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Listen to the voice

Risk of Chinese attack has heightened: US official

TENSIONS: A deputy defense official told Congress that the Ma government's decision to hold talks with Beijing may not be enough to offset China's threat

By Charles Snyder
Friday, Jun 27, 2008, Page 1

The danger of a Chinese military attack on Taiwan has increased materially in the past few years as the balance of force in the Taiwan Strait continues to tilt toward Beijing, and it is not clear whether the efforts of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government to draw closer to China has offset the rising danger, a senior Pentagon official told Congress on Wednesday.

US Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia James Shinn told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee that Ma’s decision to open discussions with Beijing “at least appears to have reduced the threat and the probability of the use of force,” but added that he’s not sure “if you add [the Chinese buildup and Ma’s efforts] together, what the net effect is.”

In any event, Shinn said: “We’d have to conclude that as the balance has shifted toward the mainland [sic], it has materially increased the danger across the Strait.”

Shinn became the first official in President George W. Bush’s administration to publicly comment on the US action in freezing the sale of some US$12 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, saying the move was initiated by the Ma administration, not the US.

“I don’t believe that we made a decision to put things in abeyance,” he said in response to a question. “This was driven, as far as I understand, by Taiwanese domestic politics.”

Shinn did not elaborate and refused to answer questions from the Taiwanese media after the hearing.

His testimony contradicts assertions by others that the US decision predated Ma’s election as president and reflects concerns over China’s opposition to the arms sales and Bush’s anger over actions by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), which China tagged as steps toward independence and top US officials branded as provocative.

Advocates in Washington of that view say that the Bush administration, buoyed by Ma’s cross-strait policies, merely concurred with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s request in line with the US’ domestic and foreign policy needs.

Pressed by committee members, however, Shinn said that US policy on arms sales to Taiwan has not changed and that Washington remains committed to fulfill the language of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, with the US pledging to sell sufficient arms to Taiwan to defend itself against a Chinese attack.

In written testimony presented before the hearing, Shinn chastised China for doing little to reduce its hostility toward Taiwan.

“There is much more that Beijing can do to support reducing cross-strait tension, demonstrate flexibility with respect to Taiwan’s international space and to reduce the threat to Taiwan presented by the PLA’s [People’s Liberation Army] sustained military buildup opposite the island,” Shinn said.

“On these counts, we have seen little progress from Beijing. We continue to see growth in PLA capabilities deployed opposite Taiwan, and we will watch closely for signs of Chinese steps to shift the balance further even as we encourage Beijing to work with Taiwan on more positive actions to reduce tensions,” he said.

While Shinn looked favorably on Ma’s moves toward Beijing, he did so with a caveat from the military perspective.

“It has certainly been a positive political development that the Taiwanese are engaging in what appears to be constructive discussions or negotiations with Beijing,” he said.

But from a military point of view, “it doesn’t alter our focus on our job with respect to both deterring coercion in that part of the world and responding to possible changes in Chinese political intent over the longer run,” he said.

One major source of Shinn’s comments on China’s increasing edge in the Taiwan Strait was the Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress on China’s military might, released in March.

Shinn pointed to annexes in the report showing that China has 100 major warships and 33 submarines in its fleet near Taiwan, compared with 42 and 4 respectively for Taiwan.

China also has 440,000 military personnel in the area compared with 130,000 for all of Taiwan, and 530 major warplanes within cross-strait range, compared with 430 for Taiwan.

In addition, China has 2,800 tanks and 2,900 artillery pieces in the area, as well as more than 1,000 missiles, Shinn said.


Members of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and other organizations yesterday protest against alleged political persecution of former Ministry of Education secretary-general Chuang Kuo-rong by National Chengchi University in Taipei.



Listen to the voice

DPP slams Beijing over WHO block

HEALTH CONCERNS: The party said that Japanese media reports on the issue prove that the KMT and China's promise of support for Taiwan's bid was nothing but a lie

By Ko Shu-ling
Friday, Jun 27, 2008, Page 3

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday accused Beijing of politicizing health and disease concerns by blocking Taiwan’s bid to join the WHO and slammed President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) proposal of a “diplomatic truce” as a servile act that has failed to elicit a friendly response from Beijing.

“What the administration gets in return is Beijing grabbing a mile after being offered an inch,” DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said.

Cheng made the remarks in response to Japanese media reports alleging that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Chairman Wang Yi (王毅) told a Japanese delegation on Monday that Beijing would never accept Taiwan becoming part of the WHO, although it would look into setting up an international network that could be a “new framework” independent of the international body to include Taiwan in information on disease outbreaks.

Wang’s remarks proved that Taiwan’s financial assistance and humanitarian aid after the devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province and the resumption of talks between the two sides’ quasi-official agencies did not change Beijing’s attitude toward Taiwanese.

Wang’s action also proved that the promises made by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) were nothing but a lie, Cheng said.

Cheng was referring to Hu’s claim that the Chinese government understood the frustration that Taiwanese feel in seeking to join global organizations and promised to make the issue a priority, including Taiwan’s goal of joining the WHO.

Hu then pledged to discuss Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, including the WHO, in future talks.

Cheng described the proposal of a “diplomatic truce” and the government suspension of military procurement from the US as a “servile act” and “voluntary disarmament.”

If the administration failed to respond positively to China’s demand for unification, Beijing would step up its effort to steal the country’s diplomatic allies, augment its missile deployment against Taiwan, further suppress the country’s international space and use Taiwanese businesspeople to pressure the administration to push its political agenda, Cheng said.

The Presidential Office declined to comment on the matter, saying it needed to verify whether Beijing had said it would not accept Taiwan’s membership at the WHO.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that the information the office obtained was inconsistent and the office was in the process of confirming it.


Listen to the voice

PRC asks Japan to support 'unification'

Friday, Jun 27, 2008, Page 3

China is urging Japan to support its goal of unification with Taiwan, Chinese state media reported on Wednesday.

Beijing’s top official on Taiwanese issues was quoted as telling visiting Japanese member of parliament Otohiko Endo that unification with Taiwan would bring advantages to Tokyo.

Wang Yi (王毅), head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, didn’t say what those benefits were, according to the Chinese reports.

According to the reports, Wang called the Japanese public’s lack of consensus on the benefits of unification “regrettable.”

Wang is a former ambassador to Tokyo.

China hoped that Japan would “express understanding and support” for unification, Wang was quoted as saying.

His remarks follow the resumption of dialogue between Taiwan and China aimed at strengthening economic links while avoiding political differences.




Listen to the voice

Clear signal needed on disputed isles

Friday, Jun 27, 2008, Page 8

In March 2004, the last time controversy over the Senkaku (Diaoyutai, 釣魚台) islands surfaced, the US State Department affirmed that the United States Mutual Security Treaty with Japan covered the islands.

“The Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the government of Japan since having been returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said. “Article 5 of the 1960 US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” he said, “states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan; thus, Article 5 of the Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku islands.”

So while the US may not take a position on “the ultimate sovereignty” of the islands, certainly their inclusion in the US security commitment to Japan makes apparent where its sympathies lie.

Where does sovereignty lie?

On the issue of sovereignty, let me make clear what the State Department cannot: The Senkaku islands are Japanese.

The Senkakus are a set of eight small uninhabited high islands in the rich fishing waters of the East China Sea that are administratively part of the Ryukyu island chain. They are defined under Article 3 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty as within the “Nansei Shoto” and the US was granted the “right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters” by the treaty. The US occupied and administered them for 27 years after World War II and in 1972 returned the islands to Japanese sovereignty as part of the Okinawa Reversion.

Japan first claimed the Senkakus in January 1895 after decades of shipwrecks and near disasters had convinced Tokyo that lighthouses needed to be erected there. The claim on the Senkakus, as such, had nothing to do with Japan’s colonial occupation of Taiwan as part of the settlement of the Sino-Japanese War that same year.

At the turn of the last century, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said, a Japanese businessman named Koga found that the main Senkaku Island held a fresh-water spring that could sustain about 200 people. He then brought workers, food and supplies to the main Senkaku Islands and built houses, reservoirs, docks, warehouses, sewers and farms for tuna fishing and canning. The tuna cannery business continued until World War II.

Clearly, for the purposes of international law, the Senkaku chain qualifies as “islands” because they are capable of “sustaining human habitation.”

This is important because under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea — to which both China and Japan are parties — an “island” brings to its owner a 200 nautical mile (370km) “exclusive economic zone” and sovereign claim to the resources and seabed minerals therein.

On May 15, 1972, after 25 years of military occupation, the US relinquished to Japan “all rights and interests” over the Okinawa territories, the State Department said, “including the Senkaku Islands, which we had been administering under Article of the Treaty.”

Prior to 1969, neither Beijing nor Taipei indicated any desire for the Senkaku Islands. Maps printed in Taiwan before 1969 either failed to depict them entirely, failed to name them or included boundary delineations to the west of the islands (inferring they were in Japanese waters).

In my collection of maps, I have a facsimile of plate 18 of the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fen Sheng Ditu (People’s Republic of China Provincial Map) of “Fujian Province, Taiwan Province” published in mimi (confidential) form by the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guojia Cehui Zongju (Headquarters, National Surveillance Bureau), Beijing, 1969, which identified the Senkaku Islands as the “Jiange Qundao” — using the Chinese characters for the Japanese name “Senkaku Island Group” — rather than the Chinese name “Diaoyu.”

A People’s Daily commentary of June 1953, which called on the people of Okinawa to resist the US imperialists occupying their homelands, enumerated the “Jiange” (Senkaku) islands as part of the Ryukyu chain, clear evidence that the Beijing government considered the islands part of Japan even in the heat of the Korean War.

Prior to 1968, no one in either Taipei or Beijing knew of any particular benefit in owning the Senkaku Islands. In 1968, however, geologists K.O. Emery and Hiroshi Niino, writing for the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (UNECAFE), noted that “a high probability exists that the continental shelf between Taiwan and Japan may be one of the most prolific oil reservoirs in the world.”

While this news was greeted with some gratification in Japan, the Republic of China (Taiwan) government — then representing the Chinese mainland at the UN — was spurred into examining Chinese claims to the Senkaku Islands and the seabed oilfields within their orbit.

At one point, Chinese exiles in Taiwan claimed to have “deeds” to the islands granted to a Chinese courtier (and early patron of Chinese universities) Sheng Xuanhuai (盛宣懷) by the Qing Dynasty’s Empress Cixi (慈禧太后). This evidence gained currency in both Taiwan and Beijing and was proffered as the basis of China’s historic ownership of the islands. However, recent scholarly consideration of this evidence tends toward the view that it is fraudulent. The documents of “deed” were not in the style of the Qing Dynasty, nor were the seals correct, nor was the paper of the quality used in Qing records.

Still, today, there are Chinese commentators in Taiwan who insist that the original deed to the Senkaku Islands was “kept in a bank safety deposit box” in Los Angeles, in the custody of Mme Chen Shien-chung, a “lineal granddaughter of Sheng Xuanhuai.”

Although visions of Saudi-scale reservoirs in the East China Sea have now dissipated and the territorial waters issue is now mostly a matter of “face,” oil and gas continue to be the currency of the dispute. Japan, believing that China’s main interest was oil, long ago acquiesced in China’s development of the “Chunxiao” gas beds (“Shirakaba” in Japanese), which lie astride the median line of the overlapping 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the two countries — if, and only if, the Senkaku islands’ EEZ is counted as Japanese. In private conversations with Japanese officials I have learned an ironic fact — that the Chinese seabed pipeline from the gas field to the Chinese coast was partially financed by Japanese Overseas Development Assistance.

In an effort to assuage strained ties with China, and especially to ease frictions with Beijing over territorial waters, Japan has tried to get the Chinese to accept some “joint development” of the gas fields that straddle their respective EEZs — in return for China’s acknowledgment of Japan’s legitimate claims. But China has consistently rebuffed Japanese efforts to acknowledge that “joint development” of the Shirakaba field is predicated on a Japanese territorial sea claim.

Again, on June 18 the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman insisted that “China’s consistent position and stance on the East China Sea issue have remained unchanged, Chunxiao oil and gas field falls completely within China’s sovereignty rights and has nothing to do with joint development. When it comes to the East China Sea demarcation, China’s position has stayed unchanged that it does not recognize the so-called ‘median line.’”

By reaching out to Beijing and assisting China’s development of the Shirakaba (Chunxiao) field without first getting some Chinese acknowledgment of Japan’s territorial waters claim, Tokyo has made a tactical blunder. China is now in a position to pump dry the Shirakaba field and forestall Japanese action by dragging its heels on the demarcation issue. There are, however, at least three other fields that straddle the median line — Asunaro (Longjing), Kusunoki (Duanqiao) and Kashi (Tianwaitan) — but their delimitations are not dependent on the Senkaku Islands’ EEZ boundary.

In 1972, Beijing’s claims to the Senkaku Islands were delayed a bit by the Cultural Revolution and the Japan-China era of good feeling that persisted for a few years after the Beijing-Tokyo normalization of 1972. But by 2003 China’s rivalry with Japan for the psychological leadership of Asia has impelled China to begin flexing its maritime muscle in the East China Sea.

By August 2005, Chinese fighter aircraft were shadowing Japanese P-3 surveillance aircraft in international waters close to the home islands.

For the first time, the Japanese press reported several years of previous incursions into Chinese waters and airspace by “suspicious” Chinese vessels. “Secret” documents from the Japan Self Defense Force reported that Chinese submarines had entered “in the area” of Japan’s territorial waters at least six times in 2003. Chinese incursions into the Japanese EEZ became commonplace in 2004, with at least 12 EEZ violations by Chinese hydrographic vessels by May of that year.

In June, the Japanese media reported that Chinese submarines had entered Japanese territorial waters the previous November and had shown themselves “very comfortable” with marine characteristics of the Japanese coastline.

In October 2005, the fire-control radar aboard the Chinese Sovremennyy-class warship near the Shirakaba field had “locked-on” a Japanese P-3 patrol aircraft and there were reports that another Chinese naval vessel’s artillery radar had targeted a Japanese coast guard vessel nearby.

Clearly, the Chinese were showing their teeth. By October 2006, Chinese military live-fire exercises in the East China Sea were rumored by the Hong Kong press to involve scenarios for an armed occupation of the Senkakus.

China’s territorial aggressiveness in the East China Sea has alarmed Japan. Japan’s national security bureaucracy clearly sees China as the primary challenge in Asia and is diverting large amounts of funding into missile defense, naval systems and new fighter aircraft.

But Beijing’s diplomats are skilled — they have happily eased their pressures on Japan to woo it away from its concerns, and allies. And while Beijing now avoids antagonizing Tokyo directly, it certainly welcomes Taiwan’s recent involvement in the Senkakus dispute. It helps China make the point that the issue is truly about “Chinese nationalism,” not self-serving propaganda.

China’s revered strategist of Confucian times, Sun Tzu (孫子), pointed out that while countering the enemy’s strategy is of supreme importance, “next best is to divide him from his allies.” The Senkakus issue threatens to alienate Taiwan from Japan. It also has the potential to strain Japan’s trust in the US-Japan relationship. If the US views the recent flare-up as a minor spat between an immature Taiwan and a boorish Japan, and mutes its position, China may well begin to pressure Tokyo directly. Timidity on the part of the US could serve as a catalyst for a situation that goes against its Japanese ally, and ultimately its own interests, over the longer term.

Nothing good can come of a complacent Washington that allows Beijing to fill the leadership vacuum in Asia. The terms of the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty are explicit regarding the Senkakus. It is time for Washington to face up to its responsibilities as an “ally” and make clear its sympathies on the Senkakus issue.

John Tkacik is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.


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