dispute, and it refused to take part in the case. The state-run China Daily topped its front page with a picture of Woody Island in the Paracels, emblazoned: “Arbitration invalid”. English-language headlines on the official Xinhua news agency included: “South China Sea arbitration abuses international law: Chinese scholar”, “Permanent Court of Arbitration must avoid being used for political purposes” and “The sea where Chinese fishermen live and die”. Ahead of the decision, new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had signalled he did not want [Read More…]

Jun 222016

MANILA: Competing claims to the South China Sea have for decades been a source of tension in the region. The Philippines filed a case before an international arbitration tribunal at The Hague to challenge China’s claims to most of the waters, with a decision expected in the coming weeks. Below are key facts on the sea and the territorial disputes: US aircraft carriers start drills off Philippines as pressure mounts in South China Sea The South China Sea covers more than 3 million square kilometres (1.16 million square miles), ringed by southern China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo island, and mainland Southeast Asia. Most of its hundreds of small islands, islets and rocks were originally uninhabited. The Paracel and Spratly chains contain the biggest islands. Scarborough Shoal is a small outcrop in the east. The sea is the main maritime link between the Pacific and Indian oceans, giving it enormous trade and military value. Its shipping lanes connect East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. Over $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the sea annually. Major unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under the seabed. The sea is home to some of the world’s biggest coral reefs and, with marine life being depleted close to coasts, it is important as a source of fish to feed growing populations. China and Taiwan both claim nearly all of the sea, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each have overlapping claims to parts of it. Obama calls for peaceful [Read More…]

Jun 052016

BEIJING: President Xi Jinping said China and the US needed to trust each other more as both sides sought to minimise tensions over the South China Sea at the opening Monday of key annual talks in Beijing. China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea despite competing claims by several Southeast Asian neighbours, and has rapidly built artificial islands suitable for military use. Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese claimed reefs, angering Beijing. US vows ‘actions’ if China builds new South China Sea structures “China and the US need to increase mutual trust,” Xi said at the opening of the annual strategic dialogue, calling for redoubling of efforts for the two powers to manage conflicts and avoid “strategic misjudgement”. “Some disputes may not be resolved for the time being,” he said, but both sides should take a “pragmatic and constructive” attitude towards those issues. “The vast Pacific should be a stage for cooperation, not an area for competition,” he said. Speaking for the US, Secretary of State John Kerry called for a “diplomatic solution” to the problem. “We are looking for a peaceful resolution to the dispute in the South China Sea and oppose any country resolving claims through unilateral action”, he said, referring to China’s increasingly aggressive expansion in the area. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the South China Sea, which encompasses vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits. China hits at US ‘provocations’, [Read More…]

May 062016

SHANGHAI: China will take part in a regular US-led naval exercise starting next month, a top US commander said Friday, despite tensions over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The United States will host multinational naval drills called the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) — billed as the world’s largest — off Hawaii in June and July. Although the Chinese navy has previously joined the exercises, held every two years, the latest drill comes as the country more aggressively asserts its maritime claims in Asia, prompting the US to say in March that it was “reassessing” Beijing’s participation. China protests at US accusations of abuse of religious groups But Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, told journalists in Shanghai on Friday: “The PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) will participate in an exercise, the largest exercise that we do, in a couple of months.” He was speaking after the arrival of his flagship the USS Blue Ridge in the commercial hub, just days after China denied a port call for a US aircraft carrier in its special administrative region of Hong Kong. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in April that China was still invited to the massive exercises. “It was really good that we were able to have the PLAN participate in the last Rim of the Pacific, and they’re participating also this summer,” Aucoin said. Pentagon chief visits warship in South China Sea “It’s a way to better understand one another, to work [Read More…]